British secret files on Nigeria’s first bloody coup, path to Biafra

British secret files on Nigeria’s first bloody coup, path to Biafra

Sunday, June 12, 2016 3:01 pm

Gowon: Sang a line of Lord Bryon's poem, The Eve of Waterloo, to a London Guardian journalist at the night party, the song, a probable foreboding of what might happen. However, he decided to lead a quick reaction force to Balewa's residence, but too late

Gowon: Sang a line of Lord Bryon’s poem, The Eve of Waterloo, to a London Guardian journalist at the night party, the song, a probable foreboding of what might happen. However, he decided to lead a quick reaction force to Balewa’s residence, but too late

On December 1965, Maimalari took another wife in Kano. The reception was held with great pomp and pageantry at 5th battalion officer’s mess with the guard of honour raising swords to form a colonnade for the newly wed to pass under. The wife was 15 years old, the brigadier, 34 years old. And so he used the cocktail as an opportunity to introduce the young girl to the South. The Queen’s cousin, Prince William of Gloucester and two other British diplomats were there at the party. There also was Colonel Tom Hunt, the former GSO1 at the Army HQ who had turned into the British High Commission’s military adviser. Colonel Berger of the US Defence Intelligence Agency was also there under an embassy defence attaché cover. While he was primarily an overt collector of open source information, he also engaged in covert collection operations. The CIA station chief’s house was nearby too. Yet no one suspected that in a few hours’ time, some junior officers who were drinking and joking with their senior officers would soon end the lives of one colonel, three lieutenant colonels and turn Maimalari’s new bride into a teenage widow. It was the eve of Waterloo and the drinks and dance continued.

Around ten o’clock, the junior officers left the party only after all the senior officers had left as it was customary. To avoid suspicion, they left one by one to dress up in full combat dress. Ifeajuna was the last to leave being the busiest person that night. He coordinated the bar, the dancers, drummers, the food and drinks servers, the orchestra, the cleaners. Once he ensured everyone was done and left, he went to salute his boss who thanked him for a job well done.

At 1 o’clock, Ifeajuna having changed into combat dress, stood up to address the 13 officers including four Majors that had been converging in his sitting room in Apapa since 11 o’clock. Major Mobolaji Johnson, a staff officer at the Army HQ and neighbour to Ifeajuna saw nothing unusual in their convergence at such an hour. Unlike Nzeogwu who at the same time was giving his pre-battle rousing speech to his fellow soldiers up North to pump up their morale, Ifeajuna did not have his finger to the trigger. Operation Damisa was organised in the North to draw and nightly train unsuspecting NCOs (Non Commissioned Officers) from various military installations under the 1st Brigade for their Revolution while their officers lied to them that it was part of a course designed to teach new nocturnal attack procedures. When in December Ifeajuna asked Maimalari for permission to do the same for the Federal Guards, the Brigadier refused. Not only because Ikoyi was the national capital with international presences, but because there was constant uneasiness that the violence in the Western Region would soon overrun Lagos as well. Conducting nightly manoeuvres even with dummy bullets and flares instead of grenades would only heighten public panic and hence was unacceptable.

Chief Obafemi Awolowo: Leader of Opposition

Chief Obafemi Awolowo: Leader of Opposition

However, Ifeajuna had a Plan B. Unlike in the North where the military units did not have call outs for IS (internal security operations), troops and transport from various units in 2nd Brigade down South and were frequently requested by the Police high command for IS operations to reinforce police activities in stamping down riots at a new flash point in the Western Region. This was the South’s Operation Damisa cover that Ifeajuna used to draw the pre-selected but unsuspecting NCOs for the Revolution and he had forged the necessary documents to justify the troops mobilisation. Why was it necessary to lie to the NCOs? Because no matter their feelings about the government, none would willingly take up arms against it.

