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THE JULY 29, 1966 REVANCHIST COUP 11

“In Ibadan, Ironsi and Fajuyi saw the unusual troop movements and the latter sent his ADC to find out what was happening. The ADC was promptly arrested. A second man was sent out and he, too, was arrested. Both men began to suspect trouble just as Gowon put another call through to Government House.
“Hello, this is Lt-Col. Gowon. May I speak to the Supreme Commander, please?”
“I’m sorry, Sir, you cannot speak to the Supreme Commander,” came the reply.
“Isn’t that Government House, Ibadan?” Gowon enquired.
“Yes, it is,rankashidade.”
“Who is that?”
“Yakubu, Sir, YakubuDanjuma.”
“Yakubu? What are you doing there at this time of the day?”
“We have come to arrest the Supreme Commander, Sir.”
See Moses Ihonde, First Call, An Account of the Gowon Years, Lagos, 2004.
The dialogue continued with Gowon asking the Major,whom he had few days back posted to the Supremo as his equerry during Ironsi’sfateful 1966 May nationwide tour, how he intended to arrest the Supreme Commander. “We have surrendered the house….” “Please make sure you control the boys” Gowon pleaded. “Don’t let them hurt the Supreme Commander or the Military Governor of Western region…. after arresting him please call me, let me give you instructions as to where you have him taken.” Gowon then sat back and kept his phone free to receive a call from Danjuma.He had decided that the best place to hold Ironsi was either Bida or Katsina.
Meanwhile, Major Danjuma had secured the Government House, arrested both the Supremo and the Governor by brazenly removing their epaulets which in military tradition is tantamount to summary execution. The rasping Major had the nerve to interrogate the Supreme Commander thus:
Over the years Danjuma(who as the Army Chief of Staff during the 1975 coup did not give Col. IsaBukah a chance to breath and in fact offered him an instant hemlock when the latter took over the Government House in Benin on the first telephone exchange to the Army Chief of Staff!) has given two separate but broadly consistent accounts of the tense verbal exchange that ensued between him and Aguiyi Ironsi. We go back to Max Siollun, referring us to the death dialogue between the Supreme Commander and his equerry….
Ironsi: “Young man.”
Danjuma: “Sir, you are under arrest.”
Ironsi: “What is the matter?”
Danjuma: “The matter is you, Sir. You told us in January when we supported you to quell the mutiny that all the dissident elements that took part in the mutiny will be court martialled. It is July now. You have done nothing. You kept these boys in prison and the rumours are now that they will be released because they are national heroes.”
Ironsi: “Look, what do you mean? It is not true.”
Danjuma: “You are lying. You have been fooling us. You told us that they would be tried. This is July… You will answer for your actions.”
Most of the July 29 revanchist coup initiators were based in the south at Lagos, Ibadan and Abeokuta. Lt-Colonel MurtalaMuhammed would often drive to Ibadan from Lagos, pick up northern officers in Ibadan at a predetermined rendezvous point and then drive around Ibadan. Captain AhmaduYakubu acted as a messenger by driving all the way from Lagos to Kaduna in order to update northern soldiers. The Lagos group would take advantage of athletic event by plotting during games at the LGO’s Abalti barracks. They would often also meet at the 4 Lugard Avenue home of Captain Joe Garba in Ikoyi. According to Garba, the prominent plotters stationed in the south included:
In Lagos: Joe Garba, MurtalaMuhammed, YakubuDanjuma, Martin Adamu, MuhhamaduBuhari, Paul Tarfa, William Walbe, John Longboem, Musa Usman, and ShittiAlao. In Ibadan: JerryboyUseni, Ibrahim Bako and Garba Dada.In Enugu: Lt.Shehu Musa Yar’Adua.In Abeokuta: Lt. Pam Mwadkon.
According to Moses Ihonde, the Adjutant Ikeja Battalion, Captain Martin Adamu alerted Gowon that fighting had broken out between northern and Igbo troops in Abeokuta. Gowon gave him the familiar instructions; take control and ensure there was no blood shed! Gowon received another call from Ibadan from a northern officer, and informed MurtalaMuhhamed. The surprised MurtalaMuhhamed said that he thought the whole thing was off as he was warned by the General Staff officer, Colonel Anwunah. Gowon then instructed him to proceed immediately to the Brigade of Guards where he was to take charge and again counseled that if possible no blood should be shed.
Back to Abeokuta, Col. Gabriel Okonweze, Commander of the Abeokuta Garrison, had on the previous night asked his brother Patrick to take his family back home to Asaba. Apparently, the six-footer Commander of the Nigerian Independence parade celebration of 1960 had been tipped off by his northern other ranks. July 28 night “Lt-Col. Gowon sent two documented messages to Abeokuta on the eve of the July 29 coup, he ordered strict security presence to forestall the possible activities of foreign kidnappers. I got all the messages and got all the telephone discussions first between him and Major Obienu. Major Obienu was ordered to call the Commander of the Garrison. Okonweze therefore ordered the meeting of the officers to discuss the emergency alert. Present were Okonweze, Obienu, Captain Domkat Bali, A.B. Maman, Mohammed Remewa, Urok, P.J. Okoli, Olaniye, Kasaba and nursing sister Lt. Bassey.See Emma Okocha, Chris Okigbo, Kaduna Nzeogwu, Awo and the Death of the Prime Minister.
“In the face of the emergency there was no serious plan by the assembled officers. CaptainUrok who was around when the message was brought was the only officer who spoke and he suggested that officers should reach for their pistols. He explained that those kidnappers could turn out to be soldiers under our command. The Captain stressed that if they were swooped upon, they could fire into the fold but if they were taken by surprise that would amount to suicide.”
Major Obienu countered, what do you do with a pistol to a soldier with a rifle, or with your rifle against amour? Our Nursing Sister, Lt. Bassey said that “the stories of the impending coup were but a hoax; rather she accused the Nigerian soldiers of being Peeping Toms.” She rather demanded for more drinks and the Garrison barman collected herbrand and the woman was first to open her Star beer bottle, filled a glass and gulped the content down, and was refilling her glass when from the outside, a platoon of northern NCO’s led by Sergeant Sabo Kwale on a high point formation opened fire on the officers. Major Obienu was shot at a point blank, two more officers Olaniye and Kasaba were dispatched. Captain Urok fled only to stage a combat to rescue the Nursing Sister. A.B. Maman escaped with the Commander. Tragically, Okonweze did not go far, in limping above the wall his Baba-rigashokotostuck at the barb wire top fencing. He was a sitting duck when the murderous Kwale platoon came back and finished him off.Urok was dispatched and the soldiers descended on Lt. Bassey and raped her to unconsciousness. She never recovered and she died a mad woman.
From Abeokuta, Lagos, Ibadan, Kano, Kaduna, the blood fiesta dragged on for months. Soldiers and even those like Obienu who fought against the January 15 Revolution, civilians, innocent pregnant women, children and babies of the Jews of Africa were massacred. The asinine rationalization of this pogrom was that the Igbo – millions of them – were to be held accountable for a coup planned by five army majors two of whom were not even Igbo and two, Yoruba Colonels AdekunleFajuyi and Victor Banjo. The Igbo – millions of them – were to be killed as reprisal for the deaths of about half a dozen Muslim northerners in the first coup.

 

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