Author: Henry Chukwuemeka Onyema

I do not take lightly Chief Fani Kayode’s harrowing eyewitness account of the arrest of his father, Chief Remi Fani Kayode, the deputy premier of the Western region. Tears nearly filled my eyes some years ago when I read the personal account of Solapo Ademulegun, the daughter of Brigadier Ademulegun, on how she saw her father killed by officers who used to eat at his dining table. They were led by Major Timothy Onuwuatuegwu who was Nzeogwu’s right hand man in Kaduna.  Only a heartless person will justify such deeds before children for any reason. But Chief Femi Fani Kayode,…

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It has become my personal historical exercise to do some reflection every January 15 for the past decade or so. Occasionally I write an article on the first military coup in Nigeria or aspects of the Nigerian condition in relation to the coup. This year, I did not plan on writing anything until I read Chief Femi Fani Kayode’s essay titled ‘History, the coup of January 15 1966 and a tribute to our heroes past’ published in ‘Sunday Vanguard’ of 21 January. The erudite former Minister of Aviation made an eloquent and compelling case for the restoration of the study…

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The ruling on Thursday 26 October by a High Court in Enugu on IPOB (the Indigenous People of Biafra) is the premise for this article. It is no longer news that the court, presided over by Justice A.O. Onovo made the following rulings:  the proscription of IPOB as an illegal terrorist organization is illegal and unconstitutional; that both the Federal Government and Eastern governors erred in this regard thus they should pay a compensation of eight billion naira to Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, the IPOB leader, and publish an apology letter to him in three national newspapers.  By virtue of the…

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Every Nigerian and foreigner is aware of Wole Soyinka’s clash with the influential Obedient movement after he labeled them as fascists in an April Channels TV interview. ‘The saddest and most frustrating thing about a special breed of Nigerians is their unconscionable resort to calumny when their ox is gored. Then, watch them wallow in slander, distortion, vilification and allied toxic weapons in their narration of, or recourse to, historical references…Those who have swallowed garbage, yet refuse to spit it out, even after the emetic of facts, are free to continue to chew the cud of ignorance.’ Wole Soyinka,…

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These are angry times for Nigeria and Nigerians. Apart from the severe economic downturn of the citizenry, most who never had much to start with, due to largely but by no means exclusively the removal of petroleum subsidy by President Tinubu, the political space which has been fouled up since the February presidential elections seems to become more poisonous each day. The recent drama of the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal only increased the cancerous odour. Quite a large percentage of Nigerians, especially in the under 40 age bracket, have openly advocated for revolution, insurrection or even military intervention as a…

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Poetic Commemoration Of 9/11 That Tuesday Nobody knew that the mighty could fall and towers become dwarfs in one fell swoop and towers become matchboxes Till that Tuesday. See the dazzling masterpiece collapse under the flying box of death see the centrepiece of commercial power become a hub of chilling paralysis see blue-eyed Jeanie wander through the rubble dazedly looking for her James see brown-eyed Dawod watch in horror as his dream shop and dream family all built and born in the land of realization were fire-flown into a living nightmare see dark-eyed Dani  collapse in exhausted bravery under…

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What happens when a retired commando becomes the bodyguard of his former girlfriend who is vying for the governorship of the most important state in a volatile West African country? Ronke and Dandra did not unduly broadcast their relationship after that night.  But they did not hide, either. People who were close to them soon realized there was quite a little bit of love between them. Though Dandra showed restraint, especially during official settings, anyone with half an eye could see that Ronke was much more than a client to him. On her part Ronke was relaxed, happy and much…

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PART THREE:  QUASHING THE COUP OR CARRYING OUT A COUP? In recent years, as more Nigerians begin to pay close attention to the country’s chequered past, the nature of Ironsi’s ascension to power has come under scrutiny. The original general perception is that the rump of the civilian cabinet voluntarily handed over power to Ironsi as an interim measure to deal with the January 15 coup plotters. The hand over, though unconstitutional, was voluntary. Or was it something else? To answer this question it is important to examine available historical sources and accounts, including eye-witness reports. According to Frederick Forsyth,…

