This is an interesting series of interviews. The first one is with Major Abubakar Adamu Mohammed, former Chief Security Officer to former President, General Ibrahim Babangida. The second one is a rebuttal interview with Lt-Col Tony Nyiam, one of the surviving executors of the Orkar coup. Intrigues…read on…
From the Sun.
Why Orkar coup failed
From Dennis Mernyi, Abuja
Monday, May 11, 2009
Photo: Sun News Publishing
Major Abubakar Adamu Mohammed, former Chief Security Officer (CSO) to erstwhile military President, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, has given an insight into why the bloody Orkar coup of April 1990 failed.
Major Mohammed in an exclusive interview with Daily Sun in Abuja on the coup, which almost terminated the Babangida regime cited confusion among the coup leaders, Major Gideon Orkar and Lt Col. Tony Nyiam over the killing of the Aide-de-camp (ADC) of the president, Lt Col. U.K. Bello, as one of the flaws, which caused the plotters’ failure.
“Orkar was pretty close to ADC’s wife. When she saw him (Orkar) because she told me later that she was in a good hand. He (Orkar) was there before the coup started and I went out and came back and he was taking her along to FRCN and they saw a dead body. So, he (Orkar) asked Col. Nyiam, who is this person you killed. Col. Nyiam said ‘that is the ADC to General Babangida, UK Bello’.
“He (Orkar) said why should you kill him because Col. Nyiam did not know Zainab. UK Bello’s wife was standing there and she knelt down and started begging. He (Orkar) said no; nothing will happen to you. So, there was a kind of misunderstanding there because deep down in his (Orkar’s) heart, ADC was not meant to be killed. They were only aiming at destroying the regime.
“There was confusion between Orkar and Nyiam when UK Bello’s wife broke down in tears and begged them not to kill her. And I think that was partially what caused the failure of the coup,” he explained.
Abubakar said the coup was also put down easily because the coup plotters used those he described as inexperienced soldiers, most of whom had just left the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) and recruitment depots.
He disclosed that Gen. Babangida’s nonchalance to advice on sensitive security issues, coupled with the late Lt. Col. UK Bello’s confidence in his course mate, Major Gideon Orkar, caused the lapses that enabled the coup plotters to gain access to Dodan Barracks.
Abubakar also spoke about the Vatsa coup from the benefit of a soldier who arrested the late FCT Minister and noted that the coup was real and borne out of envy.
He also said Babangida knew his friend and late Head of State, General Sani Abacha, would succeed him two years before he stepped aside.
Speaking on Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, the CSO to the late Gen Abacha, Major Mohammed said the security chief would not have been in the mess if he had not defied his (Mohammed’s) warning.
Major Al-Mustapha is currently in prison custody in Lagos for his alleged complicity in the murder of some prominent Nigerians during the era of the late General Abacha.
He said an innocuous advice he gave to the aides of the late Head of State which he said was based on his knowledge of their boss, was jettisoned but that General Sani Abacha confirmed his fears when he arrived to assume duty as Head of State.
“And that was the period I was able to see the way Hamza (Al-Mustapha was almost teleguiding everybody. Then, I called him and cautioned him to be careful. I said you are too wild. I have seen where Generals were kneeling down to beg for appointments but in the end, they will nail you.
“He was surprised and looked at me. He said this is a new time and I said no problem and that was the last time I saw him,” he said.
Excerpts of the interview:
You might have been very close to IBB. But many people used to hold divergent views on the IBB as a person. As his former CSO, can you tell us the IBB you know?
Well, from my observation and from what I have seen in him, he is someone that reaches out to even his enemies, with open heart and open mind but most Nigerians believe that even if he comes with an open mind and heart, he is still the IBB they called Maradonna. That name was given to him, from my understanding, by someone who tried to get him, but couldn’t get to him but was always getting to the ADCs and he gave him that name and the name sticks. But the fact remains that you can’t compare him with any other president in this country. He has thick skin to welcome insults, because I remember one time, he was insulted on pages of newspapers when he was the president and commander-in-chief.
