THE 1985 palace coup in which former Head of State General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, retd, overthrew General Muhammadu Buhari, current president, was successful because the latter decided to avoid bloodshed.
Writing on “Coups, Politics and Erosion of Discipline in the Army”, in his Book “The Vindication of A General”, Lt. Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi, retd, claimed that there were signs that something was about to happen.
Lt. Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi, retd, and General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, retd
His words: “The regime of Gen. Yakubu Gowon was the first to come face-to-face with the problem of erosion of discipline in the Nigerian military in the aftermath of the end of the civil war in 1970.
Consequently, efforts were made by the Gowon administration to restore discipline in the Armed Forces. The efforts were successful until 1985 when Gen. Babangida overthrew General Buhari and declared himself president.
“After the Nigerian Civil War, efforts towards demobuilisation were not fully followed but a lot improved when soldiers were allowed to be discharged while others were allowed to transfer to other paramilitary organizations such as Customs, Immigration and the Police Force.
“Discipline eventually returned to the Armed Forces, especially the Nigerian Army. All acts of indiscipline that are normally seen in a war situation were brought under control except the forceful takeover of government by ambitious and greedy officers. This was how Gen. Babangida forcefully took over the government from Gen. Buhari. Gen. Babangida succeeded because Gen. Buhari was not prepared to shed blood to remain in power. At that time, it was evident that something was about to happen”.
How Orkar beat intelligence, trained coupists by roadside in Ikorodu
The 1990 Maj. Gideon Orkar coup blight on the Nigerian military and other intelligence community for their failure to report the plot which could have led to its being nipped in the bud.
Lt. Gen. Bamaiyi, said that Maj. Orkar and his group trained by the roadside in Ikorodu, Lagos State, and wondered why no one reported it.
According to him, it was absurd because one of Maj. Orkar’s men was said to have mentioned it to the Acting Director of Military Intelligence who failed to act on the information until the coupists struck.
His words: “Much has been said by many people with respect to the Orkar-led coup. I think it took everyone by surprise and one would have thought the security officers from the National Security Adviser (NSA) to the armed services’ security chiefs — DMI, Naval, and Air Intelligence- would have been brought to book for failure to uncover the plot.
“One would also have expected that the State Security Services (SSS) with its vast networks that cover the 774 local government councils would have picked up early signals. Yet, from available evidence, the coupists trained right by the roadside in Ikorodu without anyone reporting it. Even on the day of the coup, the coupists boarded vehicles from there and nothing was reported. The acting DMI was said to have been informed of the coup by one of the coupists but failed to act.
“It remains an absurdity that some individual officers with clear responsibilities were not punished or brought to book for the serious security lapses that prevented nipping in the bud the plans of Maj. Gideon Orkar and his accomplices”
Why Gusau and Col. Dangiwa were retired
Bamaiyi. said that Col. Umar Dangiwa, whom he described as “a brilliant officer” was sacrificed by Gen. Aliyu Gusau by retiring him from the Nigerian Army over an allegation that he was planning a coup and that Gen. Gusau himself was to eventually suffer the same fate over the same issue.
Writing on the excesses of some commanders on page 25 of the book. Bamaiyi said: “When Gen. Babangida left Aso Rock and Gen. Aliyu Gusau was appointed as COAS, I thought things would change for good. I was still in AHQ (Army Headquarters) as Director of Training.
“Gen. Gusau called me to his office and said ‘Ishaya, we are sending you to take command of LGC (Lagos Garrison Command) because we know you can hold on in case of any problem. He might have said this because of the Orkar Coup experience. I thanked him and returned to my office. The posting was eventually effected.
“While Gusau was still the COAS, a problem surfaced involving Col. Umar Dangiwa. He was accused of getting involved in a coup plan, and Gen. Gusau was linked to this allegation.
“I cannot comment on this but I feel Col. Dangiwa was sacrificed because he was retired. One person cannot plan a coup. This is how Col. Dangiwa, a brilliant officer, was phased out of service.
“I believe it was the same allegation that caused the retirement of Gen. Gusau , an act he is yet to forgive. What is surprising is how he could take the problem to his subordinates: Col JB Yakubu and I were victims of Gen. Gusau’s anger with Gen. Abacha.
“Col. J.B. Yakubu was accused of writing against Gen Gusau when he was the Military Administrator of Zamfara State — where Gusau hailed from. A security write-up that forced Gen. Gusau to leave Nigeria for some time was said to have had Yakubu’s blessing”
Abacha’s men plotted my murder for opposing his self-succession
Lt. Gen. Bamaiyi claimed that there were several attempts on his life while serving as COAS but that it came to a peak when he opposed Gen. Abacha’s self-succession plan.
He gave accounts of how he was to be bombed on his way to his office opposite Tafawa Balewa Square and at another when his official residence was shot at from a high building in Marina. In the second account, the retired general said that his wife’s bedroom was riddled with bullets.
He said, “Although the intrigues and conspiracy against me reached the peak during my open opposition to Gen. Abacha’s succession plan, I became their target in the course of the handling of the 1997 Diya coup during which they failed in their desperate efforts to implicate me.
“Once the plan failed, they changed their strategy and arranged to plant a bomb on the way to my office opposite Tafawa Balewa Square’s main gate.
