OGUNDIPE: The five witness account of the Supreme commander that never was.
“I was with 4th Battalion Ibadan. The coup came to us as a surprise, like a thief in the night. We just heard in the morning that Sardauna and the rest were killed. In fact, we did not get the news on time. Where was our C.O Lt. Col. Largema? And Brig. Maimalari and Col Kur Mohammed? We learnt they were all killed. And we asked, what type of coup was that? At the time, we were not concerned with where you came from or what your religion was. As long as you were from the north, we cherish each other so much.
We started meeting to find a way out. Our Brigade Commander, Maimalari was killed, Col. Pam, Tafawa Balewa and the rest were all killed. We continued to meet in secret and strategizing on how to take revenge.”
….that was the first account of Jeremiah Useni, who was a Lt. the critical period of the coup
ENTRY (2) MAX SIOLLUN. Siollun between the 121st and 123rd pages of his 268 paged, 2009, New York published Algora book, he titled: “Oil, Politics and Violence Nigeria’s Military Coup Culture (1966-1976)”, provided the following evidence:
“Northern officers were uninterested in a return to a southern-led military government and refused to co-operate with or accept the leadership of Brigadier Ogundipe, or any southern Officer.
‘The mutineers’ opposition to Ogundipe hardened when they discovered that it was he who sent troops from the LGO to attack them on Friday, July 29. In a much-publicized incident, the ‘limit’ came for the Brigadier when a Northern sergeant quipped to him: ‘I do not take orders from you until my (Northern) captain comes.’ The captain to whom the sergeant was referring was Captain Joe Garba.
‘To a seasoned professional soldier like Ogundipe (accustomed to unquestioning obedience of his orders during a military career spanning over twenty years), such insubordination was beyond comprehension. A Northern private similarly refused to obey orders from Major Mobolaji Johnson, the Lagos military governor. Three junior Northern soldiers working under the Igbo GSO (Grade I) at army headquarters Lt-Colonel Patrick Anwunah refused to carry out instructions given them to them by Anwunah. Anwunah walked out from his office in disgust and never returned.
‘In Anwunah’s career, that was the first time his orders had been disobeyed, and it turned out to be the last order that Anwunah ever gave as a Nigerian army officer. After lying low in a Lagos safe house for a few weeks, Anwunah escaped to the Eastern Region. Anwunah was an apolitical and Sandhurst-trained Officer…… After Ogundipe was sidelined, Ojukwu argued that the next most senior officer, Colonel Adebayo should be the new leader. The head of the navy Commodore Way was not considered. As he was not an army officer Way did not feel he could press his own, or Brigadier Ogundipe’s case very forcefully. He later admitted that
‘if they [Northern soldiers] cannot take orders from an army officer like themselves they will not take [sic] from a naval officer. I retired and called Brigadier Ogundipe. He went out and [said] if an ordinary sergeant can tell a Brigadier ‘I do not take orders from you until my Captain comes,’ I think this was the limit and this is the truth about it.
Ogundipe’s own apolitical outlook also meant that he was unwilling to risk bloodshed for the sake of attaining power. He later confessed that ‘it is not in the nature of officers with my upbringing to want to interfere in politics. We are taught to be good soldiers, not politicians.’ Even if he had taken a firmer stand, Ogundipe did not have a ‘critical support network” in the army as there were few Yoruba soldiers due to Yorubas’ famed reluctance to enlist in the army….. whilst Ogundipe was an Ijebu Yoruba. Ogundipe had no means of enforcing his seniority over an army purged of non-Northerners. For the second time in eighteen months, Brigadier Ogundipe was passed over for a position he probably merited (after having been passed over for GOC in February 1965). One wonders how different history might have been, had he secured either or both of those appointments”.
Critical Observation: From the evidence of Siollun above it was a clear Northern attempt to dominate the South by the North. The aggression was against the Igbo, why were three senior Yoruba officers, namely Ogundipe, Way and Adebayo bypassed?
On the 144th page of his 2001 Malthouse published book, he titled: “The Federal Republic of the Nigerian Army The Siege of a Nation” Major M. Chris Alli, Nigeria’s 12th Chief of Army Staff, between 1993 and 1994, himself a (middle belter) from the “North” was honest to admit the following:
“They argue that the North seeks socio-economic equalization within the nation by stagnating the South in many areas of national endeavour; for example, in education. It is not surprising therefore that between Generals Babangida and Sani Abacha, 1985-1998, they virtually preserved most key leadership positions in all sectors of the Federal authority for Northerners in commanding areas of the state apparati”
Buhari himself a part of the 1966 July counter-coup, the 1975 coup that removed Gowon and the 1983 coup that removed Sagari, is a signatory to Northern dominion. His ratio 97% to 5% July 22, 2015 statement at the United States Institute of peace and subsequent lopsided appointments are the evidence.