This took place before we moved to Abuja.. He was to give a lecture and when he saw the same person, he was telling him that there were certain points you did not tell Nigerians about me and everybody laughed including the same person. The guy knew that this is not somebody I should insult, somebody who should be hard on him but he still welcomes him in public. I have never seen him getting annoyed and that is why I am always afraid, when he gets annoyed, it will be too hard and the God Almighty will be guiding him not to be annoyed with his enemies because I cannot stand what he can stand.
For the period you served him as the CSO, was there any time he really grew angry with anyone, at least, in your presence and what was the cause?
That was only once and that happened to one of you. Muhammed Haruna, I don’t know whether you know him. He was one-time MD New Nigerian Newspaper. He wrote an article insulting IBB’s wife and the same guy came into the house in the evening, and I remember I heard IBB saying you are like a junior brother of mine, how dare you go and write what you don’t know about. You could see the annoyance in him and I said I think we can deal with him. I remember I asked one of my boys close to me to take him to the reception and that I will deal with him later. I think he (IBB) saw him (Haruna) immediately we came out of Maghrib prayers, before he even entered. He said Abubakar (because that is how he (IBB) used to call me), he said don’t do any harm to him. I said yes sir’, I am only going to have a chat with him. When I came out, I knew he has warned him, I said Oga, next time, please know what you write, have a nice time sir. And that was the only time I believe I saw him really annoyed because you can see from his voice and eyes and his staring at Haruna’s eyes. That really told me that man had annoyed the president.
But did you ask him about his mission to the house after he had even done the report?
I did, but I don’t need to tell the world. He was not even redeployed. He went there as a normal person, and he continues coming until today. Anytime he wants to see the General, he moves into the house. IBB gets annoyed and he forgets easily. That is how some people were built.
As the CSO, you must be aware of some of the extra judicial killings during IBB’s tenure, like murder of Dele Giwa that was linked to him and some others.
I cannot comment on this but the little I know is that Dele Giwa hardly even talked about IBB. But I think Dele Giwa had his own problems. It is just unfortunate that IBB was the president and the Commander in Chief. It is just like when you talk about the assassination of Bola Ige. Some people can easily jump and say it was Obasanjo possibly who masterminded it. But the question is in every society, when there is something that has to do with the Press, they will always go back to the principal who was then the Head of State and there was this rumour about who killed Dele Giwa. On what ground? Dele Giwa should have known what he had done. And here they were talking of a letter bomb. At that time, how many intelligence officers can handle letter bomb?
That is the question. When Dele Giwa’s issue came, I think being the head of State and being the belief of Nigerians that it was a military regime, and then it could always be blamed on whoever was the head of state. But I am glad if you have been going through the court hearings, there was a Major General Togun (retired). I think he cleared almost all about the controversies surrounding the issue. The question is Nigerians are not ready to believe any explanation on this matter. Nigerians just want to hear that something bad happened to a leader. That is why till the end of the world, others will blame Dele Giwa’s death on Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida. The only death I can tell you happened was the execution of those coup plotters which is in the military gazette. Once you attempt to topple a regime and you fail and the same regime is able to get hold of you, the answer is execution.
You mean there were no indiscriminate killings during IBB’s regime, to your knowledge as the CSO or you never went after his perceived enemies… (Cuts in)
If there was any, tell me. Even if there was any, definitely not to my knowledge because I cannot hear such thing and keep quiet, I must find a way of letting him know through someone. There are certain things I don’t need to go and tell him. I tell someone that can tell him because the gap between him and I was too much.
You did not authorize any torture of someone that resulted to death?
I have mentioned it to you that the highest I have gone was to tell the next officer that, please take Muhammed Haruna to the reception on C-in-C’s directive. But before he moved on, what he (IBB) said was that he should not be manhandled, you can ask him this.
Now, where were you during Major Gideon Orkar’s coup, as a CSO because we did not hear much of you, rather it was Lt. Col. Bello who became a hero at the end of the coup, where were you during this strike?
