By Emeka Obasi
They joined the Army as teenagers. They rose rapidly thanks to the Civil war and in their 30s were holding plum positions. As septuagenarians, these men are still calling the shots. All of them began life at the Nigeria Military Training College [NMTC] Kaduna, in 1962.
Members of Course five include Muhammadu Buhari, Shehu Musa Yaradua, Muhammadu Jega, Chris Ugokwe, Juventus Ojukwu, Ola Oni, Paul Tarfa, Abdullahi Shelleng, Ibrahim Bako, Duro Ajayi, Alfred Aduloju and Tony Hananiya.
There is also Course six, made up of Ibrahim Babangida, Sani Abacha, Abdusalami Abubakar, Mamman Vatsa, Muhammadu Magoro, Sanni Bello, Paul Omu, Gado Nasko, Garba Duba, Sani Sami, Robert Akonobi, Ifeanyi Aniebo, Godfrey Nebo, Raphael Iluyomade and Ozoemena Igweze.
Now let us not make any mistakes about this. Tunde Idiagbon, Sunday Ifere and Zamani Lekwot also joined the Army in 1962, two years after the NMTC was established to prepare soldiers for further training as officers abroad.
From the July 29, 1966 coup till date, Nigeria has virtually become the property of the above mentioned officers, dead or living. They have produced four military leaders: Buhari, Babangida, Abacha and Abdusalami. Buhari has also become President as a civilian.
If we go through the books, you will discover that all the names mentioned above have enjoyed juicy positions as governors, ministers or heads of Agencies. Some are still on top now as traditional rulers.
Yaradua and Idiagbon,were Vice President equivalent. Bello, Sami, Omu, Jega, Shelleng, Ifere, Oni, Lekwot,Useni, Nasko, Duba, Akonobi, Aniebo, Tarfa, were governors. Buhari and Idiagbon also occupied same position in Borno.
Vatsa,Kure, Yaradua, Buhari, Magoro, Useni, Abacha, Nasko were ministers. Ugokwe, Hananiya and Nebo headed government agencies. Hananiya was also an Ambassador.
They also veered into politics. It began with Ojukwu who represented Idemili in the House of Representatives of the Second Republic. Yaradua tried his best but was frustrated by Babangida and eventually died in the hands of Abacha.
Today, Useni is a Senator just like Magoro, and wants to go to the Plateau Government House soon even as Buhari plans to continue as President beyond 2019. Sami and Jega, are emirs.
Omu’s wife, Stella, was in the Senate. Bello’s son, Abubakar, is the governor of Niger State. His wife is the daughter of Abdusalami. And we must note that at the time Governor Bello won election in 2015, his mother–in-law was the Chief Judge of Niger State.
These NMTC’ 62 officers really worked their way into power and are not in any hurry to leave the scene. It all started in 1966 when the first coup consumed Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa and some senior military officers.
The man who led the coup, Chukwuma Nzeogwu,was Chief Instructor at the NMTC. The commandant, Col. Raphael Sodeinde,had moved to the newly established Nigeria Defence Academy [NDA] as Commandant leaving Nzeogwu as de facto Commandant of the NMTC.
The counter coup of July 29, 1966 plunged the NMTC 1962 Boys into power. And when war broke out in 1967, they fought on both sides.
Akonobi, Ojukwu, Ugokwe and Aniebo joined Biafra and distinguished themselves as brigade commanders. Aniebo was detained by Ojukwu after his sector was lost.
The 1962 Boys came into power in 1975 following the ouster of General Yakubu Gowon. Aduloju, Babangida and Yaradua were key figures in the plot and were rewarded as members of the Supreme Military Council [SMC].
Buhari, Omu, Bello and Lekwot became governors and were later joined by Shelleng and Jega. Idiagbon, Nasko, Duba, Tarfa and Oni also became governors a year to the Second Republic.
Buhari struck on December 31, 1983 to herald the rise of the 1962 Boys. His deputy was Idiagbon. Abacha announced the coup. Babangida turned out to be Army Chief. Bako died in the process. Useni, Jega, Sami and Duba were appointed governors.
The new SMC comprised such officers as Omu, Vatsa, Magoro, Abacha, Kure, Nasko, Babangida, Idiagbon and Buhari himself. They were fully in charge. At the same time, they had issues among themselves.
In August 1985, Babangida sacked Buhari. He formed an Armed Forces Revolutionary Council [AFRC] and retained Abacha, Kure, Nasko, Omu, Vatsa, and Duba. Much later, Abdusalami joined them.
When Babangida stepped aside, he paved way for Abacha to emerge as leader. Abacha took in Useni and Abdusalam. He dealt with Yaradua who was injected to death in Abakaliki prison.
Abdusalam took over following Abacha’s death in 1999. He would have been sacked by his course mate the same day leadership fell on him. What Abdusalam did was to arrange with Babangida to foist General Olusegun Obasanjo on Nigerians.
And that has been the trade mark of the 1962 Boys: Divide and Rule. It is the policy that has kept them in power. For 56 years they have had Nigeria in their pockets.
Apart from Sanni Bello who passed out from Sandhurst on July 29, 1965, most of these officers did not attend elite British and American military Schools. From Dehra Dun, India to Mons, Aldershot, they have been able to relegate others to the background.
Take Babangida for instance. What he did was to favour officers of the Nigeria Defence Academy, Course three while in power. Tunde Ogbeha, Mike Akhigbe, Raji Rasaki, and Chris Garba were appointed governors.
Buhari started it all when he made Lt. Col David Mark of NDA Three, governor of Babangida’s state, Niger, alongside Major generals like Jega and Abubakar Waziri. Useni, a brigadier, was posted to Bendel State.
Abacha was not fair to NDA Course one at all. He sacked Alison Madueke as Navy Chief and brought in Akhigbe of NDA Course three. Another NDA Three officer, Alwal Kazir, became Army chief.
The worst form of humiliation came from Abdusalami who appointed Jubril Ayinla[NDA Two] as Navy Chief after Akhigbe who was elevated to Chief of General Staff. During the hand-over, Ayinla had to salute his junior.
The 1962 Boys made sure no NDA trained officer ruled Nigeria. Today their man, Buhari, is there.