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Former President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday in Lagos called the January 15,1966 coup as a monumental error.
The coup,led by the late Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu he said, brought the military into politics.
Historian Max Siollun recalls that One of the coup leaders Major Nzeogwu had said: “We wanted to get rid of rotten and corrupt ministers… We wanted to gun down the bigwigs in our way.” His coup unwittingly entrenched the presence of “rotten and corrupt ministers”. His best friend was a then young western army officer named Major Olusegun Obasanjo.
Obasanjo made the remark at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of First Republic politician and Minister of Finance, Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh.
Also killed in that coup were Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa;Northern Region Premier Ahmadu Bello and Western Region SLA Akintola,among others.
“Exactly 50 years ago darkness enveloped Nigeria. Many who were around then were confused; many of us were taken by surprise,” Obasanjo said.
“That we are able to gather here today to remember and in a way acknowledge the life of our early leader who, whatever may be his deficiency , is a testament to the fact that he gave us the best.”
Okotie-Eboh’s colleague, Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule, said the former Minister of Finance was a true Nigerian.
He said: “Festus was a friend of the people; he was a friend of the East, friend of the West and friend of the North.
“He had fantastic public relations. That was why he was loved by all; you could never guess the political party he belonged to.”
He said that whenever Okotie-Eboh walked into parliament, his nickname, Omimiejor would rent the air.
“He was full of humour, even when members of the opposition were attacking him. But, it was not the kind of attack you have today,” he added.
Another First Republic politician, Chief .Mbazulike Amaechi, said Okotie-Eboh was one of the financial pillars of the defunct NCNC.
He said even when many of his kinsmen – Itsekiri – left the party for the Action Group (AG), Okotie-Eboh elected to remain in the NCNC.