Vanguard, October 2, 2010
by Femi Fani- Kayode.
On Chief Osoba’s comment that his (Femi Fani-Kayode’s) reaction to Chief Mbu’s that Balewa might have died of asthmatic attack, was based on emotion.
I was simply asked to make my contribution to this crucial debate and I did so gladly because this is a matter of tremendous national importance.
In any case history happens to be my passion and I read very widely indeed so when I was approached for my views about this issue I obliged without any hesitation. Has that now become a crime? I wonder if Chief Segun Osoba would have accused me of all those things if I had chosen to accept Chief Matthew Mbu’s and his version of history.
The truth is that if there is anyone that is attempting to politicise this whole issue it is him and not me. As far as I am concerned there is a well-orchestrated attempt to distort history and those that are behind it know themselves and they know why they are doing it.
I also think that it is most unfortunate and disrespectful to those that were murdered in cold blood that night and to their respective families and descendants that we have been forced to revisit this very unpleasant and painful issue simply due to the latter day submissions of Osoba and Chief Matthew Mbu.
I think that I have said and written more than enough on this matter. I find it curious that no one has, at least up until the time I am speaking to you now, seen fit to reach the two most important eye witnesses in this matter who are firstly Alhaji Babankowa, who is a highly respected former Commissioner of Police and secondly the distinguished elder-statesman and a former Minister in Tafawa Balewa’s government, Alhaji Maitama Sule.
I mentioned their names from the start as my primary witnesses who saw the remains of the Prime Minister and who confirmed that he was shot yet no-one wants to talk to them. It is only Osoba they want to talk to.
Not only that I wrote that there was a formal and very thorough and detailed police investigation into the matter carried out by the crack Special Branch wing of the police and that it even included some British police officers as well. I said that some of those that conducted the police investigation have seen the final report and the autopsy report, are still alive and are willing to talk yet no-one, up until the time that I am speaking to you now, has reached any of them to corroborate what I am saying.
I am talking about the likes of Alhaji MD Yusuf, Alhaji Gambo Jimeta and Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi (two former I-G’s of Police and a former head of the Nigerian Security Organisation) amongst many others but they of course are not important or credible enough either.
It is only what Osoba says that counts. I spoke about men like Dr. Moses Majekodunmi, another distinguished elder statesman and former Minister of Health in the Balewa government and Alhaji Inua Wada who was Minister of Defence at the time yet no-one has reached them either. Yet these people are all in a position to confirm the truth and prove the veracity of what I am saying.
Look anyone can believe what they want to believe but I simply do not accept Osoba’s version of events and neither do I have to. All through my write-up I was very polite about him and I refrained from really speaking my mind about his story simply out of respect for his age and his person.
I will continue to maintain that attitude regardless of the fact that he is now getting personal and he is attempting to provoke me with his words. I have always held him in the highest esteem and he knows this but I am sorry to tell you that I do not believe his so-called eye witness account and I do not believe the story that he wrote in the Daily Times newspaper of January 21st 1966.
The fact that he wrote it does not mean it is true. If anyone is interested in knowing why I choose to believe the other eye-witnesses, the police report, the historical sources and the account of events that were given to me by those that saw, touched, smelt, clothed and buried the body instead of accepting Osoba’s story and version of events they should go and read my two articles on this issue all over again.
The answers and the basis for the position that I have taken are there. And so are a few questions for Chief Segun Osoba which he has still not answered. The truth is that if I am asked to choose who to believe between Osoba and Alhaji Maitama Sule or Alhaji Babankowa, who both say that they not only saw the body but that one of them was the one that actually discovered it, and that it was badly decomposed, the man had been shot and that he had been in the forest for a few days before then, I would believe them far more than I would Osoba.
Again if I am asked who to believe between Osoba and Alhaji MD Yusuf, Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi and Alhaji Gambo Jimeta who are all seasoned policemen that were involved either directly or indirectly with the investigation into Tafawa Balewa’s death, who spoke to and interrogated some of those who killed our leaders that night, including Captain Okafor (who was one of those that killed the Prime Minister) I would believe them before Osoba .