“President Buhari looked at Dr Baker and said, “I hope you have a copy of the election results. The constituents, for example, gave me 97% [of the vote] cannot, in all honesty, be treated on some issues with constituencies that gave me 5%.”http://saharareporters.com/2015/07/25/buhari’s-statement-us-institute-peace-made-everyone-cringe-0
ENTRY (3) N. J. MINERS
On the 215th and 216th pages of the Methuen & Co Ltd serial; “Studies in African History” , titled “The Nigerian Army 1956-1966”, published in 1971, J. N Miners wrote:
“There is no evidence that Lt-Col. Gowon was involved in any plotting. He was sent to Ikeja by Brig. Ogundipe to parley with the mutineers and was forced to act as their spokesman. After the attempt to retake Ikeja airport had failed on Friday evening (29 July), negotiations began between the Military Council and the rebels. Brig. Ogundipe was urged by the council, and by Lt.-Col. Ojukwu on the telephone from Enugu, to assume the office of Supreme Commander now that Ironsi was in rebel hands, but he refused, on the compelling grounds that the soldiers would no longer accept his authority; he had just given an order to a sergeant who had refused to obey it until it was confirmed by his captain. In these circumstances Lt.-Col. Gowon was perforce persuaded to take over as Supreme Commander. The constitutional decrees of the Ironsi regime had made no provision for filling such a vacancy, and Ojukwu never acknowledged Gowon’s assumption of power”.
ENTRY (4) OLUFEMI OGUNSANWO
Olufemi Ogunsanwo’s account, on the 15th page of his, 114, 2009 Pace (published) Book: ” General Yakubu Gowon The Supreme Commander” (based on the work of another writer, Ruth First) documented the following:
“According to First, Major Murtala Muhammed was the ‘evil genius behind the coup’ but it was executed by non-commissioned Middle Belt officers who preferred Gowon, from their region, to speak for them as he gained their confidence. By the army’s Command structure, Brigadier Babafemi Ogundipe, a Yoruba, should have taken over after Ironsi’s ouster but the northern mutineers would not take his orders when he tried to take over command in Lagos and re-impose discipline within the ranks.”
1 Gowon sent by Brig. Ogundipe to negotiate with the rebels.
Max Siollun on the 118th page of his book “Oil, Politics and Violence Nigeria’s Military Coup Culture (11966-1976) wrote:
“The Ikeja cantonment became the undeclared headquarters of the mutineers, and the exasperated Ogundipe sent the Chief of Staff (Army), Lt-Colonel Yakubu Gowon there to talk to them. When Gowon arrived, it appears that he not a free agent and was placed under guard. There he found the leading figures were Northern officers stationed in Lagos such as Lt-Colonel Murtala Muhammed, Majors Martin Adamu, Shittu Alao, Musa Usman and Captain Joe Garba.”
On the 125th page, Sillon wrote:
“Ogundipe felt betrayed by Gowon. In his view, he sent Gowon to negotiate with the mutineers, only for Gowon to emerge as leader of the mutineers he was supposed to negotiate with.”
on the 119th page he wrote:
“Ogundipe informed them that the mutineers were refusing to accept governmental responsibility, and that he was not prepared to assume power himself to replace Aguiyi-Ironsi unless and until: (a) he was made aware of Aguiyi-Ironsi’s fate; (b) he had the full support of the armed forces, and (c) he received legal advice confirming that he could replace Aguiyi-Ironsi. The Attorney General Gabriel Onyuike advised Ogundipe that the Constitution (Suspension and Modification) Decree (Decree 1) made no provision for the armed forces Chief of Staff to temporarily act as the Supreme Commander. This was a grave lacuna by the federal legal officers who drafted the decree, who should have learnt from the similar leadership vacuum that ensured after the January coup where the Prime Minister was missing. For the second time in six months, Nigeria’s leader was missing, presumed dead. With Aguiyi-Ironsi’s whereabouts unknown and both Ogundipe and the mutineers unwilling to form a government, the balance of influence shifted to Ikeja cantonment”
- Ogundipe from the above was a courageous procedural apolitical officer who was clearly not an opportunist. As in the case of the 1944 coup against Hitler, Hitler’s fate had to be determined first, before a new replacement took power, for the simple reason that two Commanders-in-Chief can’t exist at the same time, that was the procedure Ogundipe followed.
