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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

My encounter with Ironsi on coup day – Rita-Lori

Written by CHARLES KUMOLU - Vanguard.

Chief Mrs. Rita Lori-Ogbebor was one of the country's leading broadcast journalists at the time of the January 15 coup and was the first Programme Director of the Nigerian Television Service, NTS. On the morning of the coup she encountered the General Officer Commanding of the Nigerian Army, General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi near the Parliament Building as he bustled to suppress the uprising.Fifty years after the coup she asserts that the plotters were perhaps not motivated by the lust for power, being that they desired a better society.

As a witness to history, would you say the reasons given by the plotters were sufficient to provoke the coup?
They should come and see what is happening in the country now. These were young people, who came out of the university and went into the army. They had been indoctrinated. They came out of school wanting to see an ideal society. They had their mindset on the right things they felt the country should do. Any other way would not be tolerated. And they swallowed all they read and learnt. They were looking for perfection. It is not that they came out wanting to kill because they wanted positions. They came out to do what they did because they were indoctrinated and they wanted a country that is perfect. But I think also that they may have been used by some greedy politicians.

In every society you must have greedy ones. And they did not know that our country was very fragile, we were all in the process of learning. They themselves were in the process of learning and therefore should not have taken away what we did not have. At that time, we were all learning. From the permanent secretaries to the politicians, we were all learning. So, they may not have known that what they were doing was going to boomerang because they took away our founding fathers, who were just building a new nation.

These founding fathers had constitutional meetings in Europe, trying to have a country. They did not put all that into consideration. So, the country did not quite settle before they struck. Today, more provocative things are happening in the country as obtained during Jonathan's administration but there was no coup because of our past experiences. The country was saved by the prayers of Nigerians like the Roman Catholic Church that says the Prayer for Nigeria in Distress. They did not know what they were doing.

Looking at the ethnic composition of the principal actors in that putsch, would it be right to say that they were nudged to carry out the action by ethnic sentiments?
All these boys were young men propelled by ideology. They had been tutored during their training in the army to ensure a disciplined society. They wanted a perfect situation through elimination of corruption in the country. If you look at all of them, some were the first set of our boys, who had university education. So their idea was to have a united perfect country. Before now soldiers didn't believe whether you were Ibo, Hausa or Yoruba.

They believed in the oneness of the country. Soldiers are trained to be their brothers' keepers and to believe in themselves. And I don't think that any of those young soldiers had sectional ambition because none of them wanted to become Prime Minister. And you can see that if they wanted political power, they could have gone for Ironsi. In those days, they had not become ambitious. Even the Ironsi, who took over did not know what to do. That was why he introduced the unitary system which is a system of the army with a chain of command.

As a journalist at that time can you recollect the early post-coup events in Lagos at that time?

I just came back from England after a television course. I was supposed to report to my office to cover the parliament. I was to cover the parliament with the OB-Van (Outside Broadcast Van) and my thoughts then were to collect my OB-van and go to the Parliament the next day. But early in the morning around 6 am the late Cyprian Ekwensi drove to my house. He said to me ''have you heard what is happening?'' I said no. He said ''I am sorry your uncle has been taken away.'' I did not understand what he was talking about and I said ''who are you talking about?'' He said ''your uncle, Okotie Eboh has been taken away.'' I did not understand, so asked where he was taken to? And he said there was a coup. That was when it dawned on me that there was trouble. But even then it was still not clear as to the full meaning. For me, my uncle was a great man and I was lost as to who could have taken away my uncle. Immediately he said so to me, he went away. He also told me that the Prime Minister was taken away. As he was hurrying away, I too drove straight to my uncle's house opposite the Island Club.

I drove straight to his house and I found that his gate had been flung open. And one of the housekeepers, whom I knew was crying. And I asked what had happened; he told me that my uncle was taken away by some soldiers. Even at that stage it did not dawn on me that I was not going to see him again neither did I know that they were going to kill him. I just thought that it's all politics that he was going to come home sometime in the day. Then I moved to the Prime Minister's house and found same situation.

The door was thrown open and his orderly was crying. It was then that it was getting clearer to me what a coup actually is. I then knew that it was a matter of life and death. So that is the way it was at time. I must say, however, that at the time I was driving to my uncle's house, I saw vehicles of soldiers speeding in a manner I had never seen. I drove to my office and proceeded to the parliament. At the parliament we were told to pack up and start moving.
Who gave that order?

Ironsi was the person, who asked us to go. And not even all the ministers had heard about what happened then. So I saw this huge tall man, the late Aguiyi Ironsi, who came and asked us to go in an unusual manner. And this was a man, who used say to me: ''hello, how are you my young director,'' he used to joke with me. But this time, he was not joking. He commanded all of us to get out of the parliament.Had he assumed power as the Head of State at the time he was giving such in Lagos?