Lt. Col. Bello was my immediate boss and at that time I was second in command during Orkar coup but what I saw in Orkar, he was so trusted by Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida. He trusted him to the extent that Orkar could come into that house without being questioned by anybody. He can walk straight to the ADC’s office, sit and chat and ADC will tell him to go and see the president in his office. He sent him on a course abroad, when he came; Orkar was an armored officer, General Babangida is also an armored officer, when Orkar came back, he came back with a model armored tank and then he gave it to ADC and luckily enough, I went into the office because Col. U.K. Bello and I were very close even before I joined the military. I picked it up and I said oga what is this, he said it was Orkar who brought it to the General. The same U.K took it up and I followed him, so, when he gave it to the General, the General placed it on his table in his own office to show you the love he had for Orkar. When he placed it, I asked my immediate boss, U.K. Bello, I said how long is it going to be here sir. He said, what concerns you? I said no sir, this could be a bugging device. Why should we leave it here, then the General looked and said ‘he is my boy’. Some two weeks before the coup, I discovered that there was some erratic behaviour. I only had a pistol and all my boys were trained on anti-tank. I told UK Bello, you have collected the key to the gate through the FRCN and given it to oga, what about if these people just turned against us sir. What are we going to do? UK and Orkar, I think were course mates. He used to come into the house and play draught, based on the love I have seen in him, you dare not challenge your senior against someone that is close to him. Actually, U.K. respects me and my feelings, I said no, no sir, it is not the best. He said no, forget about the key. Somehow, we have some armored tanks about three deployed in the house, all commanded by the same Orkar, his boys are all inside, they sleep with us. What happened along the line, during fasting period, he came in and out, and the next thing, the former IG, Gambo Jimta came to see the president and left and I was second in command, I left for my house, only for the late General Hassan Usman Katsina from Kaduna to wake me up and say something is happening in Dodan Barracks. I could not come with my car. I parked my car along the road and I trekked. The gates were all over but you could hear some shouting and shootings around the ADC’s office. I know we have bunkers, I went into the bunkers and met two of my boys and I sat with them, and I made telephone call to the president and he asked me, what are you doing there? I said I came in late and somehow the gates and everything were opened. He said did you hear they have killed my ADC? I said no sir. So, Orkar was pretty close to ADC’s wife. When she saw him (Orkar), because she told me later she was in a good hand. He was there before the coup started and I went out and came back and he was taking her along to the FRCN and they saw a dead body, so, he asked Col. Nyiam, who is this person you killed. Col. Nyiam said that was the ADC to Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. He said U.K. Bello. He said why should you kill him because Col. Nyiam did not know Zainab, U.K. Bello’s wife was standing there and she knelt down and started begging. He said no, nothing will happen to you. So, there was a kind of misunderstanding there because deep down in his (Orkar’s) heart, the ADC was not meant to be killed. They were only aiming at destroying the regime. There was confusion between Orkar and Nyiam when U.K Bello’s wife broke down in tears and begged them not to kill her. And I think that was partially what caused the failure of the coup. They ran into the bush along Ikoyi cemetery and that was the end of the coup. They used inexperienced soldiers. Most them were just leaving NDA and recruitment depots. But today Col. Nyiam is a hero in this country. He killed U.K. Bello in cold blood. Today, he comes into the PDP trying to think he was one of the persons that brought in democracy.
This means you were not around to avert the coup or to be in charge as the CSO at the time the coup was staged? You only came in when the damage to the house had been done. Could this mean you were not in total control of the security of your boss IBB at a time? This is more so as there were rumours that sometime IBB was in Ilorin and it was reported that his ring got missing in the crowd.
Well, if I tell you I am hearing this for the first time from you, you may not believe. May be it is one of you guys that actually mentioned this and it became a story. But I am not aware of it, honestly speaking. But it is pretty difficult for a ring to be off a hand without you possibly knowing unless if one is unconscious. But I don’t think that is true anyway.
Still talking about coup, can you still remember the incidents of the night before Mamman Vasta’s execution? How was the feeling of your boss as his friend was about to be executed?
I can, but there is no need for me to go back to it. I think I have said it in one of my interviews. He planned to stage a coup. He was an officer and a gentleman but let me be honest with you, he did not deny it and from my understanding, there was a kind of envy, that is just all I can see. I happened to be one of those that got him arrested and where we kept him and even when he was trying to escape, I had to remind him, I said, you once told me you were an officer, he said yes, and I said, you said you were better off than IBB at school in Bida, why are you trying to escape now? Do you now believe that he is better than you? He is gone. May his soul rest in peace.
