Biafra Failed Because The War Was Not Fought Before It Began

By Osita Ebiem

At this stage in their collective history it will be very naïve of any Igbo politician of repute, business investor or elite of any shade not to have thought seriously about the anticipated and inevitable breakup of the Nigerian union. The mark of the good politician or leader in any field is being foresighted. The Igbo leader is not only the one that thinks and acts in the interest of the collective, they are able to predict future events and believe in their predictions enough by making concrete efforts to prepare and position themselves, the institution and people they represent to benefit or at the least, not lose as much as they would have when the event eventually occurs. It is always better to be prepared and the event never happens than to be caught unprepared or even under-prepared. The Igbo leader is the one who is able to think of those things that may never happen like they would. Every Igbo leader or any Igbo at all alive today is supposed to have simulated every aspect of what will happen to them and their people after the disintegration of Nigeria. True Igbo leadership is all about responsibility to the people you lead; thinking and planning ahead for them and actually conducting your activities like you mean what you say or think.

Let’s look at the above position in the light of the Biafra War. In the history books and the accounts of witnesses it is well known that the Nigerian state was the aggressor in the war. Nigeria with the help of Great Britain, USSR and the Arab nations combined forces and fought dirty to defeat Biafra in 1970. With that said it is true that Biafra lost the War because of the formidable forces that allied themselves against the new nation. Yet, as it is with other complex things in life, if we looked close enough we will see other reasons why Biafrans failed in their justified first attempt at Self Determination and independence. As we go on we will find an uncomfortable lapse on the side of Igbo leaders. We will see that the War was lost not as a result of lack of courage or necessarily because of the seemingly insurmountable odds against Biafra. Biafrans had all the courage they needed because someone said that Biafrans did not just fight hard and well as heroes, he said that heroes fight like Biafrans. Biafrans so demonstrated courage and bravery against odds that today people equate Biafra with, apart from Freedom and Human Dignity; Heroism!

Map of Defunct Republic of Biafra
 Photo Above: Map of Defunct Republic of Biafra

Over the years Biafra has become synonymous with those who do heroic things. Today it is believed that whoever that is a Biafran is a hero and does things that befit heroes. But fighting and defending oneself and others as heroes do might sound impressive to some, especially when a vulnerable people come under the threat of total extermination. But when we consider it by a different standard we may be surprised to see that there may not be much in it to be proud of after all. Life force is among the most powerful forces in existence. In summer time, I have seen green grasses grow almost lush in cracks in the middle of busy roads where ten thousand vehicles run on every day. That is an excellent example of the power of the will to survive that is inherent in living things. For grass existence, to endure such harsh and impossible conditions and still survive and maybe thrive is commendable. But here we are talking about human beings with higher intellects than mere grasses. Nature endowed humans with the power of the intellect that enables them to not just exist but determine their existence. Humans have the capacity to, through the power of their mind, determine the quality of their existence here on Earth. This explains the saying; to whom much is given, much is expected.
For Igbo/Biafrans, it is not enough to fight and defend their right to life; they are expected to do more than that. When in the 1980s Nigerian Muslims recommenced the Islamic jihad on the Igbo in Kano and other cities in the North of Nigeria under the name Maitatsine; a variant of today’s Boko Haram, the Igbo after overcoming the initial shock of surprise attack, rose up and defended themselves. The Nigerian government just like today could not defend them. There were Igbo businessmen that had shops in the city that sold guns. They took a quick decision and emptied their stores by distributing the guns to fellow Igbo in Sabon Gari, Kano. Their attackers backed down when their Islamic beheading knives and daggers were matched with Igbo guns and ammunition. We can go on and list other such heroic moments when the Igbo came together and fought as one against a common enemy. Yet, as commendable as the action of self-defense is, for the Igbo to not just survive but become secure and prosperous, they must take it a step further from that basic level. They must shift their attention from fighting survival battles, and learn to come together and fight future battles before they begin.

All progressive societies around the world at one point in their history confronted this truth and recognized its significance to their success. There is no nation or a group of people that has made any significant progress by remaining at the level of the reactionary. The Igbo nation of today must come to the realization that if she must live successfully in this world, then she must learn to take the initiative in all areas of human endeavors. Igbo people must become offensive and take the fight to the enemy territory rather than lead a carefree existence and only fight back when attacked. The Igbo of this generation must position their nation to begin to take advantage of the works of past generations. Again that is the hallmark of all progressive societies; the ability to stand on the shoulders of past generations rather than let each new generation start from the scratch. It is only lower animals and plants that start afresh at every new season. Even then they have the advantage of their natural instinct and self-adjusting genetic coding capability to compensate for what they lost in their lack of the ability to process complex information and stimuli and make adjustments ahead of events. 

Ojukwu Inspecting Guard of Honour
Photo Above: Ojukwu, Ex-Biafran Leader Inspecting Guard of Honour

From available evidences Igbo leaders, politicians and intellectuals failed to fight the Biafra War ten, twenty years before it began. Such lapses on the side of the people in responsible positions in Igbo/Biafra Land are unacceptable and must never happen again. Contrary to Igbo people’s attitude about the country, the others in Nigeria never hid their negative feelings and intentions against the Igbo long before the 1966 Igbo pogrom/genocide that led up to the 1967 to 1970 war. For any careful observer it was not difficult to see how the Hausa, Fulani, Yoruba and others fought their own side of the war long before it began. They won the War not necessarily because of the combined forces of Britain, Soviet Union, Egypt and the Arab League of Nations. (Readers who care to pursue this point further are encouraged to listen to and read what the Ahmadu Bellos and others of Nigeria had to say about Igbo people ten, twenty years before the War). The present generation of Igbo people cannot afford to allow the repeat of that pre-War mistake. The leaders must learn to think and plan ahead while calling the bluff of the frowning faces of demagogues who flaunt before them the catch phrases; “you want to break up the country,” “you want to be rebels”. Igbo leaders, politicians and intellectuals must stop falling victims of the trap of wanting to please these Nigerian browbeaters by recoiling and apologizing for their very existence. They must stop being content with just living for the moment and “safe” so that no one accuses them of “trying to break up the country”. Nigeria should have broken up long before now, anyway. The union should never have been in the first place.
Anyone for that matter, but especially Igbo leaders in any capacity should be concerned about what verdict the next generation would pass on what they did or failed to do. If the present Igbo political leadership and intellectuals failed to see ten, twenty years before now the eventual breakup of Nigeria and emergence of an independent and sovereign Igbo or Biafra nation then something is wrong. By today they ought to have completed all preparations needed to run a successful Igbo/Biafra nation state, separate from Nigeria.
It is gross negligence and irresponsibility on the side of Igbo political, business and intellectual leaders of today to be so concerned about what their neighbors, “the frowning demagogues” will say or just being “conscious” of the feelings of the others who are working only for their own people’s benefits, and fail to work for the improvement of the fortunes of the present and future of Igbo people. We are not stretching the truth when we say that the current Islamic Boko Haram scourge against Igbo/Biafrans would never have happened if Igbo intellectuals and leaders had prepared for it ten to twenty years before it began. If this tide of death and destruction that is continuously unleashed on the Igbo in Nigeria must be turned away then Igbo leaders and intellectuals must resolve to reverse this collective suicidal trend of only reacting after the heads of their people have been Islamic-ally cut off.
At this point there may still be those who are yet to be convinced and are still bent on finding “solutions” by finding ways through which Igbo people will continue to coexist with the rest of Nigerians in the same country; that is not a problem. It is the duty of the collective Igbo/Biafran leaders and thinkers to patiently work harder still to persuade such persons. No single Igbo or Biafran will be left behind. Igbo opinion leaders, politicians, intellectuals and business people must find a way to patiently educate and persuade every Igbo/Biafra skeptic on why their only option is living independently away from Nigeria. Let them show the people why one-Nigeria is not and can never be an option for Igbo people. Igbo leaders and intellectuals must find the way to convince the residual doubters that the fault or impossibility of a one-Nigerian state is too fundamental and practically irreconcilable. The fault line lies at the center of the unbridgeable differences in the way of life of the various peoples that make up one-Nigeria. The cultural/religious diversities existing amongst the various ethnic peoples that comprise the Nigerian union are irreconcilable. It is the duty of Igbo leaders to convince the unbelievers among their people that culture and a people’s way of doing things is the very essence of the people’s being and cannot be compromised. Let them know that it is the reason why people everywhere fight to death to preserve the way they do things as distinct from those of others. It is the duty of Igbo leaders to convince their people on the fact that no matter the rhetoric on the contrary, no one will win the war for one-Nigeria. It is an ideological warfare, a cultural/religious browbeating. And to win is to begin by positioning the Igbo nation and showing the people how to fight the next Biafra and all other Igbo/Biafra wars before they begin.


The Matter Already Discussed - An Igbo Play

"The Matter Already Discussed," shows the love between two young people, Ibe and Ugomma. Their love began when they were still in high school and continued, despite the disapproval of Ibe's father, until the two of them said their vows and became husband and wife. It will be something for young boys and girls to consider and to decide if that type of behavior is good for them to follow.

Mr. Basil Joe Nwakuba wrote this play.

Cast of Characters
Ibe -- Young high school boy
Obike -- His father
Ogbediya -- His mother
Mmaji -- His sister
Nwanyinkwo -- Obike's mother
Okwuchi -- Obike's sister
Onwukwe -- Ibe's friend
Ike -- Okwuchi's son
Nneka -- Okwuchi's young daughter
Nwamkpa -- Obike's firstborn son
Ugomma -- Young high school girl
Nweke -- Her father
Diwumma -- Her mother
Chinwe -- Their child
Mbakwe -- Nweke's brother 
Izukamma, Nwaizu -- Nweke's relatives 

Scene 1

(On the school road, Ibe comes out of school to go home, looks behind him and sees Ugomma, another student, coming. He begins to go very slowly until Ugomma catches up to him.) 

Ugomma: Ibe, since you have arrived here, have classes been dismissed before you left? 

Ibe: They have been dismissed.

Ugomma: Aha, you are holding a charm. Are you perhaps waiting for someone?

Ibe: Yes! I am holding a charm. It is that one you prepared for me. (He moves a bit closer to meet Ugo, who goes past him.)

Ugomma: Hmm. I think there is someone you are waiting for. 

Ibe: Whom do you think I am waiting for? Is there anyone coming now besides you? 

Ugomma: Is there a message?

Ibe: Yes ... 

Ugomma: Quickly, give it then. (She keeps on moving.) 

Ibe: Wait for me. Can someone bite you from a distance? (Ugo pauses.)

Ibe: (in a low voice.) Ugo, why are you doing this? What ... ? What about the ... 

Ugomma: (In a loud voice.) Please, Ibe, tell me quickly, so I can go home, time is passing. I don't want anyone to ask me meaningless questions when I get home now. 

