By Emma Ujah and Adamu Shaibu
The interview of Chief M. T. Mbu in which said Sir Abubakar was not killed but died of asthma in the heat of the January 15, 1966 is generating controversy. As an intelligence officer then, what do you know about the PM’s death?
It is very sad for me that I have to go back into this painful event of January 1966. As young police officer working in the intelligence service of the Nigeria Police, I had the privilege of getting all the facts in support of the evidence to what had happened in the morning of January 15th in Lagos, in Ibadan, in Kaduna – where a group of army mutineers organized by some well-known people went on a killing spree.
In Lagos, they picked the late Prime Minister Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa of blessed memory, the then Minister of Finance, Chief Okotie-Eboh, together with some top military officers and got them assassinated and then they were put in the bush where they were discovered later, a decomposed, bullet-ridden bodies of those people.
So I am shocked and surprised that a responsible man like Mbu, will re- open a matter at this particular time which he himself knows was untrue, what he said.
Does it also bother you that this issue is coming up 44 years after?
Exactly. This is what we are waiting to find out. There must be some irresponsible conspiracy to hide the facts of what happened on January 15th 1966. Why is he only interested in the death of Tafawa Balewa? He has been saying he was his favourite.
He was his favourite because, he was the most educated in his part of the world and he happened to be an ally of the NPC.
He was a quota candidate for his area for the government of Tafawa Balewa. That is why he was made a minister. And this is the tribute he will pay to the late Prime Minister. That is why the entire North is shocked, on wondering what is the real motive behind this issue being brought up this time.
Chief Mbu claimed what he revealed was told him by Okigbo who was a friend of several of the mutineers and actors in the event. What evidence do you have to the contrary?
Well, first of all, there was an interrogation report of the mutineers, military officers that were arrested on the morning of January 15, 1966 in Lagos and kept in Kirikiri Prison. A team of all officers interrogated them for about 10 days.
And what I am telling you is actually what happened and the result of what they were found to have done on the morning of the 15th of January.
But where is the record of the interrogation?
Yes, there are lots of records. In fact, there are excerpts of that interrogation report in a book published by one Mr. Kairgree and which has been widely sold in Nigeria. I can’t remember the name now.
In the SSS archives, there are lots of documents on the autopsy and the pictures of the Prime Minister’s body, bullet-ridden body, and that of Okotie Eboh, as well as those of other military officers that were murdered that morning. Unless if somebody has stolen them and destroyed them. And I don’t think anybody would do that.
From your knowledge of what happened, can you still recall anything?
On the morning of January 15th,, I was the Special Branch Officer in charge of Kano, Katsina, and parts of Maiduguri and Ilorin. I was based in Kano with Ojukwu as the Battalion Commander.
First of all, it was Ojukwu, who told a conference of military officers that morning what had happened and the various locations where there were these mutinies and assassinations, which confirm exactly what had happened like I told you to Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, and all those who lost their lives that morning.
Secondly, there are groups of officers, military intelligence officers and police officers who interrogated the mutineers in prison yard where they were assembled. And all those documents are there for any body who wishes to see.
So how is the North taking this?
Every body is shocked that such an old man could now make such an irresponsible statement disregarding the consequences of what he said.
But I don’t think any body in the North, really, is looking at it beyond the philosophical and religious side of it. Particularly the familes of late Prime Minister and those who lost their lives that morning, that people should please respect the feelings of others.
And there are lots of people who are alive today who could tell you. Gen. Gowon is there, Gen. Danjuma is there, Gen. Adebayo is there in the West, all of them are there and they know what had happened.
Do you really think there was an autopsy?
Of course there was an autopsy. There was an inquest and autopsy.
By the military government?
It is normal when such things happen, such death. Our law demands that there should be an autopsy and a coroner’s inquest which were all held before the bodies were released to the family.
I read the interview of Chief Osoba and he creates the impression that because the Prime Minister was a Muslim and that Muslims don’t bother much about such things, just as he cited examples of the death in office of late Gen. Sani Abacha, and very recently Alh, Umaru Yar’Adua.
That is what is bothering us. It would be irresponsible to say so. The Prime Minister of the nation could not be treated like this, death by assassination. In any case, Osoba knew very little, he knew nothing.
What was he in the Daily Times? I did not see what he has written but it will be very irresponsible of him to say so. How did he know that the Prime Minister did not die in the way he is now saying? How did he know that? Has anybody asked him to produce any evidence to that event?
How is the North…..
This is not a matter for the North, it is a matter for the nation. A nation’s Prime Minister was assassinated. This is the gravity of the matter.
Do you see any point continuing with this controversy?
There is no point at all. I have told you that as far as we are concerned, the matter is better be left as it is and that they should respect the late Prime Minister and members of his family, as well as, all those who sympathized with the incident of January 15th.
People like Mbu should respect their ages and know that by this time the only duty to this country is to hope that this country remains together in the very friendly atmosphere not to create situations where people will again re- open forgotten wounds and try to incite one section of the country against the other.
It is very clear that the comments of both Mbu and Osoba were very irresponsible the motive of which we are yet to know. There must be a motive for Mbu to have opened an old wound. The question is: what is their motive? Nigerians must certainly be interested in knowing what they are up to.