British secret files on Nigeria’s first bloody coup, path to Biafra

Jun 12 2016 - 3:01pm
Major General Aguiyi Ironsi: The most senior military officer then

Major General Aguiyi Ironsi: The most senior military officer then

When he saw some headlights turning in from Kingsway Road, he ducked into the shrubs again thinking it might be Okafor and his men. Instead, he recognised the red Mercedes Benz and his famous brigade major. It was not immediately clear to Maimalari that Ifeajuna was no longer in mufti but in combat uniform. Instead, Maimalari saw Ifeajuna as his hope and dashed for him. Ifeajuna slammed the brakes, stepped out with his SMG and sprayed his boss. In 1965, according to the outgoing British GOC, Major General Welby-Everard, Maimalari was brilliant but too young that was why he was excluded from the list of his possible replacement. When Maimalari’s killers lifted his body into the Land Rover, its spring sank. Maimalari was born in a little town called Maimalari in Borno Province on 2nd of January 1932. He attended Officer Cadet School, Eaton Hall in England from January – May 1951; attended Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst from August 1951 – February 1953; attended Staff College, Quetta, Pakistan from January –December 1961. He spoke five languages (English, Fulfulde, Hausa, Arabic, and Kanuri). He enlisted in the army on 10th of July 1950 and on 5th February 1953, he became the 6th Nigerian commissioned into the army after Ugboma, Bassey, Ironsi, Ademulegun and Ogundipe in that order. Maimalari was survived by his parents, a teenage wife and three children.

When Ifeajuna arrived at the Mess which also doubled as the senior officer’s mortuary, Anuforo and Chukwuka had returned with Pam’s corpse. Major Adewale Ademoyega too had finished his assignment of placing rebel troops at NET building, Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), and disabling the telephone infrastructure. The fifth Major unaccounted for was Donatus Okafor who was still searching for Maimalari. Ademoyega and Captain Adeleke then jumped into the Land Rover driven by Lance corporal Omeru and off they sped to Maimalari’s residence to inform Okafor that the Brigadier had become a stiff corpse at the Mess. The night was eventually going on as planned. It was around four o’clock. The rebels were already feeling the triumph of flying to the highest skies where stories transformed into glories. This was the time Ahmed Kurfi Secretary of State in Ministry of Defence went to inform Shehu Shagari the Minister of Works that some soldiers had vanished with the Prime Minister.

Then a comedy of errors took off that grounded the rebels and enhanced the failure of the Revolution. The general alarm in the Federal Guards barracks next door had been sounded. They had been disturbed by vehicle and troops movements up and down the barracks. Two batches of NCOs had been turned out for alleged IS operations and some gunshots were heard in the proximity of the barracks. All soldiers were ordered by the head of NCOs, RSM Samuel Tayo to gear up and proceed to their various platoons. But according to military standard operating procedure, being NCOs, they needed an officer to give them commands. So the RSM led a platoon to their Officer Commanding’s(OC) residence at No 5 George Street, Ikoyi. But Okafor was not in. He was five streets away at Thompson Avenue searching for the Maimalari. Then they headed to knock on Lt Ezedigbo – the second in command’s door at the block of flats at No 4 Lugard Avenue. He was not in too. He was part of the Revolution. So was the next in line Lt Igweze. Of all the five Federal Guard’s officers, only a very junior officer Lt Paul Tarfa was at home. Lt Joseph Osuma was not in too. He was not part of the assassins though; he had only gone out to sleep with a friend following Friday night’s festivities. If Tarfa later turned out to be somebody in his military career, it was because on that night of nights, he was present at home when the RSM arrived flustered looking for leadership. There had never been mutiny in the barracks before and so no one knew the standard procedural response.

According to his later account, Tarfa said he geared up in battle dress and was driven to the Federal Guards by the RSM’s convoy to take command. He was briefed on the situation and was told that most of the Igbo soldiers in the barracks could not be accounted for including the OC. Tarfa put the Federal Guards on a defensive alert like a cobra coiled to spring. He ordered sentries and machine guns emplaced on sandbag to be posted round the barracks walls. They made up and circulated a call out with its password “Black/Boy” so that dissent soldiers who were still coming in and out of the barracks could be identified and rounded up. Corporal Sarwuan, a Tiv rifleman became the victim of this coiled cobra. Seeing a soldier coming in from the dark, RSM Tayo challenged,
‘Halt. Who goes there?’
‘Friend.’ Sarwuan was said to have replied.
‘Advance to be recognised.’ Tayo ordered and called out “Black.”

