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

Samuel Ladoke Akintola: Personally engaged soldiers in gun duel

Samuel Ladoke Akintola: Personally engaged soldiers in gun duel

The 31-year-old Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna was the brain behind the Revolution. He studied zoology for 4 years at Ibadan University and graduated with a B.Sc before being commissioned into the army in 1961. At the age of 20, he brought glory to the nation when at the 1954 Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, he won Nigeria’s first ever gold medal at any international games and set a new record in high jump. He refused to wear the athletes’ spiked boots or any shoe at all for the run-up competitions. At Vancouver, in front of the international cameras, he was persuaded to wear the boots. As a compromise, he wore a boot only on one leg and jumped the highest setting a new world record in high jump and in bizarre outfitting. Ifeajuna knew he was not born to be ordinary and so was addicted to breaking rules and setting new records. As a charismatic orator and Director of Information at University College Ibadan Students Union, he led the protest against the Queen’s visit to the University in 1956.

Ibadan City was born by dissident soldiers headed by Lagelu among seven hills as a refuge for immigrants fleeing wars in 1829. By 1960, Ibadan had become the most cosmopolitan city in Nigeria. Being an embodiment of the lure of consistent non-conformism, Ibadan like New York of that time, held an extraordinary collection of flame-headed intellectuals avid for novelty and whose creativity and distinguished activisms enriched the city and the country. There was nowhere in Africa that matched Ibadan’s assemblage of fire then. There was SG Ikoku who challenged and defeated his own famous father Alvan Ikoku at the Eastern Region Assembly elections of 1956 and then radicalised his new adopted father Chief Obafemi Awolowo into socialism. There was Anthony Enahoro, Chris Okigbo, John Pepper Clark, Chinua Achebe, Tayo Akpata, Benedict Obumselu, Chike Obi, Wole Soyinka, Sam Agbam, Akin Mabogunje, Bola Ige, Emeka Anyaoku, Elechi Amadi. Ifeajuna was a friend to most of them. He wrote in his manuscript:

“It was at Ibadan also I learnt my third lesson. One morning, workmen arrived in the campus with what looked like burglar grills. In a matter of days, they had sealed off each hall or residence from the outside and turned all into cages. Altogether, they gave the place the look of a zoo, so that students saw themselves as animals on show…Then the students took a decision – the cages would have to come down faster than they had been put up. But how to do it? Everybody knew what was wanted but they had not or did not know the means and the manner of effecting the change desired and demanded by all. Each waited for the other to act or simply waited in the hope that something would happen by way of providential intervention.

“At the appointed hour, I and two others met in a hidden rendezvous. We worked out the detailed plans and assembled hammers for the job. The events which took place a week or so later went according to plan. We called a Union meeting. There were speeches, moving speeches. Then one of my friends shouted: ‘Down with the cages.’ He led the way to the hammer dump. Before long the cages were down. At the end of it all a student friend reflecting on the incident made interesting comment that a collection of professors would still be a crowd: a group must have a leader or remain in chaos. The University College was closed for a term but we made our point. And the lesson that emerged for me from this incident was the need for careful planning before [undergoing] any operation; the chance of success can be said to be proportion to the work put into the planning.”

Ifeajuna informed Okigbo the discussed Revolution was in the works. According to Wole Soyinka, Okigbo informed Achebe and informed him also without going into details. Soyinka was then on trial for allegedly using a gun to persuade the state broadcaster that instead of Akintola’s tape announcing himself as the election winner, his own tape asking Akintola to pack and go was of better value to the people. He was later freed by Justice Kayode Eso on 12 December 1965.

Ifeajuna was pleased to hear about Okigbo’s friend subversive broadcast. He regarded it as theatre; they were plotting the real stunt. On the day of this stunt, more than anywhere else in the country, there was great euphoria of vindication in Ibadan as the people leapt around on the streets like compressed chests freed at last from the tyranny of pushdown bras. Ibadan claimed Ifeajuna as one of its very own and Okigbo distilled the joys of that day into his poem Hurray for the Path of Thunder. When Nzeogwu’s voice fountained out like a genie of the lamp amongst some Ibadan intellectuals clustered around their radio at Risikatu’s restaurant, Okigbo was reported to have called for patience, patience, patience. He confidently proclaimed that there was still another voice that would soon follow suit. He was referring to his friend and chief engineer of the Revolution, Major Emmanuel Arinze Ifeajuna born on 3rd March 1934, married to Rose on 16th June 1959 at Lagos Registry in Ikoyi and commissioned into the army on 6th December 1960.

