By Charles Ogbu (Twitter @RealCharlesOgbu)
As counter-intuitive as it might sound, the greatest losers in the January 15th 1966 coup staged by mostly young officers from virtually every parts of the country under the leadership of Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu are the Igbos.
Prior to that misadventure, the Igbos were leading/dominating every sector of the country BY MERIT. And most importantly, the Eastern region was the most peaceful. If any part of the country was in trouble enough to want to upset the system, it was the Western region which was engulfed in crises sparked by a bitter political disagreement between the late sage, Obafemi Awolowo and Sir Akintola and the Middlebelt (TIVs, to be exact) where ethnic cleansing was taking place at the pleasure of the Central forces.
But Nzeogwu and his comrades, driven by sheer patriotism, struck.
That coup failed in one major aspect: EXECUTION. The execution was lopsided. This is a fact which every honest person should acknowledge. Not even Emeka Ojukwu and Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguyi Ironsi foiling the coup in Kano and Lagos respectively, could negate this fact. And to make matters worse, Ironsi failed to assuage anger from some sections of the country when he left the coup plotters in prison, rather than handing them the ultimate sentence (death) although some school of thought believes that being the first coup, there was no precedence of death penalty for failed coup plotters and as such, no basis to blame the Abia born first Nigerian head of state.
The argument that the January 15th coup was responsible for the orgy of killings targeted at Igbo civilians after the counter coup in which Aguyi Ironsi was brutally murdered is a very faulty argument. Those killings that succeeded the coup were simply a continuation of senseless festival of blood which some of our Northern brethren have earned a reputation for because long before 1966, targeting of civilian settlers who are mostly Igbos have been going on in the North. As earlier as June, 1945, 15 long years before Nigeria gained her so called independence, the city of Jos began getting wet on innocent blood and in 1953, the ground of the ancient city of Kano got a major irrigation package, only this time, blood of innocent settlers, mostly Igbos was used, as against water. And what was the reason? A simple parliamentary disagreement over the readiness of the country for independence between Northern and Southern lawmakers at the ‘National Assembly’ located in Lagos. Just that! And some of our Northern brethren started killing innocent southerners, mostly Igbos living in their midst. And in between these periods, there were numberless incidents of pogroms targeted at southerners, mostly Igbos living in the North.
But I digress!
The Biafran war isn’t the root cause of the Igbo predicament as a people. That January 15th coup is.
As we mark the anniversary of that coup, as a young Igbo man, it is my earnest hope that my generation learns the greatest lesson therein which is that no matter how hungry we might think we are, we should never use our head to break the proverbial Nigerian coconut ever again because those on whose heads coconuts are broken hardly live to partake in the sharing.
Nigeria is a lie we gathered together and swore to tell ourselves over and over and over again till we forget it is a lie. When WE (a coalition of disadvantaged indigenous peopleS whose destinies are tied herein) want to free ourselves, we know what to do. But until then, (and for emphasis) I REMAIN VEHEMENTLY and FUNDAMENTALLY opposed to Ndigbo attempting to use their head to break the Nigerian coconut again.
This thing masquerading as a Nation is clearly beyond redemption. Sooner than later, she will break under the yoke of her internal contradictions but in the very unlikely event that she doesn’t and the component units can’t forgo their petty differences to unite to end this pernicious enterprise, another ethnic group should take a shot at her while Ndigbo lend support. We are not the shortest of the Nigerian dwarfs and certainly not the worst hit.