- On July 20, 1944, at exactly 12:42 p.m. a time bomb hidden in a briefcase exploded in Hitler’s headquarters; Wolf’s Lair, he survived. It was placed there by a Colonel in the German army “Count claud Schenk von Stauffenberg”. Operation Valkyrie, the coup to remove Hitler had reached its critical point. Robert Edwin Herzstein and the editors of the Time-Life series on World War 2, published in 1980 titled: “Nazi”, captured it this way: “Thus the afternoon and early evening passed-until, shortly after 9 p.m. Berlin radio announced that Adolf Hitler would address the German people later that night. To several junior officers within the Bendlerstrasse building, that news was decisive. For so long as they thought Hitler was dead, they were willing to go along with the uprising. But now under, under a Lieut. Colonel Franz Herber, they gathered up submachine guns and burst into Olbricht’s office. Olbricht, Beck, Hoepner and others were overcome and arrested” like the Germans, Ogundipe broadcast to the nation. In the German example, their whereabouts of the Commander-in-Chief was known, in Ogundipe’s case his boss the Supreme Commander; Ironsi was missing. Siollun added on the 117th page. “On Friday, July 29 Ogundipe made a broadcast to the nation on Radio Nigeria. The message (which was repeated from 2:30 p.m. onwards for the rest of the day)”.
- He understood the place of the law and sought clarification from no less an informed person than the Attorney General Gabriel Onyuike.
- He understood clearly the place of Command, Control and Communication for which he insisted on “he had the full support of the armed forces”, it is on record that the Northerners (who had to control numerical majority) under Lt-Colonel Murtala Muhammed, didn’t want him or any other Southern officer.
It is, therefore, a travesty of justice and an outright act of distortion of facts that tarnish the reputation of this diligent officer, to label an officer who on the strength of his merit was recommended to Command the army, a coward, his only error it seems was that he was a victim of his own integrity and adherence to laid down rules and procedures!
Note the apolitical discipline of Ogundipe, made him the victim of his own integrity
On page 121 of the same book, Siollun wrote about another aspect of Ogundipe’s character that would work against him:
“Kashim felt that it would be foolhardy for Northern soldiers to hand power back to another Southerner on a platter. Allowing a southern soldier to succeed Aguiyi-Ironsi also carried the risk that the mutinous Northern soldiers would be prosecuted and punished by the new southern leader.”
2 The disobedience sergeant
On the 122nd page of the same book, Siollun wrote: “In a much-publicized incident, the “limit” came for the Brigadier when a Northern sergeant quipped to him: “I do not take orders from you until my (Northern) captain comes.” The captain to whom the sergeant was referring was Captain Joe Garba.” Joseph Nanven Garba, who replaced Major Ochei (who was Ironsi’s Commander of the Federal Guards) Garba would be Murtala Muhammed’s charismatic foreign minister, following the overthrow of Gowon.
3 Gowon’s non-involvement.
-Lindsay Barrett’s account of Danjuma.
Lindsay Barrett’s 124 paged, 1979, Fourth Dimension biography, titled: “Danjuma” captured Gowon’s position this way on the 52nd and 53rd pages:
“While Danjuma and the other officers were debating the arrest of the Supreme Commander….. Major Danjuma now decided to move closer to Government house itself to investigate the possibility of entrance and it was then that a remarkably crucial coincidence happened. He moved back towards the guest house where he now heard a telephone ringing… According to General Danjuma his memory of that conversation is as follows:
A voice said, “Hello, hello, may I speak to the Supreme Commander?”
Major Danjuma: Who is speaking?
Voice: This is Lt-Col Gowon.
Major Danjuma: Ranka Shi Dade.
Lt-Col Gowon: Who is that?
Major Danjuma: Yakubu, Yakubu Danjuma.
Lt-Col Gowon: Yakubu have you heard what happened in Abeokuta?
Major Danjuma: Yes sir, That is why I am here (He changes to Hausa) We want to arrest the Supreme Commander.
Lt-Col Gowon: (After a long silence) Can you do it?
Major Danjuma: We’ve got the house surrounded and sealed off sir. We can do it.
Lt-Col Gowon: (After another long pause) Alright, but please make sure there is no bloodshed. We have had enough of bloodshed. When you have done it ring me at this number… (and he gave his direct phone number and rang off).
‘Although Lt. Col. Gowon’s instructions were in agreement with Major Danjuma’s thinking at that moment, General Danjuma states today that if Gowon had ordered him to call off the action then, he would have disobeyed the order.”
