January 21, 1966- Tafawa Balewa’s Dead Body Was Found Along Lagos-Abeokuta Road: True Story


Tafawa Balewa

On the 15th of January, 1966, Nigeria witnessed her first military coup d’état in which notable politicians were killed and some others went missing. Among those who were declared missing was the first and only Prime Minister of Nigeria, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. He was abducted during the coup d’etat and taken off to an unknown destination. There was a nationwide search for the Prime Minister but he could not be found; not until January 21, 1966, six days after the coup, that the decomposing body of Tafawa Balewa was found lying with other bodies, one belonging to Festus Okotie Eboh, the Finance Minister, in a village along Lagos-Abeokuta road.

Festus Okotie Eboh
Festus Okotie Eboh


However, the circumstances of Tafawa Balewa’s death, till today, remains controversial as different accounts state different manner of his death. An account stated that he was shot to death while another claimed that no bullet hole was found on his body so he couldn’t have been shot. Whether he was shot or not, one thing is clear, he was killed and dumped at the site his body was found. The dead body of Tafawa Balewa was found by the side of a kola nut tree in siting posture with a cap lying at its feet. He had a white Toga part of which was wrapped over his head. The body of Okotie Eboh was in lying posture with face downwards and “maggots crowding round it; there was a little strip of stripped 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 the big loss and flags were flown at half staff for 72 hours.


Ahmad Ibrahim Babankowa, the person who found Tafawa Balewa’s body, narrated how he tracked and located the decomposing body where it was dumped. Read the narration here.




* Vanguard Newspaper: Balewa’s Death Controversy: As an eye witness, the body I saw was fresh- Osoba

* Vanguard Newspaper: How I discovered Balewa’s decomposing body- Babankowa

* Overthrown Lagos Chief, 53, Is Buried, Body Found Near Nigeria Capital, Chicago Tribune, Sunday, January 23, 1966.


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