Exactly 55 years at the wee hours of Saturday 15th January 1966, the nascent nation – Nigeria, was rocked to its very foundation when a dissident extract, or rather, sect of the Nigerian Army led by Maj. P. C. Nzeogwu Kaduna and four others kidnapped and killed notable Nigerians like Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (Prime Minister), Chief Samuel L. Akintola (Premier of the Western Region), Sir Ahmedu Bello (Premier of the Northern Region), Chief F. S. Okotie-Eboh (Finance Minister), Lt. Col. Abogo Largema and others in military coup d’etat.
The events of that fateful day can’t be obliterated from our memory and the annals of our history as a nation. As we look back at what led to the gruesome murder of the aforementioned, sorrow fills our hearts at this moment and I pause to sadly say that the first Republic Government was interrupted by the five Majors on the grounds of today’s happenings of Government malfeasances.
In the words of Maj. Nzeogwu, he said and I quote inter alia: “Our enemies are the political profiteers, the swindlers, the men in high and low places that seek bribes and demand 10 percent; those that seek to keep the country divided permanently so that they can remain in office as Ministers or VIPs at least, the tribalists, the nepotists, those that make the country look big for nothing before international circles, those that have corrupted our society and put the Nigerian political calendar back by their words and deeds.”
Things have not changed yet. Sadly, the nation still wallow in the manacles of the fears mentioned by Nzeogwu. Since then, the country has been in constant search of true and pragmatic leadership.
On Sunday, January 16, 1966, Dr. Nwafor Orizu, the Senate President cum the Acting President in a nationwide broadcast started:
“I have tonight been advised by the Council of Ministers that they had come to the unanimous decision voluntarily to hand over administration of the country to the armed forces of the republic with immediate effect. All Ministers are assured of their personal safety by the new administration. I will now call upon the General Officer Commanding the Nigerian Army, Maj. Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi to make a statement to the nation on the policy of the new administration. It is my fervent hope that the new administration will ensure the peace and stability of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and that all citizens will give them their full cooperation.”
Before Nwafor’s address, in a memo by the Council of Ministers to the armed forces and signed by Ozumba Mbadiwe and Dipcharima. It reads: ” The Council of Minister’s meeting on 16th January 1966, have asked us to convey to you their unanimous decision to transfer voluntarily the Government to the armed forces of the republic and wish the armed forces success to bring about peace and stability in Nigeria, and that the welfare of our people shall be their paramount task.”
Since power was voluntarily transferred to the army, the envisaged peace and stability in dire need in Nigeria couldn’t be guaranteed even by the army. Not quite long, another coup d’etat was successfully carried out by northern officers that claimed the lives of many officers including the Military Head of States, Aguiyi Ironsi and co.
As it stance, both military and civilians have tested power in Nigeria. Both have become victims of their criticism. Military took over the reins of leadership from civilians because of riff corruption. Not long, military was accused of corruption too!
However, we’ve seen great development achieved during the military regime too. The military is trying to protect us from urban and rural insurgency. Though, they’ve brought to their knee on many occasions by Boko Haram. This is due to inadequate manpower, equipments, sagged morale, poor enumeration and lack of encouragement by the nation’s leadership.
As a result of the above, we’ve great losses and our army is no longer the pride of Africa as it were before now.
Our leaders should think twice and look deep on how to make the labour of our hero past never to be in vain. That can only come through purposeful and true leadership devoid of ethnicity, nepotism, tribalism and despotism.
May the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace, Amen!
Comrade Ogar Emmanuel Oko writes from Calabar and he is the Sole Administrator, Cross River State Chapter of Niger Delta Activists Forum (NDAF).
NB: Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Ogar Emmanuel Oko and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.
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