Ibe: It concerns the matter I talked to you about the other day. I do not know what you thought. 

Ugomma: What matter is that? 

Ibe: Have you forgotten? You women. I really don't know why you act so crazy sometimes. 

Ugomma: (She goes close to Ibe.) Honestly, I have forgotten what it is. Please remind me, don't be angry. 

Ibe: (He smiles.) What I told you that day when it was trying to rain, you and I and Onwukwe came out into the Nwozuzu compound before he went home. I know that you remember what it is now.

Ugomma: (Angrily, with a loud voice.) Please, if there is nothing you want to tell me, you should forget it so I can go home. You are going to make them question me about where I went since school was dismissed. (She steps away to leave.) 

Ibe: (He acts as though he wants to approach Ugo.) Quickly, come now. It is that I told you that day that your behavior pleased me and it will please me if we become ... 

Ugomma: (She interrupts the remaining words out of his mouth.) O o o o. So that is why you have been beating around the bush ever since. What is bad or shameful in in it? 

Ibe: No o o. Ugo my sister, you know that I do not know how to find the right words to ask you so that you do not get angry, because I saw how you frowned the first day that I started to speak to you about the matter.

Ugomma: No o o. There was no anger in it but I just wanted to tell you this:  There are things one can discuss in public, and there are also things one sits down and talks about humbly.

Ibe: That is true. But what then shall we do now? Will you come to our house, so you can find out what I ... 

Ugomma: (She interrupts him forcefully.) No no no! How can I come looking for you by coming to your house? Whom then should I say that I am looking for? 

Ibe: All right. Then I shall come soon. Which day do you want me to come? So that trouble ... 

Ugomma: Any day you like. I am not going anywhere. 

Ibe: Good, I will tell you in school which day I will come. Goodbye. 

Ugomma: All right, goodbye.

Scene 2
(The evening of the next day. After the market people have gone Ibe goes to see Ugo at her house. Ugo is in the compound reading. Ibe enters very quietly. He touches his hand to her throat.)

Ugomma: Mother of mine! (She jumps up, startled.) O o o Ibe! I knew that no one else would behave like this. You really scared me.

Ibe: Hey! Ugo! You were really scared while I was behind you, you were really absorbed in this book you were reading. So how is your family?

Ugomma: They are well. My mother and the others have gone to market.

Ibe: And your brothers and sisters? 

Ugomma: They have gone to the forest to gather firewood. They have all gone out.

Ibe: Ugo, what is this that you are reading? Is there some homework we were given? 

Ugomma: Ibe, first take a chair and sit down. You have come with your big question and I don't want anyone to bring a guest for me. [Refers to superstitious belief that if a guest remains standing it will cause another guest to appear.] There is a chair. (She brings a chair for Ibe.)

Ibe: (Sits down.) Now I have sat down. You know what follows when a chair is brought to a person. 

Ugomma: What follows when a chair is brought to a person?

Ibe: Kola nut, of course! Or are you not an Igbo?

Ugomma: I have no kola nut. Unless you want to read a little.

Ibe: Ugo, time is passing. Let me be able to reach home before it gets dark.

Ugomma: Well, what do you want me to do? Haven't I told you that I have no kola? 

Ibe: What kola, forget about kola. Is kola food?

Ugomma: What should I do then? 

Ibe: Ugo, look, you are no longer a child. Our elders say that when a matter has already been discussed, it is agreed to with only a nod of the head.

Ugomma: Ibe, have you come again with these proverbs that you use to scare us in class? I say that anyone who has something to say to me should tell it to me outright. I do not understand proverbs.

Ibe: All right. A long story is not good for the evening mass. Then what about the thing we discussed the day before yesterday? What did you think about it? 

Ugomma: Ibe, you know that it is getting dark, so I will not waste time to tell you what my thoughts are because the time is approaching when the market people will start to return. You have seen for yourself that beginning from our first year in high school up until this last one that we are in now, I have been very interested in you just as you have been in me. Therefore, I don't have much to say except to tell you to tell your mother and father as I will also tell my people and find out what they will say. Because they are still educating us. Whatever one [of us] finds out, let him inform the other. 

Ibe: Ugo, you have done well. I like everything you said. You speak like one who has taken breast milk to the full. But what I want to tell you before I go is this: Try, take this kind of wisdom that you have, call your mother aside and tell her about our conversation. Through her, your father will find out. And then for my part, I will try with all my powers to go through my mother to inform my father. It is true that we are still students who are still being educated. But our own students are different; we will finish our studies this year, and if God helps us, we will come out and we will find work immediately. Have you heard what I said? I will start going home. (He rises to leave.) Stay well. Good night.

Ugomma: Fine. Good night. Good journey.

Ibe: Oh! Goodness! When will we see each other again to find out where the palm kernel-beater has put his pestle? [find out what progress has been made and what to do next] 

Ugomma: M-m-m, let it be next week. 

Ibe: No-o. Next week is too far away. I want us to start this evening. Start talking about it and in about two days I will come and we will know what we are facing. 

Ugomma: All right. Come then the day after tomorrow. Let me see if an opportunity will come to me this evening to tell my mother.

Ibe: All right. Goodbye. 

Ugomma: Goodbye. 

The lights go out. 


Akuuwa - An Igbo Play, Act One

"Akuuwa" tells about what is happening these days concerning various religions that are springing up like mushrooms, along with "good" things their leaders like Akuuwa are doing. If you keep on tricking a foolish person, he becomes wise. Also, the house rat tells the bush rat that the mound of pumpkin seeds is in the basket. "Follow what I say but don't follow what I do" is a bad thing. It is bad enough when it concerns an ordinary person but it is worse where it concerns a church leader.

Indeed, worldly wealth is useless. Searching for it requires that there be dignity according to the work one should do and says that at best it should become a work of love. But the amassing of worldly wealth by hook or by crook is a bad thing. It is the worst if the life of the person seeking this worldly wealth has no peace. Something like this brings ruination of the reputation and a bad life whose end is destruction.

In the play "Akuuwa," a man whose name is Akuuwa has not found peace in all the places he worked, whether in teaching or in company work, because of  great desire, greed and the pleasures of the world. Even when he took himself to be the leader of the Holy Spirit Church, he could not forget his past life. It is said that what makes the muskrat smell is inside its body, for if it were outside its body the rain would have beaten it out. Read this play, discover the type of life Akuuwa lived and where it led him.

It was written by Mrs. Constance Nlemadim, Mr. Harold Ewelukwa and Anunobi Okezie.

Cast of Characters
 Akuuwa -- Leader of the Church of the Holy Spirit
Sera -- Akuuwa's wife
Ibe -- their servant
Ekwekwe, Arinze, Ukoha, Nnodi -- Elders of the Church of the Holy Spirit, conspirators against Akuuwa
Nwugo -- Ekwekwe's wife
Ukandu -- A seer
Apostle -- One who prepares the house of prayer
Magistrate -- Chief of the court
Court Clerk -- Clerk of the court
Policeman -- One who sees that there is no disturbance
Corporal Okafo -- One who arrests fighters
Church Members -- Others who come to pray
First person, Second person, Third person, Fourth person, Irechi, Amadi -- Townspeople


(In the house of a prophet. It is morning. Akuuwa wakes up, chewing on his chewing-stick. His wife, Sera, enters; they start to talk about the church service they will attend that morning.)

Akuuwa: (Sighs deeply.) Today's prayer...

Sera: Today's prayer, what happened?

Akuuwa: Sera, my wife, I feel so weak today. If it were not for the need to work in order to eat, I would have felt like resting today.

Sera: Master, do you rest because we have become rich, or what? Don't you also know that the ear does not rest if the jaw is still chewing something? Has this laziness come back again? It was also laziness that made them let you go from your Company job!

Akuuwa: All the time you talk about laziness, laziness. Talk about things you know something about. I told you that it was Ahumibe's accusation against me, saying that I took bribes, that made them fire me. I don't want to hear this type of talk from your mouth again. (He is silent for a little while.) Ibe! Ibe!!

Ibe: (Runs in.) I'm here.

Akuuwa: Some people said that they were going to come before the church service starts, so we can pray for them. Go and see if they have come. (Ibe goes out.)

Sera: Who are those people you are expecting so specially? Go and have your bath so you will be ready to go.

Akuuwa: Woman, leave me alone. Why hurry to lick your finger, are you going to fold your hands on the shelf?

Sera: If I have to tell you again to have your bath, you will know that it was not Okonkwo [her own father] who gave birth to me. [That is, I own myself -- I am a woman of my word.]

Akuuwa: Have you prepared water for my bath? (He gets up and goes to bathe as Ibe enters.) Ibe, have they come?

Ibe: Sir! Adamma and her young sister are there. It has been a long time since they arrived.

Akuuwa: Really! Go quickly and get me my prayer garment. (Ibe enters the house and fetches the prayer garment.)

Sera: Who is Adamma, expecting you so early this morning? Is this why you are not going to bathe this morning? (Akuuwa ignores her. Ibe enters and starts to hand him his garment. Sera forcibly snatches the garment from him. Ibe quietly slips out.) Haven't you heard my question? Is it that you don't know who Adamma is? Adamma! Adamma! Adamma whose razor is sharp for shaving men's heads. [Refers to Adamma's reputation for bad behavior toward men.] Heei! Please, what is your business with Adamma?

Akuuwa: Sera, my good woman (gently), is it really you talking like this? Have you forgotten what is written in the Bible?

Sera: What is written in the Bible? Does the Bible tell you that Adamma came and you should not have your morning bath?

Akuuwa: Have you forgotten what is written in the Bible where Christ said that he came because of sinners and not because of the righteous? He also said that a healthy person does not need a doctor. She wants me to say prayers for her.

Sera: That bird that cries and a human being dies, don't cry again. [Don't give me that same old story.]When death wants to take the dog it doesn't let him smell feces; did the things that bad young women did to you in your work as teacher not teach you anything? Rub your eyes. Think for yourself. The world is a fearful place.

Akuuwa: (In a soft voice.) Sera! Don't allow enemies to hear what you are saying. Hide me like the pumpkin hides its fruit. Haven't you had any faith that since we have entered into the Lord, my life has changed? That's enough. Let me go and bathe and let's not quarrel. (He rises and goes to bathe.)

Sera: (Sits down, looking around, thinking about what she is going to do.) Oh dear! What kind of husband have I married? When a person has something happen once and then it happens again, will he not learn some sense from it? If you shoot once and hit a tree, shoot a second time and hit a tree, was it the tree that carved the arrow? In the two years he worked as a teacher, the only thing he did was to chase after women like the cattle egret follows the cow around. He kept on living this type of life, got Aghaulo's wife pregnant, and then he was sacked. Which story shall I tell and leave out the rest? Is it the night journeys he used to go on when he worked for the Company? Or is it his constant drunkenness when he drank himself silly? When we started this prayer house I thanked God that everything was well. But now--hewuu! And now I discover that the thing that makes a muskrat smell is inside his body; if it had been outside his body, the rain would have washed it away. All right, let me be watching him and Adamma. (She rises and goes out in anger.)

