On the 15th of January, 1966, Nigeria witnessed her first military coup d’état in which notable politicians were killed. Among those who were killed was the first and only Prime Minister of Nigeria, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.
He was abducted during the coup (which was led by Major Kaduna Nzeogwu) and taken to an unknown destination. There was a nationwide search for the Prime Minister but he could not be found. It was not until January 21, 1966, six days after the coup, that the decomposing body of Tafawa Balewa was found laying with other bodies, one belonging to Festus Okotie Eboh, the Finance Minister, in a village along Lagos-Abeokuta road.
However, the circumstance of Tafawa Balewa’s death, till today, remains controversial as different accounts stated different manners of his death. An account stated that he was shot to death while another claimed that no bullet wound was found on his body so he couldn’t have been shot.
Whether he was shot or not, one thing is certain, he was killed and dumped at the site his body was found. Tafawa Balewa’s dead body was found by the side of a kola nut tree in a sitting posture. OldNaija gathered that he had a white Toga, part of which was wrapped over his head. Okotie Eboh’s body laid with face downwards and “maggots crowding around it”. There was a little strip of striped pyjamas left on his right leg.
Tafawa Balewa’s body was evacuated from the spot and flown in a chartered plane to Bauchi, his hometown, where he was buried. The whole nation mourned his death and flags were flown at half staff for 72 hours.
Ahmad Ibrahim Babankowa, the police officer who found Tafawa Balewa’s body, narrated how he tracked and located the decomposing body where it was dumped. Read the narration here.
- Omipidan. Teslim Opemipo (2017). How Ibrahim Babankowa Found Tafawa Balewa’s Decomposing Body Along Lagos-Abeokuta Road. OldNaija. https://oldnaija.com/2017/06/05/how-ibrahim-babankowa-found-tafawa-balewas-decomposing-body-along-lagos-abeokuta-road/
- Balewa’s Death Controversy: As an eye witness, the body I saw was fresh- Osoba. Vanguard Newspaper.
- Overthrown Lagos Chief, 53, Is Buried, Body Found Near Nigeria Capital, Chicago Tribune, Sunday, January 23, 1966.