He was the most senior officer in the army. So he took control immediately and of course he was the one commanding everybody to get moving. And that was the first time everybody was seeing soldiers in action in the country. Even some flamboyantly dressed ministers, who came and were showing themselves to the camera quickly respected themselves and put themselves back in their cars. Those days our ministers were flamboyant in their dressing and carriage. For instance, my uncle when going to present a budget dresses as if it was a Christmas Day.

So the ministers were flamboyant but not like the ones stealing today. Their flamboyance was not about stealing of public funds because they still had in them the idea of the founding fathers that their duty was to make Nigeria great. Everything that mattered to them then was Nigeria. And that was why Nigeria developed at a fast rate then. So, all the flamboyant ministers then chickened out of the presence of the soldiers who gave order for people to leave the parliament. They entered their cars and went away. The atmosphere was an unhappy and uncertain one because we did not expect what happened. But much later it started to dawn on us and the country has never known peace after then. It surprised us to know that the killings were not uniformed. And that of course led from one coup to the other.

So what happened after the dispersal?

They called us later to brief us about what had happened and why they took over the reins of government and what it means. Then the northerners started to feel differently because Abubakar and Sardauna were killed. It was since that coup that Nigerians started looking at Nigeria differently.That was the beginning of the problems we are in. Again is the fact that the soldiers who planned the coup were very young. Even when I was in school (Saint Theresa's College Ibadan) soldiers like Ifeajuna used to come and talk with the senior girls. So they used to come and brief us about the country. It was much later that I realised that they had something more than just talking to us about the country.

During those visits by Ifeajuna and other young officers, did someone like Ifeajuna sound revolutionary?

We were too busy trying to pass our exams, so we did not really understand that they had long felt different about happenings in the country. That was years before the coup. These were restless people especially that Ifeajuna. They were just young and excited officers.
When the army took over it was a shock to all of us. But one thing we had in those days was freedom of speech which we inherited from Zik and Awolowo, who were journalists. It was a legacy we got from them because we did not fight any war to get our independence. It was a war of the pen. So, we enjoyed that. But that became a luxury when the army came. When I was a programme Director at the NTS , I did what I think I should do and before I knew, a soldier came to the control room and took me away. That was after the coup.

My offense was that I took a shot where Aguiyi-Ironsi was eating. In that picture, Ironsi was heaping food into his mouth. I was neither the one who took the shot nor edited it. I just ran it because it had been edited that way. It was shocking when we saw soldiers in our place of work. When they started calling us to come we did not come, don't forget that we were pretty young girls in our own world so we refused to come. But one of us was given a slap by the soldiers. So, that experience marked the beginning of impunity that became the order of the day during military rule. Things changed with the first coup.

Unitary government

Ironsi introduced unitary government but some part of the country did not like it. Ojukwu was part of the young officers who went to the university. He was in the east and when the unitary government came some did not like it. And by that time some of us already felt bad. People like Peter Enahoro (Peter Pan) ran away after writing some articles. That was a bad period for us because people we trusted could not be trusted any more. Unitary system worsened the situation and perhaps led to the second coup. Again, I was in Ibadan to cover the event that Aguiyi Ironsi had come for.

I arrived in the evening. In the morning the news came to us that there was a coup. So, before we could get to the venue of the event, we started hearing that something had happened and for somebody like me, who saw the first one in Lagos, I took to my heels. When my uncle, the Prime Minister and Sardauna of Sokoto were killed, I had no faith again. At that time, the impression the north gave to us was that they had revenged and that they were going to join Niger Republic.In that coup, the governor of Western Region was also killed. The Yoruba were angry about that.

No comments:


I am an Igbo, I was born an Igbo, I live the life of an Igbo, I come from Igbo, I speak Igbo, I like to be Igbo, I like to dress in Igbo, I eat Igbo food, my heritage, culture and tradition is Igbo, my parents are Igbo.

Am sorry I cannot help it if you hate my lineage. Am sorry I cannot help it if you detest Igbo, am sorry I cannot help it if you hate me because am Igbo. Igbo is who I am, my name is Igbo and I must die an Igbo.

You see Igbo as a threat, why? You call Igbo rapist, criminals, ritualist, prostitutes, kidnappers. You attribute all negative vices to represent Igbo? Why do you do that? You do because you feel threatened that Igbo might outrun the rest of the tribes. Why do you hate Igbo and despise us? You do that because we are creative, enlightened, hardworking, industrious, genius, intelligent, smart, rich, beautiful and amazing. But its difficult for you to admit it because you feel jealous of my race.

Igbo do not own politics, Igbo do not control the economy neither do we control the natural resources and the common wealth of the nation. You do, we don't and yet, despite the fact that you own everything, we still remain one indispensable race that has outshined the other race in all ramifications.

