From Left to Right: Captain N. Empere (Military Police), Major Gideon G. Orkar (Armour), Captain P.A. Dakolo (Infantry), Lt. C.O. Ozualor (Armour) and Lt. C.O. Odey.
The Blow: Aiming For The Heart Of Govt
AFTER I presented my tactical plan on how I would take the Ojo Cantonment, Captain Empere, along with Colonel Nyiam, Major Mukoro and Major Obahor, suggested that I should recruit another officer to assist me, considering the size of the cantonment. The other officers supported this. There was no emphasis, but we had at the back of our minds the clichZ that two heads are better than one (provided both heads are good, as I always add). So I promised to get another officer in at the last moment. One week to D-Day, I recruited Captain Ben Oziegbe. Cap. Oziegbe worked with me in the same unit and also lived in the Officers Village. He was my junior on the rank. Before his recruitment I had often discussed the issues involved with him, in order to feel his pulse, as it were, to determine if he could be counted upon when it became necessary.
As D-Day approached a small problem developed in my house. One of my cousins arrived from Port Harcourt on Wednesday, just three days before the day; I had to go collect him from the house of Major Tolofari, where he had sojourned for two days. I brought him to my place on Thursday, the same day that Empere and I went to the Balogun Market in Lagos to buy the food items. My mind was truly agitated, because if the young man stayed in my house and the operation failed, it was certain that he was going to be arrested; even if the operation succeeded it was likely that he was not going to see me for a number of days, in which case he could panic for my safety. He did not know his way around Lagos and could not have found his way out of the Officers Village.
I arrived at the Assembly Area at 2100 hours, with Captain Oziegbe and two soldiers, one Corporal from Bendel State and two Privates from my state. By the time we reached there the ex-servicemen had already taken a joint dinner there and one of the men who had effected the recruitment was taking a roll call. By 2230 hrs only the officers who had some finishing touches to make had not shown up. We had a brief conference that lasted about ten minutes, and at which Great Ogboru appeared for the first time.
Only the officers took part at that conference. There, a team was picked to go to the Mile II Signals Barracks to raid the armoury and magazine for arms and ammunition. The team was made up of Maj. Obahor, myself, Capt. Dakolo, Capt. Idele, Lt Odey, Lt Akogun, and ten soldiers. Capt. Dakolo, who came with meticulously pressed uniforms, had forgotten his pips and I gave him the ones on the spare uniform that I had taken along.
By the time we returned from our raid assignment the soldiers had been broken into groups as per the number of objectives. I was shown those assigned to the Ojo Cantonment. They were unorganised and not a single one of them had an army uniform on him. I was shocked, because Captain Oziegbe was present when the allocations were made; he was to be my second-in-command and I wondered how he simply looked on and did nothing to see that the troops had uniforms, or at least, if that was beyond his control, to get them organised. I took over.
As arms and ammo were being given out I exchanged some of them with those in other squads that had uniforms, or I removed the tops or bottoms of uniforms from other troops and gave to them.
After this we moved into the busses. I was allocated a J5 bus and a Peugeot 504 Station Wagon. Oziegbe suggested that I should go with the soldiers in the bus while he followed me with the car. I refused and asked him to jump on the bus. We left the car there.
Many of the newspapers and magazines that wrote on the operation quoted "reliable eyewitness accounts" saying that as early as between 0030 hrs and 0130 hrs (00.30 a.m. and 01-30 a.m.) of April 21/22 they saw troop movements and even armoured vehicles stalking the Obalende area of Lagos. These were mere fabrications. Our NMB - no move before - was 0130 hrs and none of our troops moved out of the assy area, after the raid party's return, before this time. Those of us bound for Ojo and Lagos, the farthest targets from the base, left at about this time; those to assault the Ikeja Cantonment moved much later, in order that the assault would be synchronised in all areas. Our H-Hr was 0200 hrs.
At about 0630hrs I started to sort all the soldiers who had been captured and those who had been called out. All those from the excised states were locked up in the guardrooms and the others were asked to go and dress up in uniformed and come back.
Having heard the success of the putsch on the radio they started to come out in large numbers. It was about this time too, that Major G. T. Edoja came to meet me, already dressed in uniform. He congratulated me on my success. He said the intention was initially mooted to him, but that when the plans got under way he was not informed. Then he asked me if Mukoro was with us. I said yes. He suggested that at the 580 Signals Regiment there in Ojo, there was a mini-armoury where we could get weapons to arm the soldiers. I gave him some soldiers to take there and arm, but they came back because they could not find the keys. This was not a problem. I sent another second Lieutenant from the 149 Mech Inf Bn to go to CO in detention and ask where the armoury and magazine keys were. The CO said he did not have them, they were probably with his Quartermaster (QM).
Early in the morning I sent reinforcements to both the Lagos/Ibadan tollgate, to support Major Obahor, and to the FRCN, to support Major Orkar. I deployed some soldiers to cut off the 174 Mech Inf Bn, located at Topo Badagry, in case they moved against us. I also deployed men under the Flyover Bridge in front of the Trade Fair Complex. Then Major Edoja and I set up our operational headquarters at the 149 Bn Signals Room.
At about 0800hrs one of the soldiers I had sent to escort the CO to his house to collect the magazine keys came to report to men that while there the Chief of General Staff (CGS), Augustus Aikhomu, telephoned to ask the CO, what the situation was at the Ojo Cantonment. The soldiers said he answered the phone and told the CGS that the CO was not in, but that things were calm in Ojo. I relayed the information to Major Mukoro at our control base on our radio and we decided on steps to take it case the CGS was looking for a hiding place and would manage to show up there.
At some point in the early morning I put the Quartermaster of my unit and his second-in-command in charge of the distribution of the arms and ammo to the soldiers that were trooping out. Being so relieved, Major Edoja and I went on patrol. We went well beyond Okoko, to ascertain if there was any movement on the part of the 174 Bn. There was no sign. We also used the time to caution some of the soldiers who were having fun, shooting into the air, since there were civilians on the road and we did not want them to be frightened or for anyone to get injured when it was not intended.
On our return the soldiers on the road handed over two men to us, one of them said he was an officer on pass from a unit outside Lagos, the other said he was a king somewhere. The king narrated that he had heard the broadcast of the revolutionaries in the wee hours of the morning, but that he had later in the day also heard a counter announcement. He was not sure what exactly had been said and he could not say who had made the announcements. We let them go on their way.
"The dislike for independent minded African leaders who wanted the best for their citizens support the view that the common motive of Western intelligence agencies’ interference in our domestic politics was, and still is, targeted at covertly imposing on African countries’ leaders that would not only condone, but abet the exploitation of the African States’ resources by Western multi-national firms and crooks". - from "Towards a Better Nigeria" by Tony Nyiam