SEVERAL Igbo socio-cultural groups have asked former defence minister Retired Lt General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma to apologise for his role in the assassination of former military head of state Major General Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi in 1966.
In July 1966, General Ironsi, an ethnic Igbo, was arrested and then brutally murdered by a group of soldiers of northern extraction, in what became known as the northern counter-coup. In January 1966, Igbo officers had led a coup that overthrew the government of Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, killing prominent northern leaders and the six most senior northern army officers.
After the January coup, General Aguiyi-Ironsi assumed power as Nigeria’s head of state and appointed the then Major Danjuma as his aide with the responsibility for writing down everything he said. However, Major Danjuma later joined hands with a group of northern officers led by Lt Col Murtala Mohammed to overthrow General Ironsi.
During a visit to Ibadan, the northern soldiers struck, arresting General Aguiyi-Ironsi and the then governor of the Western Region Lt Col Adekunle Fajuyi. They were both badly beaten up and led to Lalupon Village on the outskirts of Ibadan where they were shot.
Major Danjuma who was charged with arresting General Aguiyi-Ironsi and taking him to the Mokwa Guest House in modern day Niger State, was over-powered by junior officers and watched on helplessly as General Ironsi was driven away. His brief was to keep General Ironsi detained and use him as a bargaining chip to allow the Northern region to secede from Nigeria.
Some 54 years on, a coalition of Igbo groups including Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council, World Igbo Youth Congress, Southeast Women Professionals and the Igbo Students Union, have asked General Danjuma to apologise for his act. They have also called on him to atone for his sins by supporting an Igbo candidate to become president in 2023.
They described Late General Aguiyi-Ironsi as a patriot and one of the finest military personnel Nigeria has ever produced. On Sunday, the groups will hold a candlelight vigil in Umuahia, the Abia State capital, where General Aguiyi-Ironsi hailed from, in his honour.
In addition, the groups also called on the Southeast Governors’ Forum to plead with President Muhammadu Buhari to officially rename 82 Division Enugu after late General Aguiyi-Ironsi. Nigeria is due to go to the polls in 2023 and there is pressure on for the next president to be of Igbo extraction as General Aguiyi-Ironsi was the last Nigerian leader of Ndigbo extraction.