The lights go out.


Akuuwa - An Igbo Play, Act Two

(In the house of prayer. Adamma is reading the Bible. An apostle is arranging the house of prayer, lighting candles and setting out the cross and holy water. He also lights incense and its smoke fills the whole place; the supplicants start to come in one by one; as each enters, he removes his shoes at the door. Everyone wears a long white garment. As each person enters, he kneels down and prays before he takes a seat.)

Apostle: Hallelu u u!

Congregation: Hallelujah.

Apostle: Hallelu u u!

Congregation: Hallelujah.

Apostle: Ho o o!

Congregation: Hosanna.

Apostle: Ho o o!

Congregation: Hosanna.

Apostle: Praise the Lord!

Congregation: Amen.

Apostle: Praise the Lord!

Congregation: Amen.

Apostle: (Starts a hymn. The gong and drum sound. Some people are clapping.)

    It will please me
    To be a friend of Jesus
    To be a friend of Jesus
    To be His friend, Oh yes.
    It will please me
    To be a friend of Jesus . . .

(When they finish singing this, they sing another one; while they are singing the last one, Akuuwa, the prophet, enters.)

Akuuwa: Hallelu u u!

Congregation: Hallelujah.

Akuuwa: Hallelu u u!

Congregation: Hallelujah.

Akuuwa: Let us pray to God. In the name of Jesus!

Congregation: A-a-men.

Akuuwa: In the name of Je-e-sus!

Congregation: A-a-men.

Akuuwa: In the name of Je-e-sus!

Congregation: A-a-men.

Akuuwa: God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego; God of Daniel, David and Dorcas; God of Moses, Miriam and Aaron. God of the children of Israel, a fearsome mountain to climb, a great rock who
saves, who is completely omniscient, He answers when He is called. What do You lack? Owner of heaven and earth. All the ancients begged You, and you satisfied them. When our time comes, will you fail to satisfy us?

Congregation: Jesus no-o!

Akuuwa: Please come and fulfill us in everything we ask for.

Congregation: A-a-men.

Akuuwa: Give us long life, give us wealth, it is You who placed us in this
world, and told us to care for everything in it. Master, give us storied houses, cars, money, a wealth of people; permit our leaders to have cars like the leaders of the Catholic church, the C.M.S., Methodist and other churches; so that cars will be everywhere in the compound when Your children come to pray to You as in other churches; so we will not then be called the "church of the hungry." A person who has nothing, let him have a bicycle; let the prophet drive a car, the apostles, motorcycles; allow all the prominent people who live in Ekeoji to come, kneel down to You in this church so that we may get money to build a great church for You, larger than any building in Ekeoji. In the name of Jesus!

Congregation: A-a-men.

Akuuwa: Take from us all kinds of temptations, and give us strength to
overcome our enemies, in the name of Jesus!

Congregation: A-a-men.

Akuuwa: Is there anyone who has seen any visions?

Ukandu: In the name of Jesus!

Congregation: A-a-men.

Ukandu: Before God and man, what I am going to say is what I saw. During the prayer, I saw a person with his face covered; I didn't know who it was. He came and tore apart this white garment, took one half of it and ran off.

Apostle: God! Snatch away the devil's power!

Congregation: A-a-amen.

Apostle: Devil, fall into the ocean!

Congregation: A-a-men.

Apostle: God! Snatch away the devil's power!

Congregation: A-a-men.

Sera: In the name of Jesus!

Congregation: A-a-men.

Sera: Before God and man, this thing I am going to say is what I saw. I saw Adamma wandering around people's farms, picking any fruit she wanted, regardless of the owners of the farms; she went from one person's farm to another. Adamma, whoever's farm you are on now, I see a great big pit in front of you. Stand! Adamma stand! Do not set your foot down again, because if you do, you will fall into a terrible big pit. In the name of Jesus!

Congregation: A-a-amen.

Sera: Adamma will fast for seven days. She will bring seven candles, to be used in praying for her until the end of those seven days.

Akuuwa: Hallelu u!

Congregation: Hallelujah.

Akuuwa: Hallelu u u!

Congregation: Hallelujah.

Akuuwa: Hallelu u u!

Congregation: Hallelujah.

Akuuwa: Before God and man, what I am going to say is what I saw. I saw the country of Nigeria being molded, sand was mixed in, mixed in, clay and dirt molded it. It was very heavy but also small. One huge person then came out, lifted it and threw it to the ground; it broke like chalk. I counted nineteen pieces, and then it went out of my sight. In the name of Jesus!

Congregation: A-a-amen.

Akuuwa: Another thing I saw resembled the face of Brother Jude. I saw him lying on his ragged mat, spread on the ground; he was frowning. A man came out and lifted him up, carried him to a huge, well-built and decorated chair and put him down on it. Now it is our responsibility that Brother Jude should pray fervently so that this vision should become a good one. In the name of Jesus!

Congregation: A-a-amen.

Akuuwa: Hallelu-u-u!

Congregation: Hallelujah.

Akuuwa: All those who have been seen in visions come out so we can pray for them. It is also something for which to praise God that my wife, Sera, began to see visions today. (All these people go before the altar and kneel down.) Hallelu-u-u!

Congregation: Halleluja-ah.

Akuuwa: God of Abraham and Isaac, God of Jacob and David. The head of the stream that washes the heart, one who answers when he is called, the omniscient one who knows all, one who cares for the poor, please, oh come and hear our voices. Our master, we have heard the revelations you have made known to us through Ukandu. We beg You to take Your grace and keep the devil from entering the congregation of Your children. Take Your power and strike out the power of the devil.

Congregation: A-a-men.

Akuuwa: Use Your power to strike out the power of the devil.

Congregation: A-a-amen.

Akuuwa: Use your power to strike out the power of the devil.

Congregation: A-a-men.

Akuuwa: Our master, meeting the needs of the holy spirit is important, as it is to You, but meeting the needs of the flesh is man's responsibility. If an itch irritates a wild animal he will go to a tree trunk, but if it irritates a man, his fellow man will scratch it for him. Adamma is a woman of created by the work of your hand, so do not allow her to fall into the pit that my wife dug ... er ... saw before her. Show her the way she must follow to hide from her enemies, in the name of Jesus.

Congregation: A-a-amen.

Akuuwa: Our master, my wife Sera just started today to see visions; it is something to praise You for that you opened her eyes concerning the person of Adamma; then she saw a vision. Praise be to You!

Congregation: A-a-amen.

Akuuwa: Our master, may Your will be done concerning this great country of Nigeria. In the name of Jesus!

Congregation: A-a-amen.

Akuuwa: Hallelu-u-u!

Congregation: Hallelujah.

Akuuwa: Ho-o-o!

Congregation: Hosanna. (The supplicants go back to their benches.)

Akuuwa: The Lord be with you all.

Congregation: May He be also with your spirit.

The lights go out.


Akuuwa - An Igbo Play, Act Three

(In the house of Ekwekwe. Ekwekwe is at home, reading the Bible. Nnodi enters, he raises his head and says to him, "Welcome, Nnodi," and buries his face in the book he is reading. His eyeglasses fall onto the bridge of his nose like those of a committee of elders.)

Nnodi: Ekwekwe, when I came to your house, you acted as though you did not see me, is there any peace? Has that Bible you are reading made you into
someone who stays in one place while his mind is in another?

Ekwekwe: (Sighs, turns to face Nnodi) Don't take offense, my brother. It is said that when you come to the house of someone who is working at a craft, he seems to look gloomy. Was there any quarrel between you and me before now? Something happened to the cocoyam's waist to make it cry "nwiii." The toad does not run in the daytime for nothing.

Nnodi: (In surprise) What happened? I know very well that this is not how you were at first when I came in and looked at your face and found out that something was not the way it used to be. Is there no peace in your household? Has the illness that Sera has been suffering started up again?

Ekwekwe: Nnodi, my friend, there is no trouble in my household; rather, you know that when the legs wobble back and forth, the eye that watches it goes back and forth with it.

Nnodi: Ekwekwe, I have not fully comprehended these proverbs you are giving today. Whoever carved the ikoro drum should widen its teeth, because ...

(Nwugo enters, carrying kolanut)

Nwugo: (Kneels and gives the kolanut to her husband.) Brother Nnodi, welcome. How are your family? I trust that our Sister and her children are in good health?

Nnodi: There is no trouble. The only sickness we have is hunger.

Nwugo: Hunger is a small matter when one is healthy. One whose life is complete and has high expectations, our master will help and bring what is needed to nourish the life he gave us. He says we should stop thinking about tomorrow, because tomorrow will take care of itself.

Nnodi: That is true, my Sister. How about your children? I trust that they are very well?

Nwugo: They are all fine.

Nnodi: Praise be to Jesus.

Nwugo: Amen. (He then goes out.)

Ekwekwe: Isn't it true that when kola comes it brings on talking. Nnodi, kola
has come. (He then shows him the kola. While this is taking place, Ukoha and Arinze knock on the door.)

Ekwekwe: Whoever is knocking on the door, come on in! (They come in.) O o o, Ukoha! Welcome! Arinze, was this a planned thing? Sit down. You have seen the kola we have in our hands. This shows that you wish us well. (He carries the kola to Ukoha.)

Ukoha: He is right. My brother, look now. (He carries the kola to Arinze.)

Arinze: The kola is good. The chief's kola has returned to the chief. (He carries it to Ekwekwe.)

Ekwekwe: God, we thank you that you have preserved our lives until today. We beg for good things and health. If someone says that we should die without enjoying life to the full, let him go to sleep before the chickens. [May he die early.] He who works, let him eat. We hold the staffs of innocence and justice o! Please, come and bless this kola for us in the name of Jesus our master.

The Others: Amen o!

Nnodi: I have looked around and seen that it is we, we who are here, our people say that if people stay together to eat vulture, they solve their problems [literally, "the basket is brought down"]. It is not that our conversation before (he looks at Arinze and Ukoha) you came was anything secret where you are concerned.