During Abacha regime, the name Major Al-Mustapha was a household name, but many people did not know you as the CSO then.
If you remember, when I was talking to you, when I saw my boss was annoyed and I gave an order that somebody should be kept in the VIP, he called me immediately, he said he should not be molested. So, from what I have observed from our own regime and that of Abacha, was that during IBB’s, regime, there were checks and balances. And these came directly from the top. But from what I have observed when I was arrested up till the time I was released after about nine months or one year, I discovered that somebody gave the orders, not General Abacha because a few days after I was released, he called me, I don’t know how he got my number and said you know what politics is, we all have to forgive one another, I said sir, I will never hold you responsible for this because I know who the enemies are. I still respect him. May his soul rest in peace. Al-mustapha was given a free hand to possibly do what he wants and to stop what he wanted to stop.
Could it be that you were not given enough powers to operate or the office, then during Abacha era Al-Mustapha got more powers?
Definitely, his boss might have given him that power or as a result of his boss’s quietness, you know Abacha was not the speaking type. For you to see the late General, and if you cannot see him possibly you would tell who sees him regularly, and who was that, it was either the State Chief of Protocol or Chief Security Officer or the ADC. So, they could tell him what they wanted and not possibly what he wanted. I may be wrong but what I observed was that Hamza Al- Mustapha has almost all the powers within him because he does the work of the NIA, SSS, DMI and all along. He was not checked. I stand to be corrected but I can see that is what really led him to do what he really wanted. Why am I saying this? I was arrested by a Brigadier General, I think when Abacha was barely three days in power and from the telephone conversation, 090 network then. The General that came to arrest me was not talking to Abacha. He was talking to Al-Mustapha and I looked at the General and I said don’t forget sir, the same person you are speaking with is my junior and I would never live in this world to be taking directive as a General from a major or from a captain and since you have taken this, sir, do whatever you want with me. Surprisingly, I was flown to Lagos and I was taken to another General’s office. That same general called the same guy. I looked at the General and I said sir, when did Generals start taking orders from their juniors?
You had served as CSO before Major Al-Mustapha, was there any time you cautioned or advised him against the excesses of his powers?
To be precise, on the 20th of November, 1993, Abacha flew back to Abuja and if you remember, he took over on the 17th of November 1993. Then ADC, Gen. Bamali, the PSO to Gen Babangida, Gen. Abubakar, were standing, when they came, I tactically told the ADC who said we should open the office of Gen. Babangida that you don’t seem to know Abacha. He would not climb upstairs. He said don’t tell me what I know and what I don’t know. And when Abacha came, the ADC said sir, the president’s office is open. He said no, I am not going in there. I will sit in the waiting room. And that was the period I was able to see the way Hamza was almost teleguiding everybody. I called him and cautioned him to be careful. I said you are too wild; I have seen where Generals were kneeling down to beg for appointments but in the end, they will nail you. He was surprised and looked at me. He said this is a new time and I said no problem and that was the last time I saw him. But I tell you, now that I am highly disappointed about the way he is being treated. It is disheartening.
Can we say that if he heeded your warnings and advice, he would not have been in jail up till this moment?
No, being in jail, I see it as political. His actions to me at that time did not bother me that much because I know he will get tired with sycophants and lobbyists who will come to tell him heaven and earth will come down if so, so things should happen. But his intention was what disturbed me because if people like Harry Marshal, Dikibo, Bola Ige were assassinated in this nation and the culprits were arrested and let loose, moving freely on the streets, you should know that there is every dishonesty, misunderstanding, misinformation about possibly how that lady or the attempted assassination of Ibru was all stage-managed by the last regime because when we were in detention, those who were giving the orders to move Obasanjo, Shehu Yar’Adua or Lawal Gwadabe were all coming to tell those being detained that it was so, so that gave the order.
Is his long stay in detention not justifiable, given his alleged involvement in several killings during his time as the CSO to Abacha?
