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JAN. 28, 2021





Chief Chris O. O. Biose in his presentation on the above topic, provided a brief analysis of
Nigeria’s British colonial background, and shed some light on the prevailing political situation in
Nigeria before the military coup took place on January 15, 1966. He then proceeded to answer
the questions; What Happened? What Implications for Nigeria. His thoughts are presented here
in summary.
According to our guest lecturer, British adventurers came to Africa in pursuit of the economic
interest of their home country. They started with trading in slaves from which they moved on to
trade in palm produce and other raw materials, and then to colonialism. According to him, in all,
the primary objective was the same. It was never for the purpose of building a black nation but
the exploitation of the people for the benefit of the British,
He explained that the territory which Britain captured for her economic interest and which she
later christened Nigeria, is a conglomeration of diverse ethnic stock spread over geographical
areas from the fringes of the Sahara Desert to the Atlantic Ocean who found themselves brought
into a union not of their choice, but by an external power that conditioned the union on factors
over which the natives have no control. He reiterated that the territory was hitherto administered
as separate political entities until 1914 when the colonial masters decided to merge them purely
for her administrative convenience. The scholar went further to reveal that the merger popularly
referred to as the ‘Amalgamation of 1914’ was based on the economic logic of balancing the
fiscal insolvency of the Northern Protectorate with the fiscal surplus from the Southern
Protectorate. The logic was explained with the analogy of an indigent bachelor being matched in
a marital union with a lady of means.
He went further to emphasize that pursuant to the above design, the colonial masters had to
fashion out a combination of jurisdictional pressure, military and political power mechanisms to
actualize their end. He stressed that a clear example of this fact could be seen in 1945, when the
British delineated the country into three regions and allocated 75% in terms of land mass to the
Northern Region., and that the region was also allocated 50% of the total population of the
country without any census conducted. He also posited that from the Federal Elections of 1953,

1959 till date, the central issue in Nigerian politics has remained the bogey of ethnic domination
pre-arranged by the British colonial masters and traceable to the colonial design to sustain the
economic logic of the amalgamation of 1914.
He further lectured that in all her colonial territories, the British was indifferent to the ethnic
contiguity of nations they lumped together in administrative units such as Divisions, Provinces or
Regions. He stated that the British design was a divide and rule strategy and that the contestation
induced by it was the premise for the 31 st March 1953 Motion for Self-Government move by
Anthony Enahoro at the Federal Parliament in Lagos as well as Sir. Ahamadu Bello’s reference
to ‘the mistake of 1914’ and his subsequent threat to take ‘his North away from Nigeria’ in the
aftermath of the Independence Election of 1959.
He stressed that the fact stated above was very evident in the colonial masters’ response to the
revelations of agitations and unequivocal demands for separate administrative units mostly for
the minority ethnic nationalities during the public hearings organized by the Minorities
Commission set up on the recommendation of the London Constitutional Conference of 1957
and chaired by Sir. Henry Willink (Q.C).
He concluded that senior political leaders as well as traditional rulers (Emirs) from the North
clearly understood the British design and have always taken bold steps to defend the privileges it
conferred on their Region while most of their southern counterparts seem to be oblivious of that
In his opening remarks to this part of his presentation, Chief Biose emphasized that every major
social upheaval has a gestation period or warning signals and that the social condition in every
society is usually a product of that society. In his view, the tone for the future of Nigeria after
Independence was set by the policies and actions of those Nigerians who inherited power from
the colonial masters, and what has persisted since then is absence of consensus among significant
leaders of Nigeria on what the country should be. He added that neither were those who inherited
power from the British colonial masters able to improve on the political structure handed over to
them nor were they able to weld the component units of the country into one nation-state.
Firstly; he noted that the first major crisis the country witness shortly after Independence was the
‘Nande-Nunde; meaning burn-burn and later Atem-Tyo; meaning ‘Crush Head’ all being violent
protest by the Tiv of the Middle-Belt over persistent attempts pursued by the government of the
Northern Region even before Independence to compel the people to accept the imposition of a
paramount tradition ruler; a concept that is alien to them. The violent protests resulted in mass
killings, arson and internal displacement of large populations. The Tiv had resisted this initiative
of the leadership and government of the Northern Region since 1952, but the conflict escalated in
1964 with further pressure from the Northern People Congress led government of the Northern
Region and a better resistance from the Tiv coordinated by the United Middle Belt Congress

