January 15th and the martyrdom of our heroes past

Femi Fani-Kayode


Femi Fani-Kayode


By Femi Fani-Kayode

On the night of January 15th 1966 (57 years ago today), the following individuals were murdered in cold blood by a group of mutinous young army officers led by Major Emmanuel Arinze Ifeajuna and Major Chukwuemeka Kaduna Nzeogwu during the course of the first military coup d’etat in the history of our country.

Those that were killed were Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the Prime Minister, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto and Premier of the old Northern Region, Chief S.L. Akintola, the Premier of the old Western Region, Brigadier Zakariya Maimalari, Colonel James Pam, Brigadier Samuel Ademulegun, Colonel Ralph Sodeinde, Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh, the Minister of Finance, Colonel Arthur Unegbe, Colonel Kur Mohammed, Lt. Colonel Abogo Largema, Mrs. Hafsatu Bello, the wife of the Sardauna of Sokoto, Zarumi, the bodyguard of the Sardauna of Sokoto, Mrs. Lateefat Ademulegun, the wife of Brigadier Ademulegun, Ahmed B. Musa, Ahmed Pategi, Sgt. Daramola Oyegoke, PC Yohana Garkawa, PC Musa Nimzo, PC Akpan Anduka, PC Hagai Lai and PC Philip Lewande.

Two others were also abducted by the mutineers from their homes that night and brutalised. Thankfully they both managed to escape with their lives.

The first was Chief Remilekun Adetokunboh Fani-Kayode, the Balogun of Ile-Ife and Deputy Premier of the old Western Region (my beloved father).

He was rescued by loyal troops led by Major Paul Tarfa (as he then was) and Captain Takoda, who stormed the officers mess in Dodan Barracks, Lagos where he was being held by the mutineers and freed him.

The second was Sir Kashim Ibrahim, the Governor of the old Northern Region who was rescued and freed by loyalist forces in Kaduna.

Both of these men were delivered by divine providence and went on to live for many more years and make their contributions to national development.

Sadly and tragically the others lost their lives and this led to a spiral of violence and series of counter coups which culminated in a brutal and catastrophic civil war in which many on both sides were killed.

Thankfully and despite the massive bloodletting and carnage, the coup and mutiny of January 15th 1966 failed and the perpetrators were either killed, arrested and incarcerated or ran out of the country.

Nevertheless we shall never forget what happened that night and we shall always honor the memory of those that were cut short in such a needless and cruel manner.

They were martyred for Nigeria and we pray that their beautiful and gallant souls continue to rest in peace.

To those that committed this wicked, monstrous, savage and atrocious act that dark and infamous night and that broke the hearts and wounded the collective souls of millions of Nigerians with such impunity by committing murder most foul, we say the following:

We may have forgiven you but we shall NEVER forget what you did.


God, in His infinite mercy and wisdom, will continue to judge all those that were involved in this heinous act and those that applauded amd encouraged them both in this world and the next.

It is left to those of us that remain alive to honor the gallantry and sacrifice made by those who were murdered that night, to let the next generation know the bitter truth, to pass on the baton of patriotism, peace and national unity and to keep the proud flag of our beautiful nation flying.

NEVER AGAIN will we allow such impunity and wickedness to reign in our national affairs or allow it to go unpunished.

Never again will we allow our leaders to be slaughtered like flies in their homes all in the name of a mindless, genocidal and futile grab for power.

Never again shall we forget that the labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain.

God bless Nigeria.