“Fortunately, my security officer from DMI learned about it. He did not say anything to me but I noticed soldiers on guard at a very unusual place and a big pothole that my driver had to avoid. When we got to the office, I called my security officer, Capt. U.M. Bature and asked why we had soldiers at that spot.
“He told me the pothole I saw had been dug to plant a bomb. He had uncovered the plot through one of the operators from DMI.
“During the same period, I was in Abuja, and early in the morning a shot was fired into my official residence from one of the high buildings in the Marina. The bullet penetrated my wife’s bedroom. My military assistant , Lt. Col. S.Y. Bello, got the report and an investigation was planned with Col. Mohammed from the DMI directed to investigate.
“He went into my official residence but the report was never released because Brig. Gen. Sabo stopped the report from being released. Surprisingly, Col. Marwa, then Governor of Lagos went on air to announce that his official residence next to mine had been shot at.
“The activities of the DMI became of great concern to me as there were reports of civilians and some paramilitary personnel being locked up at the DMI. I never received any report from DMI on these issues and military guardrooms were only meant for serving military personnel.
“I called Brig. Gen. Sabo and said I was visiting DMI to see things for myself. I knew Sabo was in Jos for the coup Tribunal. I decided to tell him I was visiting the next day.
He later called me to tell me he had directed the most senior officer in the DMI Col. Mohammed to receive me and take me round. I was received by the Colonel and what I saw was unacceptable. The place was filled with civilians and paramiliraty personnel. ACP Kehinde and Mr. Awadepo Michael (Comptrollers of Prison) officers at the maximum prison were locked up.
“There were also women and many businessmen who had no business being in military detention. It was a disgrace to the military. I directed the immediate release of all civilians, sgned the visitors’ book and made my stand on the issue known.
“The following day, I sent my Chief of Administration, Maj. Gen. E. Archibong to the DMI to ensure that my instructions were carried out while Sabo was still in Jos. His officers told him what had happened.
“Sabo, Marwa and Omenka decided to write falsehoods against me on their return to Lagos. They met at a Lagos State Guest House on Queen’s Drive and wrote all sorts of vicious things –virtually everything under the heading “Activities of General Bamaiyi, COAS that were inimical to this Administration”.
“I knew when this paper was being written and some senior officers suggested rounding them up while they were writing and getting them court-martialed. I told those officers to allow Sabo Marwa and Omeka to write anything they wanted.
“When they finished, I got a copy and showed it to AVM Idi Musaand Brig Gen. Sabo. I told them I knew Sabo and others wrote it and told when and where it was written. Sabo denied his involvement so I directed him to investigate and report back to me.
“In his report, Sabo said the write up was by those who wanted to destroy me. I decided not to bother. Sabo took the original copy to Gen. Abacha. I went to Gen. Abacha and he confirmed tha Sabo had brought him such silly things and said I should ignore them.”
How Bamaiyi misplaced facts – General Olanrewaju
In a quick rebuttal, former Minister of Communications, Major-General Tajudeen Olanrewaju, who was also implicated in the coup, said Bamaiyi misplaced facts in his new book regarding what he said transpired in the 1995 and 1997 attempted coups. General Olanrewaju, a former General Officer Commanding (GOC) Third Armoured Division of the Nigerian Army, Jos, stated this in a release he personally signed in Lagos, yesterday.
He said: “The point to note is that students of history must know what transpired in the 1995 and 1997 coup saga for posterity’s sake as against the misplacement of facts contained in the excerpts reported from Bamaiyi’s new book.
Olanrewaju said: “The new book can open the eyes of all Nigerians to see the footprints of an ambitious soldier that Bamaiyi epitomises as detailed in every account of power play, which appears unfavourable to him but favourable to both General Abdulsalaam Abubakar as Abacha’s successor and General Olusegun Obasanjo as 1999 civilian President. He lost out in the power play.”
He continued: “There are two main issues I want to correct, the first of which was the arrest of Gwadabe. In his book, Bamaiyi stated that General Olanrewaju briefed the meeting called by the then Chief of Army Staff, General Alwali Kazir (rtd), which was factually incorrect. What is correct is that the only person who briefed the meeting was the DMI (Director of Military Intelligence), General Sarki Mukthar, whose duty it was to brief the meeting about security situation in the country.
“Following this, I was instructed by the meeting to facilitate the arrest of Gwadabe, whose brigade in Yola was under my command, while other commanders were similarly instructed to effect the arrests of others under their own commands. The instruction to arrest Colonel Bello Fadile was also given in the meeting. Fortunately, General Kazir and General Mukthar are alive today to testify to the truth of this matter.’’
‘’The second issue to be cleared is on the 1997 Diya’s coup where Bamaiyi said, ‘other meetings took place at a guest house with Gen. Diya, Gen. Olanrewaju, CO 7 Gds Bn, Gen. Diya’s security officer Major Fadipe and me. Of course, General Abacha was always briefed after the meetings.’
Insisting that he was not at the said meeting, Olanrewaju said: “The said CO 7 Gds Bn and Major Fadipe, if called upon, will testify to the truth.
I met Ishaya on two occasions; he met me in my house and I met him in his house, both times in Abuja.’’
“For avoidance of doubt and for students of history, the first time I heard about the Diya’s coup was when Bamaiyi told me and Aziza confirmed it. This is how my name was dragged into the coup and it has affected my distinguished career in the Army,” Olanrewaju lamented.