SPECIAL STOTY: BABANGIDA Must Die

The time was about 10.30pm and, at the two checkpoints, the policemen were not too busy. By that time of Saturday, 21 April 1990, the road from Ikorodu to Lagos was almost deserted. But the policemen were on duty, checking vehicles going and coming intermittently, harassing few of them, and looking for nothing special, but just to keep the city safe. Then it happened:

A long convoy of Peugeot 504 station-wagon, a J-5 bus, a big, black van covered up, with another small van behind appeared suddenly. It was approaching from the Ikorodu end of the road. The policemen quickly rose; not because of the fear that the convoy might be carrying something harmful, but for the joy that the truck in there must have been loaded with certain goods, probably contraband. And that was a big business for policemen on night duty, for whatever happened, something must be dropped for the “boys.”

But this was a dangerous convoy. Immediately it got to the checkpoint, its occupants jumped down. They were all soldiers. All in uniform! Before anyone of them could say police, they had encircled the four men on duty and disarmed them easily, except for one who put up a struggle. But when one of the soldiers used the butt of his rifle to deal him a blow, he gave up. At the second checkpoint near Owode-Onirin, the four policemen there gave up without a fight. The soldiers then disconnected the radio transceiver in the police vehicle, and pushed the Range Rover off the road. Then all the policemen were loaded into the small van and taken to the base.

That was the first arrest made. It was the first confrontation. And it was the beginning of the coup later known as the Gideon Orkar Coup, or the Middle Belt Coup! What would surprise many was that the coup was not an Orkar coup. No. He was not there when the talking began between Major Saliba Daddy Mukoro and Captain Sowaribi Tolofari on 31 December 1989, or when the plan began and the first meeting was held at Mukoro’s place. Mukoro had invited Lieutenant-Colonel Tony Nyiam and Major Cyril Obahor, while Tolofari called in Nimibibowei Empere, another Captain in the Army. The five attended the meeting; no Gideon Orka.

It was not a Middle Belt coup either, because at the end, Orkar was the only officer that participated from that region. All others, including the major sponsor, were from the Niger Delta, except two from the South East. If anything, the coup was an oil matter: a coup for resource control.

 

This was why while the policemen were on the Ikorodu road checkpoints, seventeen officers of the Nigerian Army were on the premises of a company called Fiogret Nigeria Limited at Owutu area of the town, holding their coordinating conference, or the final meeting, of the coup. Fiogret was owned by Great Ovedje Ogboru, a schoolmate of Mukoro and his personal friend. The meeting was to put finishing touches to the plan, and it was the first day many of the coupists saw Great Ogboru. He came down to attend the meeting, and then brought in a cleric who prayed for the group to succeed.

At this meeting, a team was selected to go and raid the Mile 2 Signals Barracks, where they had marked out for their arms and ammunition. Members of the team were Major Obahor, Captains Tolofari, Dakolo, Idele, Lt. Odey, Lt. Akogun and ten soldiers. They had surveyed the Barracks and knew it haboured enough weaponry for their need, and the attack on it had been slated for 11.59 pm of that Saturday. And it was while most of them were coming to the final meeting that they saw the police checkpoints, and decided their fate at the meeting: that they should be arrested and detained.

After the policemen had been taken, the convoy drove to the Signals Baracks at Mile 2, Apapa. When they got there, the soldiers on guard were seated outside on the grass, engaged in conversation. One of them lay across two rifles, and Tolofari and Obahor approached them. When they saw they were officers, they stood up to salute, but it could be seen they were apprehensive, but when they saw Obahor, they were relieved, for he had worked there before. While he was talking with them, Tolofari put his foot down on the two rifles lying on the cardboard paper mat. One of the soldiers saw this move and tried to recover the rifles, Tolofari applied pressure and put his foot down harder.

As the soldier struggle to take the rifle, Tolofari brought out his pistol from its holster, and when the soldier saw it, he raised up his hands, saying, “I am sorry sir!” All of them were disarmed, their hands bound behind their backs, and they were put in the bus. The coupists then broke into the armoury, carried nine crates of Kalashnikov rifles, each containing ten rifles, and removed FN rifles from the racks. From the magazine they carried a few boxes of 7.62mm special ammunition for the Kalashnikovs. They left immediately after, carefully closing the doors again. All this took less than two hours because, by 1.00am, they had returned to Ikorodu, shared the weapons, and set out to take over the government of Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida. While they were going, the song on the lips of some ex-service men among them was that, “Babangida Must Die today!”

Major Gideon Gwarzo Orkar was tasked to lead men to take over the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN)( and ensure that the mission statement was broadcast to the nation promptly at 6.00am on April 22, 1990. He was to be supported by Lt. Col Iyam who was to go to the site of a project and brought the armoured cars and troops there. Tolofari who was a senior officer at the Ojo cantonment was given the assignment to take over the place with his men, while Major Mukoro, Captain Dakolo, Captain Empere, Lt. Ahere and Lt. Obasi were to take the Ikeja Cantonment. Captain Idele was tasked to take his own men to Dodan Barracks, the seat of government, while Lieutenant S O S Echendu, one of the officers in charge of the security of the Barracks would have started blowing off the place. Idele would have first taken Bonny Camp.

The take-over was to begin by 2.00am, and it was agreed that all officers and troops must be at their posts before then. And so was it. At about 2.00am on April 22, 1990, things began to happen simultaneously in five different places: Dodan Barracks where Babangida lived, Bonny Camp, FRCN, Ojo Cantonment and Ikeja Cantonment:

For the Nigerian Army soldiers on security duty at the Federal Radio Corporation, FRCN, in Ikoyi, the night of Saturday, April 21, was like any other night. Quiet. There was nothing unusual. Nothing  amiss. It was a typical Saturday in Lagos when night life was at its grooviest. Unknown to them, however, a dangerous scenario had begun to unfold on Ikoyi Road near the radio station. A lone vehicle driven by some unknown persons had been used to block off portions of the road on the pretext that it had broken down. Some motorists, therefore, had to find a way to get around the “broken down” vehicle.

By 1.30 am, the picture of what was about to happen had started to unfold. Motorists were now being asked to take other route, to get to their destinations by the people who had blocked the road. About the same time an army captain, a River State man, arrived at the scene and then moved to the FRCN. At the radio station, he decided to drill the soldier on guard duty. Issuing out orders, he went through the normal routine drill with the soldiers. And they (soldiers), caught unawares, obeyed every instruction but still did not suspect anything until when he commanded them to lay down their arms, and move two steps backwards.

They did. But the captain, instead of completing the drill, whipped out his pistol, pointed it at the guards, barking out an order that if any of them moved, the soldiers would be shot. Within seconds, all the troops of the captain badged in and collected the guns from the guards. Now it became clear that a (coup d ‘etat to overthrow President Ibrahim Babangida’s government was in progress and that the taking-over of the FRCN had just been effected. This take-over was made easy because Lt. Emmanuel Okekumatalo was the officer on duty at the radio station for the week, and had taken good control of the soldiers working under his command that night, they were to allow entry that would later come to the place, led by Major Gideon Gwarzo Orkar. So, he seized the station with ease.

But the job at the FRCN was not yet completed. By 2.30 a.m., the coup plotters had successfully deployed themselves in strategic area at the radio station. Outside the station, on the road to Obalende, armed soldiers started asking people to come out of their cars and lie on the road. They then decided to deploy an armoured car by the Obalende end of the Third Mainland bridge, in case of an unexpected attack from loyal troops.

