Wednesday, July 29, 2020 12:56 pm
By Raphael James
1966 July 29: Major General Aguiyi-Ironsi, Nigerian head of the National Military Government and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces was kidnapped at Ibadan with his host Lt. Col. Adekunle Fajuyi, first military governor of Western region during an army mutiny. Three days later they were pronounced dead.
On July 28, 1966, Head of State – General J T U Aguiyi-Ironsi hosted traditional rulers from all parts of the country in the Ibadan Government House, Agodi. The following morning of July 29, at about 4 a. m, Captain Andrew Nwankwo received a call from Adeola, the then Commissioner of Police, Ibadan saying he wanted to speak with Ironsi. Captain Andrew Nwankwo was the Aide-De-Camp to Major General J. T. U Aguiyi Ironsi. Adeola informed him that there was a coup. General Ironsi had in his security entourage a small detachment of 106 Artillery, Commanded by Lt. Col. William Walbe
Lieutenant Sanni Bello was the army ADC to the Head of State and Lt. Adamu was the ADC to Lt Col Francis Adekunle Fajuyi. (Walbe later became ADC to Gowon). Around 5:30 a m there were gun shots, then General Ironsi sent Col. Njoku to go and get details of the events. Njoku was the Commander of Lagos Garrison that alerted others outside the Government House, Ibadan about the coup. Lt Col Francis Adekunle Fajuyi commanded Nwankwo to go outside the Government House to find out what was happening. Nwankwo met with Major T. Y. Danjuma, and Danjuma demanded to see the Head of State. At that point Lt Col Francis Adekunle Fajuyi came out to find out what was holding Nwankwo. Fajuyi was arrested. The coupists’ demand for General Ironsi to come down became intensive. Nwankwo took them to Ironsi and Major Titus Numan, (a non-commissioned officer, who was promoted by General Ironsi to the rank of full Lieutenant) seized Ironsi’s crocodile swagger stick, and they questioned him about the January 15, 1966 coup. Gen Ironsi explained that he only stepped in to restore confidence and normalcy. General J. T. U. Aguiyi-Ironsi and Lt Col Francis Adekunle Fajuyi were arrested and the rest became history. They were taken away in a Land Rover and a mini bus and driven to an isolated area along Iwo Road. The mutineers stopped over, marched the victims to the right hand side of the bush and killed them.
In 1993, I commenced my research work on General Aguiyi-Ironsi, and my first port of call was a visit to the great Zik of Africa in Onitsha. He welcomed me and was excited that at last a book was coming out on Ironsi. On July 13, 1994, I met with Pa Tai Solarin at an event to mark the birthday of Professor Wole Soyinka who gave me an appointment for 27 July at Ikenne. I was there but the meeting never held, he died before I got there. By 1995 I had assembled a world of literature on General Ironsi. I visited and interviewed his brothers: Mr. Kanu, Mr. Matthias and Mr. Lazarus and Chief Mrs Victoria Aguiyi-Ironsi, all in Umuahia, the Abia State capital. I travelled to Abuja and met with his son, Ambassador and High Chief Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi. I also interviewed Col. Hilary Njoku (rtd), his reception was awesome. I interviewed Gen. Odumegwu Ojukwu of the Biafran Army in 1999. The same year I interviewed Col. Sanni Bello (rtd) (now late), Chief J.O.J. Okezie (now late). Gen. Ike Nwachukwu (rtd), Prof. J. O. Irukwu, Prof. Benedict Obumselu, among many others. On Monday January 17, I published me first article on Ironsi in the ‘The National Ambassador’ Newspaper in Abia state with the title: “Life and Times of Aguiyi-Ironsi.
On November 10, 2016 after several attempts I was able to locate the spot where General J. T. U. Aguiyi-Ironsi and Lt Col Francis Adekunle Fajuyi were assassinated on July 29, 1966. It’s about half a plot of land, belonging to the family of Otun Balogun of Lalopon, located almost by the intersection of the old and new Ibadan-Iwo road, opposite Idito High School, Erunmu in Lagelu Local Government Area of Oyo State. I took a photo on the spot holding a copy of my book ‘The Supreme Commander, sp eeches of General Ironsi with foreword by General Ibrahim Babaginda. I also made an appeal to the President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, the Executive Governors of: Oyo State – Abiola Adeyemi Ajimobi; Abia State – Okezie Ikpeazu; Ekiti State – Peter Ayodele Fayose to come together and give honour to this two great Nigerians by building an epitaph in remembrance of them at the site.
Interestingly on May 3, 2017, a friend who saw my story in 2016 called me that he was driving past and noticed that the Oyo State Government through the Ministry of Information had commenced plans to build an Ironsi-Fajuyi Garden” on the spot, by erecting a signboard there. I was delighted to the news. May their souls rest in peace.
Source: History Nigeria (FB)