No, he doesn’t deserve to be held in prison. Like I said earlier, he has commandeered most of the security intelligence of this nation, all alone. They could plan a lot of things that is now leading him to spend so many years in jail. It is not fair. If you look at what is happening in the Western world today, the so-called Guantanamo, with the new changes in the regime, they even said those who were detained should be set free. If you look at what happened, he was not in Lagos when the assassination was carried out. That is why I said earlier, it is political but the Nigerian government should have to look inward because, you can imagine if it is any of their sons or daughters that is in that same situation. They could have let go since. Today, there is no single person that is being detained for the assassination of Bola Ige. Check the Nigerian prison. You will never find someone being connected with the assassination of Harry Marshal or Dikibo or Bola Ige. There are lots like that. Why? Is it because the godfather has gone? The current regime led by President Musa Yar’Adua should look into that.
In the military hierarchy, the CSO is supposed to be answerable to the ADC, but in the era of Abacha regime, Major Almustapha and his office swallowed that of the ADC. What reasons could you adduce were responsible to this?
If you are not in the military, you might not understand. Being with the general for so long does not make you more powerful than the other person. But I think it depends on the discipline of the officer because if you disrespect your immediate boss, then you will all have a problem. Let me tell you one thing, when we moved to Abuja, the late Gen. Bamali and I never agreed but the boys who worked under us, even though I worked under him could not understand the situation. When I retired, he remained in the military. I don’t want to go into details. We remained like that because I am still loyal to him. I can be loyal at the same time disloyal. Loyal in the sense that I can come and tell you what is happening. If you refuse to understand my own way of thinking, then I will go and do it my way. Al-Mustapha and I never agreed with each other. Throughout the time I took over as the CSO to President Babangida, Al-Mustapha never entered my office because I knew who his boss was.
Who was his boss?
His boss was the late Gen Abacha.
Did you have that kind of relationship with IBB before he made you CSO?
Yes. I was the CSO, like second in command to Lt. Col. UK Bello when he was the Chief of Army Staff in Ministry of Defence. But then, he was a Major when I was a Captain. I worked in the Army Headquarters, Provost Battalion but I was deployed under IBB when he was Chief of Army Staff. He didn’t see me but he saw my boss only but anytime he was going home, he waited and we talked.
How often did you meet to brief, him on security issues, or how much did he take you into confidence?
No, No. I always briefed the ADC or the NSA. We were to go to Saro-Wiwa’s town, the information I heard from those who were there earlier was that it is likely they are going to throw stones at us. I could not look at my boss and tell him that. So, I went to the Director-General of State Security Service. When he told him he said we must go and we did. They threw stones at us but he ordered us not to shoot and that was how we passed.
Did you ever ride in the car with him?
Yes. I always do unless I am sick and I have never been sick in my life but anytime he is going out when I was the CSO, I was always in the car with him. I know him, you cannot tell me anything against him and I will keep quiet because I will always tell you certain things.
How long did you serve in the military?
I served the military for 18 years and 20 days and that is the best profession I have ever known in my life.
When were you actually retired and in what circumstance?
As a matter of fact, I was not retired alone. Sisteen of us were retired and that time Abacha was barely one week old. Why I was pretty annoyed with the retirement, I was only told about my retirement. My retirement letter only came to me when Abdulsalami Abubakar was head of State, about five years after my retirement was announced. I was not given official letter. When I wanted to go to NDA, I saw my name in New Nigerian. I went for the interview. They said my name was published under Kano State and when I was to be commissioned, there was appointment letter of commission that was given to me by President Shagari. So, how can I be thrown out by somebody I least expected and being one of the persons I least expected to tag us 16 officers as IBB boys. Some people were behind this.
And did you find out who they were?
Yes, I did, only three boys. Let me leave it that way and they are still living. One of them apologized for misunderstanding me. All those who put down my name did not know me at all.
So what did you think were those reasons for your early retirement?
Just because I served IBB and I did it with open eye not with blind loyalty and they went against me
Do you think they were afraid you may go against Abacha?
No, I had gone against Abacha before he became the president. He knew. The NSA knew and the President too knew. I don’t need to go to details of the reasons.
Was your boss aware of this?
Yes, but whenever we told him he waived it. He knew two years before he stepped aside, that Abacha was coming but he always waived it. He always disarmed him verbally. He moved towards his enemy.