You fear us because you want to exterminate and annihilate our race, you deny us many things and yet we are stronger, richer and mightier. You fear us because we are everywhere. You fear us because no matter how rural a place might be, when Igbo steps in, they turn it into a Paradise. We have our own resources, which lies in resourcefulness, we do not bother you and your control over the polity, but yet when we cough you and the other race begin to shiver.

Am proud being an Igbo, am proud of my heritage and culture. Igbo means high class, Igbo means independence, Igbo means hard work and strength, Igbo means riches, Igbo means resourcefulness, Igbo means self belonging, Igbo means self esteem, Igbo means pride, Igbo means swag.

Udo diri unu umunnem.
# IgboAmaka
# AnyiBuNdiMmeri

Michael Ezeaka

This is beautiful poetry ...

In response to Alaba Ajibola, the Babcock Lecturer Hate Speech against Igbos.


In Igboland women live apart from their husbands and neither cook for them nor enter their husband's quarters when they are in their period. They are seen as unclean. Even up till today such practice is still applicable in some parts of Igboland especially by the traditionalists. Before a woman can enter the palace of Obi of Onitsha, she will be asked if she is in her period, if yes, she will be asked to stay out.

Leviticus 15: 19-20
When a woman has her monthly period, she remains unclean, anyone who touches her or anything she has sat on becomes unclean.

An Igbo man's ancestral heritage, called “Ana Obi” is not sellable, elders will not permit this. If this is somehow done due to the influence of the West the person is considered a fool and is ostracized by the community.

1 Kings 21:3
I inherited this vineyard from my ancestors, and the Lord forbid that I should sell it, said Naboth.

Igbos have practiced the taking of a late brother's wife into marriage after she had been widowed until the white men came. Now it is rarely done but except in very rural villages.

Deuteronomy 25:5
A widow of a dead man is not to be married outside the family; it is the duty of the dead man's brother to marry her.

In Igboland, there is a unique form of apprenticeship in which either a male family member or a community member will spend six (6) years (usually in their teens to their adulthood) working for another family. And on the seventh year, the head of the host household, who is usually the older man who brought the apprentice into his household, will establish (Igbo: idu uno) the apprentice
by either setting up a business for him or giving money or tools by which to make a living.

Exodus 21:2
If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve you for six years. In the seventh year he is to be set free without having to pay you anything.

In Igboland , the yam is very important as it is their staple crop. There are celebrations such as the New yam festival (Igbo: Iri Ji) which are held for the harvesting of the yam. New Yam festival (Igbo: Iri ji) is celebrated annually to secure a good harvest of the staple crop. In the olden days it is an abomination for one to eat a new harvest before the festival. It's a tradition that you give the gods of the land first as a thanksgiving.

Deuteronomy 16:9
Count 7 weeks from the time that you begin to harvest the crops, and celebrate the harvest festival to honor the lord your God, by bringing him a freewill offering in proportion to the blessing he has given you. Celebrate in the Lord's presence together with your children, servants, foreigners. Be sure that you obey my command, said the Lord.

In Igboland it's a tradition that the male children are circumcised on the 8th day. This tradition is still practiced till date.

Leviticus 12:3
On the eighth day, the child shall be circumcised.

In Igboland, there is a practice known as "ile omugwo ". After a woman has given birth to a child, a very close and experienced relative of hers, in most cases her mother is required by tradition to come spend time with her and her husband. During which she is to do all the work of the wife, while the new mom's only assignment to the baby will be to breastfeed. This goes on for a month or more. In the Igbo old tradition, at this time, the new mom lives apart from her husband, would not cook or enter his quarters.

Leviticus 12:1-4
For seven days after a woman gives birth, she is ritually unclean as she is during her monthly period. It will be 33 days until she is ritually clean from the loss of blood; she is not to touch anything that is holy.


The Igbo tribe is in a serious problem and danger of extinction for the following reasons:

50% of Igbos are born outside Igbo land. Meaning that those children are not likely to live and work in Igbo land and cannot speak Igbo language but foreign language (Yoruba, Hausa, French, English).

40% of Igbos girls between the age of 25 & 45 are single with no hope of marriage because 35% of Igbo boys live overseas and they have all married white ladies.

75% of Igbo youths leave Igbo land every year in search of opportunities in Yoruba, Hausa land or overseas.

85 % of Igbos have family houses and own investments outside Igbo land. They strongly believe in one Nigeria but failed to know that NO Yoruba or Hausa man has a family house or investment in Igbo land.

Igbos are the only people who believe that living outside their land is an achievement.

Igbos are the only tribe that celebrate their tradition outside their land e.g. Eze Ndi Igbo, Igbo Village in America and this is because they have family homes in foreign lands.