(UMBC). The crisis even though met with maximum force by the Prime Minister Tafawa
Balewa’s regime, persisted till the end of 1965.
Second in his view, was the National Population Census conducted in 1962 and repeated in

  1. According to him, the population figures released especially from the Northern Region
    were highly disputed and remained hotly contested till the coup occurred in 1966.
    Thirdly; is what the presenter described as the unwarranted declaration of ‘State of Emergency’
    in the Western Region on May 29, 1962 in the wake of the conflict in Action Group; the ruling
    Party in the Region and the subsequent takeover of the Legislature of the Region by the Federal
    Government. According to our Guest Lecturer, this act and the highhandedness with which it
    was implemented was described by Justice Adewale Thompson as the first coup in Nigeria. Also
    noted as one of the factors that constituted a worrisome situation in the country at that time was
    the crisis that rocked the Western Region Election of 1965 and the inability of the Federal
    Government to be impartial in dealing with the crisis.
    Other factors revealed by the presenter were; brazen rigging of the December 30, 1964 Federal
    Election as well as general economic discontent in the country which precipitated a number
    labour disputes and strikes especially the Dock Workers Strike of February 1963 which was
    quickly followed by the General Strike involving all Trade Unions as well as the nationwide
    Teachers’ Strike of October 1964. Also included in these factors was the official corruption in
    the civil service which was at a frightful dimension.
    He concluded his background to the topic of the lecture by opining that in the three years prior to
    the coup of January 15, 1966, an atmosphere of confusion pervaded the political scene of
    Nigeria, that the political storm generated by the incidents highlighted above and which occurred
    between 1962 and 1965 crushed whatever spirit of patriotism and nationality with which the
    country’s independence was received and replaced it with gloom, distrust and anger. According
    to him, by December 1965, revolutionary pamphlets were already circulating in several parts of
    the country. In summing up the factors that engendered the scenario precedent to the coup
    episode under review, Chief Biose quoted Professor Ben Nwabueze (1986) wherein the eminent
    constitutional lawyer posited, “The series of crisis that rocked the Federal Republic-the 1962/63
    census controversy, the 1964 Federal Election and the 1965 western Regional Election Crisis
    may be traced to the desire of the NPC to perpetuate its control of the Federal Government.”
    The Guest Lecturer in providing answer to the first question posed in the topic of the Public
    Lecture, attempted an account of how the coup under reference was staged. His account as
    answer to that question is summarized as follows.
    In the early hours of January 15, 1966, mutinous soldiers attempted to overthrow the
    Governments of the Federation and the Regions by force but the plot failed. He identified the
    five officers who were all of the rank of Major in the Army who are generally referenced to as