After Ifeajuna finished addressing the officers and reminding them their assignments and their duty to the nation, he went to the brigade HQ to the waiting head of the NCOs – Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) – James Ogbu who went to turn out the NCOs of Camp, Signal Squadron barracks and Lagos Garrison Organisation for the so-called emergency IS operation. They were issued arms and ammunition and divided into units to be commanded by the 4 majors. Only Major Okafor left without an allocation of troops because he needed special troops for his own assignment. Away at Ikoyi, Lt. Ezedigbo and 2/Lt. Igweze had roused and primed these special troops and they were at the Federal Guards guardroom awaiting further instructions. At exactly 2am, convinced they were the five points of a bright new star for a new Nigeria and not the five fingers of a leprous hand, the five Majors led their various units to enact the Revolution. They never called it a coup nor a mutiny; they convinced themselves it was a Revolution comparable to Fidel Castro’s.

One of the Majors, Chris Anuforo was a General Staff Officer II (training) at the Army Headquarters. Assisted by second lieutenant (2/Lt.) C. Ngwuluka, he led 6 NCOs in private cars to his boss Lt Colonel Kur Mohammed on 1st Park Lane, Apapa. Mohammed had been acting chief of staff at the Army HQ since November 1965 when Adeyinka Adebayo went for a course at Imperial Defence College in London. It was Mohammed that Maimalari always requested to act when he was not in the country. When Major Anuforo’s unit arrived at his front gate on foot having left the cars some distance from the house, they tricked the guards, put them at gunpoint and conducted a room-to-room search for the Colonel. Mohammed recognised Chris being his immediate superior at the HQ but Chris had become a rebel and no longer recognised Mohammed as his superior but an enemy. Anuforo ordered the NCOs to tie his hands with rifle sling.

They all left for the home of Lt. Col. Unegbe on Point Road which was only two streets away. Unegbe like Brigadier Maimalari and Lt Col Njoku, the head of 2nd Battalion were alumni of Command and Staff College in Quetta, Pakistan. Returning from Quetta, on 1st March 1964, he took over as commander of 5th Battalion in Kano. He dispatched a company headed by Captain Tim Onwuatuegwu to quell another of the Tiv riots in Gboko. Later as the Quartermaster General at the army HQ, Unegbe was responsible for the provision of every article, clothing, equipment, weapon, ammunition, food, vehicles for the Army in general. He held the keys to the armoury and the control of armoury was vital to the success of the second phase of the Revolution. When Anuforo asked Unegbe for the keys, he refused and was shot immediately in the presence of his wife Enuma Unegbe. Even if he had handed over the keys, he would still be terminated with extreme prejudice because he was guilty. His offence was that in a Revolution packaged together by junior officers, he was a senior officer. If the Revolution succeeded, what could prevent the senior officers from using other soldiers to overcome them? Without the senior officers dead, their Revolution stood no chance. Anuforo then ordered his NCOs subordinates to carry the corpse to the waiting cars downstairs.

Anuforo then asked Col Mohammed in the car to say his own final prayers too. The Colonel did not plead for mercy nor remonstrate in any manner; he was silent and gentle as a breeze even as Anuforo’s bullets reached him from the back, took his heartbeat and fell him down. Less than an hour after they started, Anuforo’s unit had completed their mission objective. They drove to the Officers Mess of the Federal Guards in Ikoyi which was the agreed rendezvous for the units that have completed their tasks.

Unlike in the North where the Revolutionaries used the Brigade HQ as their rendezvous, why did the South opt for the Federal Guards? First, it was the only military unit at the seat of government. All government officials were easily accessible from there and they could easily be brought there as a corpse or as a living object to be paraded in front of the TV later in the day. Two, the Federal Guards was the only military unit whose head was part of the mutiny. Hence, the resources and manpower of the unit could easily be put in the service of the Revolution without seeking authorisation from anyone or forging cover-up signals like was done with other military units. It was the Federal Guards’ net and radio systems that was cryptically used to coordinate operations with Nzeogwu’s group up North.
Major Humphrey Chukwuka’s unit assisted by 2/Lt Onyefuru and five other NCOs had already finished their own assignment too and they were waiting for others at the Federal Guards Mess. Chukwuka was DAG 1 (Deputy Adjutant General) at the Army HQ. His assignment was to arrest his boss, Lt Col James Pam. Being the Adjutant General, Pam was responsible for enlistment of new soldiers, payment of all soldiers, and promotion of some soldiers. He looked after the discipline and welfare of all soldiers and supervised their medical care. He was ultimately responsible for their discharge or burial in the case of death.

