After the January 1966 coup d’Etat, Ogundipe experienced a seven-step promotion from:
(1) Military attaché to the Nigerian High Commission in the UK
(2) Above the High Commissioner.
(3) Above the Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defense.
(4) Above the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defense.
(5) Above the Minister of State (Army) the position was done away with in Ironsi’s government.
(6) Above the Minister of Defense, the position was done away with in Ironsi’s government
(7) To become Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters, the effective number two in the country
After the July 1966 counter coup d’Etat, Ogundipe experienced a seven step demotion from:
1 Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters in 1966.
By the evidence of Olufemi Ogunsanwo, on the 15th page of his 2009 Pace book published biography he titled: “General Yakubu Gowon, The Supreme Commander”, who wrote:
“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. He had been rendered redundant under Ironsi as he was not given any major role to play. While middle level IBO officers were given major commands in 80 percent of country’s army formations, Ogundipe, the second most senior officer in the country was given janitorial duties of reallocating flats vacated by ex-Federal ministers, according to Col. Alexander Madiebo in his book on the civil war. He went on exile to Britain aboard a British ship, MV Auriel, as Nigeria’s ambassador shortly after the coup in July. (He died there within a year.) ”
FACT CHECK OBSERVATION: By the strength of Ogunsanwo’s submission, Ogundipe died in 1967, available facts put his death on November 20, 1971, and not 1967 as Ogunsanwo stated.
2 By August 1, 1966, Gowon who was below him as (Chief of Staff army) bypassed him to replace Ironsi as Supreme commander.
He was bypassed along with Commodore Way and Colonel Adebayo (all from the South West) for Gowon to emerge; the Supreme Commander. If in the lopsided trend of killing and the ethnic identities of the killers suggest an Igbo action against the North, it should be noted that Ademulegun and Sodiende from the West were also killed. The Northern officers felt the resistance Ogundipe put up disqualified him from their loyalty and Way was a naval officer, what about Colonel Adebayo, Gowon’s senior?
As Siollun observed: “After Ogundipe was sidelined, Ojukwu argued that the next most senior officer, Colonel Adebayo should be the new leader. The head of navy Commodore Wey was not considered. As he was not an army officer…”
3 He was “eased out” of office of Chief of Staff Supreme headquarters and subsequently resigned.
Mobolaji E. Aluko, in an article titled: “STAR INFORMATION: Ogundipe and Ojukwu and Gowon in ’66: The Tussle for Power on the Road to Aburi”, has this input from Kole Omotoso’s “Just Before Dawn”, following a telephone discussion between Ogundipe and Lt-Colonel David Ejoor, military governor of the Mid-West:
“Lieutenant-Colonel David Ejoor telephoned from Benin wanting to know what was going on…….When the phone call was over, Brigadier Ogundipe took a piece of paper and wrote a letter of resignation from the army and sent it to the Ministry of Defence. He then drove to his house……The line of succession would have been something like this: Commodore Wey, head of the Nigerian Navy; Brigadier Ogundipe who had already resigned from the army; Colonel Adeyinka Adebayo who would have been as unacceptable as Ogundipe;”
Chief Obafemi Awolowo replaced him as number two man in 1967 with the designation of Federal Commissioner for Finance and vice-president of the Federal Executive Council and resigned on July 1, 1971, a year and six months, after the civil war.
In a letter dated June 13, 1971: “Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s Resignation Letter From The Federal Executive Council Dated June 13, 1971, To General Yakubu Gowon”, Chief Awolowo wrote:
“I would, therefore, like to notify you that, with effect from July 1, 1971, I am no longer willing to continue in the offices of federal commissioner for Finance and vice-president of the Federal Executive Council.”Awolowo’s 45-year old letter: Why he resigned from Gowon’s government | The NEWS” https://www.thenewsnigeria.com.ng/2016/09/awolowos-45-year-old-letter-why-he-resigned-from-gowons-government/
The position of Chief of Staff supreme Headquarters, was only revived after Ogundipe’s death and Awolowo’s resignation.
In 1973 Rear-Admiral Joseph Edet Akinwale Wey occupied the position.
Question: Was the two year period during which Gowon refused to Name a Chief of Staff Supreme headquarters after the resignation of Chief Awolowo his way of showing respect to Ogundipe? Ogundipe had sent him to negotiate with mutineers only for him to emerge Ogundipe’s boss!
