Issues

TRIBALISM, NEPOTISM: THE GENESIS OF AGITATIONS IN NIGERIA

Sequel to the fracas in the Western Region House of Assembly in the capital of the Region Ibadan in the first Republic which prompted the young Revolutionary Army officers led by Major Kaduna Nzeogwu to plan a Coup d’ tat to cleanse Nigeria of Corrupt politicians as Major Kaduna Nzeogwu was betrayed with tribalism by some other officers from the Eastern Region contrary to their initial joint plan to kill Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa that was in the verge of collapse in order to wipe them out from the surface of Nigeria. Their plan was not to perpetrate themselves into power as these set of officers were the real officers who had their Cambridge Certificates before enrolling into the Nigeria Defense Academy contrary to other officers from the Northern parts of Nigeria who were influenced by the fact that the Nigeria Defense Academy is in their territory, Kaduna and these set of officers later preceded to Sandhurst Military College Britain contrary to some officers from a certain part of Nigeria whom because of tribalism were enrolled into the Nigerian Defense Academy without the necessary qualification as laid down by the British people at the attainment of the Nigeria Independence in 1960.

The plan was to kill Tafawa Balewa, Ahmadeu Bello, Dr. Nnamdi Azikkiwe, Michael Okpara, Ladoke Akintola, Okotieboh and the officers were assigned to kill some of these leaders but in the process, Tafawa Balewa, Ahmadu Bello, Ladoke Akintola, Okotieboh except Dr, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Michael Okpara were killed on January 15, 1966 Coup d’tat led by Major Kaduna Nzeogwu evidently, the Igbo officers who were to kill Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Michael Okpara revealed the plan to them hence they travelled out of the country before the Coup d’tat of January 15, 1966. The unfortunate thing about this Revolutionary Army Officers was that unknowingly to the Hausa Officers in the Nigerian Army, Major Kaduna Nzeogwu is not from Eastern Region but from Western Region a village near Asaba in Delta State which was part of Western Region them.

The aftermath of the killing of the Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, The Premier of Northern Nigeria Sir Ahmadu Bello, The Premier of Western Nigeria Ladoke Akintola and Federal Finance Minister Okotie without the killings of the Governor General of Nigeria Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and the Premier of Eastern Region Michael Okpara did not go well with the other officers from the Northern Region, especially the announcement of Major General Thomas Aguiyi Ironsi as the Head of State which coincidentally was the most senior Army Officer in Nigeria serving Queen Elizabeth the II in England which was the practice then because the British people colonized Nigeria. According to The Visual History of Nigeria written by John D. Clarke MA “On 15th January 1966, a group of officers in the Nigerian Army tried to overthrow the government. In a few hours they had killed the Federal Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Premiers of Northern and Western Regions, and many more Army officers. Next day the Federal Cabinet asked the Army to take over the government and late General Aguiyi Ironsi became head of the Supreme Military Council.

The Supreme Military Council appointed military governors for the Regions and made political parties illegal. The rebel officers who were still free now surrendered. The rebels had said that they wanted to rid Nigeria of the corrupt rule of the politicians. Nigerians were shocked by the killings but many were glad that party government had ended. They thought that the Military would be honest and make Nigeria more united. Some people were afraid that military rule meant that the Igbo people would dominate the country. Many of the rebels had been Igbos but those they had killed were not, and Major General Aguiyi Ironsi was himself an Igbo. The rebels were unpunished. In May, 1966, Major General Aguiyi Ironsi announced that the Regions were abolished. This caused great fear and anger among the Northern peoples who thought that now they would be ruled by an Igbo government in Lagos. Northern soldiers remembered their leaders and their comrades killed in January and on July 28, they shot General Aguiyi Ironsi and many other Igbo soldiers. Then began series of urgent talks in the armed forces and between senior Officers and leading civilians on the future of Nigeria. On 1 August, they agreed the Colonel Yakubu Gowon should be the new Supreme Military Commander. At once he released from prison Chief Obafemi Awolowo and other political prisoners, and he restored the Regions. He was quickly recognized as head of state by all the Regional governors except Colonel Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. The quick assertion then was that Colonel Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu may have decided already that the Eastern Region should secede and leave Nigeria.

If so, events played into his hands. With the loss of so many officers, discipline in the Army was poor. In the North, soldiers joined city mobs in riot against the Igbos, killing a great many. Then over a million Igbos fled to the Eastern Region leaving their properties behind them. The Igbo people had supported one Nigeria before, but now they were shocked by the sufferings of so many of their people. They turned away from Nigeria and gave Colonel Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu the support he needed in order to secede. In the next months Ojukwu rejected all the Federal Government’s attempts to come to an agreement with him. On 30 May 1967 Ojukwu declared that the Eastern Region was now an independent republic called “Biafra”. The Federal Government replied that this action was a rebellion and that they intended to keep Nigeria united,. On 6 July 1967, fighting began between the rebel and the Federal Forces. On 27 May, 1968 General Gowon, as he now was had announced the creating of 12 states instead of the Regions. This was a popular decision in most of Nigeria, and among non- Igbo peoples of Eastern Region. They, too, were sorry for the sufferings of the Igbos but they did not wish to live a republic dominated by them. When the civil war began, both the Nigerian and rebel armies were small and had few officers. The armies grew rapidly in size but it took time to train the new recruits.

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