(… a lie told to blind generations)
January 15, 1966 is a day we can never forget. A coup motivated by nationalistic desire to free Nigeria from political wrangling was mischievously tagged “Igbo Coup”. The propagators of this deadly lie were spurred by ulterior motive. As dangerous as lies could be, it led to fratricidal war that claimed over 6 million lives from both sides and threatened extermination of Igbo nation through various war crimes.
Igbos developed so rapidly and made huge gains in the wake of Nigerian civilization. They were there at the top of education, commerce and industries. According to Chinua Achebe in his book, “The Trouble with Nigeria”, he says that Igbos have liberal thinking, uninhibited by imposition of monarchy and autocracy, ready-made to grab all the benefits of modern civilization … Much of the progress came from unhindered enterprising spirit propelled by a social structure that handsomely rewards personal achievements.
The cost of this success was that it bred rambunctious life style that caused our neighbors much grieves. They seethe with raging jealousy, wishing this breed of beings could be taken out of their sights. Igbos must pay for this. January 15 coup provided the narrow opening that made them pay with pools of blood and attempted extermination.
The coup plotters
The contagious lie got everyone thinking that Igbo officers alone went on rampage to seize power and murder politicians from other ethnic groups. This sensational and sentimental propaganda sunk too deep into the hearts of our neighbors that they failed to notice the conspicuous presence of other ethnic groups, including Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba, Ijaw, Tiv et al among the officers who planned and executed the coup.
A glance at list of the coup plotters would tell any unbiased mind that the coup has balanced national representation. The major names in the list are 1. Maj. Adewale Ademoyega (Yoruba) author of "Why We Struck". 2. Capt. G. Adeleke (Yoruba). 3. Lt. Fola Oyewole (Yoruba) author of "The Reluctant Rebel". 4. Lt. R. Egbiko (Ishan). 5. Lt. Tijani Kastina (Hausa Fulani). 6. Lt O. Olafemiyan(Yoruba). 7. Capt Gibson Jalo (Bali). 8. Capt. J. Swanton (Middle Belt). 9. Lt. Hope Haris Eghagha (Urhobo). 10. Lt. Dag Warribor (Ijaw). 11. 2nd Lt. Saleh Dambo (Hausa). 12. 2nd Lt. John Atom Kpera (Tiv). 13. Maj. Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu (Delta Igbo). 14. Ifeajuna (Igbo). It is equally worthy to note that over 500 junior officers who executed the coup were from northern region.
The coup intention
Maj. Adewale Ademoyega , a Yoruba, the author of "Why We Struck" wrote, ''when on January 15, our revolution was launched, it was welcomed because it came as a painless surgical operation designed to heal a sick Nigeria...'' Much later, Yakubu Gowon had to scream that the January 1966 coup was plotted in Ghana that played host to AG Chieftains (Yorubas ) in exile after the arrest of Chief Awolowo and treason charges concocted by northern NPC’s Federal Government to hound AG into submission. Among their major intentions was to release Chief Awolowo from Calabar prison and fly him to Lagos to become Nigerian Prime Minister. Captain Nzegwu was assigned this role.
It is then worrisome why the blatant lies about the coup were so peddled, except for bottled up taste to punish the Igbos for annoying their neighbors with intimidating progress. This can be confirmed by several defunct and extant polices of successive post-war Federal Governments directed at cutting down the progress of Ndigbo. There was no and never was there any Igbo coup. Targeted killings of Igbos, as seen in various pogroms, were expressions of jealousy and deep rooted hatred. This has to be given a name. And Igbo coup was found convenient.