Meanwhile, another scene was unfolding simultaneously at Dodan Barracks, the seat of the federal government. At about 1.30 am, the invasion of the place started in a rather peculiar way. The problem really started when some members of the presidential guard unlocked a gate not often used. The gate, opposite the FRCN, was then used to drive out some armoured vehicle that were meant for the protection of the president. The vehicles were then properly armed and were returned to Dodan Barracks at about 2.00am. This was the sign that Lt Echendu had begun his invasion. Because by this time, Echendu, as had been instructed, simply put his turret down and started blowing the place apart.

So before two o’clock in the morning, a well co-ordinated bombardment of Dodan Barracks with artillery fire started. The first target of the coup makers was the president’s bedroom. The room was shelled non-stop until they believed that Babangida must have been killed. They searched the room to confirm but found, to their dismay, that the president was nowhere to be found. They now turned the armoured cars on every room, including offices in the presidential area, hoping that the president would be in one of the rooms. As was evident from the rubble that was once Dodan Barracks later, practically every room, including offices and bedrooms, was damaged. The top floor rooms in the presidential quarters caved in.

Idele and his group were still racing to Bonny Camp when Echendu’s tank bombardment of Dodan Barracks started, and this was where the first problem of the coup started. The guards and officers at bonny Camp had been warned and a team was already prepared, led by Lt Colonel Ziddon, to effect a counter offensive when Idele arrived. A big firing confrontation ensued and Idele was shot dead. Some soldiers arrested, while some bolted. Ziddon now took his own boys and move t osave Dodan Barracks.

Before their arrival, however, U.K. Bello, a lieutenant- colonel and Babangida’s aide-de-camp, ADC, was first alerted when the armoured vehicles were driven out. He was said to have acquainted the president of what was happening, before he (Bello) decided to organise a counter-offensive. Nevertheless, about one hour into the siege on Dodan Barracks, some of the president’s bodyguards suggested that he should leave the seat of government for safety with his family. And in a dramatic escape, Babangida and his family were spirited out of the barracks through the unmanned Ribadu Road gate at about 3.00am to somewhere in Ikoyi

As for Bello, his attempt to launch a counter-offensive failed. As a member of the armoured corps himself, Bello thought the best way to attack the dissidents would be the use of an armoured car. He took one of the available ones stationed in front of the president’s house and drove it in an attempt to dislodge the plotters. Unknown to him, however, was the fact that one of his trusted officers, S.O.S. Echendu, who was said to be in charge of the armoured cars was the coordinator of the Dodan barracks attack. The support of these two officers, sources said last week, made the dissidents’ storming of Dodan Barracks easy. But it also led to the death of Bello.

As he drove his armoured car to confront the coup plotters, he was unaware that the firing pin on the vehicle had been removed. He was a sitting duck. Perebo Idoko ordered him shot. A.B. Umukoro, a second lieutenant from 242 Reece Battalion, was alleged to have fired the shot that ended Bello’s life. Ironically, however, the sources added that Bello, who had only three days before the coup returned from a paratroopers’ course in Makurdi, played the game of Scrabble with ldoko that night until nearly midnight. No matter, shelling of the presidential quarters and the general staff headquarters continued as the plotters continued to hope they would be able to get Babangida.

Meanwhile, at the radio station, an FRCN security guard took one of the armed rebel soldiers to the studio. Time was about 4.00 a.m. and the lone FRCN worker on duty was a night duty technician, Isaac Olayemi. The armed soldier ordered Olayemi, who had been hiding in a cubicle near the studio, out and demanded for the key to the studio. He was given the master key immediately by the frightened worker. Olayemi was then told to get the radio working. The technician told the soldier that radio signals do not come on until 5.30 a.m. That agreed, Olayemi was handed four domestic tapes, two with martial music and the other two for speech broadcast. The technician then explained the problem he might have playing domestic tapes on radio. His explanation was unacceptable to the coup plotters who threatened to “waste his life.” if he did not find a way of playing the tapes.

At about 5.25am., Olayemi played the martial music as ordered by the gunmen. Five minutes later, he followed it with the national anthem, after which the coup broadcast read by the leader of the dissidents, Gideon Gwarzo Orka, a major, was aired. The speech saluted all “patriotic and well-meaning peoples of the Middle Belt and the Southern parts of this country” and announced the successful ousting of the “dictatorial, corrupt” administration of Babangida. The FRCN night duty man was asked to repeat the broadcast at 15 minutes intervals.

It was at this stage that a man thought to be a lieutenant- colonel Nyiam who was the most senior officer among the planners came to the studio and prepared solidarity messages to be broadcast to members of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, and market women. The solidarity message urged members of the unions and the market women to troop out and support the coup. Olayemi, according to sources, at first refused to read the messages, saying it should be read by the man who wrote them. The coup leader refused. The technician had no other option.

Later on, the.same man drew up a question and answer format to be used on radio that morning. He asked Olayemi to act as a reporter, while the people to be brought to the studio would answer the questions which centred primarily on why those people rejected the Babangida administration to join the new government. All of the people brought in by the coup leader were actually his own men. During the session, a lieutenant was asked to speak as a corporal, while three young soldiers, probably under 20 years of age, were asked to speak to their people in lgbo, Yoruba and Hausa. It was well into Sunday morning at this time and the whole of Lagos had been thrown into confusion. Shelling of Dodan Barracks continued and as the president himself said at a press briefing later Sunday night, the presidential seat was under bombardment from 2.00 a.m. to 9.00 a.m.

While this was on, Tolofari was doing his acts at the Ojo Cantoment, on the Lagos-Badagry expressway. There was no doubt, the Ojo cantonment take-over was the most successful of all, where the Commanding officer, the adjutant and four other officers were arrested by his boys and locked up in a guardroom. Following the arrest and detention of the officers, the sound of the military bugle could be heard throughout the cantonment. The officers and men of the cantonment assembled on hearing the sound and his men urged the soldiers to join the coup plotters. And they started joining in droves, most especially after the announcement of Major Orkar was heard on the radio.

Tolofari had the full controlled of the Ojo cantonment and also carried his operations to Apapa, where he arrested some officers from their homes. He was assised by G.T.O. Edoja. Tolofari effected the arrest of colonels I Ajiborisha and Odaro from their houses. They were taken to the Ojo cantonment where they were locked up until the coup collapsed and all officers released by the loyal federal troops. Between the hours of 2.00am and 1.30pm on April 22, 1990 Tolofari and his boys were in charge of the Ojo cantonment.

But the story was not the same at the  Ikeja cantonment, the battle to gain control was fierce. The attempt to take over the cantonment began shortly before 2.00am when Mukoro, Empere, Dakolo let lose their boys. Their immediate mission was to take over the armoury. A shoot-out ensued between them and the guards on duty at the arrnoury. In the process, he was shot dead, while about five other soldiers were injured.

At about 2.30 am, a group led by A. Dakolo, a captain and formerly with the 123 Guards Battalion based in the Cantonrnent arrived at the main entrance of the barracks along Sir Mobolaji Bank-Anthony Road (old Airport Road) in a J5 Peugeot bus. They disembarked and shot dead the two soldiers on sentry at the gate. Other soldiers, just inside the gate, returned fire. A lieutenant was said to have lost his life in the process. The dissidents, who later over-powered the loyalists with superior fire power, then moved to the 123 Guards Battalion, the coup makers met with stiff resistance but were still able to over-power the opposition, thereby securing the armoury, but not before they had shot a corporal dead.

