A former military governor of the defunct East Central State, (currently Anambra State) Brigadier General John Atom Kpera (rtd), has explained his role in the 1966 coup.
Kpera said he got involved in the coup because his Officer Commanding ‘Exercise Damisa’, which he described as ‘orders’.
The former military, who governor narrated his involvement to Daily Trust said, “I was in Kaduna as a second lieutenant in 1966, having returned to Nigeria in August the previous year.
“I joined the engineering section of the military service where I was before the 1966 coup. I was commanding a troop, as it was called in the Engineers while in the infantry it is called a platoon.
“So I was there in Kaduna.
I know the next question would be how did it happen? The long and short is that I took part in that coup because my Officer Commanding organised what was called ‘Exercise Damisa’ and on our own we called it orders.
“It was that exercise that we were going for, a training exercise in the night. My whole squadron was also part of the exercise. So we went out there in the night where we could do a night (attack) and then occupy strategic places.
“That was the instruction and my troop was assigned to seize and protect the then National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) in Kaduna. After the night attack in the bush our commanders enumerated the various places called VPs (vital points).
“In my own case, I was assigned to defend the Radio station. Within the first night, we did the night attack the Zaria Road, then came to the Radio station, surrounded it and put troops to guard it.
“The Officer Commanding then came and inspected and said, ‘Okay, stand down’ which means you can now go. That was good.
“Then the following night… we assembled at 7 pm, went through the same exercise and my O/C came and inspected, but this time he didn’t say,’ stand down.’
“He just said, ‘Okay, you will get your stand down orders later.’ The following day I saw one officer named J. C. Ojukwu who came and said the exercise was completed and Major Hassan Katsina was with us and I asked him: ‘What are you talking about?’ That was when I started having an idea that it was a coup.
“Then our O/C came and said we should stay on our posts and should not allow anybody to come in or go out. That was the second night when I started having the idea that it was a coup.
“That is why I said I participated in it blindfolded. I wasn’t the only one; all our officers, probably only the Igbo officers knew that it was a coup. In that squadron, we were four that were non-Igbo, every other person was an officer of Igbo extraction. That was how it went.”