And you his boys were not happy that the man you suspected had been accepted by your boss then?
Immediately he took over, I knew I was gone from the military
Did you blame your boss for not taking your advice?
I could not because if not for the little information we do pass to him, possibly IBB and I and few others could have been dead long time ago. We don’t need to go into that.
Any regret putting in all your life serving him?
No regret. Not at all.
Your boss is still alive. How much did he acknowledge your loyalty, in other words, did you get any compensation from him.
I don’t need any, the compensation I have is that he still welcomes me into his house. We are in Abuja and I did not come to Abuja to beg and you saw my position yesterday and that is enough to tell you that this one is only retired in the military because I am not a weak person.
As one of the IBB boys, were you also told how deadly powerful your principle was and how his regime was?
When you say deadly, I am confused whether I have killed or attempted to kill people. I move freely. I don’t go to where I need not to be and wherever I am going I always tell someone. There is no iota of regret from serving that General and I still believe most people that worked under him, somehow, he changed their lives. Some Generals were retired by IBB, like Governor of Plateau, Gov. Jang. Does he want to remain in military. He possibly could have gone by the way. I know some guys who came inexperienced and dived into blind loyalty, today they are not in this country. One of them is Nuhu Ribadu. He served Obasanjo with his eyes closed and the second was El-Rufai. They served Obasanjo with their eyes closed. The same situation they are in, the same Obasanjo cannot save them because they didn’t know who they were working with.
TONY NYIAM’S REBUTTAL
•IBB’s ADC, UK Bello, pretended to be with us and was killed in crossfire — Col. Nyiam replies Major Mohammed on Orkar coup
By EMERSON GOBERT, JR.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Col. Tony Nyiam
Photo: Sun News Publishing
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Though he maintained a philosophical stoicism expected of a disciplined military officer, it was apparent recently that fiery Col. Tony Nyiam, the most senior officer involved in the April 1990 military coup against the government of General Ibrahim Babangida, was furious.
What provoked his spirit this time is what he saw as calculated plots to distort facts on the Major Gideon Orkar coup.
Major Abubakar Mohammed, who said he was Gen. Babangida’s Chief Security Officer (CSO), recently spoke on why the Orkar coup failed. Among the reasons he gave were that Col. Nyiam and Major Orkar, the coup leaders, disagreed on the killing of Col. U.K. Bello, Aide-de-camp to Gen. Babangida, which Abubakar alleged was carried out by Col. Nyiam. Also, the CSO said that Nyiam used inexperienced soldiers to execute the coup.
Reacting to these, Nyiam did not only shoot down Abubakar’s allegations, he even questioned his identity and competence as a CSO to Gen. Babangida.
“I find it ridiculous that a so-called Chief Security Officer could misrepresent the facts of the matter and indeed, if he was a CSO, as he claims, why was he not at his duty post at that critical moment? What is his knowledge of the standard operational procedure of a military officer in such a strategic security position? Why did he Abubakar Mohammed not get into action in time?,” Nyiam fumed.
Nyiam used the opportunity to reveal, for the first time, some secret details of that bloody coup, the specific assignments of the participants, how UK Bello was killed and why the Orkar coup failed.
It’s a Saturday Sun hot exclusive.
In a recent interview, former Chief Security Officer (CSO) to ex-military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, Major Abubakar Mohammed, touted reasons the Major Gideon Orkar coup of April 1990, which you were the most senior officer involved failed. He said confusion between you and Major Orkar over the killing of Gen. Babangida’s Aide-de-camp (ADC), Lt. Col. U.K. Bello, was one of the flaws, which caused your collective failure.
He said that Orkar did not want Bello killed. How do you react to this?
Thank you for this opportunity and I thank The Sun for giving me a chance to respond to an interview that was done through The Sun. Before I start, let me just make a brief remark. Major Abubakar’s interview, in his reliance on concoction and wanton misrepresentation of event, is reminiscent of that given not too long ago by a dubious 419-nish character through a national paper. This self-styled ex-soldier claimed, in a wicked attempt to malign Major Orkar’s name and reputation, that the late officer and gentleman was a regular visitor to a hemp-smoking den in Ilorin. This is patently false. Even more revealing of the man’s utter unreliability to his claim to be close to Major Orkar’s family as a friend and yet did not know the ethnic group of the late Major’s wife. I find myself compelled to speak again and again in defence of our dear patriots’ memory in order that these various falsehood are not perceived as truth.
