LETTER FROM BANJO TO IRONSI

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LETTER FROM BANJO TO IRONSI

 

 

On 1st of June 1966, he wrote a letter to the Head of State Major General
Aguiyi-Ironsi as follows from the Federal Prisons Ikot Ekpene:

From:            Lt. Colonel V.A. Banjo, B. Sc. Director of Electrical and
Mechanical Engineering, Nigerian Army.

To:    Major General Aguiyi-Ironsi M.V.O.Supreme Commander of the Armed
Forces andHead of the National Military Government.

My dear General,

Thank you for your letter of the 14th February. This will be my last letter
to you, while I remain in detention. I wrote to you from Kirikiri Prisons on
the 31st January 1966 and your reply of the 14th February referred to my
petition being under consideration. I am not aware of having written a
petition to you. I wrote to you as my general, my leader, and my fellow
officer-in-arms; as one whom I should expect justice, fairness and loyalty,
in the like measure as I have had to give you, my colleagues and my soldiers
during my years of service; and in the like measure as is obligatory between
gentlemen-officers of a responsible army, to maintain the highest traditions
of our profession. I informed you that a grievous crime had been committed
against my person and my liberty at a time of crisis in our country, when I
was busy giving my most loyal service. I pointed out certain facts to you,
which I felt you ought to have known about. Essentially these were:

(a) that on the morning of Monday 17th January 1966 I was arrested by Lt.
Colonel G. T. Kurubo and Major P. A. Anwuna in the anteroom of the I. G. P's
office for no ostensible reason while I was waiting to see you.

(b) that during the period of my close arrest, I had been shamefully
mishandled by soldiers in the presence of my arrestors at Federal guard,
that I had subsequently been confined in the guardroom of the 2nd Battalion
NA Ikeja, in the wardroom of a naval base Apapa, and in the defaulters cell
on board H.M.S. Nigeria in turn. I need hardly point out this act was in
itself illegal and a flagrant disregard of army regulations covering the
manner of an officer of my rank.

(c) that I had since then been detained at Federal Prisons at Kirikiri and
lately at Aba and at Ikot-Ekpene for no reason whatsoever.

(d) that some two weeks after my arrest, I was informed by Major Ude at the
Kirikiri Prisons that a signal had been sent out to all units that I had
been arrested for my attempting the life of the Supreme Commander, which
signal if existent must by its gross falsehood constitute a serious offence
in law against its originator.

(e) that subsequent to my arrest one of my officers Major E. O. Aghanya
Commanding Base Workshop Yaba was invited to your headquarters and arrested
on 18th January 1966, for no reason at all. I believe he is still in
detention.

(f) that the driver of my Land-Rover, and the five soldiers who were my
personal guard on the morning of Monday 17th January 1966 were also
arrested, brutally beaten at Federal guard for some days, and subsequently
detained at Kirikiri Prisons. I believe they are still in detention, and all
this for no apparent reason.

(g) that prior to my arrest I had spent a considerable time with you in the
attempt to persuade you that in order to save Nigeria from the awful event
of a civil war, the army should take over government under yourself.

(h) that further during this period, I had by word and deed rallied support
for yourself and a military take-over of government among a large number of

officers all over Nigeria.

(i) that I was present at the meeting of senior officers of the army with
yourself at noon on Sunday 16th January at which I spoke first and spoke for
a Military Government under yourself.

3. In the face of these facts and as a Lt. Colonel under your command, it
was my place to expect certain actions from you. Such as

(a) an immediate investigation of the facts of my arrest, and that of my
officer and soldiers;

(b) The immediate release of myself, my officer and my soldiers as soon as
the facts are proved to have been false; and

(c) The immediate arrest of the officers responsible for my arrest and their
subsequent trial on charge of false arrest of an officer and bearing false
evidence against a fellow officer.