4 Demotion by transfer from the military to the civil service, which was a clear demotion from his number 2 position of Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters, the exclusive designation to the “popular side” designation of High Commissioner (as we shall see below under THE VICIOUS CIRCLE…..FROM LONDON TO LONDON)
Omoigui, Nowamagbe A. , in his April 21, 2006 article he titled: “A man with the heart of a King” – A Tribute to Rear Admiral Nelson Bossman Soroh (rtd)” he provided the following information:
“During the last weekend of July 1966, it was the NNS Nigeria under Soroh that provided offshore refuge to the late Brigadier B Ogundipe when discipline broke down completely following the “Northern Countercoup.” Ogundipe subsequently transferred to the MV Aureol and left for the United Kingdom, as Nigeria’s new High Commissioner, by sea.” http://www.gamji.com/nowa/nowa114.htm
5 He suffered a three-step demotion from:
1 Chief of Staff Supreme headquarters
2 Below Minister of Foreign Affairs. to
3 High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
6 Demoted to a position without designation while representing Nigeria at the Commonwealth meeting of September 1966.
7 He courage value has been demoted in the hearts of many between his death at 47 years of age, 47 years ago and now 47 years later.
THE POWERS OF THE SUPREME COMMANDER: THE SEVENFOLD POWERS OF IRONSI, THE SUPREME COMMANDER!
As at independence the hierarchy of power was as follows:
Prime Minister (Balewa).
Minister of Defense:
Ribadu (Fulani; Adamawa, 1960-65) Inuwa Wada (Fulani; Kano,1965-) Galadima Tako acting Minister of Defence at the time of Nzeogwu’s coup.
Minister of State (Army) Dr Majekodunmi (February 1960- August 1961)
Mr Jacob Obande (Idoma)
Tako Galadima (Nupe; 1962)
Minister of state (Navy) Mr Matthew Mbu; Cross River.
Permanent Secretary Ministry of Defence.
Mr A. A. Atta. Sule Kolo (1964-) Mr A. A. Atta. Sule Kolo (1964-)
Deputy permanent secretary. Ahmadu Kurfi.
General officer Commanding the Nigerian Army. Major General Ironsi; Igbo.
(Most of these references are from the 93rd page of: “The Nigerian Army 1956-1966”, by N. J. Miners)
DECREE 1: Ironsi by decree 1, moved seven steps above:
(1) The Governor-General; Nnamdi Azikiwe.
(2) The Prime Minister; Tafawa Balewa).
(3) The Minister of Defense.
(4) The Minister of State (Army)
(5) The Permanent Secretary Ministry of Defence.
(6) The Deputy permanent secretary Ministry of Defence
(7) Combination of the General Officer Commanding the Army, with the overall headship of the Navy, police and the Air Force, to emerge the Supreme commander, up from the GOC whose, staff car, had as it’s plate Number, “NA 1”, or Nigeria Army 1.
Max Sullion made reference to the Staff car on the 50th page, of his book: “Oil, Politics and Violence Nigeria’s Military Coup Culture (1966-1976)”.
Writing about Ironsi’s efforts to put down the January coup, he stated:
“Sometime between 3:20 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. Aguiyi-Ironsi was seen driving his Jaguar staff car (easily recognizable with its official “NA1″ GOC license plates)”
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 about Ogundipe, the Supreme Commander that was never to be 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”
MAX SIOLLUN’S PORTRAIT OF THE POWER OF THE SUPREME COMMANDER:
POINT 1: He made the point on the 63rd page of his work: “Oil, Politics and Violence Nigeria’s Military Coup Culture (1966-1976), this way:
“As well as becoming Head of State, Aguiyi-Ironsi elevated from army GOC to “Supreme Commander” of the Nigerian armed forces and was now in overall command of all armed forces services: the army, air force, navy and police”
The singular office that unified the terminal command of the army, navy, air Force and police in a singular position held by Ironsi was known as the Supreme Commander, Ironsi’s new title!
POINT 2: Siollun captured the power of Ironsi’s new office again on the 84th page of the same book, this way:
“Aguiyi-Ironsi had four ADCs for the police, navy, air force and army ( Assistant Superintendent of police, Timothy Pam, Sub-lieutenant D. E. Okujagu, Lieutenant Andrew Nwankwo and Lieutenant Sani Bello respectively)”
POINT 3: Ironsi was much more than the Supreme Commander, Siollun captured the latitude of his sphere of influence this way, on the 72nd page of his work: “Oil, Politics and Violence Nigeria’s Military Coup Culture (1966-1976), in which he, wrote:
“Aguiyi-Ironsi suddenly had several jobs. As well as his elevation from army GOC to Head of State, he was now Supreme Commander of the armed forces (in overall charge of the army, air Force and navy), and chairman of the SMC and the FEC. After a few weeks, he moved into State House in Lagos (Azikiwe’s) former residence)”
POINT 4: Ironsi was a man of transitional residential addresses as the Supreme Commander. He moved out of Flagstaff house, 1, Glover Road, Ikoyi, the official residence of the GOC of the army, to the state house on the marina, as the Supreme Commander, the official house of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe.
