A Morning of Horror and The Slaughter of a People


Femi Fani-Kayode

May 30th, 2019 represents the 52nd anniversary of the declaration of the Republic of Biafra.
I have written the following contribution to help mark that day. I hope it goes a long way to show where and when the trouble and challenges all started.

I also hope that it widens and stimulates the debate about the plight of the Igbo in the Nigerian state and to enlighten those that may not know why it is that so many young Igbos feel strongly about the concept of Biafra.

Some of the events that I have written about here are painful and deeply personal but write we must in order to educate others, in order to establish the truth, in order to ensure that history does not repeat itself and in order to usher in an era of true reconciliation, peace, love and forgiveness in our nation. Kindly fasten your seatbelts and enjoy the flight!

In the early hours of the morning of January 15th 1966, Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna, Major Chukwuemeka Kaduna Nzeogwu, Major Chris Anuforo, Major Adewale Ademoyega, Major Timothy Onwuatuegwu, Major Humphrey Chuwuka, Captain Emmanuel Nwobosi, Captain Ben Gbulie, Captain Donatus Okafor, 2nd Lt. G. Onyefuru and a handful of other junior army officers of the Nigerian Army, who happened to be predominantly from the Eastern Region, effected a violent rebellion and bloody mutiny.

During the course of that mutiny they murdered no less than 22 prominent and well-respected leaders, politicians and senior Army officers including Sir Tafawa Balewa, the Prime Minister, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Premier of the Northern Region and his wife Hafsat, Chief S.L. Akintola, the Premier of the Western Region, Chief Okotie-Eboh, the Minister of Finance, Brigadier Samuel Ademulegun, Commander of the 1st Brigade Kaduna and his wife Lateefat, Brigadier Zakariya Maimalari, Commander of the 2nd Brigade Lagos, Lt. Colonel James Pam, Adjutant-General of the Army, Colonel Ralph Shodeinde, Head of the NMTC, Lt. Col. Abogo Largema, Commander of the 4th Battalion Ibadan, Colonel Kur Mohammed, Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Colonel Unegbe, Quarter-Master General and others.

This was the first time that a violent mutiny and a military coup d’etat had ever taken place in the history of our nation and the Nigerian people, and indeed the entire world, were shocked by the brutality of the entire exercise and the ruthless, cold-blooded and clinical precision with which it was effected.

My family and lovedc ones were not left out of the bitter events of that sanguine and frightful morning. The mutineers came to our official residence in Ibadan and almost killed my father, Chief Remi Fani-Kayode, the Deputy Premier of the Western Region as well.
As a matter of fact my father and Sir Khashim Imam, the Governor of the Northern Region, were the only two leaders whose homes were raided and who were arrested and abducted that morning by the mutineers that were not murdered.

By divine orchestration, sheer providence and the grace and power of the Living God Papa was delivered and saved by the Federal troops under the command of Lt. Colonel Jack Yakubu Gowon (as he then was) after a terrible gun battle at the Officers Mess in Dodan Barracks in Lagos.

It was indeed a terrible morning. I was 5 years old at the time and I still remember what happened vividly when, led by Captain Emmanuel Nwobosi, they came to our home, cloaked in the darkness of the early hours and took away my father.

He offered no resistance but instead opted to courageously go and meet them outside after which they brutalised him before my very eyes.
––Fani-Kayode is former Minister of Aviation