the brains behind the coup d’etat These Majors according to him were Chukwuma Kaduna
Nzeogwu, Wale Ademoyega, Emmanuel Ifeajuna, Christian Anuforo and Donatus Okafor. He
however; identified other officers who were part of the plot but who are not popularly mentioned
to include; Majors Timothy Onwuatuegwu, Humphery Chukwuka, John Obienu, Oguchi and
Col. Emmanuel Nwobosi. He went further to quote Major Wale Ademoyega (1981, p 59), one of
the brains behind plot who explained that there was consensus among the coup plotters that
something had to be done quickly to save Nigeria from anarchy and disintegration and to restore
peace and unity in the country. According to the same account, the officers agreed that heads of
Governments in the Federation, their prominent aides and military collaborators should be
arrested and that where they resisted, maximum force should be applied.
Furthermore; the lecture presenter revealed that though the operation was successful in the
Northern Region, a number of factors combined to defeat it in Lagos the Federal Capital,
Eastern, Mid-Western and the Western Regions and that the actual fatal blow that bungle the
mutiny was dealt in Lagos by Col. Arthur Unegbe; the then Quarter-Master General, Army
Headquarters, Lagos who refused to surrender the key of the armoury as demanded by the
mutinous soldiers, and Major General Aguiyi-Ironsi; the then General Officer Commanding
(GOC) of the Nigerian Army who escaped being arrested by Major Donatus Okafor. He further
revealed that though at the Ikeja Cantonment, Col. Unegbe was killed by the rebelling officers
for refusal to handover the key to the armoury, they were not able to gain access into the
armoury, and shortly after they left, Aguiyi-Ironsi arrived at the cantonment and was able to rally
royal troops with whom he foiled the Lagos operation but the coup had already recorded
casualties among whom were the then Prime Minister of Nigeria; Sir. Abubakar Tafawa Balewa
and Sir. Ahmadu Bello; the Sardauna of Sokoto and Premier of Northern Region. Others were
the Premier of the Western Region; Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola, Chief Samuel Okotie-Eboh;
Federal Minister for Finance at the time, Brigadier Zakariya Maimalari, Col. Kur Mohammed,
Lt. Col. Yakubu Pam, Lt. Col. Abogo Largemah, Mallam Ahmed Ben Musa, Brigadier Samuel
Admulegun and his wife, as well as Col. Tunji Sodeinde.
After the insurrection was successfully foiled in Lagos; the Federal seat of power, the Army at
2.30 pm on the following day; January 16, the Army announced on Radio Nigeria, Lagos that
majority of members of the Nigerian Army including its Commander; Major General Aguiyi-
Ironsi remained loyal. This was contrary to the broadcast being made from Radio Kaduna by
Major Nzeogwu. Since the coup had eliminated the Prime Minister, the remaining Ministers met
under the chairmanship of Alhaji Zana Bukar Dipchirima; then Minister for Transport and
resolved as a temporary measure, to handover the Government of the country to the Army until
normalcy was restored and it was on that note Major General Aguiyi-Ironsi assumed leadership
of the country from January 16, 1966 chief Biose added.

Furtherance to the question; What Happened? Chief Biose who shares the view that the episode
should not be viewed in the same light of the self-serving motives underpinning other military
coups witnessed in the country, dedicated a section of his answer to that question to what he
described as misunderstanding, misinterpretations and false narratives hoarded from some
quarters on the coup and its masterminds.
According to him, those who weaved and propagated the misunderstanding, and the false
interpretations and narratives merely blew out of proportion and imputed ethnic coloration to the
heavy concentration of officers of Igbo extraction in the planning and execution of the coup. He
further observed that the fact that more northern leaders including very prominent ones were
casualties of the coup plotters while no notable Igbo leader was killed in the coup provided a
fitting icing on the cake of the pro ethnic coloration argument. He however; posited that the
above arguments are pulverized by overt, empirical and incontrovertible facts about the coup. He
provided some of such evidence to include;
i. Col. Arthor Unegbe was an Igbo. He was killed because he denied the rebels access
to the military armoury at the Ikeja cantonment and by his patriotic act, greatly
hampered the coup in Lagos because even after he was shot, the young officers could
not gain access to the arms they desperately needed in furtherance of their Lagos
ii. Major General Aguiyi-Ironsi escaped being arrested by the coup plotters, he rallied
loyal officers and got the coup foiled early enough in Lagos; the Federal Capital such
that the coup operations in other centres were thrown into confusion.
iii. When Major Nzeokwu mobilized his forces in Kaduna ready for an attack on Lagos,
another officer of Igbo extraction; Lt. Col. Chukwuemeke Odimegwu Ojukwu who
was commanding the 5 th Battalion of Nigerian Army stationed in Kano bluntly
refused to co-operate with him. Ojukwu’s refusal checkmated Nzeogwu and isolated
him in Kaduna.
iv. Major Ademoyega; one of the principal planners of the coup was quoted to have said
in his book; Why We Struck, “contrary to the load of wicked propaganda that had
since been heaped on us, there was no plan at our Meeting to single out any particular
ethnic group for elimination or destruction. Our intentions were honourable, our
views were national and our goals were idealistic.”
v. President Olusegun Obasanjo a very close friend of Major Nzeogwu was also quoted
to have expressed the view that “the January 1966 coup was not conceived to divide
the country or as an Igbo coup even though the execution of their plan in the South

were susceptible to such interpretation.” President Obasanjo further debunked the
claim that the coup was tribalistic in its conception when he declared copiously,
“Chukwuma had a dream of a great Nigeria that is a force to reckon with in the world,
not through ineffective political rhetoric but through purposeful and effective action.
He dreamt of a nation where social justice and economic interest of its citizens will
not be subjected to foreign control and manipulation. He believed in the ability of the
“(He)……was a well-read man. He was familiar with Marx, Giap and Mustafa
Kemal—the Ataturk. He probably saw himself in the same mould as the later; a kind
of Nigerian military hero on horseback, a modernist, a nationalist and a Nigerian bent
on carving a niche for the Blackman in world history, an idealist who wanted to put
the Blackman on the same pedestal as all other races. He saw Nigeria as pivotal to his
dreams. In order for Nigeria to realize what seemed to him, a divine if not self-
evident mission, he had to clear the Augean stable.”

