Wednesday 16 November 2022

Unsolved Mystery: The kidnap and murder of Johnson Banjo at the Nigeria-Biafra Peace talks in Kampala, Uganda in May 1968

Caption from A Decade of Crises in Pictures by Peter Obe: "Peter Obe (holding camera) in Enugu with (Lt.) Colonel Yakubu Danjuma. Extreme right is Mr. (Johnson) Banjo. He was kidnapped and murdered while on duty with the Federal delegation in Kampala during one of the abortive peace talks with the rebels." Circa 1967.

Johnson Banjo, a Nigerian civil servant who was serving as a confidential secretary at the Nigeria-Biafra Peace talks in Kampala, Uganda in May 1968, disappeared on May 23rd soon after his arrival as part of an advance party.

Banjo had access to confidential papers and was last seen entering an elevator at the hotel where the Nigerian party was staying. He left behind a jacket, his passport and personal papers.

The Nigerians denied that he had defected to the Biafran side and Chief Anthony Enahoro, the leader of the Nigerian delegation, announced that he had insisted on getting clearance from the Federal government before continuing with the talks.

The Ugandan police offered a reward of $2,400 for information on his whereabouts. A nationwide hunt was declared and Uganda sealed its borders.

During the search, the police had questioned an Israeli citizen, one Jehuda Potok, an engineer with the Israeli Water Development Corp. ("Jehuda" is the Nordic spelling of "Yehuda").

Hotel records showed that Banjo had telephoned Potok shortly before his disappearance. Potok, who worked for 3 years in Ibadan, denied any knowledge of his disappearance.

Banjo's body was discovered in a swamp on the outskirts of Kampala on June 7, 1968 by a helicopter search party. 

The identification needed confirmation given the state of human decomposition and it was not until early September 1968 that the Ugandan authorities announced that the body found was definitively that of Banjo who was 35-years-old at the time of his murder.

The mystery of his kidnap and murder has yet to be resolved.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2022).

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Yakubu Gowon: From Military Dictator to Politics Student

Yakubu Gowon speaking to a gathering of the student union at Warwick University on October 16th 1975, three months after his overthrow in a bloodless coup. Photo credit: The Warwick Boar.


From The Warwick Boar -

Under the glare of television cameras, General Gowon, ex-head of state of Nigeria stole the limelight at the first union meeting of term last Wednesday.

After calling the meeting to "Order!" 40-year-old Yakubu Gowon took the platform and delivered a short speech of thanks:

"I would like to say a big thank-you for summoning me into your midst. I have come here not to create a lot of trouble to you. 

"I want to be an ordinary student."

Uproar arose when a motion "condemning" the ex-general's arrival at the university was quashed.

In an emotional speech Deputy President Pete Walter declared: "I don't think this is the right time or place to attack General Gowon." It was agreed that the motion "be not put".

In the confusion that followed, a motion "embargoing" the press was passed enthusiastically after one no-confidencing the Deputy Chairman, Rob Campbell was narrowly defeated.

The original motion, brought by IS members Donny Gluckstein and N. Clarke, read: "This Union condemns the invitation of General Gowon to this university.

"Though sympathising with the fate of the un-employed, we fail to see why we should be burdened with out-of-work British puppets such as him." It went on to contrast the ex-general's condition with that of many overseas students whose fees have recently more than doubled.

Gowon, who has attended his first lectures as a first-year Politics student, is at the moment living in Leamington."

© Adeyinka Makinde (2022).

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Wednesday 9 November 2022

February 13th 1976: The Abortive Coup Led by Lt. Colonel Bukar Suwa Dimka

Lt. Colonel B.S. Dimka being tied to the execution stake. Photo Credit: Estate of Godfrey E M Denedo.

Photo and Newspaper document of the infamous abortive coup d’état led by Lieutenant Colonel Bukar Suwa Dimka on Friday, February 13th 1976.

Dimka led the ambush in which the military Head of State, General Murtala Muhammed, was assassinated while being held up in traffic. He had been making a short journey from his residence to Dodan Barracks, the seat of government in Ikoyi, Lagos.

Dimka would visit the British High Commission in Lagos to request that he be put in contact with the exiled General Yakubu Gowon, who had been overthrown in July 1975 by Muhammed.

The request was refused by the High Commissioner Sir Martin LeQuesne.

Dimka and his cohorts took over the National Broadcasting Corporation building from where his coup speech was broadcast to the nation. Among the grievances held against the government of Murtala Muhammed was the policy of demobilising large numbers of soldiers, promotions granted to senior figures in the junta and Nigeria's perceived tilt to the political left by supporting the Soviet-backed MPLA in Angola.

Dimka escaped from broadcasting house when his men were overpowered and was on the run until early March. A wave of arrests followed his interrogation and "confession" in which he implicated many officers including Major General Iliya Bisalla, the Federal Commissioner for Defence.

Bisalla was among the first batch of officers and men executed on March 11th, 1976.

The Federal Military Government (FMG), now headed by Muhammed's successor, Lieutenant General Olusegun Obasanjo, called on General Yakubu Gowon to return to Nigeria from British exile to face questioning.

Gowon emphatically denied any prior knowledge or involvement in the coup and offered to provide written answers to questions or to answer the questions on neutral territory.

Brigadier Shehu Yar'Adua, the Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters, was particularly keen to place Gowon in front of his accuser, Dimka, and for this reason Dimka was not executed in March. However, with the prospect of Britain extraditing Gowon in the manner that it had extradited Chief Anthony Enahoro to face treason charges in the early 1960s diminishing, the Supreme Military Council took the decision to execute Lt. Colonel Dimka and six others. Executed alongside Dimka was Mr. Joseph Gomwalk, a Police Commissioner who had been a military governor. A kinsman of Gowon (most of the alleged Coup plotters including Maj. Gen. Bisalla and Dimka were from the Christian Middle Belt), Gomwalk had been tried and acquitted by a military tribunal but, in defiance of the "double jeopardy" principle, was retried and convicted.

General Gowon was stripped of his rank and pension and placed on a fugitive list which ironically included his Civil War opponent, Lieutenant Colonel (General of the army of secessionist Biafra) Odumegwu Ojukwu.

Gowon was pardoned and allowed to return to Nigeria where he had lived since completing his doctorate at Warwick University, England.

(c) Adeyinka Makinde (2022).

Wednesday 2 November 2022

The Yoruba Cultural Value System

The Yoruba value system consists of 7 segments.

1. The first is làákà’yè: The application of knowledge, wisdom & understanding.

Ogbón and ìmò òye.

2. The second is Ìwà Omolúàbí: integrity.

Integrity is combined with iwa (character), which is regarded as Omolúàbí.

3. The third is Akínkanjú or Akin: Valour.

4. The fourth is Anísélápá tí kìíse òle: Having a visible means of livelihood.

A person must be identified with a visible means of livelihood that guarantees a lawful income or sustenance. His or her profession or job must be open and legally approved by society.

5. The fifth is Ola: Honour. Yoruba people place a premium on the gait with which individuals carry themselves and public reputation.

Word of honour translates as "ọrọ ti ola" and "koodu ti ola" means code of honour.

6. The sixth is Ogun rere: Leaving a good legacy behind. This can be achieved by striving to be a role model during your life.

7. The last in the Yorùbá value system is owó tàbí orò: Money or wealth.

The accumulation of wealth is not supposed to supercede the first six values.


I adapted this from a post at Asa Yoruba Facebook page.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2022).

Adeyinka Makinde is a London-based writer.