Saturday 3 December 2022

Karma and the Nigerian Soldier: A brief note on how tragedy befell those who themselves instigated tragedy

Photostill of Major Timothy Onwuatuegwu (d.1970) looking on as his colleague Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu was being interviewed at the First Brigade Headquarters in Kaduna, Northern Nigeria after the military coup of January 1966 in which he was a key participant.

. Major Chris Anuforo executed Lt. Colonels Yakubu Pam and Arthur Unegbe, as well as Colonel Kur Mohammed, and the Federal Minister of Finance, Mr. Festus Okotie-Eboh during the army coup of January 15, 1966. Anuforo was murdered in revenge by Northern-origin soldiers in August 1966, after the coup of July 29, 1966. In Benin City for a funeral, they discovered that he was being held in a local prison for his role in the January uprising.

. 2nd Lt. James Dambo along with 2nd Lt. Bukar Suwa Dimka, assassinated Lt. Colonel I.C. Okoro, Commanding Officer of 3rd Battalion, during the “revenge coup” of July 29, 1966. Dambo is claimed to have been the first Nigerian Army officer to have been killed after the outbreak of the Nigerian Civil War in July 1967.

. Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu, one of the leaders of the January 1966 coup, who assassinated the Sardauna of Sokoto and who also summarily executed several soldiers during the putsch was killed in action during the Nigerian Civil War while fighting for the secessionist army of Biafra. Nzeogwu was ambushed near Nsukka on July 29, 1967.

. Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna who assassinated Brigadier Zakariya Maimalari during the army coup of January 1966 was himself executed by firing squad as a Lt. Colonel of the secessionist army of Biafra for plotting to overthrow the government of Lt. Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu in September 1967.

. Major Timothy Onwuatuegwu who shot Brigadier Samuel Ademulegun to death on January 15, 1966 was himself murdered soon after the end of the Nigerian Civil War in January 1970. The exact circumstances are shrouded in mystery. One account has him being tricked into a meeting with Nigerian officers in a hotel at which he was shot, while another has him being ambushed by soldiers of the First Division near the Cameroon border. One of those who supposedly ambushed him may have been Lt. B.S. Dimka. Still another version of Onwuatuegwu’s demise has him summarily executed by Brigadier Hassan Katsina while being held in detention at a prison in Lagos.

Onwuatuegwu also killed the wife of Brigadier Ademulegun and Colonel Ralph Sodeinde was killed during the operation overseen by Onwuatuegwu.

. Major Ibrahim Taiwo, the officer of the 2nd Infantry Division who has been identified as one of two officers responsible for ordering the execution of civilians in Asaba during the Nigerian Civil War in October 1967, was himself abducted and assassinated by dissident soldiers during the abortive coup of February 13, 1976. Taiwo, at the time of his death a Colonel and the military governor of Kwara State, had been in command of troops whose ultimate commander was Lt. Colonel Murtala Muhammed who as a General and military head of State was also assassinated during the coup. 

. 2nd Lt. B.S. Dimka who assassinated Lt. Colonel I.C. Okoro on  July 29, 1966 and who as a Lt. Colonel ordered the ambush of General Murtala Muhammed during the abortive coup of February 13, 1976, was executed by firing squad in May 1976.

. The NCOs I.B. Rabo and Clement Dabang, both of who are claimed to have been among the soldiers who kidnapped, tortured and assassinated Major General Aguiyi-Ironsi, the military Head of State, during the “revenge coup” of July 1966, were also involved in the abortive coup of February 13, 1976 when Majors. While Lieutenant William Seri opened fire at General Muhammed, Rabo was commanded by Lt. Colonel Dimka to shoot Muhammed’s aide-de-camp Lieutenant Akintunde Akinsehinwa. Both Rabo and Dabang faced a firing squad in March 1976. 

© Adeyinka Makinde (2022).

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

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