Another batch of the rebels took over the 202 Reece Battalion where armoured tanks were kept. They encountered little opposition. From the Reece battalion, they took an armoured  tank and left for Tiger House, the official residence of the Commander of the 9 Mechanised Brigade. They were a little late as the Commander had left. There was also a shoot-out around his premises, although no lives were lost.

Having taken control of the strategic formations in the cantonment, the rebels stationed an armoured car just inside the gates. Some of them then moved to the Lagos end of the Lagos- Ibadan expressway and took over the toll gate. Others drove in two tanks out of the cantonment in an apparent effort to provide reinforcement for their counterparts in Lagos. It was not clear whether the reinforcement reached the others at Dodan Barracks as, with the passage of time, it began to dawn on Nigerians that the coup might not succeed.

For example, practically all the service chiefs were unavailable at their houses that Saturday night. Augustus Aikhomu, the chief of general staff, CGS, was attending a function in another part of l koyi that night. So was Murtala Nyako, chief of naval staff, CNS. As for Sani Abacha, chief of army staff, COAS, and chairman, joint chiefs of staff, he was not at his Flag Staff House official residence. He was said to be at his nearby guest house, from where he noticed “certain suspicious movements” and quickly called the guards at his official residence to send reinforcement to protect him. The armoured tank positioned in front of his house was said to have roared to the guest house with more troops to provide cover for him.

Once words got to the service chiefs that a coup had taken place and with the escape of the president from Dodan Barracks, it was only a matter of time before consultations would take place and counter-attack launched. While a counter-attack was being planned, the coupists continued to air the coup broadcast. One of the first things done was to send Ganji Tonan Zidon, a lieutenant-colonel, on a reconnaissance mission to find out the strength of the enemy. Dressed in his jogging outfit, sources said he pretended to be in support of the enemy and promised them reinforcement. He left. When he returned, it was not with reinforcement but with troops to dislodge the rebels at the radio station. The troops were led by Chris Garuba, a colonel and former governor of Bauchi State and Ahmed Abdullahi, also a colonel and former governor of Kwara State. The loyalists were given the order to level the FRCN if need be and in order to rout the rebels.

At about 9.00 am, the operation to retake the radio station began. Convoys of soldiers moved in from various points. Their initial staging post was a new red brick house on Obalende Road, where they began firing at the direction of the FRCN, nearly a kilometre away. Some soldiers were deployed at various strategic points, making the overhead bridges to give cover to the advancing troops. There was then a heavy exchange of fire which resulted in the deaths of some soldiers at the Obalende roundabout. For about 15 minutes, no side was able to subdue the other. Neither also attempted to advance. Occasionally, however, loyal troops fired heavy artillery at no particular target.

When the plotters failed to return fire, the federal troops began to move towards the radio station. Some moved through the cemetery, while others were stationed at the military barracks directly opposite the FRCN. Once the loyal troops were able to position themselves near the radio station, they increased their fire-power and directed their attacks at the building. It had then begun to dawn on the plotters that their coup attempt was doomed as they were out-gunned and out-numbered by the loyal forces. Many of them at this point started surrendering, while others tried to escape from’ the radio station which was then under heavy attack. And Olayemi, the technician, decided to lie flat under a table in the studio. Time was about 11.30 am and the rebel broadcast was still being aired.

The situation continued till about 12.30 pm when the loyalists came to the studio after the rebels had been routed and their leader, Orka, surrendered after he ran out of ammunition. Tonan Zidon questioned Olayemi and then made a one paragraph live broadcast at about 12.58 pm. He said: “Fellow Nigerians, I, Lieutenant-Colonel Ganji Tonan Zidon, hereby assure you that the dissidents-have been routed. You are all advised to remain calm and await further announcements. Thank you.”

It was over one hour later that Abacha came to the radio station to record his speech which was then broadcast to the nation at about 1.15 pm. Abacha’s broadcast finally brought the coup to an end. The president himself later showed up at Dodan Barracks Sunday evening for a press briefing and his first address to the nation.

Battles to retake other areas were not as serious as the battle to retake the FRCN, especially once it was clear that Babangida was alive and many other military formations throughout the country had dissociated themselves from the events in Lagos. At Dodan Barracks, the dissident simply ran out of ammunition in their obsessive quest to get Babangida. But at both the Ojo and Ikeja cantonments, loyal troops had to battle to reclaim their command, because at 1.50pm Tolofari left the Barracks in a Peugeot 404 car. He was the last of the major planners to move, and that was the end of the coup.

When the dust began to settle, and the military brass hats who had run away returned to their posts, a clearer picture of the rebels and their plans emerged. For one, government was worried that there were serious security lapses as the failed coup reached the jugular vein of the military. As Fred Chijuka, a lieutenant-colonel and the then Nigerian army spokesman, conceded at a press briefing, the security and intelligence agencies had no whiff of the bloody coup. In conception, execution and magnitude, Chijuka said the coup “beats everybody’s imagination.”  Top military men were cracking their heads over how it was possible for the coup to have been carried out. “The question is, why was the plan not detected by any arm of the security agencies?”

More importantly, however, the kind of personalities involved in the coup attempt not only made its detection more difficult, but took the government unawares. Immediately, 14 of those people were declared wanted, including: G.A.A. Nyiam, a lieutenant-colonel; Mukoro, Edoja, C.O. Obahor, C. Idele, majors; S.U. Tolofari, G.A. Wahab, B.1. Oziegbe , M.B. Gohe, Okekumatalor Emma, P.O. Obasi, Echendu, F.D.O. Odey, H.A., Ogboru, A.E. Akogun, all lieutenants. Orka, ldoko and Umukoro had already been taken in.

Although the government said that the coup was financed by civilian moneybags, only Great Ogboru was declared wanted, because he was actually the major and only sponsor. Ogboru, who owned the fish depot at Ikorodu and on Oregun Road in Lagos, was a multi-millionaire worth around N200 million. He was a close friend of Mukoro and both were classmates at Government College, Ughelli. Ogboru had been planning a transport company and had tried to hire a lecturer from Bendel State University, Ekpoma, to run it. The vehicles he had bought for the transport company were made available for the use of the coup planners. Edoja, Mukoro, Ogboru, Obahor and Umukoro were all from the delta area of Bendel State. This was a great concern for the government.

For this, government agencies rushed and started a mass arrest. Quickly they got about 215 dissidents, including 200 other ranks and 15 officers. They also invaded the operational base of the coup plotters and siezed assorted vehicles, including Peugeot J5 buses, Volkswagen buses, Peugeot 504 station wagon, Toyota jeeps, Santana and Honda cars. One thing that most government watchers observed last week was that after nearly five years of Babangida, there was still something fundamentally wrong with government. Apart from the fact that some people fear that the religious divide in the military was getting wider and more militant, others were not too sure that the military was not in tatters, bogged down by over-exposure, politicisation and obvious but embarrassing cases of corruption.

Said Benjamin Adekunle, a retired brigadier and war-time commander: “The coup is a hell of a big lapse. What are the senior officers doing that the juniors can just go into the armoury and collect arms and ammunition? Are Nigerian soldiers loyal at all to their fatherland? Does the uniform they wear belong to their parents or to Nigeria? What have they done to the oath they took to defend the Nigerian constitution and the country?” Theophilus Danjuma, retired lieutenant-general, had the answer. He said: “If soldiers have to leave their job to govern, it should be only for a short time. If they stay long, what happens to any Nigerian who stays long will happen to them? As, indeed, it is happening now.”