Chief Chris O. O. Biose; a renowned Sociology scholar concluded this section with the
submission that the masterminds of the January 1966 Coup were revolutionaries motivated by
nationalistic fervor even though their tactics were unquestionably unconstitutional, illegal and
morally wrong.
The second question the Lecture Topic raised to be answered is the implications of the coup for
Nigeria and the scholar’s attempt at the answer is summarized hereunder.
Firstly; he reckoned that the coup destroyed the constitutional foundation; federalism (both
political and fiscal) upon which the Nigerian State was founded at Independence. The
Constitution of Nigeria (1960) which was a product of mutual resolutions adopted at the several
Conferences held at home and in London was suspended.
Secondly; he asserted that the misinterpretation and false narrative foisted on the episode by
prominent persons from the Northern Region led to the revenge coup of July 29, 1966 by
military officers from the Northern Region. According to him, the revenging army officers killed
Major General Aguiyi-Ironsi; the Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces
and the Governor of Western Region, Col. Adekunle Fajuyi. They also went ahead to kill several
scores of other army officers of Igbo extraction at different military formations in Lagos, the
Western and Northern Regions. The revenge did not end with mass killing of the Igbo army
officers. Under the watch of the Federal Military Government now led By General Yakubu
Gowon, who had on assumption of office, declared to the world in his first broadcast that the
basis of the unity of Nigeria no longer existed, army officers from the north, joined by civilian
indigenes of the Region carried out unrestrained massacre of any person rightly or wrongly
identified as Igbo.

Thirdly; the revenge coup and the mass killing of people identified to be of Igbo ethnic
nationalities which went unabated till it led to the secession move and declaration of Biafra by
the leadership of Col. Chukwuemeke Odimegwu Ojukwu who was at the time, the Governor of
the Eastern Region. The secession attempt in 1967, led to the Nigerian Civil war in which the
General Gowon led Federal Military Government found a suitable cannon fodder to continue its
heinous cover of placing at the disposal of the aggrieved ruling class of the north, the military
apparatus of the Nigerian State to complete their revenge mission against the Igbo people.
Fourthly; he posited that the January 15, 1966 Coup opened the way for military incursion into
the politics of the country, therefore latently laid the foundation for the incalculable damage done
to the country by successive military juntas. He highlighted some of such damage to include;
i. Replacement of the very high level of esprit de corps that hitherto existed in the
country’s military with nepotism, favoritisms, bigotry and other primordial
sentiments that are inimical to a truly professional, nationalistic and detribalized
ii. The decades of military rule herald by the coup politicized the military and
entrenched grand corruption among officers of the Armed Forces. Those who
succeeded in staging coups conferred on themselves sole authority of appropriation
over the economic resources of the country. For instance; against the spirit of one of
the fundamental fiscal pivot on which the co-existence of the diverse component units
of the country was hinged, General Gowon led Federal Military Government
promulgated the Petroleum Decree No 51 (1969) and the Offshore Oil Revenue
Decree No. 9 (1971) by which the Federal Government claimed absolute ownership
and control of all petroleum resources in the Niger Delta. By the Offshore Oil
Revenue Decree, the waterways and continental shelf of which the Independence
Constitution vested in the States/Regions were transferred to the Federal Government
iii. The military nurtured and entrenched the culture of impunity in Nigeria with
consistent oppression, repression and perversion of the time honoured tenets of rule
of law. They combined both Executive and Legislative powers and even assume the
functions of appellate courts. Their tyrannical exercise of powers of Government
grossly fertilized the anti-democratic culture which is prevalent in our society till
date. They also promoted the macho and might is right mentality which rewards
violence as marks of sagacity and audacity. This is the root of the widespread cultism
and other violent behaviors among the youth in the country today.
iv. The Organization of Islamic Co-Operation formerly known as Organization of
Islamic Conference (OIC) is a grouping of 56 Islamic States which was formed as an
Organization whose membership is opened to only countries with Muslim majority