But Sarwuan did not respond and continued to advance. Tayo called out again, “Black.” No response. The RSM’s finger twitched in the trigger guard and his heart beat faster and faster. Tayo for the third and last time called out “Black.” But Sarwuan kept advancing without replying. He had forgotten the password and Tayo concluded he was an enemy. He squeezed the trigger plunging Sarwuan’s wife and children into sadness of incomprehensive depths. Major Adegoke, who took over from Ifeajuna as the DA and QMG at 1st Brigade in Kaduna was similarly killed in 4th battalion in Ibadan having been mistaken for a mutineer/enemy. He was holidaying in his native home when he heard about the coup; he hastened to the barracks for more information only to be handed his death. Black/Boy. His Boy did not follow Black and Adegoke met his death.

That night, Tarfa who had assumed the command of the Federal Guards went to the OC’s office adjacent to his. In a file in the cabinet, he saw planning documents, operations orders and a recent signal note from Nzeogwu which read: “Ensure the Tiger is in the net. Even if recruiting more captains.” The tiger he later understood was Maimalari; the net was his death. The extra captain they managed to recruit was Adeleke who only knew of the plot hours earlier at the Apapa residence of Ifeajuna after being brought by Major Ademoyega before some departed for the cocktail. Adeleke at first refused and was told that if the Revolution to free Nigeria started and he was not with it, he would regret it maybe not that day, maybe not the following day, but soon, and for the rest of his life. He fell in enthusiastically. At around quarter past four, Adeleke was with Ademoyega at the Officers Mess when Okafor came to report that he had just lost his command; that the Federal Guards were no longer responding to his orders, that in fact they almost shot him when he went back to the barracks to mobilise more troops. The only infantry force on which much had hinged and much of the second stage would hinge was no longer with the Revolution. What had happened?

When Okafor’s lieutenants roused the NCOs for the assignment, they were told they were needed for an IS operation. They were expecting to be taken outside Lagos to crush one of the hotspot of the Western Region’s crisis or to Mushin to quell a riot as they had done three weeks before. Instead they were taken to Brigadier Maimalari’s residence and they saw his guard commander and another soldier shot dead. The guard commander was known to them. They lived in the same quarters at the barracks. They had started to doubt whether they were truly on IS operation. Again, they were ordered not give the Brigadier a chance to surrender; they were ordered to shoot him dead on sight by Okafor, a disgraced thief and a liar pardoned by the same Maimalari they were asked to kill. They concluded that this was not an IS operation; this was an assassination squad they were forced to join. The final straw came when Ademoyega arrived to tell them that Maimalari had been found and shot by Ifeajuna. His corpse laid at the Mess. It was a terrible blow to the NCOs. Okafor was relieved to hear the news and ordered his second in command Captain Oji with four NCOs to proceed to check the situation at Airport Junction in Ikeja. The remaining men were ordered to proceed to Mess for further instruction. Instead, they rebelled, passed the Mess to the barracks and threatened to shoot Okafor if he tried to give them orders anymore. It was righteous mutiny within an unholy mutiny.

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  • Mazi Arevalo

    Igbo will go to war, Fulani will send the Hausa and some Middle belt people to war, Yoruba will hide, wait for who wins to serve him. Today, if the Fulani says jump to Yoruba, jumping becomes a done deal. But Yoruba forgets that Fulani will never trust Yoruba, Fulani can only work with Yoruba to the extent of master servant type relationship. To the writer, there is nothing new about what you consider new revelation. Note also that 1967 is not 2016 and a lot has happened in human world.

    • michaelnze

      You are damn right … The third marine commando was hiding. Benjamin adekunle (black scorpion )was hiding. You must be playing some video games stuffs in your imaginations

      • Mazi Arevalo

        Where is he today, have they not used and dumped him. Remember, he regretted every part he played in the war because of the position he found himself after the war. You are right, Adekunle fought hard, even much more than Buhari and Babangida, and like Awolowo, he could never be a president of Nigeria. Give me more Yoruba names and I will tell you which dungeon they are placed by their owners – Fulani. Of recent is the former governor of Lagos, I have forgotten his name. Unless if you choose not to pay attention to the treatment you get from your masters, a problem common with the indentured mindset, I have nothing else to tell you. Remain serving Fulani and causing confusion to the Nigeria state. No nation survives acting in the manner of Yoruba; zero sense of originality, everything is based on copy. Whereas Fulani is too barbaric, some Yoruba people are the real danger facing Nigeria. And as I write, I wish to offer my strong apology to people like Governor Fayose, Femi Fani Kayode and few more brave ones whose characters are best served considered to be people of other nations other than Yoruba. God forbid a people.