President Babangida had earlier said in 1988 that he would make sure his coup would be the last one, but he did not reckon with the likes of Mukoro and his group. What was instructive, however, was Muritala Nyako, the Chief of Naval Staff’s own armour against coups. He had said, “the best way to prevent a coup is to run a good government, run a bloody good government.”

But because the government was embarrassed and angry, there was no time to think about the issue of good governance, all it wanted was to get all those involved in the failed plot. By the following week, at least over 400 person had been arrested, and the agencies were still counting.

All the border posts and the airports were manned by security guards and armed soldiers. During the hunt for some of the fIeeing plotters, soldiers cordoned off Lakayana Hotel, Agidingbi, Ikeja. Lateef Lamina, the then secretary of the Agege local government council, and his driver drove through the cordon. The car was shot at and Lamina was wounded. He later died in hospital. None of the wanted coup makers was arrested, but some officials of the hotel were taken away by armed soldiers. The security agents believed that one of the wanted men, C O. Obahor, a major, was still hiding in Lagos. He was said to have been seen in Lagos Saturday, April 28, being driven about in a Mercedes Benz 300. It was the reason for the Lakayana cordon.

Government was worried that many of the coup makers escaped, and was determined to capture them. Two of the soldiers implicated in the February 13, 1976, assassination of General Murtala Muhammed and declared wanted were still at large. They were Dauda Usman, a captain, and Clement Yilder , a staff-sergeant. Duro Onabule, chief press secretary to Babangida, warned that those harbouring the wanted men would be committing felony. “Anybody found harbouring or assisting these wanted soldiers in their escape bid will be summarily dealt with along with the suspects,” he said. The government was fearful of the repeat of the Muritala Muhammed coup escapees.

As the search for the plotters and their supporters continue nation-wide, the press was also taking a rap. Apart from Onoise Osunbor, all the other journalists held by the authorities appeared to have gotten into trouble because of their job. Osunbor, former editor of the Community Concord in Bendel State, was redeployed to the African Concord late1989. He was putting up temporarily with one Akhere Qkhaigbe, a lieutenant in the cantonment. Osunbor was arrested Tuesday, April 24, and Lewis Obi, managing director of African Concord said he had neither heard from the authorities nor Osunbor since.

In the wake of the coup attempt. some people apparently ignored the ominous Orwellian jingle on Radio NIgeria: “Careless talk 0, e dey put man for trouble … That seemed the basis of the security agents’ grudge against The Punch newspaper. Tuesday, April 24, the paper carried peoples’ reaction to the abortive coup. One of those interviewed was Tunji Braithwaite, leader of the Nigerian Advanced Party, NAP, in the Second Republic. In the interview, published by the newspaper, Braithwaite was quoted as advising Babangida not to execute the coup plotters, but address the issues they raised. “For the avoidance of doubt I warn that these people must not be killed under any pretext whatsoever, because it would only exercerbate an already explosive situation,” he had told the newspaper.

The following day, security agents whisked him away from his house in Victoria Island to the Park Lane headquarters of the DMI. The same day, a Punch reporter, LawaI Ogienagbon , was also arrested and detained. Ogienagbon was later released and, in his place, Chris Mamah, the deputy editor, was arrested. Sunday, April 29, while Ademola Osunubi, editor of The Punch, was on his way from Brazil, security agents moved to his newspaper offices at Onipetesi, Agege, and sealed it up.

Braithwaite started to fight for his own freedom. Olu Onagoruwa, a Lagos lawyer, took the Federal government to court, asking that Braithwaite be set free and that he be paid one million naira for illegal arrest and detention. Abiodun Kessington, the presiding judge, ordered last week that Braithwaite be produced in court May 10. Chris Okojie, the deputy editor of the Vanguard, was first detained overnight by security agents on Wednesday, April 25. He was released on Thursday. But on Sunday, they came for him again, and this time, also asked for Bayo Odulana. one of the paper’s cartoonists. Though Odulana was not detained, Okojie was held incommunicado from both his colleagues and family. “We don’t know where he is being held and why,” Toye Akiyode, editor of Vanguard said. Though the government did not give reasons for the arrest. Akiyode volunteered that it had to be connected with the cartoon published by Vanguard the day after the attempted coup, Said Akiyode: “People have said it might be because of the cartoon, but I would be surprised if it is because the motive of that cartoon is more positive than negative, It is supposed to indicate the people’s disenchantment with coups. The country has seen so many coups that people now resent them. That is the symbolism of that cartoon. “

And governors were not left out. Governor Alwali Kazir of Kwara State ordered the suspension of Kola Yusuf and Kola Olota, the general manager and programmes manager respectively of Radio Kwara, Ilorin. Though their letters of suspension did not state reasons for the action, it was believed that it was for the role the station played during the abortive coup. Radio Kwara had hooked up with the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, FRCN, network at 7 am, on the day of the coup and played Orka’s broadcast for 50 minutes until the governor personally gave the order to stop it.

In a statement issued in Lagos, the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, said nine journalists or those working for media houses had been arrested since the coup attempt. Among journalists listed were Okojie, Mammah, Ogienagbon, Bassey Ekpo Bassey, who was a former political editor of the Chronicle, Osunbor, Nsikak Essien, editor of the National Concord and two drivers of the Champion, Sunday Apugo and Emmanuel Shodeinde. Ogienagbon and Essien were released later. The NUJ, in the statement signed by Jola Ogunlusi, national secretary, Ladi Lawal and Kayode Komolafe, chairman and secretary respectively of the Lagos chapter of the union condemend the arrests, saying they amounted to intimidation of journalists.

But the government could not stop: the arrests must continue, since it was deemed as the only way to get to the root of the matter. After the mass arrests, government came out early May to announce that the trial of the coup plotters would begin any time from then. And true to its words, one early morning, there came the signs of a monumental trial.

It was May 21, 1990. The air this morning was filled with fore-boding. Residents in most parts of Victoria Island, Lagos, had woken up to meet traffic jam, literally at their doorsteps. Stern-looking soldiers, wielding automatic rifles and bazookas, were patrolling the streets and conducting meticulous searches on vehicles and their meekly passengers.

From nearby Bonny Camp, the highly- fortified military base, backing the Lagos lagoon, a Black Maria, sandwiched between two military trucks took off and raced down the Ozumba Mbadiwe Avenue, at breakneck speed. In three minutes, it turned into Kofo Abayomi Road and stopped inside the grounds of the Brigade of Guards Headquarters. Reporters and press photographers crowding at the Bonny Camp’s Public Relations department for accreditation jumped into a bus provided by the army and sped after the Black Maria. It was the day of reckoning, the first day of trial for Gideon Orka, a major and one of the leaders of the coup, and nine other soldiers, prime suspects of the April 22 coup.

Handcuffed and haggard, Orka and his co-suspects (Nimibibowei Empere, captain; Perebo Dakolo, captain; Nichola Odey, lieutenant; Cyril Ozodor, lieutenant; Arthur Umukoro, second-lieutenant; Julius Itua, staff sergeant as well as Martins Ademokhai and Pius Ilegar, both sergeants) jumped down from their Black Maria and surveyed the premises briefly as they filed into the ground floor of the one-storey building. Their eyes went to the two armoured cars groping menacingly around the premises as well as scores of armed soldiers, who had cordoned off the entire Kofo Abayomi Road from both ends. Inside the small 16 feet by 30 feet hall, where they were to face trial, the suspects sat on two rows of straightbacked wooden chairs, clutching a file each containing their charges. Orka, the star suspect, whose shrill voice over the radio on coup day roused the nation, sat at the front row in-between Empere and Dakolo. His uniform, a combat camouflage with his eagle epaulette in place, gave him the look of a war film captive. Unlike Bukar Dimka, the executed lieutenant-colonel, who starred in the 1976 abortive coup, Orka and his co-suspects wore no smiles and paid scant attention to the scampering press photographers. Instead they stared vacantly into space and appeared defiant and impervious to the tension that engulfed the hall.

