Nnamdi Ebo | NewsBlog

In my NewsBlog Nnamdi Ebo, I provide perspectives on news, events and analysis of unique stories, and I also offer original content, articles and photos; with contributions from some of the best minds.

Nnamdi Ebo | NewsBlog

In my NewsBlog Nnamdi Ebo, I provide perspectives on news, events and analysis of unique stories, and I also offer original content, articles and photos; with contributions from some of the best minds.

Nnamdi Ebo | NewsBlog

In my NewsBlog Nnamdi Ebo, I provide perspectives on news, events and analysis of unique stories, and I also offer original content, articles and photos; with contributions from some of the best minds.

Nnamdi Ebo | NewsBlog

In my NewsBlog Nnamdi Ebo, I provide perspectives on news, events and analysis of unique stories, and I also offer original content, articles and photos; with contributions from some of the best minds.

Nnamdi Ebo | NewsBlog

In my NewsBlog Nnamdi Ebo, I provide perspectives on news, events and analysis of unique stories, and I also offer original content, articles and photos; with contributions from some of the best minds.


Do we secede? | The emergence of Yakubu Gowon

Nnamdi Ebo 2 241x300 The 1966 Pogrom: Nigeria Biafra WarBOOKS . There was a Time  | By Nnamdi Ebo.

Do we secede? | The emergence of Yakubu Gowon.


Two days afer the counter coup of July 29, 1966 that killed Ironsi (i.e. July 30 and July 31 respectively), a vacuum of sorts emerged. There was a leadership vacuum in Nigeria. The victorious northern military officers and their civilian co-conspirators demurred. Do we secede or not? Or do we take power or not? These were pertinent questions demanding urgent attention and answers. Enter the British High Commission in Lagos, Nigeria. Under prodding from the former colonial master, now epitomized by 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister instructed the High Commissioner to advise and tell those bumbling young military officers that it will be foolhardy to remove the baby’s mouth from suckling milk from his mother’s breast. The power is there for the taking so why are they fooling around.

Suffice it to say that Britain in pre-colonial and post-colonial Nigeria had always preferred the North holding the reigns of power to the: I too know South or east and west; and that is why they introduced indirect rule up North and direct rule down South. Many political pundits claimed that it was because the North already had an administrative machinery and institutions in place based on Islamic tenets. I agreed but the British also found the North amenable; but those Southerners? You need to rein them in. After that sound British advice, the northern victorious military officers saw wisdom instead of their unwiseness.

Yakubu Gowon. 1966However, another problem loomed in the northern horizon. Dissension among military men who had just killed people to secure political, social and economic power ensued in earnest. Who will succeed the slain Aguiyi Ironsi? They wondered. As you shall read later in this my story, they resolved this issue amicably. On August 1, 1966, after two days of a precarious power vacuum and contentions, Northern military officers resolved to install Lieutenant Colonel Yakubu Gowon (photo: right) as the new Nigerian Head of State. Gowon was the youngest ruler of Nigeria whether military or civilian and he was unprepared for this role. He became the Head of State of Nigeria as a 33 year old bachelor. At that time, Nigeria had no First Lady so no woman immediately took over from Lady Mrs. Flora Azikiwe. The young Head of State married later to give his country a First Lady.

Ethnic cleansing of Igbos | May 29, 1966

There Was A Time. Pogrom 1966 . IgbofocusThis northern counter coup was noteworthy for its bloodiness. (photo: Igbofocus) Subsequently, northern Nigeria exploded as organized ethnic cleansing of the Ibos living and working in the north started in May 29, 1966. This second phase of massacre was different from the first 1966 pogrom in the sense that this second phase of the pogrom was particular, specialized and organized; followed by the inhuman systematic ethnic cleansing of Ibos that ensued all over Northern Nigeria towards the end of 1966, at a loss of 50,000 Ibo lives.

