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The Brig. Bolaji Johnson Aburi Earthquake….

By Emma Okocha

“Colonel OlufemiOlutoye and Brigadier Adebayo represented the West, Brigadier Imo, Colonels Effiong, Eze and Ude the East, Colonel Martins Adamu the North, Colonels Nwawo, Okwechime, Nwajei and Samauel Ogbemudia represented Midwest.

In those meetings in Benin, it was discovered that the total strength of the Yoruba soldiers then enlisted was only 65…..Brigadier Babafemi Ogundipe was the most senior officer in the mainland and the island… the northern coupists were in Ikeja and were not interested in Nigeria.

They were planning to evacuate their people…. When the soldiers refused to obey his orders Brigadier Ogundipe understood the implications. He escaped.

SYMPOSIUM: From left: Dr. Ralph Wilcox, Provost; Dr. Judy Genshaft, President, University of South Florida and Chief Philip Asiodu, after the Asaba Memorial Symposium, held at the University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida, United States, last week.
SYMPOSIUM: From left: Dr. Ralph Wilcox, Provost; Dr. Judy Genshaft, President, University of South Florida and Chief Philip Asiodu, after the Asaba Memorial Symposium, held at the University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida, United States, last week.

I was the most senior Nigerian officer on the mainland, and we Midwestern Ibo officers had the critical commands in Yaba, etc. I could have declared myself Head of State or approached the British …but that was not why I joined the Nigerian army….’’

—Late Colonel Rudolf Trimnel, also see Blood On the Niger, New York: Triantlantic Books 2003 page 5.

“Who will therefore say that the late Justice Nkemena and those who assisted him in returning sentence of death by firing squad on Victor Banjo, Phillip Alale, Emmanuel Ifeajuna and Samuel Agbam did not, while still doing what they thought they should in the circumstance, feel that the four men were to die only because they asked for immediate negotiation with the federal Nigerian authorities so that millions of the inhabitants of the former Biafra might be saved from purposeless deaths…..’’

—Nelson Ottah, The Trial of Biafra’s Leaders, Enugu: Fourth Dimension Publishers,1980 page 112

“What is the message from the West?’’ Banjo demanded, for at least the fifth time. ‘’ I mean, what are they saying? What do they really say about this war?’’ I only know what we all feel about the secession.’

He snapped back: Yes, and on that we are all agreed. Why could they not have been equally positive on the pogrom! The Ibos were not a danger to anyone.

The May and the July murders had sapped their capacity to make any serious trouble. What explanations did you people have to keep you silent in the face of those damnable days of September and October? Genocide was the chosen cure for assets probes.

In Lagos …the hoarded millions of the Northern politicians remained intact — a Northern Emir who was also chairman of a corporation had six million unaccountable pounds in his private account…..There had to be a distraction, and it had to take place on such a level as to completely obscure all other goals of society.

The Northern Mafia got together the Lagos counterparts and contributed the necessary investment for self preservation. Cold-bloodedly, the pogrom was planned, every stage plotted, and the money for operations distributed to the various centres of mayhem. …When the East seceded, I said, ‘they left us with the Mafia and the Military in an unbreakable alliance of mutual lucrative guilt.

And with a successful philosophy of genocide. Because if the East goes then there was no crime in the new entity still known as Nigeria.’’
—Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, The Man Died, Ibadan: Spectrum Books 1972, page 177

Scholars of African conflicts and Nigerian military historians were astounded by the earthquake revelations emanating from the brilliant interview granted to The Sun newspaper recently, by one of the few surviving front seat actors of the Nigerian Civil war.

As a matter of fact, the last meeting of the Nigerian Governors, its fledging federal authorities, led by its equally shaky Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, in Aburi, has up till last week been considered by and large, as the landmark cross roads leading to the immediate causes to the Nigerian civil war.

In other words, whatever may be the stories from the case files on both sides, these particular scholars suggest that, the critical meeting convened by the late General Ankrah of Ghana at Aburi in Ghana, was indeed the last effort made to reach acceptable compromises to forestall the war.

Meeting in Ghana away from the bad memories of the aftermath of the two bloody Nigerian upheavals was therefore ideal and many observers were very keen on the expectations that Aburi would push a resolution for peace.

Depending on the which side that was addressing the camera, historians before the Bolaji revelations, again agree that reneging on the letters of the Aburi Agreement by one of the parties in that conflict, ultimately invited mistrust, and eventually, led to the escalations of hostilities.

While I leave those interested Conflict scholars and historians to continue to ponder and probably drown in the obvious discrepancies emasculating the complicated history of the Nigerian civil war, we shall quickly return to Brigadier Bolaji Johnson’s interview with the Sun and hope at the end of this intercession some logic and some measure of some scientific conclusions will be reached for the benefit of our history and the millions of the post war generation, whose sudden gargantuan curiosity on the civil war continue to prosper.

After all, Norman Cantor, Richard Schneider, accomplished Institutional Historians agree that ‘’to separate fact from inference, to assess the validity of inferences, the student has to think about history and read historical works historiograhically.’’

In that bombshell of an interview, we learnt that General Ojukwu stood up and shook the hands of General Gowon after the latter informed the meeting that the Supreme Commander General Ironsi was no more. He was ready to agree and accepted that General Gowon become the Head State and Commander-In-Chief.

There were other revelations which, for the first time, shattered the foundations of the Aburi Accord as placarded by both sides of the civil war.

But our interest in that interview is rather most profound, especially returning from the successful Asaba International Conference in Florida, where some of the revered presenters again, depending on which side they represented, seem not to agree on the reasons that led to the massacre in Asaba.

Why the frenzy? For example the highest ranked Asaba native in the then Nigerian Army. Col.Gabriel Okonwenze, was the Commander of the Abeokuta Recce Regiment and he was murdered by one Lance Corporal Shagaya in the July 1966 so-called revenge coup, when he was never an accomplice of the January 1966 so called Nzeogwu Igbo coup.

Ditto, for Colonel Henry Igboba, the most senior Ibusa officer in then Nigerian army.

He was the particular officer who gave the January 15 boys hell at Ikeja cantonment and around in the late afternoon hours of January 15, when General Gowon was rallying loyal troops to counter the revolution.

Col. Banjo, one of the few top officers who knew of the January 15 revolution and supported it, did not forgive Col. Igboba for his anti-revolutionary actions.

As the commander of the Biafran expeditionary forces, he ordered Henry Igboba’s arrest and offered him to the Benin mob who cut off his head, September 21th 1967.

The other senior officer who was in the know, was Col. Adekunle Fajuyi, the most decorated Nigerian Officer, from his Congo exploits. This is obviously natural for these responsible Yoruba officers.

For according to The Sun earthquake interview, Brigadier Johnson stressed that the end mission of the January 15 coup was to stop the bloodbath in the streets of the west! That was why the leader of the coup, Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna was courting him and still found time even at the O hours to drive his wife and contributed to her needs.

The Brigadier for the first time, speaking for the entire silent western top brass; since the civil war, challenges intensely the unscientific notion that these young Turks were simply tribalists or opportunists.

The January 15 uprising according to Bolaji is “always sound’’ is rather the first and probably the only true Nigerian revolution that was squandered by the vicious contradictions of the Nigerian environment.

Final question Brigadier Johnson? General T.Y. Danjuma says and you concur that the Supreme Commander was abducted and shot by the Boys. Who are those Boys? Boys Scouts, Boys Brigade or Boyz and Men!?


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