Emmanuel Akogun, possibly the youngest of the suspects (in his mid-20s) was the last to be brought into the hall. Dressed in a red pyjamas, he was strapped to a wheel-chair, his left leg encased in a Plaster of Paris, POP. He had been brought in from a military hospital somewhere in Ikoyi, where he was receiving treatment for bullet wounds sustained during the coup battle. Cutting the image of an injured footballer, the eaglet coup-plot suspect, unlike his other colleagues, looked weak and sober, his head bowed most of the time and his dreamy eyes constantly evading photographers and top military officers who crowded into the hall.

Meeting the suspects for the first time, reporters were quite startled by their youthfulness. With their clean low-cut hair style which made them look like school boys, it was difficult to imagine’ that these young men, most of whom were not born when Nigeria gained independence in 1960, were the ones that held the entire nation to ransom for nine hours.

Time for proceedings to begin. Bello Fadile, lieutenant-colonel and lawyer in the legal department of the army, who had been appointed the judge advocate of the military tribunal stood up and beckoned on Ike Nwachukwu, major-general and general officer comanding the 1 Mechanised Division of the Nigerian Army, Kaduna, who had been named president of the treason and other offences special military tribunal. Nwachukwu, Nigeria’s immediate past foreign minister, stood up as Fadile administered an oath of office on him, in a short ceremony. “I will duly administer justice according to the provisions of the treason and other offences special military tribunal decree. So help me God,” Nwachukwu swore.

In turn, Nwachukwu, a highly-respected officer, swore in the other nine members of the tribunal. They were Abdulsalarn Abubakar, brigadier and commander of Army School of Infantry, Jaji; Ekpo Archibong, colonel general staff of the 2 Mechanised Division, Ibadan; Linus Olorogun, colonel; Abdulmumuni Aminu, lieutenant-colonel and former governor of Borno State; Isaac Osayande, major and Umar Tudun-wada, another major. Nwachukwu also swore in Mohammed Mana, Lieutenant-Colonel; George Ikoli, major and Fadile, who had also been appointed alternate members of the tribunal as well as Charles Okonkwo, Bertram Okeche, John Egbunike and Ezekiel Onyemachi, the four verbatim reporters of the tribunal.

Nwachukwu’s next assignment was an inaugural speech. In the speech, he gave an insight into how the business of the tribunal would be conducted. He pledged the tribunal’s determination to be fair to all suspects. Said Nwachukwu in an even tone: “In our deliberations, we shall take exhaustive consideration of the points raised before us by all the parties, to the extent that the course of natural justice, equity, good conscience and our statutes allow. This tribunal is inspired by the thoroughness of the military investigations panel and warmly acknowledges the forthrightness and courage with which it set free all persons who clearly have no case to answer. No less is expected of this tribunal. “

Turning attention to the suspects, the tribunal president said they had no need to worry unduly as justice will be done “to the letter and spirit” of Nigeria’s laws. “The accused persons can rest assured of speedy but fair hearing by this tribunal. I advise (you) the accused persons to be of good behaviour during the trial. We will decide without fear or favour,” he said. According to Nwachukwu, the appointment of a judge advocate to sit on the tribunal was a manifestation of the tribunal’s preparedness to safeguard the interests of the accused persons on any question of law that might arise in the course of their trial. In addition, he said the judge advocate had the duty of summing up the evidence and advising the tribunal upon the law relating to the case before the tribunal closed to deliberate on its findings. He said the findings, and sentences of the tribunal were “not final but subject to confirmation by the confirming authority” which was the Armed Froces Ruling Council, AFRC.

Sitting a few metres away from Nwachukwu, were four military lawyers including Tunji Olurin, colonel and former governor of Oyo State, appointed also last week to provide legal services as prosecuting and defending counsels at the tribunal. Nwachukwu told them to avoid unnecessary application for adjournment because “justice delayed, is justice denied.” There was need, he said, for the counsels to avoid time-wasting so that the guiltless suspects and their families would be relieved of their agony and anxiety. Said Nwachukwu: “We expect you to live up to your highest professional ethics which mainly demands that your duty is not to secure conviction or acquittal at all costs, but to assist the tribunal to reach a just decision.”

To the press, Nwachukwu demanded the dissemination of “only authentic report.” He told the public that the trial of the coup suspects was purely a military affair, indicating that civilians who were involved in the botched coup would not be given a civil trial. “It is necessary to stress that the present situation, although it touches on national security, is entirely a military affair and will be treated with the recognised and acknowledged military tradition,” the general said. Shortly after the tribunal president’s speech, reporters were requested to take their exit for the trial proper to begin. Not long after pressmen left the hall, the charges were read to the suspects, charges of conspiracy to commit rebellion against the federal military government. The defence lawyers, however, quickly asked for adjournment to enable them receive briefs from their clients.

Back in Dodan Barracks, the seat of power, Anthony Ukpo, colonel and principal staff officer to President Ibrahim Babangida shed more light on the trial and the on-going investigations, which was headed by an unnamed brigadier. He told State House correspondents that more suspects would be forwarded to the tribunal by the investigation panel as the screening and trial progress. He stressed that civilian suspects would have access to the same legal representation from the pool of military lawyers. Even as the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, stepped up their campaign for civilian suspects to be tried in civil court, Ukpo said: “Treason is treason, whether committed by a soldier or a civilian.”

According to the presidential aide, civilian suspects just like their military counterparts had the choice to pick any of the military lawyers in the tribunal to defend them. It appeared then that the government was coming under pressure by different interest groups, some of them spurious, who demanded one thing or the other from the government in connection with the trials. But Ukpo said that the government was fully up to the task. “I think the issue of government changing its mind as regards the method of handling suspects is out of the question. No matter the pressure, the government will only do what is fair, just and right,” Ukpo said.

By asking the government to “either charge the civilians being held to a civil court or release them forthwith,” it appeared NBA did not take into consideration the treason and other offences Decree 1 of 1986. Signed into law on January 7, 1986, by Babangida, section three of the decree says “the special military tribunal shall have jurisdiction to try any person, whether or not a member of the armed forces, charged with ‘any offence … in connection with or furtherance of any act of rebellion against the federal military government … and shall have power to award the punishment specified in appropriate law, including any appropriate service law.” According to the decree, in a situation where the offender was not subject to military law, but acted in concert with any person subject to the service law or knowingly took part to any extent whatsoever (in committing the said offence), the tribunal shall have power to “treat the person in like manner as a person subject to the service law …”

There was a precedent in this regard. In 1976, following the Dimka coup, some civilians including Abdulkareem Zakari, a staff of Radio Nigeria, Lagos and Helen Gomwalk, sister-in-law of Joseph Gomwalk were tried by military tribunals and punished. Zakari was executed for his involvement in the coup while Helen Gomwalk bagged a life sentence. She was later given amnesty by the Shehu Shagari administration. Decree I of 1986 under which the latest coup suspects were being tried was a re-enactment of the 1976 decree, which saw Zakari and Gomwalk punished. As at that time, no civilian out of the 36 known to be detained had yet appeared before the Nwachukwu tribunal.

