• Wednesday, April 24, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Closing the ugly chapter: A rejoinder!

Closing the ugly chapter: A rejoinder!

I considered it pertinent to lend a voice to the columnist of the Guardian newspaper on March 8, 2024, by a seasoned journalist, Abdu Rafiu, in which he gave insight and an overview of the putsch of January 15, 1966. The writer clamoured for reconciliation from hearts and wounded souls. He sought to establish the objective and aim of the first military coup in Nigeria, primarily led by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu. The discourse made a sincere effort to answer whether it was an Igbo coup or not. Mainly, the root cause of the coup was the lifestyle of politicians and the occupation of those in government at the time.

Major political upheavals in Nigeria started in the West, as could be seen from the mass cross-carpeting in 1952 after the NCNC gained a massive victory in the elections. Some people still wonder why the British loved the North so much. The Sardauna of Sokoto never supported or wished for Nigeria’s independence. He has often told Zik, “Ba mu so ya, zu ba mu wa iji”‘ba”—’we never grow; let the British rule us’. The big man from the North, seeing the desperation in Awolowo, played a prank on the premier of the defunct Western region, Samuel Akintola, which reversed major decisions in Action Group during the 1962 National Convention in Jos. Ultimately, it resulted in ‘Operation Wet e.’

Q: “Just like in the civil war, the main coup plotters were led by personal vindictiveness, sheer aspersion, and vengeance on their perceived enemies.”

The crisis, rioting, and arson in western Nigeria continued during the federal elections of 1964 and the regional elections of 1965. The disturbance from the west affected national peace and governance. Equally, it snowballed into the first military coup in January 1966. The Sardauna of Sokoto had requested that Awolowo be brought to Kano prisons so that he would have a way to eliminate him. Zik had vehemently refused, citing climatic weather conditions and the environment. Nothing short of these started other problems in Nigeria.

Read also: Military coups in West Africa, Wagner group and threat to Nigerian democracy

Just like in the civil war, the main coup plotters were led by personal vindictiveness, sheer aspersion, and vengeance on their perceived enemies. There was not any tribal sentiment in the planning of the coup. Kaduna Nzeogwu became terribly aggressive and violent in dealing with the North because of his experiences as an army instructor at the training depot. Alhaji Ahmadu Bello has shown himself to be very vaunted, bigoted, and corrupt, posing a security risk that led to his elimination. While young brilliant cadets were sent to Sandhurst for training before any promotion, the Sardauna of Sokoto had always brought in young illiterate Fulanis to be promoted in the army.

Emmanuel Ifeajuna, on his part, made a lot of mistakes, driven by jealousy and insecurity. His flexibility led to the killing of the prime minister, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, and Brigadier Zakariya Maimalari on his wedding night during the Lagos operation. Some others were also killed, but that could never be a justification to overload the Igbos. Nevertheless, to say that the vision of the putschists was the elevation of Awolowo to lead Nigeria at that time is nothing but a satire.

Major General Johnson Aguiyi Ironsi assumed leadership of the Supreme Military Council following the turmoil of the 1966 coup. He faced the challenge of uniting the country amidst regional tensions. Ironsi’s policies aimed at national unity, such as the unification decree, were met with resistance in some regions. Understanding these complexities is crucial for a balanced historical perspective. The 1966 coup resulted in casualties across Nigeria. Accurately documenting these events from all regions is essential.

Examining the role of various groups, including Eastern Nigerians, in shaping the nation’s history can provide valuable insights. Investigating historical accounts, such as those by Col. Ben Gbulie and T.Y. Danjuma, can contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of the events surrounding the 1966 coup and Ironsi’s fate. Moving forward, focusing on constructive dialogue and collaboration can help address the challenges facing Nigeria.

Operation Damisa had Victor Banjo and one other Yoruba who joined later, yet it never prevented the massacre of Igbos in the North. Hardship and suffering have not and will not unite Nigerians because tribal sentiments are strong. The present problem in Nigeria is not a sequel to any putsch. Many hungry Nigerians are in an unemployment quagmire.

In conclusion, historical events, cultural traditions, and social movements all contribute to the present state of society. If we fail to understand the past, the gory state of the Nigerian government may be vague to us. The advancements of the past lay the foundation for the innovations of today and tomorrow. Nigeria’s political history has cast a long shadow on the country’s current challenges. The colonial legacy sowed the seeds for ethnic and regional tensions that continue to plague Nigeria today. Decades of military rule (1966–1999) stifled political development and entrenched corruption, which still persist in Nigerian politics.