A night of darkness and the law of karma
Given the fact that we are still commemorating the 50th year anniversary of the January 15, 1966 coup, I have decided to write a follow-up essay to my last offering. It is interesting to note the fact that virtually every single one of those that actually carried out the killings and pulled the triggers during the course of that horrendous night of slaughter met a terrible end themselves. This is a fulfillment of the scripture that says, “he who lives by the sword shall die by the sword” and we must all learn from it. Shedding innocent blood is an expensive business and drawing the first blood in any conflict always comes with a very heavy price. In secular circles, this is known as the “law of karma” but in spiritual ones it is called “the law of reaping and sowing.”
Nothing reflects this principle better than what happened to those that actually murdered others (as opposed to those that simply participated) during the course of Nigeria’s first military coup on the night of January 15, 1966. The facts are as follows: Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna, who was the leader of the coup, went to the home of Brigadier Zakariya Maimalari (who was the Commanding Officer of the Second Brigade) and personally shot him. This was despite the fact that he was one of his most trusted officers and confidantes and despite the fact that earlier that evening he had attended a cocktail party in his house. After killing Maimalari, Ifeajuna went to Ikoyi Hotel, where Lt. Col. Abogo Largema, who was the Commander of the 4th Battalion in Ibadan, was staying and he personally shot and killed him too.
After that, both he and Major Donatus Okafor, another of the mutineers, abducted Sir Tafawa Balewa, the Prime Minister, from his home and took him to the Officers Mess at Dodan Barracks. Once it was clear to them that the coup was unraveling, they fled from Dodan Barracks, drove to the Lagos Abeokuta road, shot the Prime Minister and then dumped his body in a bush. The Special Branch reports show that both Ifeajuna and Major Okafor shot Tafawa Balewa at point blank range in the head and body.
Yet their end was no better. Ifeajuna, after fleeing to Ghana, after the failure of the coup, returned back to Nigeria the following year to fight for Biafra during the civil war. He was later accused of plotting a coup to remove Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu as Head of State of Biafra and he was executed on Ojukwu’s orders after being court martialled. Major Okafor’s end was even worse. He was locked up in Abeokuta Prison after the coup failed because he was unable to escape. Six months later, on July 29, 1966 during the northern revenge coup, he was dragged out of his cell and buried alive by northern soldiers.
Major Anufuro, who, in my view, was the most bloodthirsty and brutal of all the mutineers, personally shot and killed four people in Lagos on the night of January 15, 1966. He went to the homes of Colonel Kur Mohammed, the Chief of Army Staff, and Lt. Col. Arthur Unegbe, the Army Quarter-Master General, both of whom lived in Apapa GRA and shot them both to death in front of their families. After that, he went to Dodan Barracks, where some of the other mutineers, led by Major Humphrey Chukwuka, had forcefully taken Lt. Col. James Pam, the Adjutant General of the Nigerian Army, and Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh, the Minister of Finance.
As the coup started unraveling, Anufuro fled Dodan Barracks and took Lt. Col. Pam and Chief Okotie-Eboh with him. As he drove further into Ikoyi, he stopped the convoy of vehicles, parked his car and told Pam and Okotie-Eboh to step down. As they did so, he shot them both at close range, put their bodies in the same Bedford truck that the bodies of Col. Kur Mohammed and Lt. Col. Arthur Unegbe had earlier been dumped and drove to the meeting point at the Lagos-Abeokuta road. On arrival at the meeting point, Anufuro and his men proceeded to remove the four bodies from the Bedford truck and as they did so, they discovered that Okotie-Eboh was still alive, though badly wounded. Anufuro asked the minister to walk into the bush and as he did so, he shot him in the back of the head. After that, the four bodies were dumped into a shallow grave and the mutineers fled.
Major Anuforo’s end was as bad as the end of those he murdered, if not worse. After the failure of the coup he was captured and locked up in Benin Prison. One year later, after the civil war began, federal troops discovered that he was locked up in Benin. They promptly stormed the prison, found him in his cell, dragged him out and beheaded him. Given the fact that Anufuro had been so heartless on the night of January 15, I am not surprised by the brutality of the federal troops.
Major Timothy Onwuatuegwu was one of those that led the Kaduna operation of the mutiny. He went to the home of Colonel Ralph Shodeinde, the Deputy Commandant of the Nigerian Military Training College, and he personally shot him to death. He also wounded his wife. After that, he went to the home of Brigadier Samuel Ademulegun, the Commandant of the 1st Brigade, burst into his bedroom and personally shot him and his eight-month pregnant wife to death with a machine gun. Onwuatuegwu’s end was no better than that of those that he murdered on the night of January 15, 1966. He was captured and locked up after the failure of the coup. During the civil war, which started one year later, he fought on the Biafran side. A few days after the end of the war, he was lured into a hotel room in the east by a group of men and women for a meeting where he was murdered in the most gruesome manner. I will not give details of how he was killed here because they are far too gruesome for publication. Little did Onwuatuegwu know that the men and women that had invited him into the hotel room were working for the Nigerian secret service and that they were in the company of federal troops. What an irony! He had killed others in the presence of their wives whilst he himself was killed in the presence of strange women.
Major Kaduna Nzeogwu, the leader of the mutiny in the northern part of the country, stormed the home of Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto and the Premier of the North, in Kaduna on the night of the coup.
• Fani-Kayode is former Minister of Aviation.
To be continued tomorrow