“Yakubu! Yakubu! Who are those shooting in your house?” Brigadier Zakariya Mai-Malari, Commander of the 2nd Brigade, Lagos, screamed into the phone. His phone had been ringing and he had just woken up to pick it at his 11, Thompson Avenue, Ikoyi, home in Lagos around 2am, where a cocktail party had just ended few hours earlier. It was Lieutenant-Colonel James Yakubu Pam, the Adjutant-General of the Nigerian Army, who was calling to report some shootings in his compound and that some soldiers had gained forceful entry into his bedroom to arrest him.
Mai-Malari had hardly spoken to Pam when he himself heard gunshots at his own gate. Mai-Malari’s guard commander who had adamantly denied the mutineers entrance to the residence had been killed. Immediately Mai-Malari heard the gunshots, he dropped the phone, ran upstairs to pick up his teenage wife and kept her at the servants’ quarters. He scaled the tall fence and disappeared into the darkness.
Major Donatus Okafor, the officer commanding the Federal Guards was tasked with the assassination of Mai-Malari. It was important Mai-Malari was cold dead if their revolution was to succeed. As Commander of the Southern Brigade in Apapa, Mai-Malari had under him all the fighting forces of the battalions, the field artillery corps and the armoured and mechanised squads. He could effectively mobilise the entire brigade even if the country was suddenly attacked by a neighbouring army.
When Okafor realised Mai-Malari had fled the house, he became very annoyed. He ordered his men to search the compound and shoot the Brigadier on sight; he was not to be given any opportunity to capitulate. Without Mai-Malari dead, they were doomed. They knew their actions were high treason which carried the death penalty. Therefore they had to be successful or die trying. Okafor then jumped into his vehicle driven by one of his soldiers and desperately searched around Thompson Avenue, Brown Street and Glover Road, even all the way to Bourdillon Road.
Mai-Malari who had been hiding and running was trying to make his way to the Federal Guards barracks in his pyjamas when he heard and saw the light of an oncoming vehicle. He ducked into the shrubs again thinking it was Okafor and his men. Instead, he undoubtedly recognised the red Mercedes Benz which belonged to his Chief-of-Staff and Brigade Major (BM), Major Emmanuel Arinze Ifeajuna, who was transporting the Finance Minister and the Prime Minister to the Mess.
It was not immediately clear to Mai-Malari that Ifeajuna was part of the mutineers. Instead, Mai-Malari saw Ifeajuna as his hope and dashed for him. Ifeajuna ordered his driver to stop and he got out of the car with Ezedigbo, both of them armed.
“Emma, thank God,” the Brigadier said with a look of relief, “some of the boys have gone crazy. They just attacked me in my home. Do you have any knowledge who they might be and which unit?” He said with a taint of confidence he just found at sight of his Brigade Major.
“No sir,” Ifeajuna replied with disdain.
“Never mind, just get me to the barracks. I’m going to find those bastards and finish them in the morning,” Mai-Malari said as he started to walk towards the car.
Suddenly, he stopped short and caught the sight of the Prime Minister, seated in a draped fashion in the car, whose white clothing had made him conspicuous to the Brigadier.
Maimalari looked at Ifeajuna perplexedly. His throat dried up. He couldn’t find the right words. He knew he had walked into a trap. He had escaped Okafor and his men, but now found himself willingly in the tiger’s den.
“Say your last prayers sir,” Ifeajuna broke the silence and cocked his gun. Mai-Malari just stared hard.
Without warning, the Major fired three shots from his gun at the Brigadier as one of the bullets ricocheted and hit Ezedigbo at the jugular. The young Lieutenant started bleeding profusely. The Brigadier’s heartbeat stopped and he fell. This did not deter Ifeajuna. He fired five more shots to affirm the Brigadier’s death. Once confirmed dead, his body was loaded into the 3-Ton truck with the tied Okotie-Eboh.
Ifeajuna, who still had the Prime Minister in his car, then proceeded to the Mess with Ezedigbo still bleeding without remedy.
Drafted from Carnage before a Dawn.