April 22nd 2016 marks the 26th anniversary of the Major Gideon Orkar led coup that happened in Nigeria on the 22nd of April in the year 1990. This is a literary detail of what happened that fateful day.


Over the course of two years, Lt. Col Nyiam and Major Gideon Orkar were planning the coup. Nyiam saw Orkar as a hot head and a very passionate officer that was ready to die for what he believed in. But knowing the craftiness of the Babangida regime, he pleaded with Orkar and the group of mostly midriff officers to allow him take care of the planning. Nyiam and Orkar devised a very strong encrypted way of recruiting officers. The coup was compartmentalized in such a way that two people might be neighbors and they are part of the coup, but they didn’t know. Officers within the force were fiercely loyal to the administration. No one could get by without speaking Hausa. The army hierarchy was all northern, corruption in the force was rife and professionalism jettisoned. Saliba Mukoro came first in the army promotional exam, but he was not sent abroad for the course, instead a northern officer that came 9th was selected. Captain Tolofari, a very brilliant officer was even insulted by his junior and when he punished the officer, he was transferred to a smaller unit meant for someone lower than him. The northern officers were so undisciplined that they had the right to disobey superiors and nothing could happen, as long as that superior is not northern. Their attitude gave them the nickname ‘’Junior AFRC’’ A term that was taken from Armed Forces Ruling Council. To show their power. Being close to Babangida, Nyiam started planning the coup. Orkar started organizing things in Ojo from a distance. The soldiers planned the coup to the letter without being discovered. A date was set, April 28th 1990. Then Lieutenant colonel Nyiam decided that they needed support from the Lagos state administrator, Brigadier Raji Rasaki. He went to General Rasaki and after the two had a meeting, he left in the hope that Rasaki’s troops would stand down when H-hour arrived. Unsure of Raji Rasaki, Nyiam ordered one of his boys to tail Rasaki. Rasaki was tailed and he did not disappoint. He drove straight to Ikoyi and entered Dodan. This happened on April 21 1990. Immediately, Nyiam contacted Orkar and told him the coup must be executed immediately, to avoid the Vatsa situation. They sent for ex service men that were recruited into the plot. they came all the way from Bendel and other parts of the east. Then, Mukoro leveraging his partnership with Great Ogboru assembled them in Ogboru’s depot in the guise of training them to be security men. He did not tell them they will be participating in a coup. Meanwhile, Nyiam went to the government house in Dodan, he removed the firing pins from the from the T72 Russian tanks and sized up the security detail, while alerting lieutenant Uchendu that H-hour was now that night.

The ex service men, armed with some AK 47, went to Apapa military depot and seized the armory. They then arrived Ojo cantonment where Mukoro was and that was where the mastery of the coup was displayed. The Officer in charge of the armory was in a party and he was called by an officer that wanted to show him a girl outside. He went joyfully, only to receive the beating of his life and the keys to the armory collected from him and he was tied. Routine was well studied by the plotters in Ojo, so, most of the people that could have defended the base were arrested with their pants down or on top of a woman. With Ojo down, the team moved towards Ikoyi and Costaine. Signals Mile two was Ignored because they knew that they needed men for the fight in Dodan and they had hoped that Babangida too would have been arrested pants down. The men moved swiftly, but their stealth movement was blown open too early, when a soldier on guard at the gate, finished the bullet in his magazine with one burst before fleeing into the bush. Babangida heard it and asked U.K Bello to go check it out. Once Bello was outside, the revolutionaries were just a pole away. He quickly entered the tank and tried to engage, but the firing pin was off, then, all hell was let lose. It rained bullets on Dodan. Bello was killed  and the base was seized. How Babangida escaped is still a mystery. While people think there is an underground tunnel at Dodan, I have been there and there is nothing like that. I still personally believe Babangida disappeared with a charm.

After destroying Dodan and not getting hold of IBB, the boys had simultaneously taken the Radio Nigeria complex Ikoyi and Bonny camp. Major Gideon Orkar was already giving the speech. The group then had to divide themselves. One group to flag house, another to Ikeja cantonement. At Ikeja, the ferocity of the arrival of the revolutionaries was just total horrow. Brigadier Ishaya Bamaiyi, the commander of the armored base ran into the bush behind in shock. But just before they could get into the armored shed, they ran low on ammunition and the fight became almost a stalemate there. The people that were supposed to supply ammunition were caught up in the euphoria that the coup was already a success since Dodan was destroyed. They failed to make that one more reinforcement move of ammunition while the government was still confused and without leadership.