        • michaelnze

          If I can infer from your crooked logic, When Zik went into coalition with NPC. Igbos were slave of the FULANIS in 1960. when Ekwueme was a VP , you mean the IGBOS were never slaves to the FULANIS in 1979/83 . Your hatred of other tribes is be-clouding your reasoning. It is now for the very first time the Yorubas join with Fulanis to form government that’s it becomes an abomination. It shows your election loss was simply a pain you cannot bear. Did the IGBOS ever vote for ZIK in the second republic ??? They simply voted for Hausa – Fulani party NPN. This shows you don’t know your history. So you mean they too are slaves to the FULANIS. My friend, your logic is warped and your reasoning is shallow. It seems you don’t know about the THIRD MARINE COMMANDO . Go and read about the nigerian civil war and the formation of the third marine commando then you know that when the Southwest wants to fight, nobody can stop them. The real cowards are the ones that ran away to cotediviore and all the commanders that surrendered alive. Go and ask the Yoruba people, no one leads a war and surrender alive. I don’t know why you hated the Yorubas, have they ever massacred any Igbo group at peaceful time in the history of this country ?? They have been wonderful host to you people in their lands, giving you sways of lands to build your markets. I don’t just understand what warrants this caustic hatred. If anything, the south west has shown that politics is dynamic. They have lived as opposition without hating and insulting any NIGERIAN tribe. My final note- to be in the opposition you don’t have to hate anybody. It’s not a primitive tribal war, it’s democracy. Let’s learn to live in peace with each other rather than fanning the embers of discord. My dream for this country is to have a NIGERIAN president of Igbo extraction. It will never reduce anyone. As long as it is democracy. You can continue to hate as much as you like, but don’t forget the best societies or tribes in the world are the ones that can organize themselves and the ones that prioritized collective interests over individual interests .

          • Edeki Suku

            Honestly we don’t need the presidency of Nigeria,we need Biafra.

          • Ajah Exodus

            They have always been the rebel, double mouthed people who you think support you and yet go behind you to do otherwise. Why do you think God hates those who bear false witness and regards it as an abomination. In a murder case, the killer might just be ignorant of who he is killing but the person who points out the victims whereabout to the killer is the devil himself, the mastermind. Thats where the whole yoruba-Igbo facade comes in. Yorubas have not killed the igbos but have been responsible for their deaths in many ways. Is this not history repeating itself? We have a fulani head, cost of foodstuffs have skyrocketed, protests in the western region, politicians hunted and their houses seized or confiscated,militancy in the south south. I foresee another revolution but this time the south east and south south wont be tagging along with the yorubas. Nzeogu’s best friend was obasanjo, and he betrayed him. Ojukwu’s second in command and foreman was Banjo and he betrayed him which led to take over of Benin by Nigerian soldiers. Even when Soyinka rose against akintola, he ran to Micheal Okpara in the east. The igbo’s have always tried to ally with all tribes in the political sphere but didnt know they were dealing with people without integrity, whose Yes can turn to No.

          • Riot50000

            Yorubas Are The Problem With Nigeria says Sanusi Lamido Sanusi …
            pointblanknewsDOTcom/…/yorubas-are-the-problem-with-nigeria-says-sanusi-lamido-san…
            May 6, 2015 – The Yoruba political leadership, as mentioned by Balarabe Musa, has shown itself over the years to be incapable of rising above narrow tribalI …

          • michaelnze

            In your narrow reasoning and analysis. You will believe your handwriting. You are inferring that all other tribes and nationalities would have lived together in peace if the Yorubas don’t exist in nigeria your position like others of your background shows deep envy of the Yorubas. It’s only bigots and psychopaths who always believe others are the problem and not them. You refused to explain in your own words how the Yorubas have become nigerias problem. You also refused to summarize why lamido and Musa said the same. I’m not a yoruba, but I believe their geographical position continues to give them economic advantage in this country. Unless we practice fiscal federalism , that advantage cannot be removed .in nigeria, every tribe has a unique stereotypical perception of the others. It depends on which one you want to hate or envy most.

