Statement by A.S.P. (N.A.) Kaftan Nangasu, Bauchi N,A. Police (Recorded on 367 feet of tape Saturday 20 June 1969) Account of the abduction and recovery of the body of the Prime Minister of Nigeria, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa
On this particular day in question, perhaps even as late as 3:am, I don’t know precisely, but it was very early on Saturday morning, I was asleep and was awakened by someone hammering on the door.
When I was awakened I had my drawers on, so I picked up my revolver and strapped it on. I anticipated something like the police on duty in the Prime minister’s compound having seen one thing or other and coming to me to report.
I therefore went out and opened the door and scarcely had I got one foot outside when the major who had brought these people we are talking about – a short light skinned man with a little moustache- seized my revolver in its holster.
I tried to snatch his hand away and draw the revolver so that I could shoot when he said, “Come on”, and I was forced down in a sitting position into an arm chair.
There someone amongst them said, “Kill him! Kill him!!” I heard a click but no explosion close to my head.
There now appeared on the scene one of my grandsons, a boy named Sunday. He had a staff with him and he stuck the sergeant across his backside with it and as soon as this happened they started to beat him up with their gun butts and I became convinced that resistance was impossible, especially since, as I knew very well, I have only one lung.
When they had disarmed me, then they gripped me by the arms and by the seat of my shorts and dragged me up. Then he said, show us where the Prime Minister is. I said to them, I don’t know where he is. Then someone said that if I tried anything and did not show them where the is PM was, they would shoot me. I said, “O.K. If you kill me that’s all there is to it I don’t know where he is”.
Then they started all over again and asked me where the key was. I said I had no key.
Then they dragged me along with them to the main house. On the way one of them started talking in Ibo and the major seemed to question him. I don’t know what was said but it looked as if this man was leading the way.
We all went off and they beat on the door of this man, Maxwell Orupabo (alternate ADC) and when Orupabo came out – he was dressed in his shirt and with a sleeping cloth around him – they made demands of him for the keys and Orupabo said he hadn’t any.
Then someone said,. “If you don’t give us the keys we will shoot you”, and Orupabo said, what have I done for you to shoot me?
We waited a little. Then Orupabo said that the keys were with the steward and the major asked where the steward was. Orupabo led the way. All this time I was powerless because they were holding me tight. As Orupabo led on, the Major followed him; those who were holding me followed him. When they got to the steward’s quarters, then they called Audu! Audu! Where are the keys?
Bring the keys Then Audu replied, I haven’t any keys. Whereupon the major rounded on me and said, “hand them over! If you don’t you will be killed immediately!” That’s what the Major said. Then I said, O.K. kill me if you must –I have no keys.
Then they dragged me on and we came to the door that led into the pantry. The major took a Sten gun and knocked the handle off the door.
Then a young lieutenant, a dark- skinned man, kicked the door with his foot and the door flew open and they took me inside. When they had done so, the major said, Yes! Now you can show us where the Prime Minister’s room is. I said that I did not know where it was, because I did not usually come in this part of the house.
Then they seized me and dragged me upstairs. The Prime Minister’s room was on the first floor. Orupabo was following behind the others. I had the idea to lead those who were holding me up still one further flight to the second floor where there was a guest room where the Waziri usually stayed and which was unoccupied.
I tried this trick because I was now sure that these were imposters and rebels of the same kind as those who tried to pull off a coup before when Awolowo and his people tried to stage one. I wondered whether they were this sort of people and not real Nigerian soldiers.
When I tried this however someone still downstairs, apart from those who were holding me, spoke up and I was made to go down again until we came directly opposite the Prime Minister’s door. And the major said, “Yes, now you can show me where the Prime Minister’s room is”. I repeated that I did not know it because I never came up to this part.
Then Orupabo spoke in Ibo. I don’t know what he said, whether he told them that I knew the room and refused to tell them, but all I know is that when he had finished speaking, Orupaba motioned with his head as if he was indicating the room.
Then I saw the major raise his hand and beat (knock) on the door. As soon as Alhaji (Tafawa Balewa) heard, he called, who is it? I replied, Sir! It is I, Kaftan. I wanted to tell him all that had happened but he interrupted me and said, what has happened’ then I said, Sir, I am under arrest and taken by soldiers, and as soon as I spoke someone struck me in the back with a gun butt and said I was not to refer to soldiers.
Then Orupaba called out to the Prime Minister and said, “Pa! Make you come outside Sir! Alhaji did not resist. He opened the door. As soon as he did, they pushed me forward into the room. It was their intention, if Alhaji had a gun and was going to shoot that I should be the one to get shot first.
Then the major crawled in quickly along the floor and found that Alhaji was standing in the middle of the room. He straightened up and saluted and said, I come here with respect; I will take you with me. Alhaji made no reply but put out his hand as if to pick up his gown because at that time I could see he only had on his pyjamas.
Then the Major said that he had sufficient clothes and I said how can he have sufficient! Let him take his clothes on account of the damp at least. Then I asked what it was that Alhaji had done. What kind of crime had he ever committed since the day he formed his first government. What were they going to do to him in my presence here?
The major said I am not going to do anything, to him; I will take care of him.