But as the NBA and government stuck to their guns, Tunji Braithwaite, detained Lagos lawyer and presidential candidate in the 1983 elections, dramatically discontinued his legal battle for freedom. Picked up at his home by securitymen a few days after the coup, allegedly for making sympathetic press statements in favour of Orka’s coup, Braithwaite had filed a suit at the Lagos high court through his lawyer, Olu Onagoruwa, challenging his “illegal” detention. Abiodun Kessington, judge of the court, had ordered the government to produce Braithwaite before him. Government did not.

But mid-May, as Bola Ajibola, justice minister, appeared before Kessington to “make the position of the government clear” on the matter, Braithwaite and his lawyers led by Onagoruwa sprang a surprise. In a two-page emotional letter said to have been written by Braithwaite, and read in the court by Onagoruwa, Braithwaite said he had decided to withdraw his case for freedom because he considered it a “waste of time,” being a Decree 2 detainee. According to Braithwaite, all he had done, that earned him his “illegal” detention was to advise the government on how to stop coups and the spilling of innocent blood. But before striking out the case, Kessington wanted to know from the justice minister where Braithwaite was detained. Said the minister: “I do not know, Sir. I do not know, my lord.”

As Braithwaite was giving up his legal fight for freedom, another detainee, Paul Unongo, one-time minister of steel, took his case to another Lagos high court, May 24, and sued Babangida and his government for NI million, as damages for his detention without trial. Unongo, a psycho-pathologist, said in a 16-paragraph affidavit sworn to by his wife, Victoria, that he was arrested on April 24, at his family house at Gboko, Benue State, two days after the coup attempt. The affidavit said that up till May 24, one month after the case was taken to the court, Unongo’s whereabouts and the reason for his arrest were yet to be made known by governrnent. Victoria, therefore asked the court to declare his detention illegal and unconstitutional. She also asked the court to compel government to produce Unongo in the court.

Though no date was fixed for the legal battle, most of those detained for “circumstantial evidence” over the coup soon regained their freedom. The Tiger, a monthly news bulletin published by the 2 Mechanised Division of the army, Ibadan, had confirmed that 127 soldiers detained in connection with the coup had been set free “after a thorough screening.” Also. a driver with Fiogret (Nigeria) Limited, company owned by Great Ogboru, the suspected coup financier, was set free but he refused to speak to reporters.

The public appearance and trial of Orka and his colleagues put paid to wild speculations about the whereabouts and health of the principal coup suspect. For some weeks, speculations had been rife that Orka had been spirited out of his detention and flown abroad by some unknown persons. Another popular tale said the fabled coup suspect had lost his eyes and teeth, as a result of some harsh punishment. He didn’t appear to have lost either when he faced the tribunal. Yet another tale said that Ogboru had told the British Broadcasting  Corporation, BBC, that he would strike again because the coup was planned in three stages. There was no such interview on the BBC. There were also more tales of the kidnap of children of a government top shot. Again, this was not true.

Somehow, speculations about Orka’s escape appear to have been aided by The Tiger, the army bulletin, which devoted its entire May edition to stories on the failed coup. The 42-page publication had on its page II Orka’s picture among other wanted men, under a headline: “April 22 Abortive Coup Suspects Wanted List.” The Guardian on Sunday, May 20, apparently confused about the situation described the inclusion of Orka’s picture among the wanted men as “intriguing.” In addition to The Tiger’s “printer’s devil,” it had seemed for weeks that there were too many spokesmen on the coup.

But everything appeared to have been streamlined later with Ukpo seen as the government spokesman on the sensitive issue.

No matter. Government, deeply concerned about the extent of political pollution occasioned by the April 22 rebellion, worked hard on every piece of information and spreading its security dragnets wider, to bring culprits to judgment. Another businessman, Alex Aigbe, 42, was declared wanted in connection with his role in the abortive coup. His company, NEF Investment Limited, situated at Akoka, Lagos, was suspected to have been involved in the recruitment of ex-servicemen, who took part in the bid to take over government. In addition, a major who was a second in command in one of the guards’ battalions was picked up for interrogation. He was seen with Orka days before the coup. Security hounds believed that a good number of the wanted men, most of them key actors in the coup, were within the country and the co-operation of members of the public could lead to their arrest.

Even then, remained at red alert. Similarly, tension was high. A press conference called on Tuesday, May 22, by Olubunmi Okogie, archbishop of Lagos and president, Christians Association of Nigeria, CAN, to plead for the release of its members detained in connection with the coup, turned into a protest session. In a five-point demand, CAN called for the immediate reshuffle of the AFRC, and the council of ministers, to reflect the nation’s geographical and religious diversity. Okogie said that since Chief Olusegun Obasanjo administration (1976-1979), subsequent governments had failed to sustain the balance of power through fair representation of all segments of Nigeria in key appointments.

The archbishop demanded the removal of Jibril Aminu, petroleum minister and Rilwanu Lukman, external affairs minister, “in the interest of peace and stability,” since they were not “sacred cows” and because “they have served the government long enough.” Okogie also demanded the reversal of what he called the unwarranted retrenchment at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC. He criticised the timing of the retrenchments “considering the present economic, political and social atmosphere in the country.”• In addition, the CAN president demanded a clear official statement on Nigeria’s status in the Organisation of Islamic Conference, OIC. Speaking on the coup suspects, Okogie called on government to spare the lives of all those being tried. “It is true they have committed treason. They could be jailed. But we don’t need to waste blood. We should give them a chance to repent and reflect on their lives,” he said. From Lagos, the protest spread to other parts of the country. In Ibadan, capital of Oyo State, CAN leaders went to Government House and told Adedeji Oresanya, the governor, to assure them that none of its members were arrested on the basis of an underground publication alleging that CAN was behind the April 22 putsch. Oresanya, according to reports, told them that he was aware of the publication and he suspected it originated from the University of Ibadan, from where incidentally, Obaro Ikime, a professor of history and prominent leader of one of the campus churches was arrested.

In Kaduna, the youth wing of CAN held a press conference May 23, and contested the government’s claims that no christian leader was being held over the coup. In Gongola State, the Nigerian Tribune reported May 23, the government hurriedly ordered the closure of Government Girls Secondary School, Yola, following “a row over the introduction of unauthorised school uniform by muslim students in the school.” The news of the problem at the school spread throughout the state, creating tension between muslims and christians in various parts of the state, the report said. As tension mounted, Mohammed Lawal, governor of Ogun State, declared Friday, May 25, a work-free-day and directed the entire muslim community in the state to spend the day fasting and praying for peace, unity, stability and progress of the country. He also directed christians in the state to fast and observe special prayers on Sunday, May 27. The leaders of traditional religions were also asked by the government to assemble worshippers in their own special days and pray for the country.

Lawal, who was speaking to religious leaders in the state over the fall-outs of the coup, told his guests that no person had been arrested in connection with the putsch, simply because of his religion. He appealed for peaceful coexistence between the various religions. Said the governor: “We should respect every religious persuasion in this country as this will create the much needed multiplier effect of … good neighbourliness and political stability … conducive to the much sought after economic growth and development . .. We are now more than ever before in a period of sober reflection which requires us to pray collectively for the mercy and guidance of Almighty God.”