Ekwekwe: (Coughs, looks around like someone looking for something.) My brothers, welcome. What Nnodi said is right. Not long ago I was thinking how I was going to call you all together because when we see each other, things do not go wrong. Now I see that it is the will of God causing all of us to meet together at this time. They say that if you meet behind a strong man in secret, you will have to do it a second time. (He is silent for a moment, looking calm.) Nnodi, you were asking about the look on my face when you entered. It seems to me that none of you is giving thought to how this church of ours is getting along and how Akuuwa is behaving against us. It seems as if he is still involved in the wrongdoing which was the type of life this man must have been living for a long time before he began to do this church work. We all thought that he had changed. But his behavior at times shows that no matter how the rain beats down on the guinea fowl, it still has its spots. You know very well that a person in this type of position now should be a holy person, one who keeps himself clean both in spirit and in flesh. Anyone who has the eyes of an animal-hunter will see what is happening in our house of prayer, and will know that there is something hidden going on between Akuuwa and Adamma.

Ukoha: There is truth in what Ekwekwe said. I did not know that there was anyone else seeing what I was seeing.

Arinze: About Adamma that is a small matter. (He then says h...m...m.)
The palm wine tapper does not reveal everything he sees from the top of the palm tree.

Ekwekwe: The gifts that are given to our prayer house, we know nothing about them. The collections we contribute among ourselves and those that come from other areas, do you know how they are going along? (They look around at each other and shake their heads.) I ask you to tell me how they are going along. Did you know that a storied house is being built in his village, Ndiako, now? (They all jump in surprise.)

Nnodi: Ekwekwe, is what you are saying really true, or are you joking?

Ukoha: I had gone out one day, and he and some man were talking in low voices. I heard them handling bags of cement, sand, blocks, planks, zinc, iron pokers. It has been three months now. It puzzles me greatly as to what he was using these things to do.

Ekwekwe: If it puzzles you, you should look down at the ground and find out what is going on in our church; you all have your heads in the clouds. You did not know that at that time he was preparing for that house. Go and see the house he started three months ago, that it is completely finished. Is he printing money? Or is he a thief?

Arinze: You ask if he is printing money, it is also that he who holds the yam, holds the knife, and the one for whom he slices it open does the eating. He is the pastor and the collector of the money as well as the keeper of the money. What did you think would happen? Did anyone inquire about him? You all know that Brother Jude, the man we prayed for more than a month ago in the house of prayer, to obtain a good job and send us one bag of money? (Ukoha and Nnodi then shouted separately in surprise.)

Ekwekwe: I don't know if there is anyone else who heard anything like this. The matter of this money goes along with what I had in mind and wanted to tell you. It has been more than four months since I heard about it. I kept thinking that he would tell us about it, but until today I haven't heard the slightest thing. Sleep that lasts for a week turns into death. What do you all think?

Nnodi: It is not that we do not know what we can say, or what we can do. There are many things that we can do, but I am afraid of this man. The person who does not know who is his superior is dead.

Ekwekwe: What are you afraid of? Is he not your fellow man?

Nnodi: You also asked what caused the sudden death of Dimkpa and the violent death of Ahumibe. You have forgotten that it was Ahumibe who was the one who revealed that he accepted a bribe, which caused him to be dismissed from his job. Dimkpa, in his own area, went and started a fight with him in his house because he was trying to take his wife away from him. If you have completely forgotten these things, what about the thing that happened yesterday only--that Akumefula came to him to collect a debt and they then argued, insulted each other, and he lost his life because of it. A man in his own house had his testicles squeezed. Can it be that you do not know that it was praying that he used to pray these people to death?

Ukoha: This prayer you spoke of, was it different? Was it the same prayer that all of us pray?

Nnodi: Have you all asked what he is doing with the that thing that looks like the face of a spirit that is behind his house? Don't you know that that is the place where he brings out the soul of the one he wants to kill and takes out that person's life in the twinkling of an eye. (The others are startled and shout out in sadness.)

Ukoha: Ha ... w u u! Is that what he is doing there? Is that what caused the red candle and blood to pour out there all the time? No wonder he commits atrocities without fear of anyone great or small.

Arinze: Now I understand the meaning of the words that Ibe, his servant, spoke concerning the type of mysterious prayer that only his master prayed, in the dead of night, behind the house.

Ekwekwe: I am happy that you are understanding the type of person Akuuwa is. You do not have to tell a deaf person that the market has started up, nor do you tell a mature adult to come out of the sun. It is not necessary to gossip about something that is common knowledge. It is up to us now to say what our position will be with regard to this man in the House of Prayer. If the corpse does not make any noise, it is carried across his father's compound. If a person is silent, his chi is silent. What do you all think? Shall we keep on waiting and watching to see what will happen?

Arinze: My thought in this matter is to consider how we can smash that shrine of his. That is all I have to say.

Ukoha: I support what Arinze has said because it will cause his power to fail. If you take from a man what he uses to be good, his goodness is spoiled.

Nnodi: In my mind, I think that it would be better if we ourselves would break away from his House of Prayer and start one of our own. Let him carry his trouble with him to his church. One to whom something has happened before should be wise, and come out iinto the world before the abomination.

Ekwekwe: These pieces of advice you all have given are very good, but I am thinking that if we leave that shrine of his alone and expose him [take him by force] before the House of Prayer, he will go there and pray us to death as Nnodi said. But if we go and smash the shrine and still remain as members of his House of Prayer, there will be no peace between him and us. Therefore, I am thinking that we should definitely take both of these counsels. We will smash the shrine and also break away from his House of Prayer. Do you all agree with this? Or shall we let everything go and accept disgusting insults when we accompany our friends to the market?

Arinze: God forbid!

Ukoha: It would be like a person washing his hands to break a palmnut for a chicken. Have we forgotten what the Bible says? "One who loses his life shall receive it, but one who thinks of only his own life will lose it at the end."

Nnodi: I have seen that the hearts of all people are the same. Since one person standing alone is bitten to death by flies, I agree with what you all have said; let it be like when you are mixing juju and it starts to take effect immediately. Time should not be wasted, what is to be done should be started. He has burned us together in the fire.

Ekwekwe: I am very pleased at the way our voices are united. When a seed bears fruit and ripens on the same day, it is not a good seed. You should go home and leave the rest to me. Be listening for my message. You have done well. Let it rest now. (They rise to leave.)

Nnodi: You have done well. We will go home.

Ukoha: Thank your wife. Goodbye.

Arinze: (Shakes Ekwekwe's hand.) The discussion is over. It will be confirmed by a nod. Let's go.

The lights go out.

Akuuwa - An Igbo Play, Act Four

(In Akuuwa's house. Akuuwa and his wife are not at home, but Ibe, their servant is there. Ekwekwe, Arinze, Nnodi and Ukoha, well prepared, have hidden their knives in their bags. They stand in the path near Akuuwa's house. Akuuwa's shrine is behind his house.)

Ekwekwe: Wait for me here while I check out the land. (He leaves them and goes to the front of Akuuwa's house. Ibe is sweeping the house. He knocks on the door.)

Ibe: Who is knocking? Enter!

Ekwekwe: Ibe, are your master and his wife at home?

Ibe: They are not at home. They both went out together.

Ekwekwe: Do you know where they went? Have they been gone long?

Ibe: I don't know. They did not tell me where they were going, but it has not been long since they left.

Ekwekwe: Good. We are coming now. (He then leaves and goes to the members of his group.) The coast is clear. They are not at home. Quickly, everything, speedily, speedily. (They all then stream into Akuuwa's house.)

Ekwekwe: Ibe! Come. There is some work the Holy Spirit has given us to do in this house at this time. Whether the owners are at home or not. We will carry out the task he has given us. (They then go behind the house and surround the shrine. Ekwekwe throws holy water around the base of the shrine as he speaks.) In the name of Jesus!

The Others: Amen.

Ekwekwe: Jaa! Jaa! Jehova Jaa! Come and take away the power of the devil in the name of Jesus!

The Others: Amen.

Ekwekwe: Take away the power of the devil< destroy all the bad spirits, in the name of Jesus!

The Others: Amen.

(They all start to chop down the shrine with all their strength, everyone among them speaking in tongues.)

Ekwekwe: Arinze, take that olive oil and pour it all around here. Nnodi and Ukoha, light the candles and put them all around here.

Ekwekwe: (After they finish these things.) We have smashed the power of the devil. Praise be to God in the name of Jesus!

The Others: A-amen.

(They then turn around and leave. Ibe is wiping his eyes. As they are leaving
they encounter Akuuwa on the road.)

Akuuwa: My brothers in Christ. The way you have stuck a knife at your waist, going along like people going to war. Is all well in the town?

Ekwekwe: Oh prophet, our master, you have returned. We have come from your house. The Holy spirit led us to go and do a job in your house, so we went and answered the call. The job went very well, there was no trouble.

Akuuwa: You say that you did a job in my house? Indeed, God uses his people to work in various ways. Praise be to God in the name of Jesus!

All: Amen.

Arinze: All right, let's go.

Akuuwa: Why should you go? Since God is the reason you met me on the road, we will go back. I know that my wife is not at home, and know also that Ibe will not be able to offer you kola. Please, let us go back then. Your deeds satisfy me more than food. Praise be to the creator of the world.

Ekwekwe: (He and the members of his group exchange meaningful glances.) Do not trouble yourself about the kola. We have already started out on the path. Let it be for another time. The day of the hunter is when the bushrat is hunted behind the house.

Akuuwa: Indeed, I will not feel right if you all do not join me and turn back, because a worker deserves the reward for his work.

All: We have told you to let us leave. The one who led us to the work will reward us for the work. We know that the reward for our work, as the Holy Bible says, is in heaven.

(They then turn back and leave. Akuuwa stands and watches them for a while, then turns and goes home himself. Akuuwa enters his house, sees Ibe looking like someone who has been taken advantage of, drying his tears.)

Akuuwa: Ibe! Come here. You look like an abused child. (Ibe stands up.) Were there people who came to work here? What work did they do?

Ibe: It was Ekwekwe and ... and ... and Ukoha and ...

Akuuwa: All right. Where did they do the work?

Ibe: It ... It was behind the house. In that place you-you-you stay ...

Akuuwa: Where? Come and show me that place quickly. (Ibe then goes and shows him.)

Akuuwa: (Presses his hand to his head, shouts in a loud voice.) Oh my God! Oh God! Oh heaven and earth! A disaster has really taken place here! Is this why Ekwekwe and his group came to work in my house? (He turns and stares at Ibe. Ibe starts to cry.) Ibe! Ibe!! Were you at home when these people defiled this spot?

Ibe: They came in and told me ... told me that it was the Holy Spirit who sent them ...

Sera: (Bursts in in surprise.) What has happened? (She sees what happened.) Oh dear! Oh my God! Who did this?

Akuuwa: Haa! Haa! Too bad! Ekwekwe and his group have done an evil thing to me today. They have done what should not be done to me. They have made me suffer. O-oh! They have really crushed my testicles. The goat has eaten a palm leaf on my head [an expression indicating something unthinkable]. If you take away from a man the thing that makes him good, his goodness is spoiled. It is between them and me now. If a man's head is not on the ground, it hangs on the wall. (He beats his breast, pointing his finger and talking.) You vipers, you hypocrites, it is you and I today. (He angrily chases after them; his wife follows him; Ibe also turns after them. Akuuwa hurriedly calls Ekwekwe and his group, chasing after them.)