Join The Conversation


  • Mazi Arevalo says:

    Igbo will go to war, Fulani will send the Hausa and some Middle belt people to war, Yoruba will hide, wait for who wins to serve him. Today, if the Fulani says jump to Yoruba, jumping becomes a done deal. But Yoruba forgets that Fulani will never trust Yoruba, Fulani can only work with Yoruba to the extent of master servant type relationship. To the writer, there is nothing new about what you consider new revelation. Note also that 1967 is not 2016 and a lot has happened in human world.

    • michaelnze says:

      You are damn right … The third marine commando was hiding. Benjamin adekunle (black scorpion )was hiding. You must be playing some video games stuffs in your imaginations

      • Mazi Arevalo says:

        Where is he today, have they not used and dumped him. Remember, he regretted every part he played in the war because of the position he found himself after the war. You are right, Adekunle fought hard, even much more than Buhari and Babangida, and like Awolowo, he could never be a president of Nigeria. Give me more Yoruba names and I will tell you which dungeon they are placed by their owners – Fulani. Of recent is the former governor of Lagos, I have forgotten his name. Unless if you choose not to pay attention to the treatment you get from your masters, a problem common with the indentured mindset, I have nothing else to tell you. Remain serving Fulani and causing confusion to the Nigeria state. No nation survives acting in the manner of Yoruba; zero sense of originality, everything is based on copy. Whereas Fulani is too barbaric, some Yoruba people are the real danger facing Nigeria. And as I write, I wish to offer my strong apology to people like Governor Fayose, Femi Fani Kayode and few more brave ones whose characters are best served considered to be people of other nations other than Yoruba. God forbid a people.

        • michaelnze says:

          If I can infer from your crooked logic, When Zik went into coalition with NPC. Igbos were slave of the FULANIS in 1960. when Ekwueme was a VP , you mean the IGBOS were never slaves to the FULANIS in 1979/83 . Your hatred of other tribes is be-clouding your reasoning. It is now for the very first time the Yorubas join with Fulanis to form government that’s it becomes an abomination. It shows your election loss was simply a pain you cannot bear. Did the IGBOS ever vote for ZIK in the second republic ??? They simply voted for Hausa – Fulani party NPN. This shows you don’t know your history. So you mean they too are slaves to the FULANIS. My friend, your logic is warped and your reasoning is shallow. It seems you don’t know about the THIRD MARINE COMMANDO . Go and read about the nigerian civil war and the formation of the third marine commando then you know that when the Southwest wants to fight, nobody can stop them. The real cowards are the ones that ran away to cotediviore and all the commanders that surrendered alive. Go and ask the Yoruba people, no one leads a war and surrender alive. I don’t know why you hated the Yorubas, have they ever massacred any Igbo group at peaceful time in the history of this country ?? They have been wonderful host to you people in their lands, giving you sways of lands to build your markets. I don’t just understand what warrants this caustic hatred. If anything, the south west has shown that politics is dynamic. They have lived as opposition without hating and insulting any NIGERIAN tribe. My final note- to be in the opposition you don’t have to hate anybody. It’s not a primitive tribal war, it’s democracy. Let’s learn to live in peace with each other rather than fanning the embers of discord. My dream for this country is to have a NIGERIAN president of Igbo extraction. It will never reduce anyone. As long as it is democracy. You can continue to hate as much as you like, but don’t forget the best societies or tribes in the world are the ones that can organize themselves and the ones that prioritized collective interests over individual interests .

          • Edeki Suku says:

            Honestly we don’t need the presidency of Nigeria,we need Biafra.

