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Saturday, November 27, 2021
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IRONSI’S DEATH, MY ROLE IN BRIGADIER OGUNDIPE’S ESCAPE – BY THEOPHILUS OLUWOLE AKINDELE

“During one of my official visits to a Telecommunications firm in the UK, I ran into Colonel Adeyinka Adebayo. He told me that he was attending a course in London, and he mentioned he was eager to return to Nigeria to help re-build the nation, but that he was not in Ironsi’s good books.

“He knew Ironsi and I were quite close and asked if I could put in a good word on his behalf. I promised to do this, although I said it was hard for a civilian to influence an army man, no matter how close they were. The day after I returned to Nigeria, Ironsi came round to our house. After settling him down with our usual drink. I mentioned my meeting Adebayo. Ironsi was unusually silent. …

The meeting with Ironsi he had come back home for never took place, but Adebayo had got himself a new position of power all the same. The following afternoon, I was in the sitting room, going through the newspapers, and trying to glean whatever information I could from the various reports, when an army jeep roared into our compound.

“I looked up from my paper to see an army officer standing before me. His epaulets indicated he was a Captain. Fingering the revolver in his belt, he respectfully asked for Ogundipe. “I have been sent to deliver a message to Brigadier Ogundipe who we understand is staying here.” I was astounded.

“No one, apart from Adebayo knew Ogundipe was here. I tried as much as possible to look unruffled. “Oh yes, he is here alright, but only left five minutes ago for Lagos.” When he asked when I expected him back, I said I didn’t know. “It may be late as we had only finished our lunch before he left.

“The Captain looked around the room suspiciously, and his gaze returned to fix on me. ‘Please Sir, let him know that his presence is required at a meeting holding in the Lion Building in Lagos. It is crucial that he attend.’ I nodded, before returning to scan the papers before me, as the Captain went out to his waiting jeep.

“All the time I was talking, Ogundipe was in our guest room next door. As soon as the Captain left, he emerged very agitated. ‘Olu, you have killed me. You let them know that I am here! How could you do that?’

‘If they were not aware you were here, why did they send the Captain all this way to deliver a message to you? Someone must have leaked it. If I said you weren’t here, they would have been suspicious. The three other armed soldiers waiting in the jeep would have searched the whole premises.

If they found you hiding, that would have been a more dangerous situation’”

Brigadier Babafemi Ogundipe was the de facto Vice President of Nigeria during Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi’s 1966 military government. He was born on September 6th, 1924 to Yoruba parents from Ago-Iwoye, in present-day Ogun State in Western Nigeria.

He joined the Royal West African Frontier Force in 1941, serving in Burma between 1942 and 1945. He re-enlisted after the second World War, and rose to the rank of Brigadier in May 1964.

Theophilus Oluwole Akindele narrates how he helped the Brigadier escape being killed by soldiers during the second coup in 1966.

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