          • Riot50000

            YES.
            You are not Yoruba.
            You adopted an Igbo Name to write your none sense while denying being Yoruba, just like your people, the Yorubas adopt Igbo names when you do your international drug runs and 419 so that when you get caught, every one thinks you are Igbo.
            What other names do you go by, nwa Africa, michaelnze, and what.
            The Northerners are no fools.
            They know they can always count on the Yoruba to get whatever they want as long as they get offered Bones from the master’s dining table, DESPITE the fact that ALMOST EVERY PROMINENT YORUBA SON HAD AT ONE TIME OR THE OTHER BEEN VIOLATED BY A NORTHERN TYRANT RULER OF NIGERIA.
            Does the Yoruba Man have self esteem and shame?
            EVIDENCE over the past 50 years say NO!

          • michaelnze

            Mr ethnic jingoist, that shows how much you know Nigeria . So u mean michael is an Igbo name ?? Or u mean IGBOS are the only one with NZE in their names ???is nzebokhoale an Igbo name ?
            You must be enjoying your foolery and poor social education. My friend, who needs an Igbo name. Go and check the prisons in Brazil ,india thailand , holland Philippines etc nobody will tell you, you don’t need one. Good name is better than gold and silver

          • Riot50000

            Yep! Just another “MINORITY” still licking his wounds and still answering to “Mr NOBODY IN HIS FATHER LAND”
            Go away, FOOL!
            IGBOPHOBE

          • Timmy Okybay

            Thank u very much for this sensible comments..u are really a world educated person…

        • Riot50000

          Yorubas Are The Problem With Nigeria says Sanusi Lamido Sanusi …
          pointblanknewsDOTcom/…/yorubas-are-the-problem-with-nigeria-says-sanusi-lamido-san…
          May 6, 2015 – The Yoruba political leadership, as mentioned by Balarabe Musa, has shown itself over the years to be incapable of rising above narrow tribal …

          • George Abejide

            Everyone has an opinion
            The west at a point were voting Zik against their own kinsmen. That is no tribalism. Another glorious opportunity was missed in 1979 when Awo and Zik with parts of the middle west should have teamed up but Zik referred to as the beautiful bride then chose to go with the north.
            Today we have Igbo councilors, commissioner and house of assembly members in the west.
            Nowhere else will you find this in Nigeria, be it north south south or even the south east. Those are facts. Until all of us come together as one and put away primordial sentiments we shall continue to run from pillar to post

  • Ola66

    So this is the sin of the Igbo, interesting ha!

  • Ibro

    All are lies , the stupid Ahmadu bring nigeria into this present mess , may Allah punish him and his generation , usually a greedy person dies stupidly

  • Ibro

    The caption of the book suppose to read British report on why we joined nigeria side due to the fear that the oil region will be going for France

  • Ola66

    And the Fani Kayode junior knew all these?

  • May30th1967

    Well, I did not read where I signed the dotted line for Nzeogwu and Co to kill anyone, or take over the Govt.
    So, why am I marginalized and hated formething I did not do, and most likely would not have condoned?
    I was only a toddler then.
    YORUBA TROUBLE MAKERS WERE THE MAIN REASON WHY THESE YOUNG MEN OVERTHREW THE GOVERNMENT AND PRECIPITATED THE CURRENT ANIMAL FARM CALLED NIGERIA

    • barBeachBoy

      The major issue behind the coup was the open question “who was in control of Nigeria”?
      Here are two pages from Madiebo’s book: The Nigerian Revolution and the Biafran War that answer the question why the Nigerian Army rose up (not just Nzeogwu and co) to challenge a status quo where a regional administrator was deploying the Nigeria Army without even notifying Army high command. It starts with the paragraph headed by “the height of political manouvering”

    • barBeachBoy

      (2 of 2) from Madiebo

    • George Abejide

      The fact was simply that the west was making ground breaking progress at the time and in the effort to checkmate the rising star a lot of evil was devised and deployed. The Midwest was carved out, some of the judases were set against the western leaders to create chaos. That Nzeogu and co and exterminated the leaders of the north and the west while the eastern leaders miraculously escaped death was what led to the vengeful counter coup. How then can it be suggested that Yorubas caused nigeria’s or Igbo’s travails.

  • ola

    Coward and ethnic bigot revolutionaries

  • Ms. Thenjiwe Obong

    what an eye opener? very interesting story.

  • Ajah Exodus

    I like this story cos the revolutionalists were in their twenties and their decisions mattered and were felt. Present day politicians should take note. History has a way of repeating itself.