Igbos have failed to know that the children you have outside Igbo land especially overseas will never think of living in Igbo land. So what happens to the properties you are building for them when you are gone?

Igbos are the only tribe who see their land as a place to visit or a tourist site than a place to work and live.

Igbos are the only tribe who instead of promoting and appreciating their culture through movies and documentaries they have sought to ridicule it by portraying rituals, killings, wickedness, love for money and other social vices which were not originally inherent in our culture thereby cursing more harm than actually promoting their culture.

Igbos are the only people who without hesitation believe their history and description when it is told or written by an enemy or a foreigner. E.g. that you do not love yourselves or that you love money.

Igbos are the ONLY largest tribe on earth who fought for their independence and failed to achieve their freedom after 40 years.

Igbos are the only tribe who fails to honour their brave heroes and heroines especially the innocent children starved to death during the Biafran war.

Igbos are the only tribe who embraced their enemy after a bloody civil war and subsequently become slaves.

Igbos do not find it necessary to teach their own version of history to their children.

Igbos fight for marginalisation in Nigeria but has no collective strength or teeth to bite.

Igbos how long are you going to fight for your relevance in Nigeria?

How long are you going to fight for a functional airport, rail networks and other structural establishments that underpin sustainable development?

How long are you prepared to wait for your enemy to guide you to your destiny?

Oh Igbos!
Where are your leaders?

Unfortunately, none of them live and work in Igbo land. If you wish to save the future of your children, your identity, your generation and your race then you need freedom and that freedom is Biafra.

Ukpana Okpoko gburu bu nti chiri ya!

By Chime Eze

The Igbo: We die for causes, not for personalities

Written by Emeka Maduewesi

~on fb. 28th September, 2016.

The Igbo will never die for anyone. We will not even riot for anyone. But the Igbo will die for any cause they believe in because the Igbo have a true sense of justice and a determination to obtain it.

The Igbo will not riot because one of their own lost an election. Operation Wetie was the Western response to a massively rigged 1965 election. The Yoruba doused fellow Yorubas in petrol and burnt them alife. Properties were burnt with occupants. The Igbo will never do this.

In 1983, the Yoruba went on a rampage again over the massive rigging by NPN. Lifes were lost and properties destroyed. The riots were over personalities.

Contrast that with Anambra State where Chief Emeka Ojukwu was rigged out by his own NPN, who also rigged out Chief Jim Nwobodo. The Igbo did not protest because the goat's head is still in the goat's bag.

In the North, ba muso was the battle cry when Sultan Dasuki was imposed on the Sokoto Caliphate. The riot and protest lasted for days and crippled economic activities.

The Igbo will riot over issues and causes. The Aba Women Riot was over Tax. The Enugu coal mine riot was about conditions of service. The Ekumeku Uprising was over British colonialization.

Those of "Ekumeku" ancestry - Umu Eze Chima and Umu Nri - were at the forefront of the struggles for Nigerian independence, with people like Dr. A A Nwafor Orizu and Chief Osita Agwuna serving prison terms. Any struggles the parents could not conclude is continued by the children by other means.

The Biafran war was a response to the genocide. The war in fact was brought upon us. The battlefield was Eastern Region. The war ended in 1970 but the issues and causes were not resolved. That is where we are today.

The Igbo will also jointly rise to fight evil in their midst. They did it in Onitsha in the 1980's, Owerri in the 90's, and with Bakkassi in the 2000.

The Igbo will not die for any man. But the Igbo will stand by any man who symbolizes their cause and their pursuit of justice. Even if the man dies, the struggle continues, and like the Ekumeku warriors, the children will pick up the baton from their parents.

This is the Igbo I know, the Igbo I am, and the Igbo we are. This is my story. Feel free to tell yours.


"My boy, may you live to your full potential, ascend to a dizzy height as is possible for anyone of your political description in your era to rise. May you be acknowledged world-wide as you rise as an eagle atop trees, float among the clouds, preside over the affairs of fellow men.... as leaders of all countries pour into Nigeria to breathe into her ear.

But then, Chuba, if it is not the tradition of our people that elders are roundly insulted by young men of the world, as you have unjustly done to me, may your reign come to an abrupt and shattering close. As you look ahead, Chuba, as you see the horizon, dedicating a great marble palace that is the envy of the world, toasted by the most powerful men in the land, may the great big hand snatch it away from you. Just as you look forward to hosting the world’s most powerful leader and shaking his hands, as you begin to smell the recognition and leadership of the Igbo people, may the crown fall off your head and your political head fall off your shoulders.

None of my words will come to pass, Chuba, until you have risen to the very height of your power and glory and health, but then you will be hounded and humiliated and disgraced out of office, your credibility and your name in tatters forever...”


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