Gowon, Obasanjo extol virtues of Maimalari, first Nigerian Army regular combatant

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo [Photo credit: dailypost.ng]
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo [Photo credit: dailypost.ng]

A former Head of State, Yakubu Gowon, has described the first regular combatant of the Nigerian Army, Zakariya Maimalari, as a courageous officer who wanted the best for the army and the country before he was killed during the first military coup.

He spoke on Tuesday in Abuja during the public presentation of a book on the late officer.

The 382-page book, entitled “The First Regular Combatant: Brigadier Zakariya Maimalari,” was written by Haruna Poloma.

Mr. Maimalari was one of the military officers killed on the night of January 15, 1966 during the coup that brought Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi to power.

A graduate of the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, United Kingdom, Mr. Maimalari was until his death the Commander of the 2nd Brigade of the Nigerian Army, Lagos.

Mr. Gowon, a retired army general, who was Nigeria’s leader between July 1966 and July 1975, said Mr. Maimalari and Umar Lawal, who trained as regular combatants, were amongst the first Nigerians to be enlisted into the Nigerian Army.

He said the late officer wanted the best for the army and the country.

He said those who knew Mr. Maimalari would appreciate that he was not only outstanding but awesome, endowed and gentlemanly.

“Zakariya wanted the best for the army and for Nigeria and was a courageous, prestigious and humorous man who remained loyal to his profession before he was assassinated in the 1966 coup,” Mr. Gowon, who chaired the occasion, said.

“Those who know and are familiar with him will appreciate how outstanding, awesome and gentlemanly he was.”

The former head of state said the book was a brief but extraordinary account of Mr. Maimalari’s life and was “brought in such graphic and entertaining way and manner by personalities and dignitaries whose lives he touched.”

He urged Nigerians to buy the book in order to learn from the life of the late army officer, who he described as a “great man.”

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, a retired general, who served under Mr. Maimalari in the 60s, described the slain officer as a selfless man, who focused on the welfare of his soldiers of which he was a beneficiary.

He said though he did not know him when he was growing up and when he was in school, they both served in a battalion, which was sent on peace-keeping force in Congo.

Mr. Obasanjo, who was Nigeria’s military head of state between 1976 and 1979, said the army would not get over the death of Mr. Maimalari and that he would have been a head of state or president of the country if he were alive.

The acting president, Yemi Osinbajo, who was represented at the event by the Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, also extolled the virtues of the late military officer.

Also speaking at the event, the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazzau, who was one time chief of army staff, said the large turnout for the event was an indication that even though Mr. Maimalari died 51 years ago, he remained a hero while his legacy “lives on.”

The book reviewer, Ike Nwachukwu, a retired army general and former senator, said it documented Mr. Maimalari’s military career and achievements.

At the event, Mr. Maimalari’s granddaughter, Fatima, presented a poem in honour of the slain officer.

“It is usually asked – can you make an impression of someone you’ve never met? Well I have. I know I have never met my grandfather but I’ve read about him, how he was as a soldier, a friend, a father and a husband,” she said.


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  • M-olaniyi Odebode

    So, Brigadier Maimalari was a potential Military Head of State. It is now clear why he was murdered – to pave the way for the murderers’ ethnic kinfolk to take over power smoothly, without any challenge from top officers from other ethnic groups. No wonder the Yoruba Brigadier Ademulegun was similarly murdered.

    • omo56

      They still are not apologetic

      • M-olaniyi Odebode

        No, they will not apologize, they never do Rather, they will try to force down one’s throat spurious, doctored accounts of historical events. This is one of their numerous traits that irritate, exasperate, and alienate other people they deal with (in Nigeria, South Africa, Asian countries, etc. – wherever they are). Instead of trying to eliminate the obnoxious traits, they claim that they are hated due to envy on account of their being the most successful Nigerian ethnic group in all human endeavors, an assertion that has no statistical bases. Of course, they excel in several endeavors but why should I envy a wealthy man his wealth acquired through hard drug trafficking, fake drug sale, kidnapping, ritual killing, armed robbery, or any other atrocity?