          • Ajah Exodus says:

            They have always been the rebel, double mouthed people who you think support you and yet go behind you to do otherwise. Why do you think God hates those who bear false witness and regards it as an abomination. In a murder case, the killer might just be ignorant of who he is killing but the person who points out the victims whereabout to the killer is the devil himself, the mastermind. Thats where the whole yoruba-Igbo facade comes in. Yorubas have not killed the igbos but have been responsible for their deaths in many ways. Is this not history repeating itself? We have a fulani head, cost of foodstuffs have skyrocketed, protests in the western region, politicians hunted and their houses seized or confiscated,militancy in the south south. I foresee another revolution but this time the south east and south south wont be tagging along with the yorubas. Nzeogu’s best friend was obasanjo, and he betrayed him. Ojukwu’s second in command and foreman was Banjo and he betrayed him which led to take over of Benin by Nigerian soldiers. Even when Soyinka rose against akintola, he ran to Micheal Okpara in the east. The igbo’s have always tried to ally with all tribes in the political sphere but didnt know they were dealing with people without integrity, whose Yes can turn to No.

          • Riot50000 says:

            Yorubas Are The Problem With Nigeria says Sanusi Lamido Sanusi …
            May 6, 2015 – The Yoruba political leadership, as mentioned by Balarabe Musa, has shown itself over the years to be incapable of rising above narrow tribalI …

          • michaelnze says:

            In your narrow reasoning and analysis. You will believe your handwriting. You are inferring that all other tribes and nationalities would have lived together in peace if the Yorubas don’t exist in nigeria your position like others of your background shows deep envy of the Yorubas. It’s only bigots and psychopaths who always believe others are the problem and not them. You refused to explain in your own words how the Yorubas have become nigerias problem. You also refused to summarize why lamido and Musa said the same. I’m not a yoruba, but I believe their geographical position continues to give them economic advantage in this country. Unless we practice fiscal federalism , that advantage cannot be removed .in nigeria, every tribe has a unique stereotypical perception of the others. It depends on which one you want to hate or envy most.

          • Riot50000 says:

            You are not Yoruba.
            You adopted an Igbo Name to write your none sense while denying being Yoruba, just like your people, the Yorubas adopt Igbo names when you do your international drug runs and 419 so that when you get caught, every one thinks you are Igbo.
            What other names do you go by, nwa Africa, michaelnze, and what.
            The Northerners are no fools.
            They know they can always count on the Yoruba to get whatever they want as long as they get offered Bones from the master’s dining table, DESPITE the fact that ALMOST EVERY PROMINENT YORUBA SON HAD AT ONE TIME OR THE OTHER BEEN VIOLATED BY A NORTHERN TYRANT RULER OF NIGERIA.
            Does the Yoruba Man have self esteem and shame?
            EVIDENCE over the past 50 years say NO!

          • michaelnze says:

            Mr ethnic jingoist, that shows how much you know Nigeria . So u mean michael is an Igbo name ?? Or u mean IGBOS are the only one with NZE in their names ???is nzebokhoale an Igbo name ?
            You must be enjoying your foolery and poor social education. My friend, who needs an Igbo name. Go and check the prisons in Brazil ,india thailand , holland Philippines etc nobody will tell you, you don’t need one. Good name is better than gold and silver

          • Riot50000 says:

            Yep! Just another “MINORITY” still licking his wounds and still answering to “Mr NOBODY IN HIS FATHER LAND”
            Go away, FOOL!