Appeal for calm and support for the administration also came from Nigerians overseas, who said they were quite saddened by events back home. Said the 10,000-member Nigerian community, The Nigerian Foundation, TNF, in Houston, Texas, USA, in a press statement: “We share the concern of all Nigerians that our country has continued to be saddled by•a cyclical saga of political uncertainties and instability, which has deterred our country from realising its obvious potentials as one of the most richly endowed nations on earth. Such price is too dear for Nigerians to continue to pay.” TNF condemned the coup in very strong terms but urged that clemency be accorded the culprits. In its five-point resolution signed by four members of its board of directors and four members of its executive council, TNF also called for “immediate steps to correct … all factors that may have directly or indirectly motivated the coup … such as inequities in political, military and national appointments …”

In a separate statement, the Movement for a New Nigeria, MNN, a group based in London, condemned the divisive implications of the coup and said Nigerians should not forget in a haste the bitter 30-month civil war that took the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. “It makes one wonder for what purpose the civil war was fought,” the MNN said.

One thing however was that after the first day at the military tribunal, no journalist was allowed in again to witness the trial of the coup plotters, and the public could not say this was what was going on at the tribunal, or how many accused persons were being charged. Everybody was in the dark, until one day in July, a clear two months after the first sitting of the tribunal. This day, the government said it had decided on the putschists.

 

When blood flowed like water …

 

If Believing in the biblical injunction that “the wages of sin is death” and in the military order that makes treason an offence which carries the maximum penalty, the AFRC confirmed the death sentence passed on 42 plotters and the execution was carried out with dispatch at 5.00 pm. It was the largest execution of coup plotters in Nigeria’s chequered history. Following the abortive coup led by Buka Suka Dimka in February 1976, 32 officers and men were executed. Until that Friday, that was the highest.If some Nigerians had had a say in what to do with the April 22 coup plotters, they would have simply freed those not culpable but sent the guilty ones to varying terms of imprisonment. Their sentiments had been quite clear when, following the abortive coup, articles asking government to be magnanimous by sparing the lives of the plotters began to appear in the newspapers. Subtle, direct and indirect pressures were piled on government and later, Amnesty International, the London-based human rights organisation, joined the bandwagon pleading for the lives of the plotters. It said: “None of those sentenced to death has a right of appeal to a higher court and their execution may be imminent.” Amnesty got one fact wrong. The plotters were, indeed, given the opportunity to appeal their verdicts once the military tribunal which tried them finished its work July 18. Their appeal was, in fact, top on the agenda of the Armed Forces Ruling Council, AFRC, which met for two days in Lagos. When the members rose on Friday, 27 July 1990, it was apparent that the prayers of many Nigerians, including that of Amnesty, had not been answered.

 

Augustus Aikhomu, a vice-admiral and Chief of General Staff, told an apprehensive but emotionally scarred nation on Friday night that the AFRC reached the decision after “intensive deliberations.” Said he: “After two days of intensive deliberations, the Armed Forces Ruling Council has taken the following decision: (a) altogether 764 persons have been discharged and acquitted; (b) the retrial of 31 persons has been ordered; (c) nine persons have been convicted to serve various jail terms; (d) 42 persons have been found guilty and condemned to death by firing squad. This sentence was carried out at 5.00 pm.”

The AFRC decision might have been informed, not only by the level of physical destruction and loss of lives, but also by ruins that would have become of Nigeria had the coup succeeded. According to Aikhomu, at least three of the plotters of the April 22 coup were arrested but released in 1987 over an alleged plot to overthrow the government. They were: G.T. Nyiam, a lieutenant-colonel, S. D. Mukoro and Gideon Orkar, both majors. They were released because of lack of evidence to convict them. The plot was not known to the general public but a key participant in the plot was still serving a 10-year jail term by then.

Aikhomu also said that “The officers regrouped again in January to overthrow the government and had intended to kill not only the president but also the AFRC members and military governors, all civilian members of the council of ministers and senior military and police officers. They would also have blown up the seat of power and the bridges across key Nigerian rivers, the Niger and Benue.”

Nevertheless, many Nigerians held tenaciously to the dimming hope that the administration would this time be magnanimous and spare the lives of the dissidents. It was not to be. Anxiety had, indeed, mounted in Lagos, when, after the trials, stakes were erected at the Kirikiri Prisons where the condemned people were kept. It was learnt that those sentenced to death had been kept at the condemned convicts’ ward consisting of cells, while the others were kept in solitary confinement.

The execution marked the end of an extremely trying period for the Babangida government which had been largely thought to be invincible because of the president’s deft political approach. Unlike the trial of the plotters in 1986, the media were, for the part, in the dark during the trial of the April 22 coup plotters. Although the seven-officer military tribunal headed by Ike Nwachukwu, a major-general and General Officer Commanding, GOC, I Mechanised Division in Kaduna, had promised to brief the media as trial progressed, mum was the word until the day of execution. These were those involved:

Sentenced to Death

Major Gideon Orkar

Lt. Awokoya E. Akogun

Capt. Nimibibowei Harley Empere

Lt. Cyril Okusor Ozoalor

2nd Lt. Arthur Badenyintite Umukoro

Staff Sgt. Julius Itua

Sgt. Martins Ademokhai

Sgt. Pius Ilegar

Lt. Nicholas Odey

Capt. Perebo Aboela Dakolo

W02 Monday Bayefa

L/Cpl. Jephthan Inesai

Cpl. Sunday Effiong

L/Cpl. Francis Ogo

L/Cpl. Samuel Mbasue

L/Cpl. Albert Ojenrongbe

L/Cpl. Geofrey Deesiiyira

L/Cpl. Emmanuel Aiyemola

Sgt. Stephen Iyeke

Cpl. Joseph Efe

W02 Afolabi Moses

L/Cpl. Idowu Azeez

L/Cpl. Vitalis Udzer

W02 Jonathan Ekimi

Staff Sgt. Solomon Okungbowa

Pte. Richard Isaghohi

2nd Lt. E.J. Esuku

Staff Sgt. Barnabas Jarikpe

Pte. Egwolo Makpamenkun

L/Cpl. Adegamen Friday

Pte. Monday Esebawen

Pte. Nnadi Mogaha

Sgt. Etim Umoh

Ex-Cpl. Wasiu Lawal

Ex-L/Cpl. Ekaminar Makililo

Ex-L/Cpl. Peter Umuyoma

Ex-Signalman Goodluck Emefe

Ex-St/Sgt. Samson Idejere

Sgt. Jolly Agbodowei

L/Cpl. Samuel Obasuyi

Pte. Osazuwa Osifo

L/Cpl Goodluck Ofojareri

2nd Lt. Emmanuel O. Alade

Jailed

Turner Ochuko Ogboru – Life

L/Cpl David Amoomo – 2 years

Sgt. Andorich Eladonye – 2 years

Capt. A. Monju – 1 year

Sgt. John Alido – 7 years

Patrick Etadafema – 7 years

S.A. Francis Agino – 7 years

L/Cpl. Ezekiel Akudu – 7 years

Pte. Ibrahim Egwa – 2 years

 

The government later retried some of the jailed plotters and sentenced them to death. In all, about 69 coupists were sent to the grave by military bullets. And from then, no one forgets: the Gideon Orkar coup was etched into Nigerian history.

 

 

 

Gideon Orkar’s coup broadcast to the nation


Fellow
Nigerian citizens, on behalf of the patriotic and well-meaning people of the Middle Belt and southern parts of this country, Major Gideon Gwarzo Orkar, wish to happily inform you of the successful ousting of the dictatorial, sadistic, corrupt, drug-baronish, inhuman, deceitful, homosexually centred, oligarchistic and unpatriotic administration of General Ibrahim Babangida. We have equally commenced their trial for unabated corruption, mismanagement of the nation’s economy, the murders of Dele Giwa, Major-General M. J. Vatsa and other officers, as theirs was not an attempted coup but mere intentions that were yet to materialise, and other human rights violations.