        • omo56

          It is kind of pathetic that for a group who claims to be the most intelligent African ethnic group they lack wisdom. They are very tactical and not strategic, short term gains are all that they are very good at.

          Not too long ago they gathered at a conference and the topic of the conference was an article written by the late Achebe that Ibos precede Yoruba to Ile Ife. And another book, “How
          Yoruba fought and lost the Biafra war”

          I nearly died from laughing. Joking apart, since when did Achebe became an anthropology? Even if it is true, how do you form alliance with someone whose help is vital to your reaching your goal of Biafra or Nigerian Presidency? Please do not trade insult with them, just present your view with facts.

          One last thing, after Ibo schemed Yoruba out of Good Luck government, they got six top ministerial positions to one for Yoruba. Tinubu (Ase bi sere) formed an alliance (good
          or bad) with the North, formed APC and managed to defeat Good Luck. Yoruba are now enjoying the dividends of Tinubu actions. They think that by simply defecting from PDP to APC will earn
          them top ministerial positions come 2019.

          Again, all tactics no strategy.

          Aye ee o

          • Dr Norm

            why are some yoruba so full of hate and venom? is it jealousy or an inferiority complex? your cousins-from ademulegun to obj to isama-have have stated repeately that january 15 was not an igbo coup but one meant to make awo prime minister. it was carried out by socialist-ideology-driven and crazy officers who thought that they could make nigeria great by wiping out corruption and tribalism, among so many other ills bedeviling the country. they did not care a hoot about their people and consequences of failure for the igbo, especially at a time when they were playing a dominant role in the militay, economic and bureaucratic life of nigeria. but do you think that given their dominance of the nigerian army officer corps (60%) as well as their human and material resources, any nigerian group could have been successful in seizing power from them? if ironsi and the igbo carried out the failed coup, have you ever wondered why he still kept gowon as coas, danjuma as his scribe and bello as adc?Would he not have replaced them with igbo soldiers and people he could trust absolutely? the january 15 coup plotters targeted only their fellow soldiers and politicians; why did those who carried out the january 29 coup go after civilians in an orgy of pogroms that cries to God for vengeance? It seems from your demeanor that you would take sadistic pleasure in the fact that northern nigerian soldiers and their civilian accomplices cut open the stomachs of pregnant women and cut their babies to pieces. No wonder God’s judgment is upon nigeria. Look at what is happening to the “sick man” of Africa: boko haram, kwashiokor, which awo your hero inflicted on the Biafrans, fulani “janjaweed” terrorists ravaging the country, including parts of your land. A friend from the midwest once told me a story about how yoruba looters who would descend on onitsha and other fallen Biafran cities and cart away tons of costly goods in trailers for transportation to their land; yes, the yoruba are enjoying the oil and gas riches of the ss and se, while their owners are neglected and abandoned; but are the yoruba and their fulani friends richer per capita than the Igbo? The answer is no. Nigeria dead. What is taking place now is its funeral service. so welcome to Biafra-sooner than you think- and to the Oduduwa nation-if you love freedom and have the guts to get it.

        • Uche

          “Of course, they excel in several endeavors but why should I envy a wealthy man his wealth acquired through hard drug trafficking, fake drug sale, kidnapping, ritual killing, armed robbery, or any other atrocity?”

          I am curious by the above comment. Let me assume that the above crimes are exclusively committed by my brothers; my questions for you: Are these only crimes committed in Nigeria or outside Nigeria by Nigerians? Are these Igbo-exclusive crimes the worst and heinous crimes committed in Nigeria and outside Nigeria. Is Nigeria a failed nation because of these Igbo-exclusive crimes which you have passionately enumerated? Are the poverty, hunger, famine, unemployment and avoidable death ravaging Nigeria the result of these crimes committed by the Igbos? Nigeria has earned almost $1 trillion in oil revenue in the last decades which has been either stolen, looted or mismanaged by its public office holders, what percentage of these Igbo-criminals participated in the massive looting of Nigeria’s commonwealth compared to public office criminals from the other tribes.