Thoughts Lead To Appreciation
Robert Adeyinka Adebayo: 1928 March 9 – 2017 March 8
You were a man of principle.
Despite all the anarchy, betrayals and cross-carpeting, you remained true to your ideals – peace and the indivisibility of Nigeria.
I bow to you, my man.
[Tears in my eyes.]
Gratitude for believing in our Nation Nigeria and for consistently working towards unity.
To celebrate the life of the nationalist Major-General Robert Adeyinka Adebayo, we present the man according to his expressions and quotes.
Up till today I still believe Nigeria should be one. And up till now I am still doing my best to make sure that Nigeria remains one.
I need not tell you what horror, what devastation and what extreme human suffering will attend the use of force. When it is all over and the smoke and dust have lifted and the dead buried, we shall find as other people have found, that it has all been futile, entirely futile in solving the problems we set out to solve.
We were thinking about Nigeria and not thinking about tribes.
When I joined the Army, I was not thinking as a Yoruba man but as a Nigerian. And I was doing my best. There were a lot of Easterners and Northerners working under me then. We worked together as brothers. We were not thinking of tribes. We were thinking that Nigeria should come together as one.
It would be unwise of somebody like me to interfere in what happened between them. But if they had come to me, possibly I would have taken the opportunity to call them to order.
That is why we keep having these problems today. People, even among civilians, interfere in things that hardly concern them. Why should you interfere in things that do not concern you? It is a government problem and they should resolve the problem.
My advice has been that we see anything going wrong in the Country; we go to the President and try to give him solutions we think can solve those problems. It is often up to him to take or do otherwise.
There was no need for the Army to have been in government.
So from all angles, everybody was happy that he handed over to a civilian government, even us in the military then.
I was there in England when I heard that a coup had taken place on 1966 January 15. I was thankful that I was not at home.
Nobody was really thinking about a coup at all. I would say jokingly, that we did not know what a coup was during our time. There was spirit of togetherness among us all in the Army.
There was no need to return to Nigeria after the 1966 January 15 coup because someone else had taken over my appointment. People would have seen my return from a different angle and misinterpreted it that I knew about the coup.
That coup of 1966 January 15 was not an Igbo coup despite the fact that most of the officers and men who took part in it were Igbo.
It was because Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu was ambitious; very ambitious. He did not carry out the coup because he was an Igbo man. He did not do it because he wanted his own tribe to take over then. No! He did it for his own personal ambition.
What did Nzeogwu know about corruption? Of course, that was the excuse he used. Was it corruption within the Northerners or within the other people who were not Northerners? It was the political crisis they used to carry out their own political ambition.
It became clear to me after the 1966 July 29 coup that I had become the most senior military officer to come from the West of Nigeria, but I thought that it was wrong of me to take the reins of power even though there were several appeals from a lot of people.
Unfortunately, when the coup of 1966 July 29 did take place, it had wider implications because even those who were not Igbo were also killed.
That coup of 1966 July 29 took place because six months after, Ironsi did not take disciplinary action on those who started it all.
My opinion now is that Ironsi really did not know what to do especially as he had not commanded either British or Nigerian troop before he became Head Of State. I think he was being slow to take action because he was being careful.
Even when there was pressure on me to take power in the West after the coup of 1966 July 29, I refused even though I knew that the North was sponsoring Gowon, who was my junior in the Army.
They only called Gowon to come and be Head Of State because he was the most senior officer from the North at that time. Not that he was part of their coup. They did it with the belief that they would all be promoted.
A Lieutenant Colonel like Gowon who was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General over those who were already Colonels was a great problem to the Army. It brought in politics into the Nigerian Army and things never remained the same again.
As a full colonel, I decided to step down and go to the West on the 4th of August 1966. When I got to the West as Governor, the first thing I did was find the bodies of both Ironsi and Fajuyi and give them proper burials.
Danjuma was on the entourage of Ironsi to Mid-West and West where Ironsi was assassinated with Fajuyi. One must not blame Victoria Ironsi for being hard on Danjuma. They assassinated her husband and left her to cater for eight children all alone. She did not believe what happened could happen because all of us officers were doing everything together when we were in Kaduna.
It is true that if you were on somebody’s entourage, it is your duty to protect him. If such an officer on the entourage of the Head Of State is the most senior of the group, naturally, if he does not personally use his gun to kill that senior officer, somebody from the group did the killing.