Nowa Omoigui observed: “In any case, the General was also fond of leaving without warning to sleep on a Boat along the Marina which, on occasion, would set for sea.” http://www.gamji.com/nowa/nowa26.htm
- J. Miners corroborated this fact on the 171st page when he wrote:
“During the first hundred days of his regime, he never appeared in public, and left State House every night to sleep on a ship of the Nigerian Navy on Lagos lagoon”
THE VICIOUS CIRCLE…..FROM LONDON TO LONDON.
Ogundipe was recommended by the last British GOC Major-General Welby-Everard as the first indigenous GOC in 1965, he lost out to Ironsi.
He was recalled from London by Major-General Ironsi the Supreme Commander in January 1966.N. J. Miners, in his 1971 Methuen and Co Ltd book he titled: “The Nigerian Army 1956-1966” wrote on the 148th page.
“Ogundipe was the only one of the four to have served in action in the last war, in Burma” he went on to add: “on the 214th page: “Brigadier Ogundipe had been recalled from London by Ironsi”
(The four were Ironsi, Ademulegu, Ogundipe and Maimalari the four Brigadiers, from whom the first Nigerian Nigerian Commander of the army would emerge)
He was promoted from the Military attaché to UK that he was, to the high office of Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters, the work content of the office, made him “Chief of Staff of the Nigerian Armed Forces”, the effective no 2.
The counter-coup of July changed his summer to sudden winter. His right of succession by seniority as the Next Supreme Commander, was traded off by his juniors Lt-Colonel Murtala Mohammed, Major Matins Adamu and the ranks of the army who deployed their ethnic and geopolitical numerical advantage between July 29-31 to displace him by their insistence that the only option for them to drop secession by the North, was that a Northerner be appointed to replace Ironsi.
Gowon, his Junior emerged the New Supreme Commander. As a member of the Supreme Military Council, he was exempted from the from the meeting that ratified Gowon.
- J. M. Muffett “a Research Fellow of the Centre for International Affairs, Harvard” on the 116th page of his 1982 Hudahuda published book, he titled: “Let Truth be Told The coups d’ État of 1966”, put it this way:
“When Colonel Gowon had announced his assumption of power on 1 August he stated that he had done so ‘with the assent of the majority of the Supreme Military Council’. In fact the lone dissenter was Ojukwu, and the only other absentee was Brigadier Ogundipe….. It should be noted that in giving its assent to Gowon’s assumption of power, the Supreme Military council did not meet in full since neither Ojukwu nor Ogundipe attended….The Supreme Military Council had originally consisted of Ironsi, and Commodore Way, Head of the Navy,/and Colonel Thimming, Head of the Airforce and the four Military Governors”
Gowon allowed him perform his last function as Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters when he represented Nigeria at Commonwealth heads of government meeting in September 1966, after which he was demoted, to the Nigerian High commissioner, from where he retired in 1970.
Max Siollun on the 125th page of the book “Oil, Politics and Violence, Nigeria’s Military Coup (1966-1967) captured it this way:
“Brigadier Ogundipe departed to emerge in London as Nigeria’s High Commissioner in the United Kingdom. He had been due to attend the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference in London in September 1966. As a way of quietly easing him out of scene, he would be permitted to attend the conference but would remain in the UK to replace Alhaji Abdulmaliki as the High Commissioner (Abdulmaliki had been reassigned by Aguiyi-Ironsi to Paris). Ogundipe was also transferred from the army to the civil service. This neatly placed Ogundipe outside local politics and the military chain of command thereby sidestepping issues about his rank and seniority to Gowon.”
From number two man in the country, he was downgraded by transfer to the civil service finally ending up in London where it all began, completing the vicious circle as Nigeria’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom.
47 years after his death at 47, a terrible act of injustice behind his back has held his reputation in trust as a coward in death. That wrong reputation of him in death document in the hearts of many has created a wrong perception of him to persist, these 47 long years.
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.