Presidential Liaison Officer to the National Assembly in the Second Republic, Dr. Tank Yakassai, has sensationally revealed that the quarrel between the wives of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Samuel Akintola was what informed the crisis that led to the first military in Nigeria on January 15, 1966.
Yakassai, who is the chairman the Northern Elders’ Council, alleged that it was quarrel over contract splitting for the supply of books to schools in Western Nigeria that led to the division of the Action Group in the First Republic.
“I said it in my autobiography there was no need for the coup because the only argument was that there were political crises in Western Nigeria between two factions of the Action Group AG -the Awolowo group and that of Akintola.
“Of course, that crisis was serious but it was only limited to areas around Ibadan and Ijebu-Ode. Then, in Tiv division, there was crisis between supporters of the AG and UMBC and the result was that the crisis in these two places led to some killings, but the rest of the country was in peace.
“The pretext the military used was that they took over power in order to quell those two crises in those areas. But if you look at the consequences of their actions -all they wanted to do was to save lives, but the coup led to the civil war and a rough estimate of the number of people killed on both sides during the war was five million which was not even the accurate figure.
“So, if you came to save less than a hundred lives and you ended up killing over five million people, would you call that intervention justified? The coup was not necessary, but it was part of the process of development. You see, what brought about it was the quarrel in the Action Group, but even that quarrel, according to insiders, was not “national”.”
He further stated that “People said it was a quarrel between the wife of the AG leader, Chief Awolowo and the wife of the man who succeeded him, his deputy, Chief Akintola and the reason for the fight was that when Awolowo was the Premier, the allegation was that his wife was getting contracts for the supply of exercise books and reading materials in primary and secondary schools and that when he left power and was succeeded by his deputy, the wife of the deputy insisted that the contract should be shared between her and Mrs Awolowo.
“That led to a quarrel between the two wives and eventually it became a quarrel between two giants which led to the break-up of the party, but the public view of the crisis was that Akintola was of the opinion that the only way for the Yorubas to be in the mainstream of Nigerian politics was to cooperate with the northern leaders.
“Awolowo was opposed to that and the crisis led to the split of the party at their convention in Jos, I think in 1962 or thereabout. That was what led to the crisis and also that was the excuse given by the military to take over power.”