I think Danjuma is not being fair. His job on the entourage of the Head Of State is beyond ordinary. He should be the one to be first hit if anything is aimed at the Head Of State.
At the same time, I can also sympathise with Danjuma for not saying he killed Ironsi. If I did it, I will not say I killed somebody unless I was met during the process.
I abolished the practice of traditional rulers coming outside of their palaces to Ife junction to meet the governor. From that moment also, governors, presidents and administrators now go to the palaces of traditional rulers instead of the other way round.
There should not have been military participation in government in the first place.
The military should not have stayed at all. If they had wanted democracy to grow, they should have handed over to the civilian government and supported them militarily. It was because they were ambitious themselves.
I think the whole thing boils down to Gowon’s pace. He was becoming slow, especially when the civilians were already itching to participate in running government.
Well, one was not thinking about tribes. We were thinking about Nigeria, the Country. So we were worried that there was trouble. And those of us who were ahead then felt we should do our best to end the war and peace returned to the Country.
In many instances of government in any Country, most leaders do what they do according to the dictates of their conscience. Even though there are many things to handle that are difficult, leaders are wont to do things according to their conscience and according to how you view things.
It is left for the people on top to do their best and what is best for the tribes.
I always think that Nigeria should be one. And we must continue to be one. How we are going to be one is left for us, the leaders, to work together and bring those people behind us together to continue to be one.
We must not make the mistake to use our problems in the West as benchmark for the problems of the whole Country.
Those that brought Independence for us did not have the opportunity to rule the Country for more than four years.
Buhari is facing a large people in the Country. He is a very junior officer to me. He was a good officer and I still believe he is a good officer because he is doing his best. But there are more people in Nigeria now than before. So he has to work harder. It is left to those with him now to assist him to succeed.
My duty is to assist those behind me, particularly my children, to grow better, and to join other people to behave well so that the Country can be together.
Know about the Country. Learn about the Country’s past and present, and think about the future, and how to bring the Country together as one.
My advice to the entire Country is:
One, we must trust ourselves.
Two, we must believe in one Country.
Three, we must curb the rising wave of corruption in the Country. It is becoming too much and we are losing our respect abroad.
Four, we must not ask where anybody comes from within the Country before he is given a job or position.
People as individuals must think well about the Country. And the only way you can keep the Country together is:
First of all keep your family together.
And then keep your people together.
Keep your tribe together.
And keep them along with other people together in harmony, all in ensuring there is peace.
If you find a group of people sending government a memo and they receive attention, you must find ways to send yours too.
I have always told people that this generation is the only generation that can solve the problems of this generation. The next generation, that is, our children’s will not have the time to do that.
If this generation – my generation – fails to solve the problem of this Country, the next generation will not solve it. It would cause more trouble.
This generation should work hard and work tirelessly without thinking of themselves, and for the interest of the Country, at least to solve most of them. If we wait for the next generation to attend to some of these problems, I think we shall be making a mistake.
What we should do is that we should form alliances and try to do businesses with all of them. In the end, we should be able to evaluate the ones that are good, and send the ones we do not think are good for us away.
Look at my grey hairs. People tell me I am 80. I do not even know that I am 80, that is, I do not feel 80.
I think I have lived a good life. I have had a good home. I live well and I think it would be very difficult for anyone to say they lived better than I have lived.
Every Sunday, I bring friends here to eat pounded yam here with me, and that is because I cannot eat alone on Sundays.
I did not know the people well, together with the kind of politics that they played. I had to open up the politics of the West, and bring the people closer to me one way or the other so that I could study them. When I brought them to me, whether I knew them or not, they were able to confide in me and tell me the problems that they faced from different angles. Then I did some comparison. If I found them to be cogent, I swung into action immediately. That was the number one secret of the owambe parties.
Secondly, the plan was to use the owambe galas to bring the people nearer the government and give them a sense of belonging.
I visited people sometimes and if it was impossible to discuss with them there, I sent vehicles to bring them to Government House and had lunch with them. Before long, word had gone around that I was doing a good job. That was why some people began to call me owambe, and I loved it.
Owambe was just a method to bring people to me and I think I succeeded politically, administratively and socially in that era.
Some of them who used the term owambe derogatively, were sometimes more owambe than myself at the owambe parties.
The slideshow file of this Attitude Magazine can be downloaded Robert Adeyinka Adebayo – A Patriot.