The British Broadcasting Corporation
According to the evidence, the January Army takeover was hailed throughout the whole Federation. The disturbances in the Western Region and in the Tiv areas of the North which marked the last days of first Republic came to an immediate halt. There was a marked sense of relief throughout the whole country. The mood of the country was amply portrayed by the national press. The Daily Times accused the politicians for the way things had gone wrong with the country and “praised the New Regime for a manner in which it had effected the changeover without causing much public panic”. The West African Pilot said that January 16 would “go down in history as a great day for Nigeria because it was the day Nigeria took a new lease of life”. The Nigerian Morning Post (the official organ of the Federal Government) after accusing the politicians in Nigeria of thinking they had a divine right to lord it over the ordinary people declared “we, of this newspaper join millions of fellow country men in welcoming the dawn of this era in the history of our country.” The New Nigerian of the North observed that “regionalism and tribalism have been the major factors that have precipitated the present crisis. If we have learnt that much, then some good may come out of what has happened”.
The only discordant note was struck by the B.B.C. in London. Within 48 hours of the Army takeover the B.B.C. correspondent dubbed the whole episode as an Ibo coup. The B.B.C. was to stick to this note to the end.
The next move came from some foreign nationals in the country particularly in the North. The centre of activity round the Ahmadu Bello University at Zaria and its twin institution, the institute of Public Administration at Samaru a few miles from Zaria.
The principal witnesses on the role played by these foreign nationals in these institutions of learning and culture were Eastern students attending those institutions at the time Mr. L. I. Okonkwo of the Insitute of Public Administration (1st Witness), Messrs. J. U. P. O. Ifediora (3rd Witness) and S.W.A.N. Onuoha (8th Witness) of the Ahmadu Bello University. The witnesses kept diaries in which they recorded events as they happened and movements and activities of students and members of the staff concerned. They also submitted written statement and gave oral evidence. Finally they tendered written petitions submitted to the authorities by the main body of Eastern students at the relevant period. As was indicated in the introduction to this report, these documents and copies of their oral evidence were made available to the British High Commission at its request during the period the tribunal was receiving evidence. The evidence gravely implicated some British nationals particularly. They are:
- S. S. Richardson, the Deputy Vice – Chancellor and the Director of the Institute of Public Administration.
- Major A. D. F. Boyle, formerly of the Nigerian Army but since employed as Estate Manager at the Ahmadu Bello University.
- R. B. Walker, Superintendent of Zoo Laboratory
- Mr J. M. Lawrence, formerly an Administrative Office in charge of training local government officers in the Institute of Administration. When the course was abolished, he was made a Hall Master in the Institute.
There were other British nationals mentioned in the evidence but their complicity was not as pronounced. There were nationals of other countries involved but they appear to have been operating under these key figures. Now to the evidence.
We refer to the diary kept by the 1st Witness Mr. L. I. Okonkwo. It was received in evidence as Exhibit 110/3. We reproduce the questions and answers which incorporated the entries in the diary.
Q. 75: “To save time I would just like you to read out your entries against specific dates when I call them out. 17th January, 1966: Could you read the entry for the day?” “Mr. Lawrence told a group of Tiv and Hausa students that the Hausas will make the death of Bello (the late Premier of Northern Region) a religious issue and attack the Ibos.”
76: “You made another entry on the 21st January?” “Yes.”
Q.77: “Would you read it?” “(Witness reads) “I went to the Force Headquarters, met the Commanding Officer and made a report on what we saw in the compound. He promised to send soldiers. The officer told me that Mr. Richardson was called by the Army in Kaduna.”
Q.78: “You should feel free to elaborate on these entries if you feel like doing so.” “Yes, on that particular day we discovered that the room numbers of Eastern student had been taken and given to the people in the town so that they could come to attack us at any time. We made a report to the Commanding Officer and he told us that they heard about it and that the Army Headquarters in Kaduna had called Mr. Richardson for questioning.”
Q. 79: Were they room numbers of students of Eastern Nigeria origin?” “Yes.”
Q. 80: “Typed out and given to people in the town?” “Yes.”
Q. 81: “How did you find out?” “A copy was given to us by a Northern Yoruba boy.”
Q. 82: “Where is this copy?” “I left most of the things with the Commanding Officer.”
Q. 86: “You said that you gave this document to the Commanding Officer. Where did you give it to him?” In Zaria.”
Q. 87: “That would be in January?” “Yes: on the 21st of January, 1966.”
Q. 90: “You made another entry?” “Yes. I made another entry on the 22nd of January. On the previous day the Commanding Officer told me that Mr. Richardson had been asked to address the students and that I should get the substance of what he was to say to the students. On the 22nd what I wrote in my diary is as follows:- “Went to Richardson’s lecture, came back and later went to Force Headquarters. We were not allowed into the compound then we went to the Railway quarters. Telephoned the Commanding Officer who told us to come. On the road no one was seen waiting for us. One soldier conducted us to Sergeant. We had a lot of trouble but finally we met Major Akagha and explained to him our troubles.”
Q. 92: “Did you attend this Mr. Richardson’s lecture?” “Yes. I attended. In fact he said nothing other than that people should stop having night meetings and so on. That was the only thing he said; that if people held meetings at night others would suspect. That was the only thing he said to the students.”
