Why I killed Victor Banjo, Ifeajuna and others – Ojukwu

In the most detailed revelation yet Ojukwu said the reason why he killed Victor Banjo, Emmanuel Ifeajuna, Philip Alale, Sam I. Agbam was because they wanted to remove him, remove Gowon and install Chief Obafemi Awolowo as the Prime Minister. In a secret document cabled to the Defence Intelligence Agency in Washington, the US military and defence attachés stationed in the Nigeria reported  that based on available information at that time(3rd August 1967) “in the long run Njoku will unseat Ojukwu.” In a chat with the American consular Bob Barnard in Enugu three days after the executions, Ojukwu said: “the plotters intended to take Brigadier Hillary Njoku, the head of Biafran Army into custody and bring him to the State House under heavy armed guard ostensibly to demand of him that Njoku be relieved of command on the grounds of incompetence.

Once inside the State House, Njoku’s guards would be used against him. Ifeajuna would then declare himself acting Governor and offer ceasefire on Gowon’s terms.  Banjo would go to the West and replace Brigadier Yinka Adebayo, the military governor of Western Region. Next Gowon would be removed and Awolowo declared Prime Minister of Reunited Federation.”  Ojukwu continues, “Victor Banjo, Ifeajuna and others kept in touch with co-conspirators in Lagos via British Deputy High Commission’s facilities in Benin. When the American consular asked Ojukwu for evidence, Ojukwu replied, “Banjo is a very meticulous man who kept records and notes of everything he did.” Ojukwu said “the mistake of the plotters was they talked too much, their moves too conspicuous and they made notes which came into his hands. As a result the conspirators came under surveillance from the early stages of the plot’s existence. Their plans then became known and confirmed by subsequent events.”

This revelation is part of the exposés contained in the 21000 paged confidential, secret and top-secret US State department’s documents  on the Biafra War made available to TheNews.

In another document, Major [Dr]Okonkwo the Ojukwu appointed military administrator of the Midwest  said he  and Ojukwu participated in court-martialling Banjo in Enugu on 22ndSeptember 1967 prior to his execution and Banjo “freely admitted in his testimony that a group of Yorubas on both sides of the battle were plotting together to take over Lagos and Enugu governments and unite Nigeria under Chief Awolowo.  Gowon, Ojukwu, and Okonkwo were to be eliminated; Gowon was to have been killed by Yoruba officers in the Federal Army.” He said further “when arrested on the night of 19 – 20th September, Banjo offered no resistance because he said then it was too late to stop the affair and the plot was already in motion.  His role, Banjo said, was already accomplished. Major Okonkwo continues, “As far as is known, Banjo died without revealing the names of his collaborators in Lagos.”

Okonkwo who before his appointment as the military administrator of the Midwest was never  in the Biafran army but held pro-Biafran sympathies said  that “he was fearful that the assassination of Gowon would prevent  the heads of state mission of the Organisation Of African Unity from coming to Nigeria. Okonkwo believed that “the OAU mission held the best hope of sorting out the Nigerian civil war.” On the night Banjo was arrested, he telephoned Gowon to warn him  of the Banjo plot which “would break very soon.” Whether Ojukwu knew of or agreed with Okonkwo’s warning to Gowon is unknown. However, on 20 September, after the warning, “roadblocks were suddenly and rather severely enforced in Lagos. They were removed after about 48 hours as mysteriously as they appeared,” the American diplomat noted.

In another confidential document cabled to Washington on 12 October, 1967 it was revealed that Ojukwu  who had always being suspicious of  Major Kaduna Nzeogwu sent him to his death at Nsukka. According to Lieutenant Colonel Abba Kyari the military governor of North Central State, “there is no question that Major Nzeogwu , Ibo leader of 1966 coup in Kaduna, had been a nationalist, not a tribalist, who was acting for the good of all Nigeria.” He described Nzeogwu as “a victim of Ojukwu” explaining that Nzeogwu, having been falsely informed that Nsukka was in Biafran hands, boldly entered Ubolo-Eke, near Nsukka at night and was killed. Nzeogwu’s corpse was transferred to the north and given full military honours burial but not before Northern soldiers had plucked out his eyes so that he ‘would never see the North again.”

Ojukwu who told the American diplomat that coup against him “involved many who participated in the January 15, 1966 plot” and that besides the four he had executed three days before he would not execute others yet because “ he did not wish to give the impression he was conducting blood purge.” Ojukwu who latter made a radio broadcast confirmed that the existence of mutineers and blamed the loss of Midwest, Nsukka, Enugu, Onitsha on them. He said they called for the withdrawal of Biafran troops from these cities and that they were even shelling Onitsha with Biafran artillery to sow panic even long before the arrival of federal forces. Ojukwu did not execute Njoku he only downgraded him and replaced him with Colonel Alexander Madiebo.  The secret US document called Njoku “the best Enugu has(and one of the very best Nigeria has produced).  The UK defence advisor who had known Madiebo as subordinate officer first recce squadron for several years said he is “perfectly charming socially, but quite worthless professionally” he said further that “he is weak, ineffective commander and consistently had worst unit recce squadron.” To affirm what he was saying he showed the US defence attaché Madiebo’s  Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst file that showed his abysmal records. The US attaché noted too that Madiebo too graduated as an associate field artillery officer at Fort Sill in Oklahoma from 23 January – 10th June 1964.

In a separate document it was disclosed that the Head of state Major Aguyi-Ironsi was scheduled to have been assassinated on the northern leg of his national tour after the January 1966 coup. Some northern officers were already plotting to kill the head of state on 19 July 1966, but “Colonel Hassan Katsina dampened their enthusiasm asserting nothing should happen to Ironsi while in the North. Ironsi was scheduled to visit Kano, but Colonel Katsina persuaded him to cancel that portion of his trip because Lt. Colonel Shuwa then the Commander of the 5th Battalion had made arrangements for Ironsi’s assassination in Kano.” Katsina told northern officers that if anything should happen to Major General Ironsi, it should happen in the South. Ironsi was killed in Ibadan 10 days later by northern officers led by T.Y. Danjuma.