          • Timmy Okybay says:

            Thank u very much for this sensible comments..u are really a world educated person…

          • olusoji ade says:

            Biafra will never happen and my friend with an igbo man attitude, it wii be a very long, long time to have them as nigerian president, they cant be trusted…

        • Riot50000 says:

          Yorubas Are The Problem With Nigeria says Sanusi Lamido Sanusi …
          May 6, 2015 – The Yoruba political leadership, as mentioned by Balarabe Musa, has shown itself over the years to be incapable of rising above narrow tribal …

          • George Abejide says:

            Everyone has an opinion
            The west at a point were voting Zik against their own kinsmen. That is no tribalism. Another glorious opportunity was missed in 1979 when Awo and Zik with parts of the middle west should have teamed up but Zik referred to as the beautiful bride then chose to go with the north.
            Today we have Igbo councilors, commissioner and house of assembly members in the west.
            Nowhere else will you find this in Nigeria, be it north south south or even the south east. Those are facts. Until all of us come together as one and put away primordial sentiments we shall continue to run from pillar to post

    • Citizen says:

      What a senseless and hatred speach based on myopic view of irrational human being

  • Ola66 says:

    So this is the sin of the Igbo, interesting ha!

  • Ibro says:

    All are lies , the stupid Ahmadu bring nigeria into this present mess , may Allah punish him and his generation , usually a greedy person dies stupidly

  • Ibro says:

    The caption of the book suppose to read British report on why we joined nigeria side due to the fear that the oil region will be going for France

  • Ola66 says:

    And the Fani Kayode junior knew all these?

  • May30th1967 says:

    Well, I did not read where I signed the dotted line for Nzeogwu and Co to kill anyone, or take over the Govt.
    So, why am I marginalized and hated formething I did not do, and most likely would not have condoned?
    I was only a toddler then.

    • barBeachBoy says:

      The major issue behind the coup was the open question “who was in control of Nigeria”?
      Here are two pages from Madiebo’s book: The Nigerian Revolution and the Biafran War that answer the question why the Nigerian Army rose up (not just Nzeogwu and co) to challenge a status quo where a regional administrator was deploying the Nigeria Army without even notifying Army high command. It starts with the paragraph headed by “the height of political manouvering”

    • barBeachBoy says:

      (2 of 2) from Madiebo

    • George Abejide says:

      The fact was simply that the west was making ground breaking progress at the time and in the effort to checkmate the rising star a lot of evil was devised and deployed. The Midwest was carved out, some of the judases were set against the western leaders to create chaos. That Nzeogu and co and exterminated the leaders of the north and the west while the eastern leaders miraculously escaped death was what led to the vengeful counter coup. How then can it be suggested that Yorubas caused nigeria’s or Igbo’s travails.

  • ola says:

    Coward and ethnic bigot revolutionaries

  • Ms. Thenjiwe Obong says:

    what an eye opener? very interesting story.

  • Ajah Exodus says:

    I like this story cos the revolutionalists were in their twenties and their decisions mattered and were felt. Present day politicians should take note. History has a way of repeating itself.

    • barBeachBoy says:

      It makes for entertaining reading, the only trouble was that “the revolutionaries” were being “teleguided”; “NNA Plan To Wallop The West” written by Ademoyega “why we struck” (1 of 2)

    • barBeachBoy says:

      (2 of 2) NNA plan to wallop the west, quoted from a book written by one of the participants Wale Ademoyega

  • barBeachBoy says:

    At the time Kano was the international airport; if Ben was to have picked him up in Kaduna, who was supposed to have picked him up in Kano. The return to Nigeria as quoted by OBJ himself in the book he authored called “Nzeogwu”

  • Abiola Oludele says:

    Esterners are behind the Nigeria woes in all ramifications, leave the solders alone, if their Leaders Zik and Eastern Premier had not sponsored the Operation Weti e, I do’t think we will be here today!

    • Ajah Exodus says:

      Young man read ur history well, There was chaos in the west, the yorubas were very much against themselves. ok what will u say of Akintola rigging election and annoucing fake results and then Wole soyinka going on air to publish the real results and the ran to seek asylum in his friends place Michael Okpara in Abia state. Not long Akintola and conglomerates caught up with him and arrested him. many examples my man…. a lot happened. people like Nzeogu took actions according to their opinions when they say that the elites were behind the troubles in country especially in the west because that was the centre of development in the whole Africa.