It also degenerated into four days of bloodletting by the plotters; and Southern army officers – mostly Igbo – were killed. There was an indication as mentioned above that the plotters, led by Major Murtala Mohammed, had planned to secede with the Northern region from Nigeria. However, the power vacuum created by the success of their counter-coup meant that they could rule the young republic; which they did. In September of that year the second incident of riots in the North of the country began. Estimates of civilians killed by the northern mobs ran into the tens of thousands and counting…

The sound of car tires rolling on pebbles outside signaled that a car was pulling into the driveway. A knock and I opened the door to admit uncle Goddy’s friend and townsman from our village Obikporo in Onitsha. Dr. J. B. C. Okala as he then was; was a funny and jovial intellectual who always said to my aunty whenever he visited “nyem ogorlor” or “nyem kpakpa ndo” which translates from Igbo language to mean give me alcohol and give me the moonnight star respectively, referring to his favorite Star beer.  

There Was A Time. Adekunle Fajuyi 2Discussions immediately resumed as uncle Goddy said “what do you think of this Ironsi’s death?” “there you go again, what about the Yoruba man eh…eh” I said Fajuyi (photo) “yes Fajuyeee” said my aunty, “Fajuyi!” blurted my uncle “whatever, you seem to have forgotten the nigger” “we don’t have niggers in Nigeria” shot back uncle Goddy “of course we do” Dr. Okala interjected, “tell him” the American woman shot back pointing at her husband who was sucking and puffing furiously from his pipe. “D’ ya wanna ogorlooorrr” said my aunty smiling at the visitor “ogorlor not ogorlooorrr” blurted uncle Goddy “whatever!” Said aunty Yvonne as she stood up to go to the fridge in the kitchen “she’s learning” defended the amiable visitor. I was enjoying this as I sat in the corner with boopey reading my Rabon Zorro thriller photo-magazine of those days.

“…Danjuma arrested Ironsi” said my uncle “yea and Fajuyeee as well” I shot a quick glance at my uncle and he didn’t disappoint me “Fajuyi not Fajuyeee” “whatever” blurted his wife “yes whatever” Okala shot back “you know” he continued “Fajuyi begged them not to kill his guest Ironsi…they refused” “isn’t that so Okalaa?” “Okala not Okalaa” my uncle said and Okala continued and my uncle’s wife ignored him, “yes…Fajuyi said Ironsi was his guest…you can’t arrest and take my guest away like that he told them…that if Ironsi must be killed, then they must kill him Fajuyi first…do you know what? Fajuyi was killed in cold blood” “wow” said Aunty Yvonne. “And some of them were even Christians, can you imagine?” “Na wa for those kind people o!” “What a nigger” said the American woman “Yvonne I’ve told you there are no niggers in Nigeria” countered her husband “of course there are…all Nigerians are niggers” “tell him” Okala said smiling “tell me what…it’s only in America that you have niggers” She sniggered and with a sideways swing of her right hand to her husband, she vociferated as usual “git outta here

Bookish soldiers

There Was A Time. Hassan Usman Katsina, Military Gov. northern Nigeria. 1966Prior to the counter-coup, some officers who had embarked on military careers after completing university degrees had caused ‘concern’ to soldiers without university education or degrees to match. The Military Governor of Northern Region, Lt. Colonel Hassan Usman Katsina (photo) had commented on the presence of some “bookish soldiers” who had joined the Nigerian Army for rather different reasons from the normal military crowd. He was referring mostly to some of his fellow military officers of eastern or Igbo extraction. Many of them had earned university degrees before joining the Nigerian military before and after independence in 1960.

One of them was Oxford-trained Lt. Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, 33 years old, who became the Military Governor of Eastern Region on appointment from the now late Major General JTU Aguiyi-Ironsi. Ironsi had earlier appointed Lt. Colonel Katsina for the Northern region, Lt. Colonel Fajuyi for the Western region and Lt. Colonel Ejoor for the Mid-Western region of Nigeria. As a military officer, Ojukwu cut an overbearing mien with a dignified manner or conduct akin to nobility. To a boy like me, I saw a bearing, comportment and presence which I first heard was similar to the Sarduana’s mien. Specifically, I associated mien to mean someone’s gentleness, gravitas or dignity, courtesy or discourtesy and Ojukwu possessed all the aforementioned in various degrees; and I admired the exquisite refinement of his prose – which was an inspiration that gave all his pronouncements that finish which was almost art.

