T.Y. Danjuma and Alex Ekwueme Extol M.N. Ugochukwu

J. K. Randle


|  By Bashorun J.K. Randle, OFR, FCA  |

WE are not here to merely launch a book:

“He Lived for Us All” in memory of late Chief M.N. Ugochukwu.

Rather, we are gathered to make one final effort to salvage our nation.  In 1914 it was Lord Frederick Lugard who crafted and manipulated the amalgamation of Nigeria but after a hundred years what stares us in the face and looms large on the horizon is fragmentation.

Before we proceed to the main item, we should at least recognise the link between Lt.General T.Y. Danjuma; His Excellency Arc (Dr.) Alex Ekwueme and Chief M.N. Ugochukwu.

Each of them came within a stone throw of becoming the Head of State/President of our beloved nation but for different reasons, history took a different turn.

When the Colonels led by Shehu Musa Yar’Adua toppled the military government of General Yakubu Gown on July 29, 1975 while he was away in Uganda, some of them were rooting for Danjuma who was then a rank (Brigadier) above them as the successor to Gowon.   Danjuma demurred and steered them toward Brigadier Murtala Mohammed who was actually out of the country.  He was eventually traced to London.  He was hurriedly flown back to Nigeria.   On 29th July, 1975, Major-General Murtala Mohammed became the new Head of State with Brigadier Olusegun Obasanjo as Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters (Vice-President) while Brigadier T.Y. Danjuma became the Chief of Army Staff.   On a chilly Friday morning (13th February 1976), Murtala Mohammed was brutally assassinated in cold blood by Colonel D.S. Dimka while he drove to work accompanied only his driver and his Aide-De-Camp Lt.Col. Akintunde Akinshehinwa.

Again, the colonels pushed to install Danjuma as the new Head of State but he declined.   He stood firmly behind Obasanjo and retained the number three position as Chief of Army Staff. Shehu Yar’Adua was promoted to Brigadier and installed as the Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters (effectively the Vice-President).

As for Chief Ugochukwu, (from Umununze) he was such a close friend of Alhaji Shehu Shagari the candidate of the National Party of Nigeria in the 1979 presidential election that he could easily have recommended himself as Alhaji Shagari’s running mate.   Instead, he recommended Dr. Alex  Ekwueme who was from the next village – Oko in Eastern Nigeria.  Dr. Ekwueme was already a very successful architect with a chain of landmark projects to his credit.   In addition, he had degrees in law and sociology.  Rather than scheme his way to supplant President Shehu Shagari, he was resolutely loyal, humble and almost self-effacing.   Of course, it is a matter for speculation whether he would eventually have become the President once Shagari had completed  his second term.  In any case, the military struck on 31st December 1983.  Major-General Muhammadu Buhari was installed as Head of State and Dr. Ekwueme ended up in detention while Alhaji Shehu Shagari was placed under house arrest.

Permit me to add that one of my most memorable encounters with Dr. Ekwueme was during his visit to London in 1982.  A journalist from BBC accompanied me to his hotel (Inter-Continental on Park Lane, London).  There he was in a double-room (instead of a massive suite) with only one security officer outside the door!!

I was somewhat taken aback by Lt-General Danjuma’s deposition that it was Chief Ugochukwu who launched him into business and the corporate world.  My own recollection is that it was Chief Sunday Dankaro and his brother Chief David Dankaro who were directors of several companies which were my clients.   They simply adored T.Y. and would go to any lengths to advance his candidacy for appointment to the board of several blue-chip companies.   He in turn treated them with tremendous respect which still subsists although one of the Dankaros passed on several years ago.   There was also the French Managing Director of Michelin who was eager to introduce General Danjuma to several  French companies and did so with considerable success.   The General appeared to be in no hurry as he pleaded for time – at least until he had properly retired from the army.

There is another thread that connects Chief Ugochukwu, Dr. Alex Ekwueme and General T.Y. Danjuma.  It is their uncommon trait of courtesy to all and sundry.  The word that comes to mind is urbane in its classical sense.   Regardless, how they react under pressure is a different matter.

A case in point is the dastardly assassination of General Murtala Mohammed (the military Head of State) on Friday 13th February 1976.  The coup leader Lt-Colonel D.S. Dimka had announced the overthrow of Murtala’s government from then “Radio Nigeria” located at Ikoyi, in Lagos.  Apparently, it was Danjuma who as the Chief of Army Staff launched the counter coup from Bonny Camp, Victoria Island to dislodge Dimka and his gang.  The order given to the then Colonel Ibrahim Babangida, the commander of the armoured corps was to launch a blitzerig against the rebels even if it meant reducing “Radio Nigeria” into a rubble.

