By Chinelo Obogo
Former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd), has been told to speak up on all that he knows regarding the events that led to the January 15, 1966 coup, in which former Prime Minister, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, was killed.
In a statement issued by Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF), a socio-cultural organisaton, and signed by its President and Secretary, Prof. Uzodinma Nwala and Prof. Nath Aniekwu, they said that while the nation was commemorating the anniversary of the death of former head of state, General Aguiyi Ironsi, it was imperative that Gowon unravel the truth surrounding the 1966 coup, and also explain his reason for reneging on the Aburi accord.
The ADF’s letter read in part: “From the intelligence reports which you were privy to, is it true or false that prior to 1966, some Yoruba military elite had plotted a coup against Sir Tafawa Balewa in order to release Chief Obafemi Awolowo from prison, but held off to avoid a situation that would have pitted the Igbo and Hausa Fulani on one side, against the Yoruba? Is it true or false that Colonel Victor Banjo was assigned to search for suitable officers from the eastern Nigeria and the middle belt for the coup, which was scheduled to be staged on January 17, 1966 to remove Balewa and Ironsi, release Awolowo from prison and hand over the Army command to Brigadier Ademelegun? Is it true that the ring leaders of the coup were originally inducted to be part of the coup by the Yoruba military officers, and that though they agreed on the release of Awolowo from prison, they disagreed with the overt narrow objective of the plotters, and therefore, struck on January 15, 1966?
“You were General Ironsi’s trusted ally and his Chief of Army staff. Why did he order the arrest of Colonel Victor Banjo and Major Ebenezer Aghanya immediately after the 1966 coup? From what you know, can you truthfully say that the coup was intentionally an Igbo ethnic plot as it is alleged to be? Was Ironsi pursuing any agenda known to you? Why did you renege on the Aburi accord? “To amplify the need for you to break your silence, recently a respected young Nigerian, the current Emir of Kano Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, made a statement to the effect that Igbos staged a coup to murder northern leaders and take over the country. He innocently believed what he has been fed. It is worse for those younger and even less informed than him, because truth hardens with time.. Therefore, you are provided this opportunity to free your conscience and that of your country by stating the truth as you know them.” The Sun