July 29, 1966 – July 29, 2016: What Has Changed?

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July 29, 1966 – July 29, 2016: What Has Changed?

By Azuka Onwuka

50 years ago, a coup was staged by Northern Nigerian soldiers, and the head of state, Maj Gen JTU Aguiyi-Ironsi, and the Governor of Western Nigeria, Lt Col Adekunle Fajuyi, who was hosting him in Ibadan, were killed.

That is not the story.

Soldiers care very little about the lives of those in power when they stage a coup. Power is all they care for.

The soldiers subsequently went from barracks to barracks, picking up Igbo/Eastern Nigerian soldiers and murdering them even after the coup had succeeded. According to them, they were avenging the killings of Sir Ahmadu Bello (Northern Nigeria Premier) and Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (Prime Minister) in the very bloody January 1966 coup led by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu.

Let that be waived aside as soldiers still displaying disregard for human lives during a coup.

If the killings had stopped there, it would have been written off as soldiers behaving like soldiers. But no. The killings spread to civilians.

Soldiers and civilians went from house to house to pick up their Igbo neighbours (men, women and children) and slaughtered them. This lasted for many weeks, paused for a while, and resumed. An estimated 50,000 Igbos were killed in that exercise.

The government did little to stop the massacre. Most members of regions not at the receiving end watched in silence and even gave tacit support as their compatriots were killed. Their attitude was: “It served them right!”

Those mindless killings eventually led to the Nigerian Civil War, which further took the lives of about two million Igbos.

What was the crime of the civilians who were killed, including the children, following the July 1966 coup?

How did the actions of soldiers who executed a coup concern the civilians?

Were the civilians consulted before the coup? Definetly no.

Now think of this: In 1976 when some Middle Belt soldiers killed the head of state, Gen Murtala Mohammed, would it have made any sense for Middle Belt soldiers and civilians to be slain in retaliation? Did Lt Col Buka Suka Dimka and his conspirators consult them before executing the coup? Definitely no.

Thankfully, there were a couple of non-Igbos who spoke against that 1966 killing spree or took actions to protect the defenceless civilians. Dr Tai Solarin and Prof Wole Soyinka in Western Nigeria did not keep quiet in the face of that evil. In the North, the Emir of Kano Ado Bayero protected the Igbos the way Lt Col Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu had protected him in January 1966 during the first coup.

But what have we learnt in these 50 years? Little or nothing.

What has changed in these 50 years? Little or nothing.

Human lives are still wasted in their tens and hundreds over minor misunderstanding. Government after government still looks on, doing nothing or little, as if life means nothing.

Lives are still wasted over religion, ethnicity, party politics, and other issues. Many Nigerians still fold their arms and watch in silence or even say: “They asked for it. It serves them right.”

Nigeria, we hail thee!

One Comment

  1. Ob Ol July 29, 2016 Reply

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