population and with the objectives to pursue and defend Islamic interests. Nigeria was
invited to the Inaugural Meeting of the Organization held in September 1969, General
Yakubu Gowon; the Head of State sent a delegation led by the late Islamic scholar,
preacher and former Grand Khadi of the Northern Region, Sheik Abubaka Mahmud
Gumi (1922-1992) to represent the Nigerian Muslim community. The General
Gowon regime politely rebuffed all the pressure mounted on it to enrolled Nigeria in
the Organization.
After the Gowon regime was toppled, the new Head of State; General Murtala
Mohammed enrolled Nigeria into the OIC) on an observer status. The General
Babangida regime later moved the observer status to that of a full membership and
made the country a member of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB). On June 15,
1997, Nigeria under the Late General Sani Abacha, joined other Muslim States;
Egypt, Malaysia, Indonesia, Iran, Turkey, Pakistan and Bangladesh to establish the D-
8 (Eight Islamic Developing Nations). The sociology scholar provided the facts
highlighted above to support his view that military regimes in Nigeria politicized
religion in the country by covertly pursuing Islamization agenda, and their action
emboldened those who declared some States in Northern Nigeria as Islamic States as
well as those who nurse the belief of possible islamization of the entire country.
v. From the revenge coup of July, 1966, a section of the Nigerian army with the support
of the Federal Military Government led by General Gowon masterminded widespread
brutality against both military officers and civilians of Igbo extraction. The unbridled
brutality was elevated to genocide in the name of curbing the Biafran secession led by
Col. Chukwuemeke Odimegwu Ojukwu. The massacre of civilian population
especially, women and children in the heart of eastern Nigeria as well as the massacre
in Asaba and other communities west of River Niger are good examples. After the
civil war, many soldiers were demobilized. The ill-trained and highly biased soldiers
recruited due to the exigencies of the civil war were never debriefed and demilitarized
before they were let loose to mingle with conventional society. These demobilized
soldiers and other criminal elements in the Army were responsible for the surge in
violent crimes after the civil war. In addition; the summary execution of failed coup
plotters and the use of excessive force against civilians in the country by military
officers promoted the culture of violence in the country. A whole generation of
Nigerian children who were born and nurtured in the contest of military dictatorship
were socialized to accept that “force makes right.’’
vi. The military in politics, emasculated the Nigerian Police Force (NPF); the principal
agency for internal security in the country. The successive military regimes craved for
monopoly of armed state apparatus, to this end, they deliberately reduced the Police


It must be made clear that my assignment here today is to present a talk and not a
lecture. I am also convinced that the choice to keep the assignment within the frame of
just a talk is very appropriate for the audience and occasion as we have here today. I
am therefore going to do just what I have been assigned to do and to the best of my
Before going properly into the focus of our talk, permit me to express my appreciation to
the KICC as a global Church/Christian Organization for the vision to create a generation
of Christians equipped with the proper knowledge and application of the teachings of
the Bible, and as such become champions dominating their societies. KICC to me is not
just a Church; it is an institution of learning for Christians who bear in their soul, the
longing to live out the true meaning of the truth that shall set humans free, and how not
to perish for the want of knowledge. It is therefore on this score; I wish to thank God for
the KICC vision and all those He is using in turning that vision into mighty
Now back to our topic; National Orientation and the 2019 General Elections in Nigeria. It
is an interesting topic to discuss for so many reasons. This is most especially because
of our different views about elections into public office in our country, and secondly;
because of the level of divisive tendencies that now experience.
Orientation simply means sustained attitude, and attitudes are developed over time
through learning, norms, traditions and other processes of socialization. The people of
every society or nation are often identified with certain attitudes which are common
among them and peculiar to them as a people. Their societies are shaped by these
attitudes with which they are identified. The Americans are identified with their attitude
of patriotism to the American nation; they put their country’s interest above any other
interest. They are also very business minded as they are known to be interested only in

things that ensures benefits to them and they can go to any length to seek and enforce
their basic rights and liberties.