In Ikoyi, Abacha was having sex in his guest house, but still they could not find him. After the boys left flag house and rushed to join their colleagues to take Ikeja base, Sani Abacha came out. He ordered his son to drive him out. He armed himself with an Uzzi sub machine gun and he bravely moved to Signals mile two and from there Abacha started making contacts to all military units around the country. Once Abacha saw that the coup wasn’t Nationwide, he first ordered the armored division Ibadan to proceed to Lagos. Then he started contacting bases in Lagos. He was planning how to leave Lagos and fight back in because he thought Ikeja was down already, then he contacted Ikeja and they were under siege. He ordered Bamaiyi to defend the base at all cost. Northern officers, after hearing a part of Orkar’s speech where determined more than ever to maintain the status quo. Those that would have normally been passive, threw their weight against the coup.
By this time, it was almost 5 am and Nigerians were visibly jubilating. Bamaiyi was able to turn the tide and just as he was doing that, Dangiwa Umar took Bonnie camp too. The amored unit proceeded to Dodan and some to Ojo. Fighting erupted at Orile and they were there exchanging gunfire. The situation kept getting worse for the revolutionaries, as reinforcement after reinforcement kept coming in for the government side. Orkar held the radio station despite being outnumbered and outgunned. He kept fighting with his boys. Apapa base was then taken by  government forces. Nyiam knew by this time that the coup had failed. Although Nigerians supported them, they were betrayed by the excitement of people that thought destroying Dodan meant the coup succeeded. Nyiam and co decided to escape, they walked through communities and shanty towns. People were giving them water to drink, helping them with canoe rides across the lagoon. Soldiers even saw them and told them to march along. Meanwhile Orkar was defiant. He refused to escape. He fought on till he ran out of ammunition and he was captured.
Did the Orkar coup fail? No. That coup did one thing. It put fear into the heart of the north and it made people see Babangida as a mere human being.

The northern oligarchy knew they must reform things if they are to survive. Babangida ran away from Lagos because of a comment made by one of the revolutionaries before execution. ‘’Our juniors will do even more, you all must be removed. The fear of that coup made it possible that no dictator was ever comfortable on that sit anymore. It also marked the rise of Sani Abacha

These men fought in the coup:

Major Gideon Gwaza Orkar
Captain N Harley Empere
Captain Perebo A Dakolo
Capt AA Nonju
Lt. AE Akogun
Lt. CN Odey
Lt. Cyril O Ozualor
Lt. NEO Deji
2/Lt AB Umukoro
2/Lt EJ Ejesuku
SSgt Julius Itua
Sgt Martins Ademokhai
Sgt. Pius Ilegar
WO2 Monday Bayefa
L/Cpl Francis Ogo
L/Cpl Jepta Inesei
Cpl. Sunday Effiong
L/Cpl Sam Mbakwe
L/Cpl Albert Ojerangbe
L/Cpl Godfrey Deesiiyira
L/Cpl Emma Oyemolan
Sgt. Stephen Iyeke
Cpl. Joseph Efe
WO Afolabi Moses
L/Cpl Idowu Azeez
WO Jonathan Ekini
S/Sgt Solomon Okungbowa
Private Richard Iseghoei
Private Egwolo Makpamekun
L/Cpl Edogamen Friday
S/Sgt Jolly Agbodowi
Sgt. Etim Umoh
L/Cpl Sam Obasuyi
Ex. Serviceman LC Otajareiri
Ex. Pvt Osazuwa Osifo
Ex. Pvt CP Wasiu Lawal
Ex. Pvt Peter Unuyoma
Ex. Pvt Synalman Goodluck Emefe
Ex. S/Sgt Samson Idegere
Pvt. Emmanuel Onoje
Trooper Roland Odogu
Corporal Lateef Awolola
Pvt. Dickson Omenka
Corp Ehietan Pius
Private Iroabuchi Anyalewechi
Private Henry Eguaoyi
L/Cpl Martins Odey
L/Cpl Sunday Asuquo
Trooper Celestine Ofuoku
Pvt. Anthony Korie
Pvt Thomas Angor
Pvt Edem Basi
Pvt Joseph Odey
Trooper Obioma Esiworo
L/C Magnus Ekechi
WO2 Godwin Donkon
Sgt. Ojo Adegboyega
Pvt Peter Abua
Pvt. Phillip Akamkpo
Sgt. Shehu Onleje
Corp Olanrewaju Ogunshola
L/Cpl Luka Yang
Trooper Malkily Ayogu
L/Cpl Andrew Onah
Michael Ebeku

By: Ifeanyi Okeke

©thebrandradio 2016. All rights reserved.

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