JANUARY 15th IN HISTORY, THE COUP; A THORN STILL HEALING”
Before the end of the day, let me remind you that today JANUARY 15th exactly about 53 years ago is a very important day in the history of Nigeria. “On Saturday, January 15, 1966, a pivotal day in the history of Nigeria” wrote Chinua Achebe in his book, ‘There was a Country’. That evening was a shifting storm for Nigeria. That evening, unbeknownst to most Nigerians, a military coup was being launched that would change Nigeria forever even till today.
It is sad that this memory is coming now that the nation is a pool of confusion. However, history must be told for Nigeria had not anticipated it aside some creative writers such as Chinua Achebe and nobel laureate Wole Soyinka who like prophets had predicted the doom that was ahead for the newly independent nation. For instance, Achebe’s ‘A Man For The People’. The euphoria which came along with the status of independence was short lived as the civilian government couldn’t live up to the task and responsibilities expected of them. Many young African nations at this time rather than enjoy the rewards of independence were submerged in the disillusionment of seeing their freedom fighters become despots, their once united force becoming broken by the hammers of greed, injustice and ineptitude and the cracks that came along with it.
Although the Jan 15, 1966 has been termed by some as the Igbo-Coup. We must however know that on the lips of many Nigerians who lived then to witness the coup would term it a harvest of tragedy. Nigeria as a nation has often been too quick to affiliate every problem to ethnicity, thus, this even affects the way history is viewed. This date and the happenings hereafter are complex and has been a subject of debate for many historians and scholars of Comparative History till date. No wonder, the Biafran agitations is still fresh even till today. This coup led to the death of Nigeria’s first prime minister, Sir Tafawa Balewa.
The 1966 Nigerian coup d’état on January 15, 1966, was the first military coup that was
carried out in Nigeria by junior officers. Maj. Kaduna Nzeogwu The coup d’état toppled the government of President Nnamdi Azikiwe and Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa thereby rewriting the political, social and military history of the country. The coup, though not completely successful, laid the foundation for coups and counter coups in Nigeria. 8 facts about the 1966 Nigerian coup d’état are attached below as shared by Naij:
1. In August 1965, 1 Yoruba and 4 Igbo Majors were beginning to plot a coup d’état against incumbent Prime Minister Abubakar Balewa.
2. It was one of the events that led to the Nigerian Civil War which started in 1967.
3. On January 15, 1966 Maj. Kaduna Nzeogwu decided to turn a night-time training exercise known as “Exercise Damisa” into a full blown military coup.
4. The coup was planned because according to the Majors, the men at the helm of affairs were running Nigeria aground with their corrupt ways.
5. The senior army officer, General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, then used the coup as a pretext to annex power, ending Nigeria’s nascent democracy.
6. The officers involved on both sides of the coup are (Conspirators): Maj. Kaduna Nzeogwu (Igbo), Maj. Timothy Onwuatuegwu (Igbo), Maj. Emmanuel Ifeajuna (Igbo), Maj. Chris Anuforo (Igbo), Maj. Don Okafor (Igbo), Maj. Adewale Ademoyega (Yoruba), Maj. Humphrey Chukwuka (Igbo), Capt. Emmanuel Nwobosi (Igbo), Capt. Ben Gbulie (Igbo)and Capt. Ogbu Oji (Igbo).
Government officials include: Prime Minister Abubakar Balewa † (Bageri), Premier Ahmadu Bello † (Fulani), Premier Samuel Akintola (Yoruba), Finance Minister Festus Okotie-Eboh (Itsekiri), Gen. Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi (Igbo), Brig. Samuel Ademulegun (Yoruba), Brig. Zakariya Maimalari (Kanuri), Col. Kur Mohammed (Kanuri), Col. Ralph Shodeinde † (Yoruba), Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon (Ngas), Lt. Col. Abogo Largema (Kanuri), Lt. Col. James Pam (Berom), Lt. Col. Arthur Unegbe (Igbo), Lt. Col. Conrad Nwawo (Igbo) and Maj. Hassan Katsina (Fulani).
7. Nigerian soldiers led by Kaduna Nzeogwu assassinated 11 senior Nigerian politicians and two soldiers as well as kidnapping three others.
8. Some of those who were murdered in the 1966 coup include the Prime Minister of Nigeria, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa; the Premier of Northern Nigeria, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello: the Premier of Western Region; Sir Samuel Ladoke Akintola; the Finance Minister, Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh; the wife of Ademulegun, Mrs. Lateefat; the wife of the then Premier of Northern Nigeria, Hafusat; Zarumi Sardauna, the Senior Assistant on Security to the then Premier, Ahmed Ben Musa and the Government Driver to the then Premier, Ahmed Pategi.
Written: Badiru Kehinde
(Poet, Story-teller, Observer, Freelance Writer and Researcher)