Akuuwa: Ekwekwe! Ekwekwe! Nnodi!

Nnodi: (Turns around.) It is Akuuwa. Look! What are we going to do?

Ekwekwe: We shall not run. It is man to man. Let's wait for him to come. (They then stop and wait for Akuuwa. (He reaches them.)

Akuuwa: (Breathing fast.) Ekwekwe! Ekwekwe!! I have seen that work the Holy Spirit led you to go and do in my house! Now, what I want is for you all to finish the remaining work on my body. You know that you are men, drop your knives on the ground so that we can fight with bare hands.

Ekwekwe: (In a soft voice.) Akuuwa, haven't we told you that the Holy Spirit led us to go and do this work? We do not want war, nor do we want a struggle. We all believe in God and know that his first law is, "You shall have no other gods before me."

Sera: Read yourselves to death in the law, defilers!

Akuuwa: If you all know that you are not hypocrites, men with wet testicles [sign of weakness], why did you not come when my wife and I were at home? If you knew that it was the Holy Spirit who led you to the work in my house, why did you not tell me the truth when you and I met on the road? Hypocrites! Vipers! Those who bite the hand that feeds them. Those who are "sheep who finish eating and then break the pot." But if one breaks the pot he uses for eating, he must eat on the ground. I am telling you all to throw away the knives you have stuck in your waists, so that man to man we can go on foot to look for what fell into the water.

Sera: He w u u! Oh my God! The hypocrites have defecated in the house of prayer! God forbid! The devil will send down fire on all of you.

Ukoha: Leave them alone; come now and let's leave, maybe our preacher and his wife have gone insane.

Akuuwa: Ukoha, what did you say? Who did you say has gone insane? (In the twinkling of an eye, he lifts Ukoha and throws him to the ground, pinning
him down by the neck. Ibe begins to cry loudly. Sera stands near her husband.)

Sera: Hold him tight! Show him the spirits! Kill him! (She sees the others trying to take hold of her husband.) What are you all trying to do? Stop it, let it be man to man.

(Ekwekwe, Nnodi and Arinze persevere in pulling Akuuwa off Ukoha. Ukoha
sprawls on the ground breathing like a lizard that has fallen from above. Sera
punches him and strikes him while shouting.)

Sera: Ekwekwe and his group have committed an atrocity here, oh! Oh my God! You all will kill us today. Look at us and finish us. Criminals, what did we do to you, eh? Ekwekwe and his group have committed an atrocity here! (People start to run in.)

First Person: What is causing this noise here? Is it a prophet who is being carried here? H a w u u!

Second Person: Hei! Hei! Hei! Our big prophet. What happened to him? Is he dead? Chei! Death! You have committed an abomination.

Ibe: He is not dead. It is they (points his finger) who were trying to beat him to death. He did nothing to them.

Third Person: Aren't they members of the Holy Spirit church? What did he do? Isn't he their leader?

(A policeman enters from the left. People see him and close their mouths.)

Policeman: (Grabs Ukoha when he tries to run.)

Corporal Okafo: What is happening here? (Everyone begins to scatter.) Everyone stay where you are! Don't even make a move. If anyone runs, it will be worse for him. (Those who are bold then run out; the others stand trembling in fear.) Am I not questioning all of you? Come close! What brought on all this trouble and commotion?

Fourth Person: I just now came. I saw the people of the Holy Spirit church holding on to their leader, his wife was shouting, I thought that he had died. There is one of them (points to Ukoha). He can tell you what happened.

Corporal Okafo: All right ... all of you ... follow me! Everyone come so he can explain how he saw it. Ukoha! Go ahead and show us where the members of your group are. Only the truth will save you.

(They all then go in great fear. Some of them clasp their hands to their heads, others to their hearts. Still others spread out their arms.)

The lights go out.

Akuuwa - An Igbo Play, Act Five

(In Irechi's house. Irechi and Amadi are seated, discussing the fight among
the members of the Church of the Holy Spirit.)

Irechi: (laughing, keeps on laughing, falls backward in his chair.) Ha! Ha! Ha! You are too much, Amadi. Ha! You say that all of the church people are greedy? Does it mean that there is not one good person among them?

Amadi: What do you think? When their leader who says that he is a prophet, is a goat himself and is also a drunkard, that is enough ...

Irechi: You say that he says that he is a prophet, does that mean you don't believe that he is a prophet?

Amadi: Is it that you can't prophesy in that manner? When you want to openly extort people's property, you start falling down like someone who is drunk and begin to say what you see and what you don't see and say that God directed you; does God use uproar, confusion and someone who causes commotion to speak to His people?

Irechi: What you are saying is true. Our church teacher read to us from the Holy Bible that God speaks in a gentle voice and in quiet places. I see many surprising things in the lives of the people of the Holy Spirit Church. Their behavior is distasteful to me.

Amadi: Have you seen other church people quarreling in public? Let alone their leader fighting in public? This fight they have carried on has exposed them in public. Now people will start wagging their tongues.

Irechi: People usually talk about things that happened when they were not there, let alone something like this that every goat and chicken saw with their own eyes; if someone speaks now, he will really be throwing salt and pepper on it. It is like the goat who died and said that his stomach should be cut open.

Amadi: People can say whatever pleases them, but I am saying what I saw. In the evening of last Eke day, while I was in my house, I heard Akuuwa and Ukachi's wife conversing outside of my house. Akuuwa told her to leave her husband and also to stop attending the Catholic Church where she was going, and start coming to his house of prayer. You know that Ukachi's wife is not pregnant and some women were calling her a barren woman. This type of situation was breaking this woman's heart. Akuuwa told her that he could pray special prayers for her and she would become pregnant, bear children, and keep them.

Irechi: This is the way they bring people in. Everyone who is in that church has entered it because of trouble and great confusion. The rat does not deliberately get caught in the trap. Does one go to Ibina Ukpabi [an oracle with power for evil] with his eyes wide open? I do not blame people.

Amadi: It would have been good if their troubles were being relieved at that place. But sometimes it was very bad. Many of them got into debt because of having to buy all the things they were told to buy for their prayers. There was one woman who went to borrow money from Ikeogu, money she would use to buy a sheep to be used in a sacrifice on her behalf. It was in the Otamiri River that they performed the sacrifice. Tell me if church people perform sacrifices in water?

Irechi: I heard that he consumes the money of his church people as though he were the only one who owned it. They say that he is building a storied house in his village now. You know that for 20 years Father James, my brother, has been in church work, and he did not build even a chicken house at his father's place, let alone a storied house. Look at Akuuwa! It is only two years ago that he started this prayer church, and see how he is respected in his father's house; he has joined those who are wealthy in their village.

Amadi: I think that that is what caused the fight in Ejekam's compound. It was ... (Akuuwa knocks at the door.)

Irechi: Who is knocking at the door? Come in o o!

(Akuuwa enters. Irechi and Amadi glance at each other meaningfully. Akuuwa's arrival has surprised them.)

Akuuwa: My brothers, so you are here! [form of greeting]

Irechi: Apostle ... you have come ... Welcome ... have a seat ... shall we also live?

Akuuwa: You will live long, my brothers. Irechi, I know that my coming to your house today will surprise you. It is said that the toad does not run out in the daylight for nothing. When an old woman runs up a hill, if she is not chasing something, something is chasing her. I have been to your house, Amadi, but I did not find you at home. Now I see both of you here, so it seems that God has agreed that my journey should be successful. Do not be annoyed that I came to you so suddenly; it is said that if a human being has an itch, his fellow human scratches it for him, but if a wild animal has an itch, he goes to a tree trunk. Perhaps you know why I was looking for you.

Irechi: M m m m - - ! You are still beating around the bush. Get to the point, so we may know what you are talking about.

Akuuwa: It's about what happened yesterday. I came to get your help. Since the matter has gotten into in the hands of the police, I think that it will not fail to reach the court.

Amadi: What type of help do you want us to give you?

Akuuwa: It ... it is that you should come and witness for me in court.

Amadi: What type of witness do you want us to give you?

Akuuwa: What is important to me is that you both agree that you saw Ekwekwe and his group beating me up. I know that a worker deserves payment for his labor. That will not be a problem. Only that they beat me with a stick, threw me to the ground, and stepped on me, that is all.

Irechi: Is that all you want us to do, or is there something else?

Akuuwa: If you only speak along those lines, it will be sufficient for me. Then you can say what else is involved, because as I said earlier, a worker deserves payment for his labor.

Irechi: Hey! Prophet! Is it really you talking this way! Wow! The world has been completely ruined. Do you mean that you will give us a bribe so that we will then witness falsely for you? Ugh! God forbid. My friend! Bribery goes against the teaching of our church. The Father told us that it is a mortal sin. If you want us to come and say what we saw, we can come, but it is not a matter of giving us "Eat, and keep your mouth closed."

Akuuwa: (Looking ashamed.) I am not calling it a bribe. I want you to help me, and afterward I thank you in my own way. It is the right hand washing the left, and the left washing the right.

Irechi: All right, you must go ... so we can think about the matter.

Akuuwa: All right, thank you. I hope you will think carefully. Let me go now. Stay well. Goodbye. (He leaves and goes home.)

(They fall down laughing.)


Amadi: Irechi, now you have seen what we were talking about. One who looks the way he has been mocked makes you laugh and you can't stop. (They start to laugh again.)

Irechi: Look at that--the head of a house of prayer! He thought that the wealth of the world would buy him truth, that money buys everything: Oh yes! He doesn't know that a good name and living an honest life are better than the wealth of the world. I will not use this tongue of mine to lie on account of money.

Amadi: Our thoughts are identical, Irechi. One who uses his head to strike a wasp gets stung. We will leave the snake to go away with the thing it swallowed. Please, I must start leaving now. (He rises.)

Irechi: All right, you have done well. Goodbye then.

The lights go out.

Akuuwa - An Igbo Play, Act Six

(In the court. Court clerk, policemen, those who came to court and some others are already seated, leaving only the Magistrate. The Magistrate then knocks at the door while still in chambers.)

Magistrate: Knock! Knock! Knock! Knock! Knock! Knock!

Policeman: Court!

(Everyone rises ... The magistrate enters and sits down. The others then sit down.)

Court Clerk: My Lord, on February 13, 1976, Corporal Okafo arrested these people, Ekwekwe, Nnodi, Arinze and Ukoha, Akuuwa, his wife and Ibe, their servant, where they were fighting. Including these women, who were witnesses. They were arrested on the Ama Ejekam road.

