Sunday, September 29, 2013

AGUIYI-IRONSI: IGBO LEADERS BLAST JEREMIAH USENI





SOME eminent Igbo leaders yesterday faulted revelations by Lt. General Jeremiah Useni, former Minister of Federal Capital Territory, on how northern military officers killed the late General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, Nigeria’s first military head of state. He was killed in the July 1966 counter-coup.

Useni, in an interview published in The Nation yesterday, claimed that he was one of the soldiers who fired shots during the coup in which Aguiyi-Ironsi was killed. In the interview, he spoke of how the plot to topple the military government was hatched and executed by mainly northern military officers seeking revenge against the Igbo.

The 1966 coup which toppled the civilian government in which the Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafwa Balewa, Premier of the Northern Region and Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Premier of the Western Region, Chief Ladoke Akintola and several northern military leaders were killed, was perceived as a coup against the north.

Colonel Joe Achuzia, former Biafran army commander, dismissed Useni’s accounts as unreliable. According to him, the former minister was not relevant in the scheme of things during the Aguiyi-Ironsi era. He said:


“I don’t react to such nonsense as the one you said came from Jerry Useni. It is not in my character to make statements on documents or statements I have not seen or read as the case may be.

“However, people like Useni are not in any position to give any reliable account. He was a junior officer who was not in reckoning in the army until the mass recruitment done in preparation for the Nigerian civil war. His account can never be anything reliable. It cannot be correct. At most, it will be very, very wrong,” Achuzia said.


In his own reaction, Chief Ralph Uwazurike, leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), accused Useni of intentionally fanning the embers of discord ahead of the 2015 presidential election in the country.

“I like what Jerry Useni has said. It is a good revelation that reinforces the fact that Nigeria was built on distrust right from the word go. The whole polity called Nigeria was conceived and delivered on distrust between the north and the south. We know this all the while but Useni’s confession merely confirms our fears over how our brother was murdered.”

According to him, northerners saw themselves as brothers united against the south. It was not about religion but a north versus south divide. “They conspired and murdered Aguiyi-Ironsi simply because he was an Igbo man who rose to become the Head of State. That is why MASSOB is saying there is no basis for us to remain in the entrapment called Nigeria. With this kind of revelation, what is the basis for our remaining in the country called Nigeria? We want to be allowed to go our separate way because Nigeria is built on distrust.”

He accused Useni of fanning the embers of war at all cost. “They want the country to erupt in chaos ahead of 2015. He is reminding us of how they murdered our brother in cold blood based on distrust. He expects us to be happy reading all he said. Boko Haram is killing our brothers even now, based on the same distrust. Yet they want a united Nigeria.”


For Dr. Chinweoke Mbadinuju, former Governor of Anambra State, Useni should be cautioned against waking up the past that is not very pleasant. Doing this, he warned could re-open old wounds that are better left to heal.

“I don’t know what he wants to achieve by all he said. The statements were very unfortunate and unnecessary. We need peace in this country. No need to wake up the past that is not very glorious.

“I would have said more, but the truth of the matter is that it is not good to ascribe too much to inglorious past especially now that Nigeria is at the stage it is now politically. It is bad now that seven northern governors are looking for trouble in the PDP.”


And according to the submission of Nduka Eya, former Secretary-General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, the consciences of people like Useni, who had hands in the killings of prominent Igbo sons and daughters during the dark days of Nigeria’s history, must be haunting them.

“Even though I am yet to read the said interview, I can say maybe his conscience is haunting him,” Eya said.

Mazi Okwu Okwu, Secretary of the Board of Trustee (BoT) of the Ohaneze Youth Council, said Useni should be ashamed of his involvement in the killing of Aguiyi-Ironsi and other gallant officers of the Nigerian Army.

“If Useni is importing heroism into his action, then it means he lacks any element of human feeling. At a time when his co-travellers are writing books and granting interviews to express their regrets over this same incident, Useni is busy celebrating his callous nature.

“To me, here is a man who is on his own in his failure to realise that the misdeeds of the past account for many of the troubles we face today as a nation. He is a fish out of water. He should be pitied,” Okwu said.