47 Anniversary Of Ogundipe And Why History Calls Him A 'Coward' (I)
Brig.[Gen.] Babafemi Olatunde Ogundipe.


“The wind of change is blowing through this continent and, whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact. We must all accept it as a fact, and our national policies must take account of it. … As I see it, the great issue in this second half of the twentieth century is whether the uncommitted peoples of Asia and Africa will swing to the East or to the West. Will they be drawn into the Communist camp? Or will the great experiments of self-government that are now being made in Asia and Africa, especially within the Commonwealth, prove so successful, and by their example so compelling, that the balance will come down in favour of freedom and order and justice?”

Harold Macmillan

3 February 1960 address by, British Prime Minister, at Cape Town.

in the South African Parliament.


“Ogundipe had no means of enforcing his seniority over an army purged of most non-Northerners. For the second time in eighteen months, Brigadier Ogundipe was passed over for a position he probably merited (after having been passed over for GOC in February 1965)” Max Siollun.


Babafemi Ogundipe didn’t run the cowards flight in gaits of “panic dread” images the heart will paint whenever the man is mentioned. On the contrary (as we shall see in the next part) he put up a solo resistance which capitulated.  He was simply blown off by the powerful interests that converged on what is now Ikeja cantonment, between July 30 and 31, 1966. The chair of authority on which he sat was blown off from below him, he had been “disenfranchised” he did what Steve Jobs did, when boardroom politics threw him out:

“A power struggle erupted between Sculley and Jobs. In the spring of 1985 Apple’s board sided with the CEO, removing Jobs from his command of the Macintosh group.”They basically stripped Jobs of responsibilities and gave him an office that he referred to as ‘Siberia.’ Well, someone like Steve Jobs could not sit in Siberia,” Deutschman said. “Jobs told his closest friends and colleagues that it was a betrayal.” Jobs left Apple”

By coincidence, like Jobs, Ogundipe also felt betrayed by Gowon, but Gowon himself was the strange Victor while Ogundipe the victim (as we shall see).

He did what any officer and gentleman in his position would do,…..take a walk, which he did. The board that sat in Ikeja, made a Jobs of him, his reaction must never been mistaken for cowardice, NEVER!


Max Siollun on the 120th page, of his 264 paged, 2009, New York published Algora,  book he titled “Oil, Politics and Violence Nigeria’s Military Coup Culture (1966-1976)”, provided the following insight to those who attended the meeting of July 30-31, Ogundipe was not there. The winds of the tsunami that blew him off were identified as follows:

“There were three broad camps at Ikeja: the junior Northern soldiers who favoured secession, the more senior Northern officers who advocated revenge against Igbos but did not favour secession and thirdly the civil servants and diplomats who opposed dissolution of the federation. The civilian camp included the Chairman of the Federal Public Service Commission Alhaji Sule Katagum, the head of the Northern Region’s civil service Alhaji Ali Akilu….. the Chief Justice Sir Adetokunbo Ademola…..Okagbue was the only Igbo man among them.”


The Pentagon is the fortress that houses the Defense Department of the United States. Babafemi Ogundipe’s existence as the Chief of Staff Supreme headquarters was simply “vaporized” by the powerful interests that converged on what is now Ikeja cantonment, between July 30 and 31, 1966. The five arms of the Pentagon that blew him off (as we saw in part 1) were:

“1  Northern Officers, Non Commissioned Officers NCOs and ranks led by Murtala Muhammed.

2  Northern politicians.

3 The British High Commissioner to Nigeria at the time.Sir Francis Cumming-Bruce

4 The American Ambassador, Elbert Matthews.

5 Top civil servants”


“On this day in 1938, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, French Premier Edouard Daladier, and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain sign the Munich Pact, which seals the fate of Czechoslovakia, virtually handing it over to Germany in the name of peace. Upon return to Britain, Chamberlain would declare that the meeting had achieved “peace in our time.”

The date was September 30, 1938, it was the appeasement of Hitler or peace concessions, that took place on Hitler’s territory and on his terms and to his favour, attended by global stakeholders. Another appeasement would happen 28 years later; the appeasement of Murtala Mohammed!

Like the first one, it was held on Murtala’s terms and at his venue. Munich was the venue of Hitler’s November 8-9, 1923 Putsch, Ikeja evolved, becoming the venue of the July Mutiny, just the way Murtala’ emerged as its arrow head.  Like the Munich appeasement, attended by people of strategic value, so was the Ikeja replica…. Great Britain was the common denominator in both. Like the first there was a concession, it was Czechoslovakia!

In this replica, Ogundipe became Czechoslovakia, conceded to please Murtala whose position was clearly stated by Max Siollun on his 123rd page this way:

“To Northerners, the only way the federation could continue without dissolution was on the basis of a Northern soldier replacing Aguiyi-Ironsi. If Nigeria was led by Northerner, the rationale for secession (Aguiyi-Ironsi’s distribution of power in a manner disadvantageous to them) would no longer exist. Major Martin Adamu recommended Lt-Colonel. After three days of marathon talks, the Northern soldiers agreed to drop their plan to secede, but on condition that their most senior member Lt-Colonel Gowon was appointed head of state”

Murtala’s terms were agreed to, just the way Hitler’s were. Ogundipe’s fate was sealed in Ikeja, just the way Czechoslovakia’s fate was sealed by the Munich pact. History is indeed a script.