Magistrate: These people who have been named, are they in this court now?

Court Clerk: They are all here, My Lord. (He starts to call their names, one by one. Those called answer "Present" or "I am here.")

Magistrate: Akuuwa! Tell the court how you all came to be fighting.

Court Clerk: Akuuwa!

Akuuwa: Sir!

Court Clerk: Come here. Enter this area (he points) so you can plead your case. Are you a Christian or are you a heathen?

Akuuwa: I am the head and the apostle and am also the prophet of the people of the Holy Spirit prayer house.

Court Clerk: Does this mean that you are a Christian?

Akuuwa: Yes!

Court Clerk: (He gives him the Holy Bible and he takes it. He tells him to repeat after him.) "I swear by this Holy Bible that I will tell the truth, and nothing but the truth. That I will not exaggerate, other than the truth only, as God is my witness.

Magistrate: All right. Tell us how it all happened.

Akuuwa: On the afternoon of February 13, Ekwekwe, Arinze, Ukoha and Nnodi came to my house and committed an abomination. No one was at home except for my servant Ibe. I met them on the road as they were leaving and we greeted each other. They told me that they had come from my house, that they had gone to do the work that the Holy Spirit had told them to do at my house. They did not tell me the type of work they did, nor did I ask them. I thanked them very much and thought that it was good work that they had gone to do at my house. I urged them to go back to my house with me just to have some kola nut, but they did not want to; they bluntly refused, because when the chicken has just urinated, the land pursues it. When I reached home I saw the awful mess they had excreted.

Magistrate: What is the thing you say they excreted? Awful mess?

Akuuwa: It is not what was excreted, rather it was the abomination they committed in my house that I was referring to.

Magistrate: Say what you want to say quickly. I do not want long stories. I did not come here for other matters.

Akuuwa: They went and cut down, destroyed, the shrine where I go to pray which is behind my house, burned it down. When I entered and saw what they had done I went after them, chased them to the Ejekam Road. When I asked them what happened, rather than answer my question they started to beat me, and kept on beating me, and finally carried me away; it was while they were carrying me that this policeman (he points to him) came and pulled me away from them.

Magistrate: Does anyone have a question to ask him?

Ekwekwe: Yes! I have a question for him.

Court Clerk: Quickly, ask your question.

Ekwekwe: Akuuwa! You said that we cut down the shrine where you prayed, and burned it; what was used to build that shrine? 

Akuuwa: Ekwekwe! You ask me what was used to build the shrine; do you not know what you all came to my house to destroy?

Policeman: Shut your mouth! Answer the question that you were asked! Do not ask a question on top of a question.

(Akuuwa is silent and does not answer the question.)

Court Clerk: If you do not want to answer the question that you were asked, let another one be asked. (He turns and looks at Ekwekwe.) Do you all have another question? (Nnodi raises his hand and he tells him to go ahead and ask.)

Nnodi: Is it just now that you remembered that we struck you? Do you then have a witness? What did you tell this policeman on the day he arrested you?

Akuuwa: The policeman is here, let him say if he did not see when you all carried me.

Magistrate: Corporal Okafo! Do you have a question, since they have mentioned your name?

Cpl. Okafo: My Lord, I have a question I would like to ask Akuuwa.

Court Clerk: Quickly, ask it.

Cpl. Okafo: Akuuwa! Listen carefully to see if you recognize who spoke these words, on the day I arrested you all: "Let me question them about the land they desecrated at my house; this one called Ukoha, one who cannot even take a palm nut from a chicken, then say that he is the crazy one, not I. I then came closer to him in order to hear what he said and he fell away like a cloth. When I started to ask him what he said, Ekwekwe and the others came and held me and carried me off."

Magistrate: Akuuwa! Do you know who said what this policeman read out?

Akuuwa: It was I, My Lord.

Magistrate: Was there a time that you told this policeman that they struck you? (Akuuwa remains silent.)

Court Clerk: Is there nothing you want to say in reply then? All right, any further questions?

Arinze: Tell this court the type of prayers you pray in that place, as well as the people with whom you pray them.

Akuuwa: I am the only one who prays there. I go there when things are difficult for me, in order to receive the special power I use in my work.

Court Clerk: Final questions!

Ukoha: You did not tell how you lifted me and threw me to the ground and grabbed me by the throat, and how we told you that we did not want any fighting and wrestling. Besides this, that house that you said that we burned-- what and what burned inside of it? How about those who put out that fire? (Akuuwa remains silent.)

Court Clerk: Do you have nothing to say in reply? (Akuuwa remains completely silent.) Ekwekwe! Let us hear from you. (He then administers the oath to Ekwekwe.) "I swear by the Holy Bible that I will tell the truth and nothing but the truth. That I will not exaggerate but tell only the truth. As God is my witness."

Magistrate: Quickly, start telling your side of the story.

Ekwekwe: Akuuwa is our leader in the prayer house Church of the Holy Spirit. He is the one who receives the money and other gifts. He is also the one who keeps the money and also the one who decides what the money will be used for. We do not have any say; our job is to pay the dues, come and pray, arrange the building, and leave. For example, there is someone we all prayed for, whose name is Brother Jude. When this man went back to Lagos, things were going well for him, he sent us a bag of money to support the work we were doing. Whether that money is in the sky or on the earth, we do not know. He did not speak of it in anyone's hearing. But you cannot hide a pregnancy with the hand. We found out that he was building a storied house in their village now, and we also know that there is no other way he makes money (unless he has a machine that prints money), which showed us that it was our money and his that he was using as he pleased. He taught us that it was not good to trust in the wealth of this world. He told us that the Holy Bible says that we should not pile up the wealth that the world gives us, where moth and rust will consume and thieves break through and steal. And just as his name is AKUUWA (worldly wealth) [a person's name goes with him], we discovered that he trusted completely in the wealth of the world. He had a shrine behind his house which contradicted his teaching and our faith, which is, "You shall not have any other god except Jehovah Jaa." The holy spirit then led us to go and knock down that shrine, because "Darkness and light do not work together." It was in this shrine, as we discovered, that he would invoke the soul of a person he wanted to kill, one he thought was against him; he then killed that person; he died just like that!. Ahumibe, Akumefuna and Odinkemma were some of those he killed there ...

Magistrate: Sir! Stop all these long tales and tell us, without wasting time, how you all came to fight.

Ekwekwe: We did not fight him. We told him that we did not want to fight, nor did we want to wrestle, because we were doing the work of the Holy Spirit who led us. We told him this when we met him on the road. While we were on the return path he followed behind us, boasting, and scolding us with fighting words. When he saw that we did not want to fight he lifted Ukoha and threw him to the ground and grasped him by the throat to kill him. We went to pull him up from where he continued to hold Ukoha down, and it was while we were pulling him off that a policeman came and arrested us.

Magistrate: (Looks at Nnodi, Ukoha and Arinze and questions them): Are you all in agreement with Ekwekwe's testimony?

All of them: Yes! He has testified for all of us.

Ukoha: But he has not completely told how hard he beat me. Indeed, my eyes saw the spirits, and I would have reached the land of the spirits when he grabbed me by the throat, but my god did not allow it.

Magistrate: Akuuwa! You have heard Ekwekwe's testimony; is this how it happened? Do you have questions you want to ask them?

Akuuwa: I have questions, My Lord.

Court Clerk: Quickly, ask your questions quickly.

Akuuwa: Where was the Holy Spirit when he instructed you? Did he come to your houses one by one? Or was it in my house of prayer? Where!

Ekwekwe: It was in the house of prayer!The day that you went into the desert to pray, I saw it in a vision.

Akuuwa: Why did you not let me know something like this when I returned?

Ekwekwe: The Holy Spirit did not instruct us to tell you.

Akuuwa: Ukoha, what did you say that made me lift you and throw you to the ground? Am I a mad person?

Magistrate: So you admit that you started the fight? All right. Do you have any other significant questions? (Akuuwa remains silent. The magistrate looks at the policeman.) Are there questions you want to ask them?

Cpl. Okafo: I have no questions, but I will say what I saw. I went and saw that shrine. It was not fire that burned it; only white candles had been lit and were spread around the place haphazardly. Another thing was that on that day, I saw Ukoha lying on the ground, his eyes bulging like a rat that had been crushed on the ground. Akuuwa himself admitted what I read here that he said.

Court Clerk: Is there someone who has something else to say? Or other questions? (Silence everywhere.)

Magistrate: All right. I will look at all of your testimonies, gather them together, and then make a judgment in this case. What brought you to this court was a fight. Since all of you go to the same church and also believe that the Holy Spirit ... is able to send anyone among you a message. It is not up to me to judge whether that message Ekwekwe said that the Holy spirit sent them is the truth or a lie. If Akuuwa discovers, and is able to explain it well, that it was not the Holy Spirit who sent them to do a job at his shrine, at that time let him go and sue them in court. But Akuuwa himself agreed, from the testimony that is before me now, that he was the first to start the fight. I have also found that he is a liar, which is not appropriate in his position in his church, by speaking out of both sides of his mouth. He said that his house was set on fire and also said that he was beaten, which was not true. It is true that Ekwekwe and his group did something to provoke you to anger by going to your house when you were not at home and doing a job that did not please you; if you had captured them in your house and started to fight with them, that would have been different. But in this case, they had reached the Ejekam Road, a highway, before you chased them and started a fight. You have committed an offense--a big offense. A dog does not lick the feces off his own head by himself. Therefore you are guilty, Akuuwa. You will pay a fine of 40 naira. Or you will go to jail for two months. As I said before, if the job they did on your house makes you angry, return to court and sue them. Another thing is that you need to realize that truth is life. The wealth of the world ought not to lead a prophet like you astray, because when a great tree falls, birds fill the forest. From today on, the meetings of the congregation of the Church of the Holy Spirit will stop, until such time as the affairs of that church are thoroughly examined.

Policeman: Court! (All rise, the Magistrate gets up and goes out.)

The lights go out.

    Life is good if one takes care of it.
    The body is also good if one looks after it.
    But in seeking these things,
    Do not let them mislead you.
    Because greed is a sin.
    Life is stronger than what one uses to nurture it,
    The body is stronger than the garment it wears,
    And patience exceeds goodness in the world.
    Worldly wealth is useless,
    It fades away
    But a good name is long-lasting.
    A good name is better than worldly wealth.
    It goes deeper than everything else.
    Greed causes oppression,
    Oppression brings on bitter hearts,
    Bitter hearts lead to sin,
    Sin brings bad deaths.
    Peaceful wealth does not cause trouble,
    Peaceful wealth does not cause jealousy
    Peaceful wealth produces a genuine life.
    Acquire wealth in the right way,
    Love your fellow man.
    Remove sin.
    Remove jealousy.
    Remove lies.
    So that you can live in peace with others.
    Wealth without peace,
    Is not true wealth.