    • barBeachBoy

      It makes for entertaining reading, the only trouble was that “the revolutionaries” were being “teleguided”; “NNA Plan To Wallop The West” written by Ademoyega “why we struck” (1 of 2)

      • Ajah Exodus

        Hmmm interesting …. thats true!!… Thanks, I’ll look for the book

    • barBeachBoy

      (2 of 2) NNA plan to wallop the west, quoted from a book written by one of the participants Wale Ademoyega

  • barBeachBoy

    At the time Kano was the international airport; if Ben was to have picked him up in Kaduna, who was supposed to have picked him up in Kano. The return to Nigeria as quoted by OBJ himself in the book he authored called “Nzeogwu”

  • Abiola Oludele

    Esterners are behind the Nigeria woes in all ramifications, leave the solders alone, if their Leaders Zik and Eastern Premier had not sponsored the Operation Weti e, I do’t think we will be here today!

    • Ajah Exodus

      Young man read ur history well, There was chaos in the west, the yorubas were very much against themselves. ok what will u say of Akintola rigging election and annoucing fake results and then Wole soyinka going on air to publish the real results and the ran to seek asylum in his friends place Michael Okpara in Abia state. Not long Akintola and conglomerates caught up with him and arrested him. many examples my man…. a lot happened. people like Nzeogu took actions according to their opinions when they say that the elites were behind the troubles in country especially in the west because that was the centre of development in the whole Africa.

    • Riot50000

      EMIR OF KANO BEGS TO DISAGREE, AND HE’S MORE IN TUNE WITH NIGERIA THAN A STUPID FOOL LIKE YOU.

      DOThttp://pointblanknewsDOTcom/pbn/exclusive/yorubas-are-the-problem-with-nigeria-says-sanusi-lamido-sanusi/

      The Yoruba political leadership, as mentioned by Balarabe Musa, has shown itself over the years to be incapable of rising above narrow tribal interests and reciprocating goodwill from other sections of the country by treating other groups with respect. Practically every crisis in Nigeria since independence has its roots in this attitude.
      The Yoruba elite and area-boy politics;
      Igbo marginalisation and the responsible limits of retribution; and
      The Yoruba Factor and “Area-boy” Politics.
      My views on the Yoruba political leadership have been thoroughly articulated in some of my writings, prime among which was ” Afenifere: Syllabus of Errors” published by This Day (The Sunday Newspaper) on Sept 27, 1998. There was also an earlier publication in the weekly Trust entitled ” The Igbo, the Yoruba and History” (Aug. 21, 1998).

      In sum, the Yoruba political leadership, as mentioned by Balarabe Musa, has shown itself over the years to be incapable of rising above narrow tribal interests and reciprocating goodwill from other sections of the country by treating other groups with respect. Practically every crisis in Nigeria since independence has its roots in this attitude.

      The Yoruba elite were the first, in 1962, to attempt a violent overthrow of an elected government in this country. In 1966, it was the violence in the West which provided an avenue for the putsch of 15th January. After Chief Awolowo lost to Shagari in 1983 elections, it was the discontent and bad publicity in the South-West which led to the Buhari intervention.

    • Pappy

      Easterners are not behind Nigeria’s woes, Nigeria’s problems are caused by the entire regions of Nigeria. Ask yourself who created conditions for the soldiers to act, Nigeria was still headed for a dangerous civil war with or without the actions of the 1966 majors.

  • Ositadinma Egeonu

    Sidelining OBJ from the coup…well done?

    • George Abejide

      The one sidelined eventually became the one who received the instrument of surrender. Just imagine the stone which the builders rejected eventually rose to become the chief cornerstone

  • Blunt Arrow

    This is certainly different from any thing I have read concerning the 1966 coup.

  • Blood really flowed that night and Nigeria has never remained the same.

  • Battleaxe

    Hard men of those days in their 20s

  • Riot50000

    Yorubas Are The Problem With Nigeria says Sanusi Lamido Sanusi …
    pointblanknewsDOTcom/…/yorubas-are-the-problem-with-nigeria-says-sanusi-lamido-san…
    May 6, 2015 – Yorubas Are The Problem With Nigeria says Sanusi Lamido Sanusi …. Mobile-friendly – CBN, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi to the National .

  • Riot50000

    https://wwwDOTyoutubeDOTcom/watch?v=_WSosECbcmM

    SUMMARY OF HATRED FOR IGBO MAN

  • Riot50000

    Yorubas Are The Problem With Nigeria says Sanusi Lamido Sanusi …
    pointblanknewsDOTcom/…/yorubas-are-the-problem-with-nigeria-says-sanusi-lamido-san…
    May 6, 2015 – Yorubas Are The Problem With Nigeria says Sanusi Lamido Sanusi …. Mobile-friendly – CBN, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi to the National .