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Sunday, 31 December 2017

I confronted Idiagbon over Buhari coup, says ex-military governor

I confronted Idiagbon over Buhari coup, says ex-military governor

John Atom Kpera, former military governor of Benue state, has said he confronted Tunde Idiagbon over the December 31, 1983 coup that ushered in Muhammadu Buhari as head of state.

Kpera, a retired brigadier general, told Weekly Trust that he was on leave when the government of President Shehu Shagari was overthrown and had no knowledge of the plot — although he benefited as he was later appointed military governor of his home state, Benue.

Idiagbon, then a brigadier, was second-in-command to Buhari, a major general who became head of state after the coup.

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Kpera said: “I was in Gboko on my leave when I heard about the coup. I didn’t participate in that one so I simply went back to Lagos. I went to Tunde Idiagbon and asked him: ‘What are you people doing?’  I told him what I have never said to anybody.

“When I went to his office I said, ‘Tunde what are you people doing? If this coup had failed and I said I was not part of it people would not believe me because of my relationship with all of you.’ We were friends but I had no inkling about that coup at all.

“I told them, ‘Look you don’t do things like that because if the coup had failed and they arrested them, I would have been arrested too.’ Other than that, it (the coup) came to me the way it did to any other person.”

He also disclosed how he heard about his appointment.

“When the coup took place in December of that year, I was here in Makurdi and when I rushed back to Dodan Barracks, I met Tunde Idiagbon who told me that I was posted to Makurdi to take over as governor of Benue State,” Kpera said.

Kpera was previously military governor of the defunct East Central state — today’s Anambra, Imo, Abia, Ebonyi and Enugu states — from March 1976 to July 1978.

IGBO ‘HARD WORKING’

He described Igbo people as hardworking who helped him to realise his ambitious budget of N85 million in one year.

It was such a huge amount at the time, forcing Shehu Musa Yar’Adua — who was second-in-command to Olusegun Obasanjo — to summon him to Lagos.

Kpera recalled: “In one year I announced a budget of N85 million and the then Chief of Staff, Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, sent for me to come to Lagos.

He sat me down and said, ‘This is what you announce how are you going to get money for that?’ The policy was no deficit budgeting, but I sat and explained to him how I was going to get the money. When he was satisfied, he asked me to go.

“The Igbo man is very hard working; if you commit him to something he does it. Community development is their number one priority as I knew. I must admit that all the efforts I made there were due to their cooperation and commitment to community development.”

He will be 77 on January 3, 2018.

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