That Road Not Taken!
Tafawa Balewa (1912 - 1966)

That Road Not Taken!

4 mins read

(Deborah Samuel: RIP🌷)

Nigeria was doomed from the moment the five majors decided to topple the democratically-elected government of Tafawa Balewa’s First Republic.

After the assasination of Balewa, General Ironsi squashed the coup and arrested Major Nzeogwu.

Gen Ironsi should have gone ahead and handed over power to Alhaji Zanna Bukar Dipcharima who had been elected head of the FEC on an interim basis to deputize for Balewa and lead meetings.

At that time the fate of Balewa was unknown. It was not clear whether he was dead or alive.

(Shehu Shagari and Musa Yar’Adua – father of both General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua and President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua – were both members of that FEC).

If General Ironsi had done that, it would have allowed the remnants of the organs of the First Republic – the legislative arms, politically appointed administrative heads, and regional governments to regroup, stabilize, and take the next correct constitutional step.

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That road was not taken. 

Instead, our soldiers came to resolve our complex problems.

Contrast: Soldiers have never ruled in India and they have assassinated as many heads of state as us – Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.

Not counting the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.

It’s a curious thing how similar events played out differently:

Between January and July 1966, the British played a latent but potent role in the decisions our soldiers took or failed to take in our business.

Did the British have the ear of Ironsi?

Did they talk to Mohammed?

Did they counsel “Jack”?

 

It becomes more curious when you consider what happened with Sir Lugard with regards to the expedition to Cameroon.

Lugard was appointed governor general of amalgamated Nigeria in 1914. Earlier he had formed the West African Frontier Force (WAFF).

But when World War 1 broke out in 1914 and the policymakers in Whitehall decided to extend the war to German Kamerun, and dispossess them of their colony – in collusion with the French and Belgians – they took three extraordinarily wise decisions:

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1. They sent over Brigadier General Charles Dobell and Col. F.H.G Cunliffe as commanders to lead the expedition to Kamerun.

2. Lugard was specifically restricted to administrative, logistic, and financial support for the expedition.

3. The officers and men of WAFF were put under the authority of the commanders from London

Moral: Soldiers must be restricted to their assignment, either military or administrative. They mustn’t presume to be masters of both.

So it was with the colonial office and Lugard.

Again what counsel did the British give to our officers in the days and months following the toppling of our First Republic?

But we know the road taken led to this place:

Instead, the soldiers who came to resolve Nigeria’s complex problems remained and made those problems intractable.

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The soldiers are still here – in babariga or agbada.

This one – we elected to fight corruption and home-grown extremists and terrorists – is off to Dubai to condole the family of a former president and head of government who had done very well for his own people by way of good responsible governance.

The good life happened to Buhari, Obasanjo, Babangida, and Mark.

Nigeria happened to the rest of us.

From IK Ikene

Albert Ngene
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