•50 years after, Nigeria is yet to learn useful lessons from their assassination
It is exactly 50 years today that the counter-coup of 1966 was executed by soldiers, largely of northern extraction. One event that stood out in the process was the execution of the Head of State, Major-Gen. Johnson Thomas Umunakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi and Col. Adekunle Fajuyi, in Ibadan. Aguiyi-Ironsi who had emerged the major beneficiary of the January coup d’état was on an official visit to the Western Region where Col. Fajuyi was governor when incensed officers led by Captain Theophilus Danjuma decided to avenge what they considered the iniquitous Igbo coup of January.
A gallant officer, Col. Fajuyi would not allow them lay hands on his guests since it would amount to a betrayal and would send out a wrong signal. Rather, he offered to suffer the same fate.
We remember today, the events of those turbulent days from which the country is yet to recover. Inter-ethnic relations have been marked by mutual suspicion, nepotism that breeds poor governance and underdevelopment. It was in response to this that the federal character principle was first enshrined in the constitution in 1979, to promote equity, balance and allay fears and mistrust.
However, the principle has, since then, been observed more in the breach. Successive administrations are largely populated by members of the ethnic group to which the leader belongs. This is the case even with the current administration. Many Nigerians from the south have been complaining about its composition. Appointments are hardly made on merit or on well spelt out criteria. Only recently, a new Inspector-General of Police was appointed and the career of dozens of Deputy Inspectors- General of Police and senior Assistant Inspectors-General of Police had to be sacrificed in order to get the preferred candidate.
The quota system of admission into schools that allows some students who score below 20% gain admission into federal institutions while preventing more brilliant students’ access to the same colleges and universities has not only promoted mediocrity but engendered bitterness in younger Nigerians.
Unless the trend is checked, Nigeria’s bid to catch up with the developed countries and become a true giant of Africa will remain a mirage. The challenge before leaders at all levels is to promote integration, justice and fair play. To achieve this, we need to break down the partition walls between the earthly groups and religions, thus promoting the concept of one Nigeria. Pernicious mal-administration has been the result of the post-1966 political system. It would take a fundamental, deliberate and sustained campaign for nationalism and patriotism to effect the necessary changes and build a new Nigeria.
The qualities of Col. Fajuyi – courage, selflessness, patriotism and nationalism are missing in today’s Nigeria. They are values that must be restored and replicated in the current crop of leaders. We are in the same canoe and must paddle together to get to the shore safely. The decay in national institutions, deepening economic crisis and rise in sectarianism could be traced directly to the absence of such virtues and values. Scholars and patriots owe the country a duty of coming up with a viable formula of recruiting leaders.
Ironically, Gen. Aguiyi-Ironsi had to be killed because he introduced the Unification Decree No. (34) of 1966 which sought to weld together the ethnic groups as one unit run from the centre. Coming immediately after the January 1966 coup, it aroused anger from the north that had lost a generation of leaders. It also compounded the fears that the Igbo were out for domination.
General Aguiyi-Ironsi and Colonel Fajuyi were killed, but Nigeria is yet to learn the needed lessons. Half a century after, there is now a need to reappraise the national, institutional, cultural and socio-political milieu that has continued to promote mediocrity and underdevelopment.
- From http://thenationonlineng.net