The lights go out.

                                                      The End

Read it in Igbo here


Inside Story of Nigeria's First Military Coup - Part 1


Max Siollun

We all know that Nigeria’s first military coup took place on January 15 1966.  However the actions and motivation of the principal actors has been the subject of misintepretation over the years.  In this article (the first of a two part series), my intention is to accurately describe the sequence of the events that guided and led to that tragic event, and to correct some of the misconceptions about that coup. This article is part one of a two article series on the coup.   Part two will follow in a few weeks time. A special branch “police report” on the coup was commissioned by Maj-Gen Ironsi.  The report was compiled by Lt-Col Yakubu Gowon, Captain Baba Usman of Military Intelligence and Alhaji Yusuf.  Copies of this report were leaked and although the report is extremely detailed, it contains errors in some places. 

The coup was so complex that one needs to understand the political situation at the time to appreciate the reasons for the coup.  After Nigeria gained independence from the UK, its domestic politics TRIED to emulate those of its former colonial master by adopting a Westminster style parliamentary democracy.  There the similarities ended.  Instead of the cultured debate and sophisticated party political culture of the UK, Nigeria’s politics fragmented on regional and ethnic lines.  Due to the splitting of the country into three geo-political regions, party politics (and political parties) took on the identity and ideology of each of the three regions.  The northern region was represented by the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) whose motto of “one north, one people” gave a realistic and accurate assessment of its objectives.  Southerners viewed the NPC as the party of the Hausa-Fulani.  The western region’s dominant party was the Yoruba led Action Group (AG) and the east’s the National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) which was controlled by the Igbos.  These regional based parties assured two things: firstly that none of the parties could govern Nigeria on its own, and secondly that ethnic conflict was only a matter of time away.

The NPC took control of the Federal Government with the NCNC as the junior partner in a shaky coalition (the NPC’s deputy head Tafewa Balewa became the Prime Minister and the NCNC’s leader Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe took the ceremonial role of President).  The AG led the opposition.   The make up of the Government was odd.  The NPC’s leader Sir Ahmadu Bello could have become Prime Minister but chose to instead become leader of the northern region, and handed over the Prime Minister’s chair to his deputy Tafewa Balewa.  Rightly or wrongly, many southern politicians viewed Balewa as Bello’s puppet and resented the fact that (in their opinion) the government was being ruled by proxy by a regional ruler and viewed Bello as the real power beyond the throne. This may have led southern politicians to have a disrespectful attitude toward Balewa.   This perception was not helped when Bello referred to Balewa as “my lieutenant in Lagos”.

At independence the northern region was given more seats in parliament that the two southern regions put together.  This meant that no meaningful governmental decision affecting Nigeria could be taken without the consent of the north.  Southern rulers belatedly began to appreciate that northern politicians were not as naïve as they thought and that the lopsided parliament meant that the north would politically control Nigeria forever.  The only way to alter the north’s control of the country was via a constitutional amendment (unlikely since the north controlled the parliament )….or violence.  The conviction and imprisonment of the AG leader and western region premier Chief Obafemi Awolowo for treason seemed to suggest that some southerners had chosen the latter option.  In a controversial trial Awolowo was convicted of hatching a plot to overthrow the government by force of arms.  Awolowo’s incarceration was followed by the installation an unpopular government led by Chief Samuel Akintola of the NNDP.  The NNDP has very close links to the ruling NPC and was regarded by many as a local western “branch” of the NPC.   Akintola was elected as premier of the western region in a bitterly controversial election that was widely regarded as massively rigged.   Popular resentment against the NNDP spilled over into wide scale violence, protests arson and murders that placed many parts of the western region into a state of near anarchy which earned the region the nickname of the “wild west”.  The Ibadan based 4th battalion of the army (commanded by Lt-Col Abogo Largema) was deployed to restore order.  Most of the soldiers in the 4th battalion were of northern origin and the battalion itself was perceived as being pro-NPC and highly politicised.   One of the officers who carried out the January coup accused Lt-Col Largema of giving training to Akintola in the use of firearms.  If this allegation is true, then getting firearms training was probably a wise move on the part of Akintola given how many enemies he had.

The NPC government decided to authorise a massive security crackdown to curb the lawlessness in the west.  To carry out the crackdown, the government first had to reshuffle the upper echelons of the security establishment.  The Inspector-General of police Louis Edet was sent on leave and replaced by Kam Salem.  The army’s General Officer Commanding: Major-General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi was also to be sent on indefinite leave and replaced by Brigadier Maimalari.  These reshuffles (by fault or design) would result in the replacement of two eastern officers (both of whom may have been suspected of having NCNC sympathies) from the NCNC power base of the east by northerners.  Additionally the corruption of certain government ministers drew public condemnation.  The ostentatious lifestyle of government ministers such as Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh raised eyebrows to say the least.

It became clear that a violent conflict was inevitable.  Despairing at the lack of political of a political horizon, many openly began to call for the army to intervene to break the political deadlock.  The army responded in deadly fashion.  A group of radical army officers had decided that the only means of breaking the political logjam in the country was to execute a coup d’etat to overthrow the government.  Their plan was to overthrow the government, release opposition leader Obafemi Awolowo from prison and install him as the Prime Minister. 

There were rumblings of possible military coup as early as 1964.  Then President Azikiwe (in his position of commander in chief of the country’s armed forces) had openly called on the army to intervene to break the political deadlock in the country after Azikiwe refused to call Balewa to form a new government following scandalous elections that were marred by massive rigging, thuggery, intimidation and murder.  The heads of the army, navy and air force all met with Azikiwe and made it clear that they would not intervene.  Azikiwe also obtained legal advice from the Attorney-General which indicated that the service chiefs were right to disobey his call to intervene.  Azikiwe therefore eventually called on Balewa to form a new government after the nation tottered perilously in uncertainty. In 1964 some of the same group of soldiers that eventually carried out the 1966 military coup had planned to take advantage by using the distraction of a senior officers’ course to stage a coup.  However the plan was cancelled when rumours of the plot leaked.


The table below shows the rank and background of the Nigerian army’s high command as at January 14 1966.

Major-General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi
GOC – Nigerian Army
East: Igbo
Commodore Joseph Wey
Commanding Officer – Nigerian Navy
Mixed Yoruba/eastern minority heritage
Brigadier Samuel Ademulegun

CO – 2nd Brigade – Kaduna

West: Yoruba
Brigadier Zakariya Maimalari

CO – 1st Brigade – Lagos

North: Kanuri
Brigadier Babafemi Ogundipe

Nigerian military attaché in London

West: Yoruba
Colonel Thimming
CO – Nigerian Air Force
German expatriate officer
Brigadier Varma

CO – Nigerian Military Training College – Kaduna

Indian expatriate officer
Colonel Kur Mohammed

(Acting) Chief of Staff at Army HQ – Lagos (in place of Colonel Robert Adebayo)

North: Kanuri
Colonel Ralph Shodeinde

Deputy-Commander, Nigerian Military Training College: Kaduna

West: Yoruba
Colonel Robert Adeyinka Adebayo

Attending a course in London

West: Yoruba
Lt-Colonel Yakubu Gowon

Preparing to take over command of the 2nd battalion from Hilary Njoku

North: Angas

Lt-Colonel Francis Fajuyi

(was on leave in his home town of Abeokuta during the coup)
CO – 1st Battalion - Enugu
West: Yoruba
Lt-Colonel Hilary Njoku
CO – 2nd Battalion – Lagos

East: Igbo

Lt-Colonel George Kurubo

CO – 3rd Battalion – Kaduna

East: Rivers
Lt-Colonel Abogo Largema

CO – 4th Battalion – Ibadan

North: Kanuri
Lt-Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu
CO – 5th Battalion – Kano
East: Igbo
Lt-Colonel James Pam
Adjutant-General of the Nigerian Army
North: Birom (his father was the Chief of Jos and his brother was in the air force)
Lt-Colonel Arthur Unegbe
Quartermaster-General of the Nigerian Army
Mid-West: Igbo
Lt-Colonel Ime Imo
CO – Lagos Garrison
East: Igbo
Major Hassan Usman Katsina
CO – 2nd Reconnaissance squadron - Kaduna
North: Fulani
Major John Obienu
CO – 1st Reconnaissance squadron – Abeokuta
East: Igbo

Those whose names are italicised in the above table were killed in the coup of January 1966.  May their souls rest in peace.

Before indigenous soldiers took control of Nigeria's army, the four most senior officers of Nigerian origin were Brigadiers Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, Samuel Ademulegun, Babafemi Ogundipe, and Zakariya Maimalari (in that order). When it was announced that the British soldiers would soon depart, it became obvious that the veteran trio of Ironsi, Ademulegun, and Ogundipe were favourites to land the job of GOC.

Ironsi was the most decorated of the three. A tall and physically imposing man – he looked like a soldier (a stark contrast to the pot bellied Generals of later generations) yet was easy going and spoke in a slow, measured tone.  His father was from Sierra Leone and his mother an Igbo.  He had been the premier soldier of his generation and was considered good enough to command a United Nations peacekeeping force (the first African to do so) in the Congo – twice. While Ironsi was in the Congo, he took on the rank of Major-General, but reverted to Brigadier when he returned to Nigeria. During the Congo peacekeeping mission, Ironsi sent Maimalari (who was then two ranks below him) home to Nigeria after a disagreement over military tactics. The words of retired Maj-Gen Ike Nwachukwu (then a second lieutenant) give an indication of Ironsi’s stature at the time. Nwachukwu said that the first time he saw Ironsi "it was like seeing a God....he was the God of all us soldiers".   To gauge the integrity of army officers back then, Ironsi had debts of 18,500 Naira (after almost twenty five years of service), having risen to the rank of Major-General, having commanded a UN peacekeeping force, and having become Head of State with access to the nation’s treasury.

Brigadier Maimalari was a notoriously fiery disciplinarian who "would brook no insubordination". For this reason, he "exacted unqualified discipline from all his subordinates" (See Gbulie: "Nigeria’s Five Majors").  He was widely respect in the army and was tipped to become a future GOC.    Like his military colleagues from the north: Colonels Mohammed, Pam and Largema, he was an alumni of the famous Government College in Zaria. 

Brigadier Ademulegun was another sticker for discipline, and was the most controversial of the Brigadiers. While acknowledged as "a first class soldier" (see Gbulie) he was personally unpopular in the army – especially among junior officers. His open friendship with the Sardauna of Sokoto won him few friends in the military and accepting a gift from the Sardauna (a horse) irritated many junior officers (who ignored the fact that Ademulegun was not really in a position to refuse gifts from the most powerful politician in the land).  Ironically, Ademulegun felt that his political links would land him the job of GOC. For this reason, he may have been a little overconfident about his chances of securing the job. Thus when he did not get the job, he became jealous of the new GOC and was not shy about pointing out the inadequacies of the man picked in preference to him.

