Opinion

Soldiers killed Sardauna, By Emeka Obasi

Those who try to use the January 1966 coup to define the Igbo always refer to it anytime they are out of political relevance and these bad eggs enjoy support from gullible countrymen whose ignorance will continue to massage the ego of their sponsors.

 

The coup was a purely selfish drive which has left Nigeria bleeding for nearly sixty years. Some of the so called five majors were out to settle personal scores with superior officers. Maj. Wale Ademoyega was the unseen leader of the coup but has continued to escape maximum scrutiny.

 

We cannot keep dwelling on the big lie that the Igbo killed Sir Ahmadu Bello, Premier of the Northern Region, when there is a list of the soldiers who stormed his official residence in what Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu code named Operation Damissa.

 

Nzeogwu led 31 officers and men namely, Chris Ude, Dag Waribor, Samson Omeruah, Musa Kanga, Yakubu Adebiyi, Daramola Oyegoke, Ogbole Agwu, Bello Mbulla, Sam Amayo, Danya Mbulla, Abu Odieder, Lekoja Gidan Jibrin, Bako Lamundo, Wadu Goje, Alex Agbe, Lagwin Goshit and Oguche Agbo.

 

The others were Tunana Bangir, Usman Monogi, Effiong Atkinson, Abibo El, Felako Kwa, Yakubu Kaje, Issa Tayapa, Reuben Nwaogwugwu, Mamis Hundu, Ali Shendam, Usman Gabure, Thamyil Tsenyil, Emma Ekwuoma, Jonathan Amahiri and Erastus Nakito.

 

Nzeogwu rose from Chief Instructor at the Nigeria Military Training College (NMTC) to Commander in Chief of Kaduna, which with 12 bases, had nearly 95 percent of the country’s military power. He ascended on the blood of many.

 

Firstly, he executed one of his soldiers, Sgt. Daramola Oyegoke, for exhibiting fear. That done, Nzeogwu, better known, as Kaduna, descended on the Sardauna household, shooting the Premier who died with his senior wife, Hafsatu, and about five others.

 

While the madness was going on, many of the Northern officers who later began to preach Igbo coup did nothing. Major Hassan Katsina, a Fulani blue blood, like Ahmadu Bello, who had the Reconnaissance Squadron and Regimental Headquarters under his command, froze in fear when Nzeogwu appeared.

 

Katsina shook hands with Nzeogwu, while the plotter commandeered all the armoured vehicles attached to the Recce Squadron and moved them to the 1 Brigade Headquarters which he occupied as Operational Headquarters, following the assassination of Brig. Sam Ademulegun.

 

The first person to condemn Nzeogwu, an Okpanam man, was Maj. Alphonsus Keshi, his brother and Brigade Major of 1 Brigade, who described the coup plotter as a murderer. Both men were Sandhurst course mates, alongside Joe Akahan, Chude Sokei and Chris Ude.

 

Lt.Col. Alexander Madiebo, from Awka, was the only officer brave enough to visit Nzeogwu. It was a big risk, he was a superior officer who commanded 1 Field Battery ( Artillery) and could have been shot as a threat to the coup. His presence around Nzeogwu saved Nigeria from its first war.

 

Lt.Col Emeka Ojukwu, Commander of 5th Battalion, Kano, was ready to deal with Nzeogwu. When the latter sent Ude to the former, the subaltern was detained. Nzeogwu raised a force under Maj. Tim Onwuatuegwu to go destroy Ojukwu. Madiebo advised against that.

 

All this while Katsina, a Sandhurst trained officer, who was commissioned in 1958, a year before Nzeogwu passed out, was quiet. Lt. Col Yakubu Gowon tried to talk Madiebo into sedating Nzeogwu, a funny task that was akin to a suicide mission.

 

Gen. Johnson Aguiyi Ironsi, General Officer Commanding (GOC) Nigeria Army thought fast. He had served at the Nigeria High Commission and was Equerry to Queen Elizabeth when she visited Nigeria in 1956.

 

Ironsi looked the way of Lt. Col Conrad Nwawo, from Onicha Olona, who at the time, was Defence Attache at the Nigeria High Commission, London. Nwawo was Nzeogwu’s teacher. And only him could handle the Lion of Kada. It worked, Nzeogwu was tricked to Lagos and detained.

 

It is clear from here that only Igbo officers dared Nzeogwu. Sarduana did not have issues with the Igbo. When he was jailed in 1943, by his own blood, the Sultan of Sokoto, some of his concerned friends were from Igbo land. Later, Mike Agbamuche,was the Premier’s Chief Legal Confidant. All talk about Islamising the country was politics.

 

Political jobbers should let the Igbo be and learn from the family of Lt. Col James Yakubu Pam, one of the officers killed by the January plotters. His deputy, Maj. Humphrey Chukwuka, deliberately positioned himself to arrest his boss, with the hope of saving the colonel’s life.

 

However, Maj. Chris Anuforo, had issues with Pam when Nigerian troops were sent to Tanzania in 1964. Anuforo was not happy that Chukwuka spared Pam. That was the end. Chukwuka bears the guilt of failing Mrs Elizabeth Pam and her children even after apologising at the Oputa Panel on 2001.

 

Mrs Pam continued to relate with Igbo families and colleagues of her husband. You could find the Pams communicating with the Lt. Col Patrick Anwunah household. Even when Capt. Ben Gbulie relied on hear say to accuse Pam of getting a free house from the Sardauna, the children simply asked for an apology.

 

That house in Kaduna, was taken on loan which Col. Pam could not repay before he died. His boys completed payment, decades later. Today, Ibrahim Pam is married to Nwakego. They have not lived off Igbo bashing and genocide.

 

*Emeka is senior journalist and an iconoclastic historian.

 

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