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Re: ‘Ironsi, Fajuyi and why we are luckier now’


Ironsi (middle), Major Hassan Usman Katsina (first left), Fajuyi, Lt. Col Odumegwu Ojukwu and Lt. Col David Ejoor<br />

Sir: The killing spree of January 15, 1966, is more evocative than the arrest and killing of Major-General J.T.U Aguiyi-Ironsi and Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi on July 29, 1966. Victims of January 15, some were shot with their wives or in front of them; others were kidnapped and killed by junior colleagues and family friends, and yet others by trusted lieutenants.
The mutineers of July 29 had no reason to view their actions on that day as a crime let alone feel so weighed down by its “enormity” as to contemplate the breakup of Nigeria. That was their intent ab initio, it was only thwarted by the combined appeal/wisdom of Western diplomats and senior government officers from the North who were on the scene. 
The January 15 coup owed its flash success to the novelty of the venture, while July 29 succeeded because the mutineers believed it was a necessary act,  both to right a wrong – after all Ironsi had refused to court-martial those who he, himself called mutineers of January 15 – and to protect themselves from the much-believed repeat of the January events. 
The four days from Saturday, July 29 to Tuesday, August 1, 1966, was full of danger and uncertainty, Lagos more so than anywhere. Out-of-control marauding soldiers were refusing orders from senior officers, as Brigadier Ogundipe learned. So it beggars belief that the Yoruba elite would have met and mandated Colonel Adeyinka Adebayo to go to Ibadan “and take over,” with Fajuyi having been arrested. What would Adebayo take over – government or the Army unit in Ibadan, one seething with discontent? In Lagos itself, officers were keeping their heads below the parapet in view of the generalised disorder in Army units. Adebayo would have gone to Ibadan only after August 1, when Gowon became Head of State and gained control of the military. 

“Ironsi and Fajuyi were victims of our convoluted history.” So were Tafawa Balewa, Ahmadu Bello the Sardauna, Akintola, Okotie-Eboh, Maimalari, Ademulegun, Kur Mohammed, Shodeinde, Unuigbe, Largema and Yakubu Pam. It should never be forgotten or made light of, that January 15 begat July 29 and all other unpleasant events since then.  

M T Usman. 

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