Brigadier Ogundipe’s personality was more sedate than those of Brigadiers Ademulegun and Maimalari.  When recommending his successor, the departing British GOC, Major-General Welby-Everard said that Maimalari "was younger and considerably more junior to the others (Ironsi, Ademulegun, Ogundipe) and I also considered him to be militarily immature. He never entered seriously into my considerations". Everard went on to recommend (without success) Brigadier Ogundipe as his successor. Everard regarded Ogundipe as "A very capable and efficient officer…Unlike Ademulegun he was very popular within the Army and greatly respected both as a senior officer and as a man. He was also noticeably non-political" (the quotes of Maj-Gen Welby-Everard are reproduced in Chuks Iloegbunam’s "Ironside"). The Federal Government ignored the advice of its GOC and gave the top job to Ironsi.


The ideological circle of for the January coup seems to have consisted primarily of officers who had embarked upon military careers after completing university degrees. The late former military governor of the Northern Region: Hassan Katsina once commented on the presence of some “bookish people” who had joined the Army for rather different reasons from the normal military crowd.  Katsina was probably referring to the graduates that had begun to join the Army.  These graduates may have been exposed to the left wing political doctrine which was sweeping across much of Africa, Asia, and South America at the time. In January 1966, the Nigerian Army had six graduates: Lt-Cols ‘Emeka’ Ojukwu and Victor Banjo, and Majors Olufemi Olutoye, Adewale Ademoyega, Emmanuel Ifeajuna, and Oluwole Rotimi.  Three or four of these graduates were involved conceptually, or physically in the January coup. Of the direct participants, Ademoyega had a degree in History from the University of London, and Ifeajuna was a graduate of the University of Ibadan. 
Although not physically involved in the January coup, Lt-Colonels Ojukwu and Banjo had been accused of showing a greater than average interest in political matters.   Ironsi also noticed the increasing political sophistication of his men and moaned “I asked for soldiers and am being given politicians dressed in uniform”.  Security reports concerning coup plotting by Banjo were passed to Prime Minister Balewa, who ignored them.   Major Ademoyega claims that the Majors had at some point in time, floated the idea of a coup to Ojukwu and Banjo, and also to Lt-Colonels Hilary Njoku and Francis Fajuyi.  The four Lt-Colonels were not opposed to a military coup, but Njoku and Ojukwu were “unsure” about whether to participate (see Ademoyega: “Why We Struck”).  None of the four Lt-Colonels got physically involved when the Majors eventually struck and three (Njoku, Ojukwu, Fajuyi) actually played a role (to varying degrees) in crushing the coup, while Fajuyi and Ojukwu became military governors in Ironsi’s military administration.  Many northern soldiers suspected Fajuyi of at the very least being sympathetic to the Majors’ coup, and at worst to have assisted them in the planning of the coup.  Katsina once referred to Fajuyi as an “Action Grouper” in sarcastic reference to Fajuyi’s perceived support for the AG.


Major Patrick Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu was a promising, charismatic and slightly rebellious officer that worked as the Chief Instructor at the Nigerian Military Training College in Kaduna (the city of his birth).  Nzeogwu was a devout catholic, a teetotaler, a non-smoker, and despite being a bachelor, did not spend much time chasing women like many young men of his age.  Yet he was prepared to kill civilians in a military coup that he believed to be just.  His charisma was such that even his detractors were prepared to admit that he was “an incorruptible idealist without ambitions of power….in many ways a man born before his time” (see Muffet : “Let Truth Be Told”).
Some claim that Nzeogwu’s participation in the January 1966 coup was part of a grand Igbo agenda to “dominate” the country.   This argument overlooks the fact that Nzeogwu was an Igbo in name only.  Nzeogwu was born in the Northern region’s capital of Kaduna to Igbo immigrant parents from the Mid-West Region.  Such was his family’s affinity to the city of Nzeogwu’s birth that they and his military colleagues called him “Kaduna”.  When not in his army uniform he wore northern mufti and frequently referred to himself as “a northerner”.  Nzeogwu spoke fluent Hausa (the lingua franca of the Northern Region) “like a native” (Forsyth). In fact Nzeogwu’s command of Hausa was better than his command of Igbo.   It is a mark of Nzeogwu’s popularity that when his body was discovered during the Nigerian civil war by federal soldiers, they took his body away for burial with full military honours (but not before his eyes had been plucked out).  Although one account claims that a northern soldier swore at the minister that performed Nzeogwu’s burial ceremony (see Luckham: The Nigerian Military).  So what possessed a puritanical, bible bashing, innocent young man like Nzeogwu to murder the nation’s most powerful northern politician in the middle of the night?    Nzeogwu’s reasoning is chilling in its simplicity: “We wanted to get rid of rotten and corrupt ministers, political parties, trades unions and the            whole clumsy apparatus of the federal system.  We wanted to gun down all the bigwigs on our way.  This was the only way.  We could not afford to let them live if this was to work.  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”.

What is clear is that Nzeogwu had harboured some anti-government sentiment for several years before 1966.  Nzeogwu’s boss at the Nigerian Military Training College: Colonel Ralph Shodeinde, had in the past reported Nzeogwu to Army Headquarters for allegedly disseminating anti-government rhetoric to junior officers.  Shodeinde’s report claimed that Nzeogwu had been attempting to poison junior officers’ minds against the Government (see Obasanjo: “An intimate portrait of Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu”).  Nzeogwu was so disillusioned with the farcical vote rigging that he exclaimed “it is impossible to vote out a Nigerian minister”.  

Nzeogwu was recruited into the conspiratorial group by the fellow Sandhurst trained Major Chris Anuforo. Nzeogwu in turn tried to recruit others into the plot. Nigeria’s former Defence Secretary: Lt-Gen Theophilus Danjuma was aware of Nzeogwu’s coup recruitment policy.   As a former colleague of Nzeogwu, Danjuma noted that “Nzeogwu was a very charming person.  He had his method, he would start by criticizing government and then watch your reaction…..if you joined him in criticising the government…..then he would say well, we would (sic) fix them one day.  That’s how he recruited”. Major Tim Onwuatuegwu bought Nzeogwu’s anti-government line.  Onwuatuegwu was an Igbo from Nnewi and a colleague of Major Nzeogwu at the Nigerian Military Training College, where Onwuatuegwu was also an instructor.  Onwuatuegwu was tagged a dull, parade ground “goody two shoes” type by one his own course-mates at Sandhurst but fell under Nzeogwu’s spell and was convinced enough to break into the house of, and shoot his own Brigade commander during the coup.

One officer that seems to have been unaffected by Nzeogwu’s political rhetoric was a cadet named Salihu Ibrahim.   Ibrahim was training at the Nigerian Military Training College while Nzeogwu (chief instructor at the College) and company hatched the coup plot.  Despite being close to Nzeogwu, Ibrahim matured into a “vintage professional soldier” (Chris Alli: The Siege Of a Nation) who abhorred military participation in Government.  Ibrahim retired from the Nigerian Army in 1993 after rising to the rank of Lt-General, and serving as Chief of Army Staff.  Strangely for a man who disliked military coups and military governments, he served as a member of firstly Major-General Buhari’s Supreme Military Council from 1984-85, and in Ibrahim Babangida’s Armed Forces Ruling Council thereafter.

Prior to the coup Nzeogwu gave other cryptic clues about his intentions.  On one  occasion while discussing Brigadier Ademulegun, Nzeogwu told Major Alex Madiebo to “go easy with the Brigadier, for when the strong wind blows, all the grass bends low to allow it to pass”.  Madiebo did not immediately appreciate the significance of what Nzeogwu had said to him, but on January 15th 1966, Nzeogwu’s made his intentions explicitly clear.

Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna was an Igbo from Onitsha and the Brigade Major in Lagos.  He was an international athlete of some repute and held the Commonwealth record for high jumping.   He was also a graduate of the University of Ibadan (where he had subversive tendencies).  Ifeajuna was the “brains” behind the coup and wrote a manuscript on the reasons why he felt a military coup was necessary.  This manuscript has never been published.


One enduring myth is that Nigeria’s first military coup was carried out by “five Igbo Majors”.   The source of this myth is the “we were five in number” comment, which the coup’s most visible, participant: Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, made in an interview with Dennis Ejindu (Africa and the world - May 1967) after the coup.    The “five Majors” myth was later perpetuated by Captain Ben Gbulie’s book on the coup entitled “Nigeria’s Five Majors”, the title of which he has admitted borrowing from a BBC play of the same name.
When Nzeogwu made his infamous “we were five in number” comment, he made no reference to the rank of the “five”.   He was merely referring to the five designated strategic regional commanders of the coup.  In fact, no less than nine Majors were originally billed to take part in the coup.  These nine were Majors Nzeogwu, Ifeajuna, Ademoyega, Okafor, Anuforo, Chukwuka, Obienu, Onwuatuegwu and Chude-Sokei.   Shortly before the coup, Chude-Sokei was posted overseas.  On the coup day itself, Obienu failed to show, leaving seven Majors as participants.  When it came to execution, the Majors designated five officers as regional commanders for the coup’s execution.  Of Nzeogwu’s “five”, there were “the two of us in the North” (Nzeogwu and Major Tim Onwuatuegwu), and three more in the South. 
The head of the Lagos operations was Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna.  That makes three Majors so far.   The squad, which killed Chief Samuel Akintola in Ibadan, was led by CAPTAIN Nwobosi.   That makes four (three Majors and one Captain). There was no coup in the Mid-West as no military formation was based in that Region.  However, Lieutenant Oguchi was dispatched to the east to arrest the Premier of the Eastern region: Dr Michael Okpara.  The identity of the fifth member is the most problematic.  Majors Don Okafor and Adewale Ademoyega were given much responsibility for the Lagos branch of the coup, and it is likely that one of these two men was the fifth commander.


Major Nzeogwu has since 1966, been touted as the leader of the January 1966 coup.  This has been widely presumed due to the visible role which Nzeogwu played during and after the coup.  Nzeogwu was the only Major to successfully execute the coup in his designated target region.   He then followed up his coup success with his infamous “our enemies are the…..” speech.   Thus the (false) assumption that he was the coup leader spread.   The truth may be somewhat different. It was not until the coup plot reached its logistical stage that Nzeogwu was brought in to the conspiratorial group.  The brains behind the coup was probably Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna, however Ifeajuna was chased out of Nigeria’s then capital city of Lagos by Major-General Ironsi.  Realising that Ironsi was rounding up those that took part in the coup, Ifeajuna fled to Ghana, leaving Nzeogwu to hold the fort.


In part two I shall describe the execution of the coup itself.