The National Guard, already in its formative stage, is hereby disbanded with immediate effect. Decrees Number 2 and 47 are also hereby abrogated. We wish to emphasise that this is not just another coup, but a well conceived, planned and executed revolution of the marginalised and enslaved people of the Middle Belt and the South, with a view to freeing ourselves and children yet unborn, from eternal slavery and colonisation by a clique of this country.

Our history is replete with numerous and uncountable instances of callous and insensitive, dominative and  oppressive intrigues by those who think that it is their birthright to dominate till eternity the political and economic privileges of this great country to the exclusion of the Middle Belt and the South. They have almost succeeded in subjugating the Middle Belt and making them voiceless and are now extending the same to the South. It is our unflinching belief that this quest for domination, oppression and marginalisation is against the wish of God and, therefore, must be resisted with all vehemence.

Anything that has a beginning must have an end. It will also suffice to state that all Nigerians with no skeletons in their cupboards need not be afraid of this change.

However, those with skeletons in their cupboards have all reasons to fear, because the time of reckoning has come.

For the avoidance of doubt, we wish to state the primary reasons why we have decided to oust the satanic Babangida administration. The reasons are as follows: to stop Babangida’s desire to firmly install himself as Nigeria’s President at all costs and by so doing retard the progress of this country for life. In order to be able to achieve this undesirable goal of his, he has evidently started destroying those groups and sections he perceives as being able to question his desires. Examples of such groups neutralised or pitched against each other are:

  1. the Sokoto Caliphate, by installing an unwanted Sultan to cause division within the hitherto strong Sokoto Caliphate;
  2. the destruction of the people of Plateau State, especially the Langtang people, as a balancing force in the body politic of this country;

iii. the buying of the Press with generous monetary favours and usage of the SSS as a tool of terror;

  1. the tying of the university teaching and non-teaching staff by an intended massive purge, using the $150 million loan as the necessitating factor;
  2. deliberately withholding funds to the armed forces to make begging effective and also crowning his diabolical scheme through the intended retrenchment of more than half of the members of the Armed Forces.

Other pointers that give credence to his wanting to become life president against the wishes of the people are:

  1. his appointment of himself as the Minister of Defence
  2. his putting under his direct control the SSS
  3. his deliberate manipulation of the transition programme
  4. his introduction of inconceivable, unrealistic and impossible political options
  5. his recent fraternisation with other African leaders that have installed themselves as life presidents; and
  6. his dogged determination to create a secret force via the National Guard, independent of the Armed Forces and Police, which may be answerable to himself alone both operationally and administratively.
  7. It is our strong view that this kind of dictatorial desire of Babangida is unacceptable to Nigerians of the I990s and, therefore, must be resisted by all.
  8. Another major reason for the change is the need to stop the intrigues, domination and internal colonisation of Nigeria by the so-called chosen few. This in our view has been responsible for 99 percent of our problems as Nigerians.

This indeed has been the major clog in our wheel of progress. This clique has unabated penchant for domination and rivalry, fostering of mediocrity and absolute distaste for accountability. All put together have been our undoing as a nation.

This will ever remain our fate if not checked immediately.

It is strongly believed that without the intrigue perpetrated by this clique and misrule, Nigerians will have in many ways developmental ratings comparable to those of Korea, Taiwan, Brazil, India and even Japan.

Therefore, this cancerous dominance has as a major factor constituted a major and unpardonable clog in the wheel of progress of the Nigerian state. It will suffice to mention a few distasteful intrigues engineered by this group of Nigerians in recent times. These are:

  1. the shabby and dishonourable treatment meted out to the longest serving Nigerian General in the person of Lt-General Domkat Bali, who in actual fact had given credibility to the Babangida administration;
  2. the wholesale hijacking of the Babangida administratJon by the all-powerful clique;
  3. the disgraceful and inexplicable removal of Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, Professor Tam David- West, Mr. Aret Adams and so on from service to give way, for the most part, to the so-called Nigerian ruling class;
  4. the now pervasive and ongoing retrenchment of Middle Belt and Southerners from public offices and their instant replacement by the favoured class and their stooges.
  5. the deliberate destruction of the educational culture and retarding the pace to suit the favoured class to the detriment of the educationally-minded parts of the country;
  6. the deliberate impoverishment of the people from the Middle Belt and the South, making them working ghosts and feeding on the formulae of 0-I-0,0-0-0, while the aristocratic class and their stooges are living in absolute affluence on daily basis without working for it.
  7. Another candid example of the exploitative, oppressive, predatory games and intrigues of this class of people and their stooges was the fact that even though they contributed very little economically to the well-being of Nigeria, they have over the years sat and presided over supposedly national wealth, derived in the main from the Middle Belt and southern parts of this country, while peoples from these parts of the country have been completely deprived from benefiting from the resources given to them by God.
  8. The third factor for the change is the need to lay strong, egalitarian, foundation for the real, democratic take-off of Nigerian states as the circumstances may decide.

In the light of all above, in recognition of the nagativeness of the aforementioned aristocratic factor, the overall progress of the Nigerian state, a temporary decision to excise the following states, namely, Sokoto, Borno, Katsina, Kano and Bauchi, from the Federal Republic of Nigeria comes into effect immediately, until certain conditions are met. The conditions to be met to necessitate the reabsorption of the aforementioned states are as follows:

  1. to reinstall the rightful heir to the Sultanate, Alhaji Maccido, who is the people’s choice;
  2. to send a delegation led by the real and recognised Sultan, Alhaji Maccido, to the federal government, to vouch that the feudalistic and aristocratic quest for domination and oppression will never be practised in any part of the Nigerian state.

By the same token, all citizens of the five states already mentioned are temporarily suspended from all public and private offices in the Middle Belt and southern parts of this country until the aforementioned conditions are met.

They are also required to move down to their various states within one week from today. They will however, be required to return to the Federal Republic of Nigeria when the stipulated conditions are met. In the same vein, all citizens of the Middle Belt and South are required to come back to their various states pending when the so-called all-in-all Nigerians meet the conditions that will ensure united Nigeria. A word is enough for the wise.

This exercise will not be complete without purging corrupt public officials and recovering their ill-gotten wealth since the days of the oil boom till date. Even in these hard times, when Nigerians are dying from hunger, trekking to work for lack of transportation, a few other Nigerians, with complete impunity, are living in unbelievable affluence both inside and outside the country. We are extremely determined to recover all ill- gotten wealth back to the public treasury for the use of the masses of our people.

You are all advised to remain calm as there is no cause for alarm. We are fully in control of the situation as directed by God.

All airports, seaports and borders are closed forthwith.

The former Armed Forces Ruling Council is now disbanded and replaced with a National Ruling Council, to be comprised of the Head of State, Service Chiefs, the Inspector-General of Police, and one representative each from the NLC, NUJ, NBA and NANS.

A curfew is hereby imposed from 8 pm. to 6 am. until further notice. All members of the Armed Forces and the police are hereby confined to their respective barracks. All unlawful and criminal acts by those attempting to cause chaos will be ruthlessly crushed. Be warned, as we are prepared at all costs to defend the new order.

All radio stations are hereby advised to hook up permanently to the national network programme until further notice.

Long live all true patriots of this great country of ours.

May God and Allah through His bountiful mercies bless us all.

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