4. No one holds rank and authority in any army by divine right. The
relationships of rank and authority in armies are based on law and a
definite set of rules and regulations, which pre-determine the rights and
responsibilities at each rank. It is also based on ageless tradition of
honour, integrity and loyalty, which are expected in reciprocal forms from
all ranks. There is no provision either in an organised state or in an
organised army for relaxation of these principles, for on it rest your
command, your stability and your safety; as otherwise there is little to pre
vent any two officers backed with weapons from arresting any of your
officers tomorrow, even your military governors or even yourself. In this
issue my general, I beg to submit that you can only have one clear duty; to
protect the law, the traditions of the army and the rights of every soldier
and officer, who has entrusted his life into your hands.

5. It is now four and half months since I was so treacherously arrested, and
since then you have continued to see it fit and just to keep me detained. If
I, my family and my friends have been loath to raise issues on this matter
in public, it has not been out of fear or out of lack of adequate belief in
my innocence. It has been out of consideration for you and a disinclination
to embarrass you at this time. It has been out of a deep sense of
responsibility in the issues now facing the country and a desire not to
aggravate it. It has been out of faith and belief in the loyalty of yourself
and those of my colleagues who still remain honest to the traditions of our
army. So far, I have counselled patience even in the face of the world-wide
publicity given to my supposed attempt and death, which in itself was an act
of treachery, which must have emanated from someone in your office; for this
however, the World Press and Radio owes me an accounting for which I will
proceed to exact payment, when I am free to do so. Out of a firm conviction
of my innocence, and faith that you would leave no stone unturned to ensure
that justice is done, I have been disposed to wait silently in detention,
patient for long enough to seem reasonable and fair to you by the world. If
I continue to remain in prison the shame is not mine; but irrespective of
what happens to me, by virtue of the inevitability of truth, the world will
someday ask you to clear yourself of any involvement in this act of
treachery.

6. 1 am grateful for the arrangements you have made to enable my wife to
visit me here on the 14th of May, 1966. She informs me that she visited you
on the 5th of May, 1966 to inquire about my crime, and that you informed her
that you know nothing about my arrest until after it has been carried out,
that then you have found it necessary to keep me in detention to protect my
life in view of the rumours. I believe you; but then as I pointed out
before, the world conscience is less trusting. It will ask you to vindicate
yourself. It will want to know, how it is possible, that one of your most
senior officers who was spending his time and energy loyally assisting you
to restore order into the country, was treacherously arrested within twenty
feet of you; and falsely accused of trying to take your life, and all this
was done without your knowledge or approval; it will want to know how it
happened that the main perpetrators of this crime were suddenly elevated
after my arrest, the one Lt. Colonel G.T. Kurubo appointed Commander of the
Air Force and a supreme Councillor, and the other Major P. A. Anwuna
promoted substantive Lt. Colonel; the sceptic might unkindly be disposed to
feel that they were being recompensed for some good deed; the world will
want to know what has been done and what is being done to see that justice
is done irrespective of what happens to me.

7. My wife further tells me, that some of my colleagues have been kind
enough to congratulate her on the fact of my name having been cleared. I was
not aware that my name was in need of being cleared, however, I am grateful
for the effort spared to clear it of whatever it is that needs clearing and
I hope the privilege has been extended to all the senior army officers who
had the honour of assisting you to preserve the country during the crisis.

8. I am glad to note that you and my colleagues arc succeeding restoring the
nation unto an even keel in spite of the great difficulties. I am proud of
your efforts and of belonging to the service that is accepting so much
responsibility. I am also proud to have contributed some small part to
starting off the National Military Government. My greatest regret among
others, at this moment is that I am denied the opportunity of serving my
country during one of its moment of great need in my life time, as a result
of the efforts of a few unworthy officers. I hope that success continue to
attend your efforts. History abounds of numerous examples of military
"coups" some of which have brought in their train, hardship, loss of
freedom, injustices, assassinations, bloodshed and chaos as a result of the
rapacity jealousy and unbridled ambition of a few army officers. Others have
brought stability, prosperity, justice and real freedom as a result of the
wisdom, dedication, honesty and discipline of its army officers. It is an
inevitable law of nature that the former pattern always only succeeds in
destroying itself eventually. After so many years of callous betrayal by its
leaders, I believe Nigeria deserves stability for a change.

Yours very sincerely,

....................................................

(signed ) Lt. Colonel V.A. Banjo

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