As to the specific response to your question, it is completely false. I did not wish my friend and course mate, Col. U.K. Bello,(may him soul rest in peace), dead. Such a disagreement with Major Gideon Orkar wouldn’t have and did not happen. Major Orkar’s area of operational responsibility (AOR), both in the plans and the execution of the plan of action was not FRCN or Dodan Barracks sector. He was not at all in Ikoyi. He was instead operating in Bonny Camp, Victoria Island. That is the second lie. The third lie: Some may have thought Major Gideon Orkar was in the FRCN on that night because of the broadcast. The broadcast was pre-recorded and Orkar was not there in person. Orkar’s operational area was in Bonny Camp; so Orkar could never have been there.
Just to show you the fourth lie, Orkar is not U.K. Bello’s mate at all. I am U. K. Bello’s mate. We are course mates in the 9th Regular Combatant Course of Nigerian Defence Academy. We went into the NDA in 1971 to 1973. Orkar came in almost a year and a half or two after us. The first lie that Orkar was close and was taking U.K. Bello’s wife to FRCN for his broadcast sounds ridiculous. To start with, the timing of the action; broadcast started long before U.K. was even woken from sleep and misled into the action, which had already been joined almost two hours after U.K. Bello was woken up from sleep and sent into operation by his boss, Gen. Babangida.
What is sad is that Gen. Babangida shouldn’t have misled U.K. Bello to go into an already charged war situation because he had already sent his scout, who had come and seen how overwhelming our force was. So, to have sent U.K. Bello to come into such operation and he ran away is the problem.
As to the lie that I killed U.K. Bello, far from it. U.K. Bello, as I’ve said over and over, came into a charged situation; he came in and purported to be part of us and in the crossfire, he was shot. I never shot a pistol or any gun on that night.
Mohammed claimed that U.K. Bello’s confidence in Orkar, who you have said was not his course mate, caused the lapses that enabled you people to gain access to Dodan Barracks. How true is this?
First of all, all are completely false. To start with, he gave the impression in that interview that Major Orkar was serving in Lagos. Orkar was actually serving in Shaki. He was commanding the Armoured Battalion. Babangida knows that. Everybody knows that he was commanding a unit outside Lagos. He was not based in Lagos and this is why I find it ridiculous that a so-called Chief Security Officer, because I don’t believe he was, could misrepresent the facts of the matter. Indeed, if he was a CSO, as he claims, why was he not at his duty post at that critical moment? Two: What is his knowledge of the standard operational procedure of a military officer in such a strategic security position? Three: Why did the Abubakar Mohammed not get into action in time? It seems to me that here was a serious dereliction of duty; that he was nowhere to be found when his presence was most required.
The way the chap has relayed the whole information does not tally because, first of all, the Chief Security Officer, as you see in the days of Mustapha and Abacha, was actually the senior. Here, U.K. Bello was the de facto Chief Security Officer; so there was no purported Chief Security Officer to the president.
He also said in the interview that you people ran into the bush along Ikoyi cemetery and that that was how the coup ended…
We fought until about I o’clock when the main battle tanks were brought against the light battle tanks, which had changed sides and were in action with us. When we were overwhelmed by the arrival of the main battle tanks, we could not resist. Otherwise, we had control of most of Lagos till about 1 o’clock. One of the flaws I’ve said over and over is our failure to have captured Ikeja cantonment, where those main battle tanks were stored. If we had captured them, as planned, we would never have had the problem.
Major Mohammed also said that the coup failed partly because you people used inexperienced soldiers, as most of them were just leaving the NDA and recruitment depots.