Ten years later when the coup clouds were closing in on Gowon, Martin Adamu who recommended him as Ironsi’s replacement, tried to save his nominee, but to no avail.


(1) Who called the Ikeja meeting?

(2) Who decided who was to come and who wasn’t?

(3) Where there minutes?

(4) Was there a moderator?

(5) If yes who?

(6) What was the seating arrangement?

(6a) In a circle?

(6b) We against them on opposite sides?

(6e) We on the high table and the rest on floor?

(6f) Who decided the seating arrangements?

(7) Was the meeting a straight marathon session or where there “brakes”?

(8) How did they eat? And who prepared the meals?

(9) Where did the other non military delegates sleep?

(10) What part of the barracks did they use, the officers’ mess?

(10b) Were they coming from home?

(11) How and where was Gowon accommodated, considering the way he was received?

On the 118th page, Siollun wrote:

“The Ikeja cantonment became the undeclared headquarters of the mutineers and the exasperated Ogundipe sent the Chief of Staff (Army) , Lt-Colonel Gowon there to talk to them. When Gowon arrived, it appears that he was not a free agent and was placed under guard. There he found that the leading figures were Northern officers stationed in Lagos such as Lt-Colonel Murtala Muhammed, Major Martin Adamu, Shittu Alao, Musa Usman and Captain Joe Garba”


The Chief Justice Sir Adetokunbo Ademola, was present at the Ikeja meeting, by the evidence of Siollun.

(12) What was his role?

(13) Was he there for the three days?

Sir Adetokunbo Ademola was excluded from the pentagon list above, for professional and ethical reasons,  in his capacity as the chief Justice of the Federation, he most likely was neutral.

(14) Was he the neutral moderator of the meeting?

His presence most probably was primarily to give a legal basis to hold the country together in the light of what propably would have been the absence of laws, because the Constitution had been suspended by Ironsi and it is unknown to (me) the author the laws that were applicable then.

(15) What were Sir Ademola’s contributions?

His major contribution most probably would have been the Doctrine Of Necessity that paved way for Gowon to emerge, since the North insisted their presence in Nigeria was on the condition that a Northern in the army became the Supreme Commander replacement of Ironsi.

(16)  His other major contribution would probably have been the moderator, but would Murtala have allowed that?

Max Siollun on the 120th and 121st pages captured Murtala’s Ikeja conduct this way:

“However Murtala repeatedly interrupted Gowon as the debate continued”

(17)  With this attitude, was Murtala the moderator?

(18)  Was the Chief Justice just an observer, restricted to legal advice?

(19)  Who were the other stakeholders at the Ikeja meeting?


Stakeholders that attended the meeting in terms of designation, by the evidence of Siollun that reshaped Nigeria in two days were:

    1. The Chief Justice Sir Adetokunbo Ademola.
    2. The head of the civil service, Alhaji Sule Katagum.
    3. Federal permanent secretaries.
    4. The head of the Northern Region’s civil service Alhaji Ali Akilu.


  • Inspector-General of police Alhaji Kam Selem and two senior police officers, M. D. Yusuf and Theophilus Fagbola.


  • Siollun identified the military participants as: “Lt-Col Murtala Muhammed, Major Martin Adamu, Shittu Alao, and Musa Usman, Captain Joe Garba. Lieutenants Malami Nasarawa, D. S. Abubakar and Nuhu Nathan, and the fearsome Sergeant Paul Dickson of Ikeja airport infamy. Gowon like other senior Northern officers like Lt-Colonels Hassan Katsina and Mohammed Shuwa, was not personally involved in the mutiny”
  • US Ambassador Elbert Matthews



  1. British High Commissioner Sir Francis Cumming-Bruce.
  2. Regional Governor Lt-Colonel Ejoor was not physically present but maintained phone contact.
  3. Sir Kashim Ibrahim, the Regional Governor of the North. Sir Kashim Ibrahim, like Ejoor was not physically present, but like Ejoor was a telephone participant.

These were the men who agreed by consensus, that power should go to the North, Ogundipe was schemed out, with only one voice speaking for him. The only voice was Ojukwu. That gathering at Ikeja was overwhelmingly lopsided in favour of the North, with only one Igbo in attendance.


Ogundipe as the next in seniority to Ironsi, had sent Gowon to negotiate with the mutineers, only to get a rude shock; his boy had become his boss!

Siollun put it this way: “Ogundipe felt betrayed by Gowon. In his view he sent Gowon to negotiate with the mutineers, only for Gowon to emerge as leader of the mutineers he was supposed to negotiate with.”