Every single credible historical book that has ever been written on this matter in the last 44 years, by both British and Nigerian historians and by key personalities that were involved one way or the other in government then, has said that Tafawa Balewa was shot and they based those conclusions on empirical research and their own investigations.
And yet despite this Osoba says that all of that should be dismissed as nothing but fraudulent lies simply because he suddenly remembers that he saw the supposedly ‘’fresh’’ dead body of Sir Tafawa Balewa in the forest (one week after he had been murdered) 44 long years ago.
We should also dismiss what members of the Tafawa Balewa family are saying when they say that the Prime Minister was shot and that his body was badly decomposed. Perhaps Osoba will tell us that it was emotions and politics that made them say this too. According to him even the British intellgence reports that were filed on this matter were also fake too.He is the only one that is right in this matter, he is the repository of all truth and knowledge and we must all accept his version of history and events or risk being accused of being unduly emotional. Please, this is a bit much for me. I think that we should get real here. No one should be allowed to twist history no matter how well connected or skillful they are at such matters.
The truth is that I find it intriguing that Osoba would suggest that I am being emotional on this issue and that I am politicising it. Tell me where the emotions are and where the politics are are in this matter? This is a matter of evidence and historical record and not emotion or politics.
He is not the only person that saw the body of Tafawa Balewa that day. Many others saw it and some are still alive to testify to that. I have given you their names. Let them speak to you too just the same way that Osoba did and that I am doing then we will take it from there. On my part I believe their accounts and not Osobas. If he wants to describe that as being emotional or political then so be it. That is his problem and not mine.
On the claim that all the remaining government officials of that day had run to Cotonou and there was no question of any of them coming together to go and identify Tafawa Balewa’s body.
Again this is simply not true. Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Chief Richard Akinjide, Alhaji Bukar Dipcharima, Chief Kingsly Mbadiwe, Alhaji Kashim Ibrahim and many others did not run to Cotonou and neither did my father.
As a matter of fact they all (togrther with the British Ambassador of that day) attended that famous meeting with General Aguiyi-Ironsi and Chief Nwafor Orizu where they were forced by General Aguiyi-Ironsi to hand over power to him.
They did not voluntarily give power to Aguiyi-Ironsi but rather they were compelled to do so when Orizu, who was the Acting President at the time, simply refused to swear in Dipcharima as the Acting Prime Minister when Tafawa Balewa could not be found.
Aguiyi-Ironsi told them that he could not guarantee their safety if they did not hand over power to him and he said this ‘’could be done either the easy way or by force’’.
That, in my view, was the first successful military coup in this country. Major Kaduna Nzeogwu’s ‘’majors’’ coup failed but General Aguiyi-Ironsi’s one succedded. If anybody doubts this account of history or version of events I challenge them to read President Shehu Shagari’s autobiography titled ‘’Beckon To Serve’’ or to read any of Chief Akinjide’s numerous newspaper interviews on this matter over the years. They really are very instructive. In any case they are both still alive and well today and can be asked to corroborate or debunk what I am saying.
On Chief Osoba’s poser on why Chief Remilekun Fani-Kayode then Deputy Premier of the Western Region was not killed on the night.
Regardless of the fact that Osoba evidently believes that my father deserved to die that night it did not happen and the good Lord disappointed him and all those that think like him. And it shall continue to be so. Maybe he should just pray and ask God the answer to his question.
Honestly out of all of Osoba’s assertions this is the one that I find the most amusing and illogical. The reason that my father was not killed that night was due to providence and divine intervention pure and simple and for that I still give thanks to God everyday.
To Him alone be the glory. And if Chief Segun Osoba doubts that then I would advise him to please ask God when he dies and gets to heaven. But before that happens I would like to remind him that every single person that was attacked that night by these mutineers, including in some cases even their family members, was killed in the most brutal and barbaric fashion.
