“1966 coup plotters planned to make Awolowo Head of State — Olutoye”
Major-General Olufemi Olutoye (Rtd) The Owa of Ido-Ani, Oba.
THE BLUNDER OF TWO “SUPREMOS”
Supremo was short for Supreme Allied Commander, a designation used for the Allied Commanders of World War 2.
What turned out to be the civil war, was the product of the blunders of the only two Supreme Commanders that ever led Nigeria, their blunders led us to war. One Supreme Commander was responsible for the REMOTE cause, the other Supreme Commander was responsible for IMMEDIATE cause, both were the leaders on whose table the buck stopped.
IRONSI was the REMOTE cause, and GOWON was the IMMEDIATE cause of the civil war.
TRUMAN’S BUCK ON IRONSI’S TABLE
President Truman’s dictum “the buck stops here”, applied to both men. It was within Ironsi’s power as Supreme Commander to give Gowon ( his Chief of staff, army headquarters; at the time) a specific time bound order for an earlier trial of the January coup plotters and that within a defined timeframe (based on the March 1966 report of the special branch). He didn’t …that played a prominent role in his undoing and build up to the war!
IRONSI STUCK BETWEEN THE “PROVERBIAL ROCK AND A HARD PLACE”
Nigerian military Historian, Max Siollun on the 95th page of his 2009, New York, published book: “Oil, Politics and Violence Nigeria’s Military Coup Culture (1966-1976)” captured Ironsi’s plight this way:
“If Aguiyi-Ironsi bowed to northern pressure and immediately tried the Majors, he would face a backlash from southern officers, many of whom held sensitive military posts. If he went with the southern opinion and released them, he might be faced with a mutiny by Northern soldiers who were still aggrieved at the murder of their Northern colleagues in January. Aguiyi-Ironsi was caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place and could not take a decision either way without further inflaming passions in the Northern Region and/or South. It proved impossible to keep both sides simultaneously content. Lt-Colonel Ejoor later admitted that he “did not envy” the daunting decision facing Aguiyi-Ironsi. The famous “Black Scorpion” Major Benjamin Adekunle….. admitted that “It was a difficult situation and I did not envy him one bit.”
“Opinion on the coup among Igbo officers was not unanimous either. The January coup had genuinely taken Lt-Colonel Patrick Anwunah by surprise. Anwunah disapproved of the Majors’ coup even though his two immediate subordinates at army headquarters, Major Anuforo and Captain Oji, were among the key conspirators.”
IRONSI: THE REMOTE CAUSE
1 IRONSI for the
– QUALITY and
….of decisions he took as the Supreme Commander, following the January 15 coup, was the REMOTE cause of the war that resulted in
– LOSS of TRUST in him.
–SUSPICION of every action he took.
– POGROMS and
1: THE ACCOUNT OF N. J. MINERS
- J. Miners (who thought in King’s College Lagos, between 1957 and 1966) noted on the 206th page of his Methuen & Co LTD, book Published in 1971, titled: “The Nigerian Army 1956-1966”, the following:
“…a conference of emirs and Chiefs met Lt-Col. Katsina on June 1. This despatched a memorandum to General Ironsi for consideration by the Supreme Military Council, “on the grievances of our people and our recommendations on how to bring about peace in Nigeria’. The memorandum was not Published nor was Ironsi’s reply”
Then on page 207 he wrote:
“… General Ironsi … was not naturally given to decisive action.”
Then on page 208 he wrote:.
“On 13 July Ironsi announced that military ‘prefects’ would be appointed at local level, responsible for seeing that government policy was carried out… On 29 July he was murdered … while he was attending the first All-Nigeria Conference of Chiefs in Ibadan”
Kindly click the link to see the video of the conference.
( https://youtu.be/OCp6f2JjVFg )
On page 209 he wrote:
“Ironsi had given his word that the conspirators would be safe from any criminal proceedings when he needed to secure the submission of Major Nzeogwu on 17 January. General Ironsi was no Machiavelli; he kept his pledged word and deferred any decision by asking the new Army Chief of Staff, Lt.-Col. Gowon, to carry out a full investigation of the coup. This report was not submitted before Ironsi’s death”
2: THE ACCOUNT OF MAX SIOLLUN: THE NIGERIAN MILITARY HISTORIAN
Still on the 95th page, Siollun in the same book: “Oil, Politics and Violence” wrote:
“Due to the gravity of the offenses committed by the Majors (murder, mutiny, treason and kidnapping to name a few), a trial would certainly lead to their execution. Without a formal public announcement, the SMC decided to place the January Majors on public trial. The trial was originally scheduled to take place in August but was postponed to October. This decision was recorded in the SMC’s minutes and later confirmed by the military governor of the Northern Region Lt-Colonel Hassan Katsina”
Siollun would add on the 93rd page:
“A board of inquiry including Lt-Colonels Gowon and Nwawo, Captain Baba Usman and Alhaji M. D. Yusuf was tasked with investigating the coup….. Captain Usman was the liaison officer tasked with the job of taking the detainees on a daily basis, from their prison cells to police headquarters where they were interrogated extensively and at length by an interrogation team including Special Branch police officers such as M.D. Yusuf, Assistant Commissioner of Police Isa Dejo, Lt-Colonel Gowon and British police officers.”
on the 94th page:
“The report was originally submitted to and reviewed by the SMC, and was to be the basis for the production of a government white paper on the January coup. However, the white paper was never publicly published.
According to the Eastern Region, Lt-Colonel Gowon was in charge of producing the white paper but procrastinated on it, and every time he was asked in SMC meetings to report on its process, replied that he needed more time
“In a 2002 lecture at the National War College Lt-Colonel Effiong also claimed that “Aguiyi-Ironsi placed Lt-Colonel Gowon (as he then was) in charge of investigation and identification of the real culprits of the first coup d’etat.” Captain Baba Usman (who was closely involved in the investigation) subsequently claimed that the Special Branch report was ready at the end of March 1966.”
MAX SIOLLUN ON THE GRIEVANCES OF THE NORTH THAT LED TO THE COUNTER COUP.
On the 97th page, of the book”Oil, Politics and Violence” the author identified those grievances as
- The murder of their military and civilian leaders in January.
- The January Majors had still not been tried and were being paid while in detention.
- The Unification Decree.
- Rumours of a further Igbo coup to eliminate all remaining Northern Soldiers.
- The promotion of several Igbo Majors to Lt-Colonel.
- Aguiyi-Ironsi allegedly surrounded himself with other Igbos.
- Aguiyi-Ironsi’s plan to rotate the military governors.
- The planned swap of the 1st and 4th battalion.
A platoon commanders course in Kaduna brought several junior Northern Officers together (including Lieutenants Sani Abacha, Abdullahi Shelleng, Haladu Hannaniya, Muhammadu Jega, Yakubu Dambo and Wali) They typed and sent an anonymous letter to the most senior Northern Officer Lt-Colonel Gowon. The letter warned that unless senior Northern officers took action to avenge the murders of January within a certain deadline, the junior Northern officers would take the law into their own hands. It is not known whether Gowon communicated the contents of this letter to his colleagues in the SMC”
To be continued