Again, Olufemi Ogunsanwo’s account from Ruth First’s book, on 14 and 15th pages contains the following:
“According to Ruth First’s account of the coup in her book, The Barrel of a Gun (Penguin,1970) p 319, the mutineers had converged at the Ikeja barracks to ‘consider their options and plan their sinister moves’ to wrestle power after their agents had abducted General Aguiyi Ironsi in Ibadan shortly after been feted to a state banquet at the Government House:
Nothing had been seen of Gowon since his arrival at the Ikeja barracks where the mutiny was brewing and where he had gone to look at the trouble. There, the 2nd Battlion’s other ranks had taken over the operation and ordered their officers aside as they went about their business of killing Ibos. Gowon had been placed under guard on Major Murtala Muhammed’s orders; but as the coup got underway, he graduated from hostage to nominee of the NCOs as Commander-in-Chief.
Siollun would add on the 123rd page:
“On Monday, August 1, 1966, Lt-Colonel Gowon who had been inside Ikeja barracks incommunicado with the outside world over the weekend, finally broke his silence to a mystified population. As a bachelor of 32 years old, Lt-Colonel Yakubu Gowon became the youngest head of state in Africa, despite the presence of several more senior officers in the chain of command (all from the south) such as Brigadier Ogundipe, Commodore Way and Colonel Robert Adebayo”
The last announcement the nation heard was on Friday 29 July 1966 from Ogundipe, Siollun made reference to him as stating the following on the 177th page:
“As a result of some trouble by dissidents in the army, mainly in Ibadan, Abeokuta and Ikeja, the National Military Government has declared a state of emergency in the affected areas. ”
For this courageous step of Command, Control and Communication, the man Ogundipe is still held; a posthumous coward, in the vault of history, in the archives of distorted facts!
ENTRY (5) MUFFETT’S ENTRY:
D.J. M. Muffett, (“formally of the Nigerian Administrative Service, a Research Fellow of the Centre for International Affairs, Harvard University and Professor of African Studies, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania”) wrote Ogundipe’s resume this way, on the 97th page, of his 1982, Zaria, published Hudahuda book, he titled: “Let Truth Be Told The Coups d’etat of 1966”, this way: “Heading both the Government and the Services with the title of Head of the National Military Government and Supreme Commander was Major General J. T. U Aguiyi-Ironsi….. In Military hierarchy proper, the next most senior officer to the Supreme Commander was the Chief of Staff of the Nigerian Armed Forces, Brigadier B. A. Ogundipe, a Yoruba with patently neither political base nor ambition”
OBSERVATION 1. Siollun specifically stated:
“Northern officers were uninterested in a return to a southern-led military government and refused to co-operate with, or accept the leadership of Brigadier Ogundipe, or any southern Officer.”
OBSERVATION 2. From the combined evidence of Lt.General Jeremiah Useni and Max Siollun, the rebellion by Northern Officers and ranks on July 29, 1966, against Brigadier and subsequently to Lt-Colonel Patrick Anwunah and Major Mobolaji Johnson was planned!
OBSERVATION 3: Neither Jeremiah Useni, nor Muffett, nor Sullon, nor Miners nor Ogusanwo called Ogundipe a coward!
OBSERVATION 4: Muffett description of Ogundipe’s situation as having “neither political base nor ambition”, was the equivalent of what Siollun, on the 122nd page of his book: “Oil, Politics and Violence” wrote about this way, when he stated: “Ogundipe did not have a ‘critical support network’ “.
STRATEGIC IMPLICATIONS ON OGUNDIPE.
The numerical recruitment advantage of 50% in favour of the North and 25% to the East and West respectively, meant the foundation of officers and men from the North who refused to take orders from him (and other southern officers) simply on ethnic grounds had been laid.
The number of those officers, when added to the ranks which had far more Northerners, made the army overwhelmingly a Northern institution, that rebelled against him in their numbers.
The minute the army was split along lines of ethnic loyalty, following the January 1966 coup, Ogundipe who had lost out in principle (for the overwhelming majority owed their loyalty to ethnicity and not seniority) lost out in practice when a Sergeant refused to take his orders. It was only a matter of time for him to lose out in practice…..and that time arrived in the on Friday, July 29, 1966, and was confirmed on Monday, August 1, 1966, when Gowon emerged from Ikeja barracks as the new Supreme Commander, replacing Ironsi.
OGUNDIPE= “neither political base nor ambition”+ absence of “critical support network”!
cowardice has no place in the equation!
An opinion piece by Amaso Jack. Jack is a political strategist and analyst, he lectures at Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Lagos State.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and not of Concise News.