Then as they were going out he said to the men around the door of the room, when the Prime Minister come to attention and salute him. Some of them did. Some had already done so.
There was no one else in the room. The Madawaki was in the house at the same time in a different room and did not know what had happened. Then we all went downstairs and set off along the road. The Prime Minister was in front. Nobody held him, but they were still gripping me and thus we went, the two of us, until we got to the gatehouse and out into the open.
I was close to the Prime Minster until we got to the roundabout near memorial Hall, where we turned the corner. There is a big tree at this point and when we got there somebody on my left spoke in Ibo. Then the major said, Yes!, and put his hand up in front of the Prime Minister, who stopped.
Then he said to me, Yes! You can go back, and to the others he said, leave him here, he shall go back now. Then I said, where are you taking Alhaji, I want to see where you are taking him? Then he said to me, you can’t follow us! The Prime Minister – I will look after him.
I again asked him, what has the Prime Minister done? I was arguing like this with them on the road. I was again told to go back and that I could not follow the Prime Minister. They said that they would shoot me if I did not leave their sight. I just stood there and said, OK shoot me if you want, but where will you take him?.
Then they went on down Awolowo Road as far as the Force Road roundabout. Perhaps they had a vehicle hidden there somewhere, but I didn’t see one. It certainly was not where they stopped me. We had assessed the Island Club slightly.
By now, the news had spread to the womenfolk and they were crying.
What had happened, however, is that one of my sons who is now at Port Account in the Services and whose name is Ibrahim Kaftan had phoned Haman Maiduguri / (Commissioner of Police, Lagos) at about 3.15 am, at the time that I was taken away. He told him that soldiers had come and taken away his father and whether they had killed him he did not how. But they had tried to shoot me but the cartridge did not fire and then they had beaten me up.
Whilst going along with Alhaji the major had said to him, we know all the trouble going on in the country is not your fault’ and all that Alhaji had said to this was Yes!. Yes, nothing more. Just that and I did not hear him speak again.
Now about going to find his body. When I came back I asked the police corporal who was on duty – I don’t know what his name was, but it was in my statement to the C.I.D in Lagos it was that these people had got into the house, because the Commissioner had not given me notice that there were any soldiers coming on duty?
How come a squad of soldiers got into the compound? Why was I not informed? Did he not know that there were soldiers in the compound? He said, not at all what happened was that as soon as they arrived, they disarmed the police and asked for me, Kaftan, the ADC.
Then they forced him to come to me with them. He also told me that this Orupabo, between 2.30 and3.00 am, was walking up and down his verandah and they could see him through the glass, for one side of his home was all glass and troops did not concern themselves with him but asked for me in my home as if this was the reason that had brought them.
This was all on the Saturday (15th). Then, the following Friday (21) about twelve o’clock Kam Salem (the acting Inspector General of Police) phoned me. I went to see him at his office and he asked me what kind of clothes the Prime Minister was wearing when he was taken away. I replied that his clothes were white. Then he asked me if this gown was embroidered.
I said that I had not paid much attention, but according to what I remembered he was wearing a gown embroidered in the pattern we call the Frog and Bridle pattern.
Then he told me to go back home and he would send for me again.
When I got back, about say seven o’clock we were again sent for, the Madawaki of Bauchi and I, we went and were joined by some police and soldiers and also by a doctor I knew as Dr. Peters, a Nigerian, who was in charge of the Military Hospital at Lagos.
We went with them to a place called Ota, I think about 27 miles from Lagos. With us was the man who is now a Commissioner of Police in the North Eastern State, Mr. Omo-Oba. He was with us at this time.
Well, we got there, some who had given the information that they had seen some corpses led us to the place. I was looking around and spotted something, because I had a torch with me, a big one, in my hand.
I saw one corpse – whether that of any army officer I don’t know whether Colonel Largema or Kur Muhammed – because there were a number of officers who had been killed at the same time.
This first corpse was stark naked.
Then I took my torch and I looked around and until I spotted something white a little further on. I went to the place and looked. There was one police officer, ASP Alhaji Ibrahim, who is now at Jos and I said to him, this looks as if it is Alhaji, because this is his gown. Then I called the Madawaki and said, surely this must be the Prime Minister because it is his gown.
He was greatly putrefied. It was hard to recognize him and see who it was. One of his legs had gone up into his decayed belly so that I though it had been cut off. As soon as I could, I got hold of a white shroud and put it over him on top of his gown, and this Dr. Peter came and took some medicine and sprinkled it all over it. Then I went back and opened another shroud. Then we got four shovels and rolled the corpse on the cloth.
The body was a mass of worms. When we had maneuvered it into the cloth with the shovels, I went to take hold of it and Dr, Peter said, ‘Since you have no gloves on don’t touch it.’ I therefore took hold of the edge of the shroud only and we picked him up and put him in the coffin, two of which we had taken with us, one for him and one for the other, for you must know that according to the information two corpses had been reported.
There were only two at all events. First, we took Alhaji and put him in the coffin and screwed it up. Then we took the other and did likewise. Both were greatly decomposed. I did not know the other and really the best way to identify Alhaji was by his clothes.