This is completely false! Again, the guy has no clue. If he was indeed the Chief Security Officer to Babangida, he would have been privy to the Board of Enquiry, which Gen. Abdulsalami chaired, prior to the court martial. He would have also read Gen. Ike Nwachukwu’s court martial and also would have read Gen. Y.Y. Kure’s court martial. He would have seen, from there, that his facts are completely not in tune and I’m surprised for a Chief Security Officer to be completely unaware of these facts. The action was, in the main, full of civilians. The few officers and soldiers that we mobilized for the action were experienced and competent officers and that was why they were effective. Take, for example, the actions of Major Empere and Dakolo in Ikeja cantonment. They were so effective that the commander, Bamaiyi, as I said before, had to run away into the bush and the commander of the Armoured Corps ran away into the cassava farm in the cantonment. It was later in the morning when it was realized that these chaps weren’t many in number that they were overwhelmed.
And what is the reason we were few in number? As I’ve said repeatedly, the coup was a pre-emptive action we had to take because there was a leakage and we had to take that pre-emptive action before people started rounding us up. That’s one. Secondly, all the soldiers we used were experienced soldiers. We also used, as records would show and it was public knowledge, ex-service men – people who fought the civil war and who were experienced. So, the idea of us getting inexperienced officers and recruits just shows that the so-called Major Mohammed Abubakar is speaking like a civilian. He is completely ignorant. If he was a Chief Security Officer, he would have had access to all those documents that I have mentioned.
He bluntly said you killed U.K. Bello and that you are trying to make people believe you are one of the persons who brought in democracy.
First of all, I’m no hero. The Lord Jesus Christ is the hero. If there are any mortal heroes in our action, they are Major Gideon Orkar, Major Empere, Major Charles Idede, Captain Dakolo, Lieutenants Odey, Mukoro, Akogun and all others who lost their lives fighting for the restoration of free and fair elections, transparent national census, freedom and properly elected federal democratic order to Nigeria. Those are the true heroes and among those, I would include people like Col. Adekunle Fajuyi, Brigadier Ibrahim Bako, Gen. Yar’Adua, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Isaac Boro, M.K.O. Abiola, Kudirat Abiola, Dele Giwa, Bola Ige, Fela and Beko Kuti.
You’ve been writing some books. When are you coming out with your documented account of this coup?
A lot of people have been putting pressure on me to write this book. I’m going to give it some thought. What has happened is that for the last six years, I’ve, instead, been concentrating my efforts in trying to unravel the deep reasons we are deep in the hole we are and in that enquiry, I begin to find that it is our lack of true spirituality that is the problem. And on discovering that, I then asked myself a question. And the question led me into going back to the scriptures, to be reading the Bible and reading the Quran and other books and in so reading, the more I read, the more I realize the greatness of the Holy Bible. In that discovery, I discover that those who are supposed to be our men of God are themselves not well aware of themselves; not well aware of the real teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and of course, I will say the same for those who are leading our Muslim brothers too, because if it weren’t so the Christians and the Muslims would always be Christ-like or Mohammed-like, in the sense of living the life of peace, truth and unconditional love.
I’ve been writing and I have a column in the National Life and the two or three books, which are basics of spirituality for thinking humans, will soon be out. After that, I will then consider doing a book on the pro-democracy action.
You overtly supported the candidacy of Dr. Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State. How do you take the outcome of the re-run election?
Very sad for the country and a big shame for President Yar’Adua’s government because here is a government that purports to be based on the rule of law and order. Rule of law and order, like I have written in a column once, cannot exist without free and fair elections. Clearly, what one personally witnessed in Ekiti is the greatest injustice that has been done to President Yar’Adua’s government. Take, for example, Ido/Osi. You don’t need to be a genius to know that the total votes in that area cannot amount to the figure being claimed. In fact, I would say that out of the total votes of 18,000 being claimed, I’d rather argue that 6,000 would be the true picture.
Why is it that Ido/Osi, which is one of the smallest local government areas, has three times the strength of those who voted compared to the other local governments, which are bigger? Isn’t that ridiculous? In any case, this lie will be exposed soon in the law courts. That’s one.
The other point is that the attempt, which is continuously blackmailing and using paramilitary or threatening to use military to rig election for people, has a limit. What is the difference between one who comes into power illegally, by depriving the people of their right to vote and one who comes by the use of other means? What is the difference? I think people should not be inviting inadvertently what we do not want for Nigeria. We want democracy to stay. People should not be pushed to the wall.