Ten military officers and a civilian who were declared wanted in the abortive attempt to overthrow the Federal Military Government on April 22, 1990, can now heave a sigh of freedom, as the Federal Government officially gazettes the presidential pardon granted them.
Their forgiveness was contained in the Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette No. 95, Vol. 107, June 15, 2020.
The officers are Major Saliba Daddy Mukoro; Major C.O Obahor; Major G. Edoja; Captain Ben Oziegbe, Captain Sowaribi Tolofori; Lt. Patrick Obasi; Lt. Sunday Echendu.
Others include Lt. Henry Ogboru; Lt. Emmanuel Okekumetalor; 2Lt Alphanso Okhaifo and Mr. Alex Aigbe.
The pardon means that the beneficiaries would be entitled to their benefits.
Although they were all granted a presidential pardon by former President Olusegun Obasanjo on May 25, 2007, there was no official gazette to back it up.
One of the beneficiaries, Lt. Sunday Echendu, who is based in North Carolina, USA, told Sunday Independent on telephone that “the government finally did the right thing and we are truly grateful.”
The then Federal Military government had on July 26, 1990, executed 42 soldiers who staged an aborted coup on April 22, in a bid to topple former President Ibrahim Babangida.
The then Chief of General Staff, Vice-Admiral Augustus Aikhomu (late) had said the executions took place on a Friday afternoon.
He did not specify how the soldiers died, but the usual execution method is by firing squad.
Among those killed was the ringleader, Maj. Gideon Orkar, who had commanded the April 22 attack and prematurely announced Babangida’s downfall on national radio.
In his broadcast, Orkar accused the regime of being ‘dictatorial, corrupt, drug-baronish, inhumane, sadistic, homosexually-centered, and unpatriotic.’
Orkar also said he had seized power on behalf of the country’s Christian-dominated southern and central areas, which he claimed had been ‘reduced to slavery’ by the mostly Moslem north.
Most analysts believe that if the coup had succeeded, Nigeria would have been plunged into another civil war.
Nine loyal officers and soldiers lost their lives in the abortive coup, including the Aide De Camp (ADC) to Babangida, Lt. Col. UK Bello.
Echendu had said in an interview published on www. azukajebose.com, that the 42 soldiers that were executed were inhumanly buried.
“They poured acid on their bodies and buried all of them in a mass grave. Orkar was not dismissed. Ozalor and other colleagues of ours were not dismissed. They were tried, found guilty and executed. Their families and children are entitled to their benefits,” he had said.
According to him, “You cannot deny the children of slain military officers’ benefits. They were actively engaged in the military when they were executed. Conviction of treason does not mean benefits should stop. The earlier we started resolving these, the better. Those of us who volunteered without coercion fought for fairness and served our country, deserve to be given the same treatment(s) as any other military officer with similar circumstance(s).
“That principle of fairness is not being respected. You cannot pardon a few and deny others their pardon as well. The benefits of Gen. Diya, Brig, Gen. Gwadabe, Col. Bello Fadile have been restored. Their offenses were similar to those of 1990 officers. The standards must be the same across the board for all.
“I am disappointed at every military change of government in general because you are supposed to be working with a colleague, but it is agonising to take up arms against your colleague. I am disappointed because we aimed at reaching the top of our careers in the military. But I have no regrets whatsoever. The Nigerian government under IBB, declared me wanted. When you are declared wanted without opportunity for a fair trial, it’s unfair for any brave minded human being to say you went AWOL.
“There is a difference between a court-appointed legal system trial and a Military tribunal trial that was monitored and controlled by the man you attempted to remove from power. Those who were not supposed to be executed were executed without fair trial and legal representations. We knew if we failed, we would pay the ultimate prize. And I was prepared for that. I was willing to serve up my time.
“I was also clamoring for the country to take a different direction. I was willing to die for Nigeria. A coup is a coup. Nigerian civil war started because of a counter-coup. If you are giving those coup plotters benefit of the doubt through pardon, the same should be extended to everyone.”
Echendu argued that there shouldn’t be a discriminatory pardon.
“I have been pardoned but my pardon has not been gazetted. My pardon has not been gazetted while that of Lt. Col. Inyiam has been gazetted.
My question to the service chiefs, my former colleagues, the NSA, all our legislators, ministers and all rational Nigerians is; how fair is it that my colleague Lt. Col. Nyiam’s pardon has been gazetted, but I, Maj. Obahor, Lt. Obasi, Lt. Okekumatalor, Lt. Okhiafoh, Maj. Edoja, Capt. Tolofari, Maj. Saliba Mukoro, and Lt. Henry Ogboru’s names have not been gazetted?
Would it not be dragging Nigeria’s name to the mud should we collectively take the Nigerian government to World Court seeking clarification?
Should we be allowed to do this when this can be easily settled and resolved by the present administration?”
NGstudents Team Cares…..