Ben Gbulie: Obasanjo's deputy who ought to pick him at the airport

Ben Gbulie: Obasanjo’s deputy who ought to pick him at the airport

On the night of the coup, after Ifeajuna concluded his address to his fellow mutineers in his sitting room, he led the largest unit comprising 22 soldiers. Reaching Onikan roundabout, he divided them into three groups. One officer, 2/Lt. G. Ezedigbo and 8 NCOs would go to arrest the finance minister, Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh who was then the most corrupt politician in the history of Nigeria. Just like the Downing Street model in London, the Prime Minister and Finance Minister lived side-by-side. But they had become respectively like church and state that did not mix. Another unit comprising 5 NCOs commanded by second warrant officer Onyeacha was left behind to watch over their vehicles and ensure that no other vehicle entered or exited the Onikan roundabout during the course of the operation. Ifeajuna himself commanded the remaining soldiers whose task was to arrest the Prime Minister, Sir Tafawa Balewa Abubakar, the novelist and teacher turned Prime Minister.

Abubakar was widely known to hardly surround himself with guards at home or even when commuting. He always cautioned his household against striving for the inessential and ostentatious materialism which expressed itself in need for elaborate security measures. Only Abubakar could have a disabled cripple called Inspector Kaftan Topolomiyo from Nangasu in Chad as his head of security. It was only in 1964 that he consented to a supplement ADC, Sgt Maxwell Orukpabo fondly called “the Igbo” in the household. In February 1963 during a police council meeting with the four regional premiers, the newly restored Western Premier, Akintola proposed a budget for armoured cars for themselves given the security situation in the country. Abubakar softly reprimanded him: “Mr Premier, if I ever thought I would need an armoured car to go anywhere in Nigeria, I would resign.” In the pornography of corruption called the Nigerian government, Abubakar was a monk. And so Ifeajuna knew his task would be very easy. The soldiers he took to abduct him were service soldiers drawn from Signal Squadron, Lagos Garrison Organisation and Camp. None were combat soldiers.

Around thirty minutes later, without a single shot fired, the cool and soft-spoken Prime Minister emerged from the front gate of his residence untied, gently rattling his prayer beads and was dressed in a white flowing jalabiya and a pair of sandals. A lifetime of emotional discipline had rendered his signature face docile and unconquerable by fear. The dead silence of the night lent a hallowed majesty to his steps as he advanced towards his Golgotha. Behind him was Ifeajuna and eight other non-combat soldiers with guns drawn. By the time the entourage reached the parked vehicles, Okotie-Eboh his NCNC Finance Minister had been arrested with his hands tied. Abubakar was assisted into the backseat of Ifeajuna’s luxurious red Mercedes Benz while Okotie Eboh was tossed like a sack of potatoes into the back of the 3 tonner. The convoy drove to report to Federal Guard’s Officer’s Mess.

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    • Joshua says:

      To be honest from what was said and written in this test it was not a mutiny or coup as was charracterised by many,this was simply a revolution carried out by simply young and dedicated Nigerians who saw the decay that was going on in a nation Nigeria,and decided to put it to a stop,it takes a strong mind to carry out such an objective,in as much I don’t like blood shed but I still see these men brave, Patriots and should be honored in our nation,the tinubus have started another trouble like the akintolas did the should be careful for history knows how to repeat it’s self.

  • 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

    • Joshua says:

      This men meant well for our nation,the wanted to wipe out corruption, nepotism,iInjustice, ethnic sentiment out of our country.

  • 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

  • Gidi50 says:

    Well this is an interesting post that calls more argument anyway the past generations have failed woefully and if ‘we’ this generation 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.

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