Rather than carry out the orders he had been given, Babangida chose to engage Dimka in dialogue at considerable personal risk to himself.  At any rate Babangida returned to Bonny Camp for re-inforcement when Dimka refused to surrender.  Eventually, Dimka sneaked out of the building and was on the lam for several days before being arrested while trying to escape across the Nigerian border.  There are several versions of the episode but what is beyond dispute is that amongst those who were trapped within “Radio Nigeria”on that fateful morning were then Mr. Christopher Kolade (who later became our High Commissioner to Britain), Mr. Ishola Folorunsho, the ace sports broadcaster and the wife of Mr. C.A. Tugbogbo.  For them, it was a traumatic experience to come face to face with certain death in a military adventure as regards which they had no prior knowledge or direct involvement.   They would have ended up as cannon fodder or collateral damage.

Perhaps I should add that Lt. General Danjuma has since garnered huge encomiums and accolades locally and internationally largely on account of the massive philanthropy of the T.Y. Danjuma Foundation (with offices in Esher, Surrey, England and here in Nigeria).   Recently, a distinguished professor from Harvard asked me to forward an invitation to the General to deliver a lecture at Harvard, similar to the one delivered by Alhaji Aliko Dangote a few weeks ago.  Furthermore, Dr. Kayode Adeniyi-Jones who is a very senior guy in the United States of America Department of Health has been eager to formalize the nomination of General Danjuma for a U.S. Presidential Award in commemoration of the water project his foundation is sponsoring in Taraba State, in North West, Nigeria.   I was delighted to introduce him to the General at an event at the MUSON Centre, Marina, Lagos.

Amongst the beneficiaries of the T.Y. Danjuma Foundation are Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria – a faculty library / building valued at N2 billion as well as the Law School, Victoria Island, Lagos and the Cathedral Church of Christ, Marina, Lagos.

It is no secret that Danjuma who had served as Minister of Defence from 1999 to 2003 under General Olusegun Obasanjo when the latter was our civilian president had a huge fall out over Danjuma’s oil block and Obasanjo’s determination to recover part of it for the government.

However, what is remarkable is that in the midst of the turbulent outburst, one of President Obasanjo’s daughters insisted that regardless of the breakdown in the relationship between the two generals it was her wish that whenever she would get married, it would be “Uncle T.Y” who would give her away.!!  How touching.

Perhaps it is on account of the imminence of January 15, 2016 (fifty years after Nigeria’s first coup d’etat) that there is so much media frenzy as well as documentaries, television interviews, film projects, books and magazines about General T.Y. Danjuma, Chief M.N. Ugochukwu and Arc (Dr.) Alex Ekwueme – all centred on the various roles they have played (or not played) in the affairs of our beloved nation over the last five decades.

I have seen some of the snippets and trailers.  Indeed one carried a blazing headline:

“JONATHAN (former president of Nigeria) SHOULD BE PROBED.

— General T.Y. Danjuma

As for the 200 missing Chibok girls, a documentary by Al Jazeera featured Danjuma cajoling Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan who wanted T.Y. to lead the rescue mission and invade Sambisa Forest where the girls are being held hostage by Boko Haram:

“Mr. President, if you are ready to lead I shall follow you.”

Jonathan did not rise to the challenge.  Instead, he mumbled some excuses and dodged – another failure of leadership.

Perhaps the most sizzling was a headline which quoted General Danjuma lamenting the scale of corruption in Nigeria:

“Nigeria is firmly in the grip of the mafia who are in total control.”

This was juxtaposed with Dr. Goodluck Jonathan wailing:  “Boko Haram Has Infiltrated My Government.

The researchers appear to have done their homework as one of the clips from “This Is Your Life” showed an old photograph of four men playing tennis doubles at the Kaduna Club, Kaduna almost fifty years ago.  The identity of one of them remains a mystery (it is pure speculation that he is Muhammadu Buhari who is now our President) but the others appeared to be Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma; Sanni Abacha and Gidado Idris.  Indeed, a photograph is worth a thousand words.  But then, a word is enough for the wise.

What has gone viral on internet is a photograph of late Chief M N Ugochukwu welcoming both Arc(Dr) Alex Ekwueme and Lt .General T Y Danjuma (Rtd) to his annual Boxing Day (26 December) party at his vast country home in Umuneze. That was about thirty years ago. May his soul rest in peace.

— Bashorun J.K. Randle is a former

 President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of

 Nigeria (ICAN) and former Chairman of KPMG Nigeria and Africa

Region.  He is currently the Chairman, JK Randle Professional Services.

Email:   jkrandleintuk@gmail.com

— Jan 4, 2016 @ 12:10 GMT


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