But Siollun, on the 123rd page of the work, provided Gowon’s side of the events this way: “Major Matin Adamu recommended Lt-Colonel Gowon. After three days of marathon talks, the Northern soldiers agreed to drop their plan to secede, but on the condition that their most senior member Lt-Colonel Gowon was appointed head of state”

Gowon had gone in obedience to orders, but he found himself as the focal point that would prevent Nigeria’s disintegration. He was to play that role again, this time during the civil war, those three days in Ikeja were to prepare him to answer his name during the 1967-70 three year conflict as the rallying point of national unity. His was called G O W O N….. Go On With One Nigeria!


Two curious people were in that meeting, they were the British High commissioner and the Ambassador of the United states.

(20) But why would British High commissioner and the American Ambassador be present in a crucial Nigerian meeting in which the Igbo were clearly not welcomed?

(21) How did they get to know about the meeting?

(22) Who informed them?

(23) Who invited them considering the total breakdown of law, order and the Command structure of the army?.

(24) Who guaranteed their safe passage to the venue of the Ikeja meeting?


The answers to the last four questions are not clear but the first seems to be.

1 The 1960s was the height of the cold war, the Capitalist West and Communist East were intent on spreading their respective spheres of influence into the strongholds of each other.

The words of the British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan in South Africa seemed to be the answer to the first question. He said “As I see it, the great issue in this second half of the twentieth century is whether the uncommitted peoples of Asia and Africa will swing to the East or to the West. Will they be drawn into the Communist camp?”

(25) Harold Macmillan’s question: “Will they be drawn into the Communist camp? Is of vital importance.

(26) Was communist expansionism the bottom line Western concerns for which the two diplomats were in the meeting?


The January coup by Nzeogwu was not ethnic but ideological; communist in inclination. It sought to install chief Obafemi Awolowo, a socialist to power….socialism is one step away from communism.

Major Adewale Ademoyega, one of the core planners of the January coup, made the point on the 48- 49th page of his Evans Brothers book he titled: ” Why We Struck”, in it he wrote:

“Economically, we agreed that we had an extreme form of capitalism in Nigeria in 1965….. Under the system, the vast majority of our people, that is to say, about ninety-nine percent, were extremely poor and lived in abject poverty; while a few millionaires were being created here and there all over the country, by using their political connections to divert government (the people’s) money into a few hands…… This system favoured a few middlemen….. The masses did not benefit but were impoverished, thereby, hence the ever-widening gap between the rich and poor……our revolutionary principles provided for a total change of that economic order. We planned to mobilise the people so that they would produce most of the things that they needed for the betterment of their lives. It was already established everywhere in the world that when people worked collectively, they produced much more than when they worked individually”

These were clear left wing ideas ideas, Nzeogwu’s coup would not be allowed to succeed by the West…..it didn’t!

3 The West got the “popular side” the North whom they had always favoured, on their side and used their two ambassadors to keep Nigeria within the Western capitalist sphere of influence.

(27) What were the covert intentions of the diplomats for attending?

4 (28) Ogundipe was apolitical and so was Gowon, both were British trained, Murtala Mohammed was also Britain trained, Western interests of capitalism were safe with all three men. Murtala however had the largest sphere of influence and Ogundipe the least, it was only logical to negotiate with Murtala who had the power.

5 (29)  What were the worst fears of the Western powers with respect to West Africa?

6 (30)  Had the January coup succeeded, would the worst fears of the Western powers (Britain and America) for West Africa, (Another domino theory perhaps) have been induced, with Nigeria as a communist bridgehead for USSR in West Africa?

7 Kwame Nkrumah a socialist was overthrown on February 24, 1966 and Nzeogwu’s socialist attempt had failed in Nigeria, both within a space of exactly 23 days in which the communists had lost West Africa, the West intended to keep things that way.

8 (31) Was the presence of both diplomats to ensure communism didn’t have another opportunity to reinvent itself in West Africa through those Ikeja cantonment meetings?

7 (32) Should the country have been allowed to disintegrate, would the communist,  have established a bridgehead?

(33)  If yes, where? The poverty in the North would be a natural attraction, Awolowo’s socialist inclination would be an intellectual attraction to the West, Ojukwu was the thoroughbred capitalist son of one of the wealthiest Nigerians at the time.

At the Ikeja meeting, the British High commissioner and the American Ambassador were both present and they made their positions clear. Their countries would not accept the disintegration of Nigeria. The ranks in the army were northern, that gave Murtala Mohammed the most potent sphere of influence. On the contrary Ogundipe though courageous had no loyal sphere of influence; he lost out.

The one man that can provide answers to most of these questions by coincidence is probably one of the few actors still alive, he is General Gowon!

General Gowon owes generations unborn the truth, which he must not be allowed to go down with. It would be nice if the General would grant long hours of interviews to historian Max Siollon and writer Eric Teniola, to put in perspective “his story” or history (as Dr. Jide Johnson, of the Nigeran Institute of Journalism, Lagos would put it) before the General himself becomes “his story” or history!


An opinion piece by Amaso Jack. Jack is a political strategist and analyst, he lectures at Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Lagos State.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and not of Concise News.

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