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PART TWO: IRONSI’S ROLE IN THE JANUARY 15 1966 COUP The evidence that shows that General Ironsi and the plotters of the supposedly Igbo coup of January 15 1966 were diametrically opposed to each other is highly significant.  Major Nzeogwu, in an interview with the ‘Daily Telegraph’ newspaper, 22 January 1966 edition, declared: ‘We got some but not all. General Ironsi was to have been shot. But we were not ruthless enough. As a result he and the other compromisers were able to supplant us.’ But in his unpublished account of the coup, its leader in Lagos, Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna,…

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Did General Aguiyi-Ironsi Deserve To Die?  Part 1 This is a three-part series I first published on the fiftieth remembrance of the overthrow and death of General Aguiyi Ironsi, Nigeria’s first military head of state. On the fifty-seventh remembrance, I have decided to republish it with some updates and to add to our historical record as we grapple with the challenges of nation building in Nigeria. PART ONE INTRODUCTON On the fifty-seventh remembrance of Nigeria’s second coup which ended the life and six-month government of General Aguiyi-Ironsi, Nigeria’s first military head of state, I have decided on a historical reflection…

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I Dandra and Gani swung into action as soon as Gani reported for duty. With quiet, almost unobtrusive, efficiency they took charge of their principal’s security.  Ronke was pleasantly surprised that they did not interfere unduly with her daily life. ‘‘Plain in sight is the best strategy,’’ said the former Major. But he insisted, and got Ronke’s grudging permission, to run a thorough vetting of her few personal staff. Ronke had a few personal security men engaged from a reputable private guard service. With her connections she could have gotten police security but she wisely refrained from doing so.  Dandra…

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My only other Nigerian civil war era military hero, apart from General Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Colonel Joe ‘Hannibal’ Achuzie, Major Shuwa, and within strong limitations, Colonel Benjamin Adekunle, is Major Patrick Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu. He was killed on July 29 1967 (some sources report July 26 1967) along the Obolo-Afor road, Nsukka, by the federal forces of Nigeria in an ambush. Officially, he was not attached to a Biafran unit; indeed, Ojukwu initially suspended him from military duties after releasing him from detention in Eastern Nigeria following the January 1966 coup. Nzeogwu and his co-plotters were transferred to various jails from…

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The average Igbo’s emotional attachment to Biafra is overwhelming. Even those of them who were not born by 1967 or have little knowledge of Biafra’s antecedents are not unaffected by this deep bond. Sadly, even the most rabid Igbo hater can turn a seemingly intelligent Igbo’s head with appeals to Biafra. Since our memories are so short , can we recollect how loving and seemingly Igbo friendly Chief Femi Fani Kayode posed a few years ago, cozying up to Mazi Nnamdi Kanu? Today, like 7Up, the difference is clear. It does not surprise me that the likes of Simon Ekpa…

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On Tuesday, 30 May 1967, Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu formally declared the independence of the former Eastern region of Nigeria and its birth as the Republic of Biafra. That declaration, borne out of several unhappy developments that had rocked the Nigerian state since her independence, eventually culminated in a bloody civil war and it continues to reverberate in Nigeria fifty-three years after Biafra ceased to exist. Fifty-six years after the birth of Biafra I want to briefly reflect on some of the mistakes Ojukwu made in his capacity as Biafra’s head of state.  More than any other person, Ojukwu was…

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What happens when a retired commando becomes the bodyguard of his former girlfriend who is vying for the governorship of the most important state in a volatile West African country? I On a wet and cold Saturday morning, as he slouched on the sofa in his flat and wished there was a warm female anatomy to take the chill out of his bones, Dandra Eguze got a phone call. The caller was a woman, judging from her rich, refined voice, a voice which was unfamiliar to the forty-eight year old retired army Major. She requested him to come to Kenny…

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Henry Chukwuemeka Onyema History deals with facts, not opinions or what we would have loved to be the facts. I took the pains to read the citation or profile bio written by Astha Rajvanshi, the TIME magazine staff writer for Tinubu’s inclusion in the ‘leaders’ category of the 100 most influential people for this year determined by the journal. There was no falsehood in it. Anyone who has knowledge of the struggle that restored democracy to Nigeria on 29 May 1999 knows that Tinubu’s heroic role cannot be denied. He put his life on the line, and if not for…

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