The Cabinet Take Over 1

At the very time Ifeajuna shot his boss Maimalari, Shehu Shagari, a devout Muslim who later became president of Nigeria woke up at his Bourdillon Road residence at the other side of Ikoyi to eat his predawn meals and say his prayers as the Ramadan period required. When he was the Prime Minister’s parliamentary secretary, it was he whom Sardauna tasked with housing over 200 hooligans in the legislative quarters- that was the block of flats meant for the nation’s lawmakers. The hooligans who were on the ruling party’s(NPC) payroll were meant to protect Northern politicians (’Yan Carter Bridge- Sardauna’s name for them) from Western thugs who depending on the political temperature of the debates in the parliament made it a sport to attack the Northern politicians as they commute on trains from Lagos back to the North.
Under the leadership of John Lynn the colonial police officer turned British expatriate head of CID, Alagbon, the police in conjunction with the Federal Guards swooped on the hooligans. The operation in the Army’s Nigerian Magazine was called The Arms Swoop. According to Shagari in his straight-faced memoir Beckoned to Serve, it was his responsibility even as the parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister to go and bail the hooligans. That mass arrest prompted many NPC legislators to hasten to Shagari’s residence to deposit their arms and ammunition for safe keeping pending the time John Lynn stopped sniffing around. And oh there was a mountain of weapons: guns, ammo, knives, swords, daggers, bow and arrows, cleavers, hatchets.
“A ministerial dwelling had become an arms depot!” Shagari observed.
That morning of the Revolution, when Ahmadu Kurfi, the Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defence alerted him that the Prime Minister had been abducted under gunpoint by unknown soldiers, Shagari said: “my immediate reaction was to telephone the Sardauna in Kaduna but the telephone was dead.” Such was the power of Sardauna’s political machinery that the PM’s Cabinet colleague’s immediate reaction was not to call the police or other security forces when his boss was missing but to call the Sardauna instead.
Like many politicians, civil servants and diplomats who lived in Ikoyi, they heard sporadic gunfire, but they conflated them with the noise of the Tiv dancers at Maimalari’s party that rent the air hours earlier. Therefore, as the destiny of the country was violently changing, they were at peace, sleeping. After Ifeajuna left with the Prime Minister, his ADC, Kaftan Topolomiyo went to inform Hamman Maiduguri, the Lagos commissioner of police and Tanko Galadima, the Minister of state for Defence.
Both were Northerners. Northern politicians passed the news to Northern politicians and Eastern politicians informed Eastern politicians.
Obsession with seeking ethnic advantage otherwise called tribalism was an obstinate pattern that organised Nigerians’ tastes and decisions even when they were not conscious of its influence. Tribalism preceded the facts that supposed to call forth or justify its own existence.
The first politician to cross the tribal barrier was Shehu Shagari who quickly informed his next door neighbour Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya, the NCNC Minister of Housing. He then left to alert Zanna Bukur Dipcharima, who was the Minister of Transport and the most senior NPC minister in the cabinet.
By 7am, most of the NPC ministers including Maitama Sule, the Minister of Mines and Power, Tanko Galadima, the Minister of Defence had converged at the home of Dipcharima on Bourdillon Road, Ikoyi. They were more confused than shaken. Who could have abducted Mallam Abubakar and Okotie-Eboh? It was later information came in that Akintola was dead, his body found, that even Sardauna, the most powerful politician in the history of the country had been gunned down and his house burned to the ground that fear, real fear squashed their minds and almost choked their breath. More so, it was reported that the coup plotters were mobilising from the North to kill them too.
Dipcharima hastened to his neighbour Donald F. Hawley, the British Deputy High Commissioner and asked him to summon his boss Francis Bruce-Cummings (FBC) for an urgent meeting. Gowon had met Galadima at the Prime Minister’s residence and he had told him that not the whole army but a renegade section was responsible and that the GOC was in Ikeja issuing orders. When Galadima availed the gathering of this information, Dipcharima ordered the Police to bring in Ironsi for a review and way-forward meeting.
To be continued tomorrow.