Out of all those attacked it was only my father and Alhaji Kashim Ibrahim the Governor of the Norththern Region who were arrested and abducted from their homes but who were not murdered in cold blood. In my fathers case from all indications they had every intention of murdering him too but for the fact that when they got to Ikeja cantonment where they took him the soldiers there, under the command of Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon as he then was, resisted the mutineers, killed a few of them in a gun battle and delivered and freed my father.
If Osoba or anyone else has any doubts about this series of they should please go and ask General Gowon. He is still alive today.
In the light of his question the one question that I would put to Osoba though is this: if Major Emmanuel Ifejuana and his group of mutineers were such kind and considerate men who “could not have intended to kill Tafawa Balewa” as he would have us believe then why did they kill their own commanding officer Brigadier Zacariah Maimalari even as he ran to Ifejuana’s car for help during the operation.
Ifejuana did this without any hesitation even though he had been drinking cocktails with Maimalari in that same house that he killed him just the night before. Again why did they kill Brigadier Ademulegun’s 8 month pregnant wife?
What about Samuel Ladoke Akintola, Abogo Lagerma, Kuru Mohammed, Festus Okotie-Eboh, Raphael Sodeinde, Ahmadu Bello and his wife, Yakubu Pam and Ademulegun himself ? Why were some of them brutalised, maimed and tortured before they were killed? Why did Nzeogwu have to take a picture of Saurdana’s dead body with his foot on his neck and why did such pictures have to be circulated?
Is it such wicked, heartless and evil men that Osoba wants us to believe had no reason to kill Sir Tafawa Balewa simply because he was such a ‘’nice’’ man? I am sorry but that is just a ridiculous and preposterous assertion to make.
It is also very insulting. No-one, no matter how ‘’controversial’’, deserves to be treated or to die in that way. Again do such men need any reason to kill or were all the others that they killed that night bad men and women that deserved to die? Did they have any reason to kill Ademulegun and Saurdana’s wife and were they bad people too?
Chief Segun Osoba has been most insensitive and unfair to those that were killed that night and those who were terrrorised and whose homes were raided and violated by saying such a thing. I have always respected him but surely respect begets respect.
This is especially so given his age. He may not have liked my father but God chose to spare his life that night and all of Chief Osoba’s ill-will and malice could not wish that away. I give God the glory for that and yet till today my heart still goes out to all the families that lost their loved ones and bread winners on that night.
Whatever the case Chief Osoba should know that at the age of 50 I will certainly speak my mind in any manner that I choose. Yet despite his obvious anger, his harsh choice of words and his obvious malice towards me and mine, I continue to respect him and wish him and his family well.
The bottom line is that there are holes in Chief Mbu’s story and in Osoba’s too. The coup plotters themselves admitted that they shot Sir Tafawa Balewa that night so why are these two people attempting to absolve them of doing something that they themselves admitted to having done?
For example in an interview with the Nation newspaper of 26th September 2010 one of the soldiers that took part in the mutiny by the name of Chris Israel Okigbo said “I am not happy about making reference to the fallen people of January 15th 1966 like the way M.T. Mbu talked about Abubakar. Was he with us?
Everybody who fell in the January 15th coup was shot. Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was shot. They were abducted and shot. Nzeogwu gave us instruction to shoot any of these people at sight. Who said Abubakar died of heart attack?”
Apart from that not one single written account, statement, book or testimony given by any of the surviving coup plotters since the night of Jan.15th has ever claimed that they did not shoot the Prime Minister. And yet 44 years later someone tells us a different story and we are expected to swallow it hook, line and sinker? Well others may do so but certainly not me. I stand on everything that I said earlier in my two essays.
* Chief Femi Fani-Kayode was the Minister of Culture and Tourism, the Minister of Aviation and the spokesman to President Olusegun Obasanjo.