Ojukwu. Biaafra heroChukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu (photo) was given to oratory and he was a master-rhetorician. To me, he was a pretentious speaker. According to uncle Goddy, in 1944 he was briefly imprisoned for assaulting a white British colonial teacher who was humiliating a black woman at King’s College Lagos; an event which generated widespread coverage in local newspapers. At 13, his father sent him overseas to study in the UK, first at Epsom College and later at Lincoln College, Oxford University, where he earned a Masters degree in history. He returned to colonial Nigeria in 1956.

As a rehash, on July 29, 1966 there was a counter-coup led by Lt. Colonel Murtala Mohammed. Ironsi and some military officers of Eastern extraction, mostly Igbos were killed and Lt. Colonel Yakubu Gowon a Northerner became the Head of State. Gowon was not part of that counter-coup. Though a Christian, the counter coupists invited him as a compromise candidate to assume the leadership mantle of Nigeria. On acknowledging Ironsi’s death, Ojukwu who was in Enugu, the eastern regional capital insisted that the Nigerian military hierarchy be preserved and maintained. Specifically, Ojukwu wanted Brigadier Babafemi Ogundipe, a Yoruba man to take over the reins of the federal military government as the most senior in rank after the felled Ironsi.

Gist had it that Ogundipe out of fear fled to England. However, what happened was that the counter coupists refused to appoint him (though he was the highest ranking officer) and he didn’t even want the position. He knew that northern officers and men who must be under him will not obey him as the C-in-C of Nigeria, being a non-northerner. Again, he was not part of the northern counter-coup. Ogundipe requested to be posted out of Nigeria as a military attaché or something to that effect in the Nigerian High Commission in London; and they obliged him.

While he sucked and puffed on his pipe in the parlor, Uncle Goddy called him a coward but his wife said “them Hausas ain’t gonna obey him…you know that…you don’t expect him to command Hausa soldiers, do you?” “He’s a coward” uncle Goddy said with finality and sauntered away to his bedroom. The fall-out from this disfigurement of the military command structure led to a stand-off between Ojukwu in Enugu and Gowon in Lagos. At this time, two-thirds of Easterners had left the towns, cities and villages and 60% of those who stayed had lost their livelihood.

Gen. Yakubu GowonThese anti-Ibo actions of the peoples of the Northern region continued in earnest as Northern youths and middle-aged men, hooligans, street urchins and others spilled into the streets, neighborhoods, nooks and crannies killing, maiming and hacking at fellow human beings from the East. Even Lieutenant Colonel Gowon (photo) who was now the Nigerian military head of state made an urgent broadcast:

“I receive complaints daily that up till now Easterners living in the North are being killed and molested and their property looted. It appears that it is going beyond reason and is now at a point of recklessness and irresponsibility.”

If Gowon meant what he said in his broadcast, Ojukwu did not believe any of that. As for Ojukwu in the east, Gowon can go and tell that to the marines.  

ZikUncle Goddy said the Northern leaders organized the pogrom as retaliation for the killing of the Sarduana of Sokoto Ahamadu Bello and Abubakar. Aunty Yvonne said “…I said it wasn’t fair” “what wasn’t fair?” uncle Goddy said looking perplexed “Zik (photo) went to Barbados and…” “West Indies” uncle Goddy interjected “whatever, it ain’t good, he should have kept his Zik ass back here!” Aunty Yvonne shot back. “Which Zik ass?” queried uncle Goddy “His goddamned fat ass” the American woman voiced back at her husband; my uncle raised his arms, shaking his head in apparent disappointment. As usual, the American woman vituperated with a sideways swing of her right hand to her husband “git outta here

To be continued 


There Was A Time . Book Cover 01. 202x300 The 1966 Pogrom: Nigeria Biafra WarCulled from: THERE WAS A TIME | Author: Nnamdi Ebo  |  Published by africagenda Publications  
ISBN: 978-978-50804-3-8  | 1st Edition 2013
Buy the book, THERE WAS A TIME |  Click  Bookshop
Nnamdi Ebo | [email protected]  
© 2015 Nnamdi Ebo . All Rights Reserved

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