      • Supo says:

        Even then killing fellow soldiers with their pregnant wives in their bedroom was a bit much…unnecessarily bloody. The coup plotters set the course of what happened after. No doubt about it. There was bound to be a reaction especially after the vast majority of the dead belonged to only two of the three major ethnic groups at the time.

    • Riot50000 says:



      The Yoruba political leadership, as mentioned by Balarabe Musa, has shown itself over the years to be incapable of rising above narrow tribal interests and reciprocating goodwill from other sections of the country by treating other groups with respect. Practically every crisis in Nigeria since independence has its roots in this attitude.
      The Yoruba elite and area-boy politics;
      Igbo marginalisation and the responsible limits of retribution; and
      The Yoruba Factor and “Area-boy” Politics.
      My views on the Yoruba political leadership have been thoroughly articulated in some of my writings, prime among which was ” Afenifere: Syllabus of Errors” published by This Day (The Sunday Newspaper) on Sept 27, 1998. There was also an earlier publication in the weekly Trust entitled ” The Igbo, the Yoruba and History” (Aug. 21, 1998).

      In sum, the Yoruba political leadership, as mentioned by Balarabe Musa, has shown itself over the years to be incapable of rising above narrow tribal interests and reciprocating goodwill from other sections of the country by treating other groups with respect. Practically every crisis in Nigeria since independence has its roots in this attitude.

      The Yoruba elite were the first, in 1962, to attempt a violent overthrow of an elected government in this country. In 1966, it was the violence in the West which provided an avenue for the putsch of 15th January. After Chief Awolowo lost to Shagari in 1983 elections, it was the discontent and bad publicity in the South-West which led to the Buhari intervention.

    • Pappy says:

      Easterners are not behind Nigeria’s woes, Nigeria’s problems are caused by the entire regions of Nigeria. Ask yourself who created conditions for the soldiers to act, Nigeria was still headed for a dangerous civil war with or without the actions of the 1966 majors.

  • Ositadinma Egeonu says:

    Sidelining OBJ from the coup…well done?

    • George Abejide says:

      The one sidelined eventually became the one who received the instrument of surrender. Just imagine the stone which the builders rejected eventually rose to become the chief cornerstone

  • Blunt Arrow says:

    This is certainly different from any thing I have read concerning the 1966 coup.

  • Blood really flowed that night and Nigeria has never remained the same.

  • Battleaxe says:

    Hard men of those days in their 20s

  • Riot50000 says:

    Yorubas Are The Problem With Nigeria says Sanusi Lamido Sanusi …
    May 6, 2015 – Yorubas Are The Problem With Nigeria says Sanusi Lamido Sanusi …. Mobile-friendly – CBN, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi to the National .

  • Riot50000 says:

    Yorubas Are The Problem With Nigeria says Sanusi Lamido Sanusi …
    May 6, 2015 – Yorubas Are The Problem With Nigeria says Sanusi Lamido Sanusi …. Mobile-friendly – CBN, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi to the National .

  • Chris-Alade Zeaqraht says:

    Great introduction into Nigeria history, it was such a captivating and insightful writing on Nigeria history

  • Mike Ace says:

    Totally biased story. This story is false and if u base your argument based on this story then your ignorant.
    In my own opinion, the past generations have failed woefully and if ‘we’ this generarion continue like this we would fail too.
    These failures(older generation who are still in power) still use divisions to enrich themselves and we patronize them.
    Youths and I mean real youths not the spill over from these Faliures that call themselves youths. We need to come together , keep religion and tribalism aside and build a discuss on how to move forward.

  • Lucky Nwi-ue says:

    An interesting account though for those of us who area after the civil war. However, the narrative appears deliberately skewed against the Eastern Nigeria for unknown reasons. This is obvious even to the first readers.

  • Techrable says:

    These UK colonists have finished us Hiphopza dot com

  • Stephen says:

    Still wondering why some tribes will be calling other tribes slaves when it is obvious who is the slave. Slaves work hard and develop their masters’ land. so always think twice before calling a tribe slaves. I believe in one united Nigeria. Just my take

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.