How Aguiyi-Ironsi was killed – Sani Bello, former ADC

SANI Bello, the aide-de-camp (ADC) to Nigeria’s first military leader, Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, has narrated how his boss was killed alongside Adekunle Fajuyi, the then governor of Nigeria’s defunct Western Region.

Bello, who was a second lieutenant in the Nigeria Army when the coup took place, revealed how he was suddenly appointed as ADC to Ironsi in an interview with Daily Trust newspapers.

As an officer  stationed in Enugu with less than a year in the battalion, Bello said he was surprised by his nomination to serve as ADC as he was not qualified for the position.

When Bello arrived, he was told that the interview for the ADC position had already taken place and was about to return to Enugu when the Chief of Staff, Brigadier-General Ogundipe, called him back and he was then taken to meet with Ironsi.

“I was not in any way qualified to be an ADC to the supreme commander. I was a second lieutenant and they needed a captain, and the one there was a captain. Also, I was in the battalion for less than one year, by all identifications I was not qualified,” he said.

“When I got to Lagos I went to the Supreme Headquarters, which is the old State House on Marina. I met one Captain Sylvester and saluted him smartly because he was in his final term at Sandhurst when I was going in. And fortunately for me, we were in the same college.

“He was surprised to see me. He asked why I was there and I told him I was asked to attend an interview for ADC selection. He said I was late as the interview had been conducted and everybody had gone.

“I saluted smartly and said I was going back to Enugu. I don’t know what he thought but he said I should let him talk to the chief of staff. He called the chief of staff on his open intercom and said that one Second Lieutenant Sani Bello from first battalion came for ADC selection.

“Ogundipe was a brigadier-general and Sylvester was a captain, while I was a second lieutenant; look at the gap. He said they did not have time for a second lieutenant in that place. I said there was no problem, so I would go back.

“I was about to go back, suddenly, Ogundipe called Sylvester and said I should wait. He said he was tired of the first battalion commanding officer because he was not doing the right thing. He said they would give me a docket to take to my commanding officer.”

After a few minutes, Ironsi called Bello into his office and informed him that he would be taking over as ADC from Captain Sylvester.

As Ironsi travelled through the country to restore peace in the aftermath of the 1966 coup, Bello said he was received well in all the places he visited. He noted that one slight incident occurred in Zaria, where there was an accidental discharge by a soldier, but it was not an issue and not meant for Ironsi and his team.

Ironsi’s next stop was in Ibadan, where he met with Fajuyi. The two men were hosted to a cocktail reception, and everything went well.

However, late that night, Ironsi received word that there were riots taking place in Ikeja cantonment and an uprising in Abeokuta, with several casualties.

Ironsi ordered his officers to put on their uniforms, and he prepared to address the Council of Emirs, Obas, and Obis, who were assembled in Ibadan. But before he could deliver his address, Ironsi and Fajuyi were arrested by a group of coupists led by General T.Y. Danjuma.

The coupists then took Ironsi and Fajuyi to an unknown location, where they were later executed.

“Sure. After he took over, many events followed. There was something called the May riot, which killed a lot of people in the North, especially the Igbo.

“However, peace was later restored. After the riot, things settled down and Ironsi decided to embark on meeting the people; so we came to the North and visited Kaduna, Zaria and Kano.

“The reason we went to Ibadan was for Ironsi to address the Council of Emirs, Obas and Obis, who assembled there. The address was to take place on July 29, 1966.

“We were hosted to a cocktail by 7:30pm to 8:00pm. We were sent an invitation for that, but on the late minute the general said we should make it between 6pm to 7pm. We had the cocktail, everything went well and we all retired for the night.



    “After we retired, about 12am we started hearing that something was happening. The commissioner of police in Lagos called me to say there was riot in Ikeja cantonment, so I called oga.

    “They went to the house and brought out Fajuyi and Ironsi. When they brought them out, they opened the guardroom and asked us to enter the Land Rover. We entered the Land Rover and five of us were driven to God-knows-where. Later on we were told that it was along Owo road.

    “As we were jumping into the Land Rover, we heard a machine gun fire. Dada rushed back. The sergeant-major said “he was trying to run away and we shot him”.

    They killed Fajuyi while we were there. I did not see the body but we heard the shot and they told Dada that they killed him. That was the last I heard of Ironsi.”

    You can reach out to me on Twitter via: vincent_ufuoma

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