Q. 95: “What discoveries did you record on the 24th?” “I discovered that Mr. Lawrence and Richardson held a meeting at about 8 p.m. I came across them while I was going from Library to Hostel 3.”
Q. 96: “You discovered what?” “That Mr.. Richardson and Mr. Lawrence held a meeting with students at about 8 p.m.”
Q. 97: “All the students?” “No, some students. I have mentioned their names before; particularly the four students – I think I have given their names before; Paul Anyebe, Murtala Aminu, Mohammed Arzika.”
Q. 98: “You have given us three names.” “We had not seen the others in the compound before, so we did not know their names.”
Q. 99: “So they were outsiders?” “Yes.”
Q. 100: “You have here in Exhibit L102 at page 2 one other man G. B. Homkwap. Was he not among them?” “No he is not among them.”
Q. 102: “Where was this meeting held?’ “Hostel 1, Room 29 to 30.”
Q. 103: “Were they two rooms joined together?” “Yes, each student in the Institution of Administration had two rooms: a room and parlour.”
Q. 104: “Who owns the rooms 29 and 30?” “Murtala Aminu.”
Q.105: ‘Sorry, I hope we are not interrupting a great deal. I think we have got to get the sequence correct. Where does Paul Anyebe come from?” “He is from Idoma.”
Q. 106: “Murtala Aminu?” “I think he is from Yola.”
107: ‘Mohammed Arzika?” “He is from Sokoto.”
Q. 108: “These three at that time were students of the Institute?” “Yes.”
Q. 109: “You said that the strange faces were never seen in the Campus before?” “We had never seen them before.”
Q. 110: “Did you try to find out where these strange faces came?” “No.”
Q. 111: “Just one more question. How many would you estimate these strange faces to be?” “They were three.”
Q. 112: “Just one more final question. Was this room not locked; how did you know what happened in it?” “What happened was that immediately these people started their meeting and student from Middle Belt Area who went into Murtala Aminus’s room would come to tell us and anybody who got the information would come to tell me. We had a place where We stayed to watch them when they would be coming out or going in.”
Q. 113: “You were tipped off by some students that Mr Richardson was holding a meeting in the room and so you watched to see people when they would be coming out?” “Yes.”
Q. 114: “Did you at any time find out where these strange faces cane from?” “We never found out. It was only one of them whom we could identify and that was in May. He was from the University of Lagos.”
Q. 115: “What is his name?” “Mallam Maishalu. His name will be coming up again because after May, he started coming out regularly.”
Q. 116: “Did you find out from what part of the country he comes?” “No; we only know him to be a student from Lagos.”
Q. 117: “Of Northern origin?” “Yes.”
Q. 118: “Did they continue to hold these meetings?” “They continued to hold meetings but after February we did not discover any other meeting until May.”
Q. 120: “Have you any other record?” “One Mr. Smith incharge of Training in the Northern Provinces, addressed all the students. He said that since the coup in January about 2,000 Ibos have applied to the Northern Public Services for employment and that the students should resist it. What he actually meant was that if the students continued to allow the Ibos, within a short time they themselves would not have employment.”
Q. 121: Did he really mean that 2,000 Ibos have applied or have been employed?” “Have applied.”
Q. 122: “How many of them were employed, did he say?” “He did not.”
Q. 123: “I want to know more about this Mr. Smith. Do you know his grade or title?” “They said he was formerly Deputy Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Local Government, Northern Nigeria.”
Q. 124: “Did the students try to find out from him how they were to resist since evidently they do not give jobs?” “Yes, when he said that many students started murmuring, some started walking out even Northern students. At that stage when he saw that opinions were divided he changed to another topic.”
Q. 125: “After the 24th February, 1966, you had no more entry until May?” “Yes.”
Q. 126: “Now on 25th of May, 1966 Mr. J. M. Lawrence, Murtala Aminu, Paul Anyebe, Muhammed Arzika and Billy Yameni Othman had a closed door meeting in Aminu’s room at 1.45 p.m.?” “Yes.”
Q. 132: Do you remember the broadcast of 24th May?” “Yes.”
Q. 133: “By whom?” “By the late Supreme Commander.”
Q. 134: “Do you remember how long this meeting lasted. The meeting of 25th May?” “I did not put down the time it lasted. I only came across them when I was going to the Dinning Hall.”
Q. 135: “You saw them?” “Yes, Sir.”
Q. 136: “What do you mean when you say that you came across them? You went into their room or what” “I went into Aminu’s room because somebody came to look for him and the person did not know where he was and I used the opportunity to go into his room.”
Q. 137: “Did you find out the purpose of the meeting?” “I did not.”
Q. 138: “You said you were aware of the broadcast of 24th May, which according to you took place between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.?” “Yes, I listened to it.”
Q. 140: “You discussed this broadcast?” “Yes, Sir.”
Q. 141: “That same night, or what day?” “From that day and continued until the end of the month.”
Q. 142: “Can you recollect the subject of the broadcast?” “One subject was the unification of the Civil Service.”
Q. 143: “Do you remember any of the opinions expressed about this broadcast by either the lecturers or the students?” “What I gather from the students was that this had confirmed this man’s speech on the 5th of February. This was said openly by Mr. Aminu in our class.”