Saturday 12 November 2022


Just before dawn on a Saturday morning, about 2:10 am, January 15, 1966, the Adjutant-General of the Nigerian Army, Lieutenant-Colonel James Pam (pictured), his wife Elizabeth and all other members of his family in their Nigerian Army residence at 8, Ikoyi Crescent, Ikoyi, Lagos, awoke to the sight of soldiers crouching decidedly towards their house.

Eventually, the fully-armed soldiers continued to make their way to Lt. Col. Pam's home. Those approaching the kitchen chose to make their entrance by shooting through the door. A quick run up the stairs and the soldiers took over the bedrooms.

By this time, Elizabeth was no longer in doubt that something has badly gone wrong. As she ran to the children’s rooms in her distress and confusion, she screamed for her oldest child and daughter who was eight years old.

“Kaneng ! Kaneng! Help me! Help me!” she called out.

However, the invading soldiers had come face-to-face with her husband, James Pam, led by a man very close to him and a family-friend, Major Humphrey Chukwuka,  who was also his second-in-command, and Deputy Adjutant-General.

“Sir, we have come to take you with us,” Chukwuka said.

“Why? What is the meaning of this?” Pam questioned. 

“Sir, please come with us,” Chukwuka responded.

“Ok. Allow me to dress," Pam said as he gave in especially to the sight of guns blaring at him.

At this point, Pam was joined by his heartbroken wife, Elizabeth, as he retreated into the bedroom and changed swiftly into a pair of trousers, a vest and shirt and he put on his watch.

He returned to the waiting soldiers as Elizabeth pleaded with Major Chukwuka who she knew well as her husband's deputy and friend, to spare her husband’s life.

“Please don’t kill him, please don’t kill my husband,” Elizabeth pleaded.

"No. We won’t Madam. Don’t worry. I will bring him back to you," Chukwuka assured.

Major Chukwuka, who had rather become impatient, began to march Lieutenant-Colonel James Yakubu Pam out of his home but not without first advising him to put on a coat because it was cold outside due to the harmattan season.

As Pam was led out, Kaneng, his daughter, aware of the present danger, ran to her father and hugged him. Pam promptly turned to Elizabeth his wife and said in Hausa: “Liz, ki lura da yara,” which means “Liz, look after the children.”

Those were his last words to his wife. It was also the last time he would have a glimpse of his family that comprised his wife Elizabeth, Kaneng, eight years; Jummai, six years; Yusufu, four years; identical twins Ishaku and Ishaya, one year and nine months and Ibrahim (Gambo), four months and two weeks.

James Pam was led out and eventually killed within the hour after he was allowed to say his last prayers. His last thoughts were obviously for his devoted wife Elizabeth and their children. “Lord save them. Lord bless them and Lord keep them.”

Those were his last words as thirteen bullets were rained on him hitting his chest and jaw. He was 32. Murdered in cold blood on a cold morning by people he had trusted.

In 2001, 35 years after the events of that night, at the age of 65 years, Elizabeth Pam, who was born to a Ghanian Christian father and a Fulani Moslem mother, the widow of James Pam, went to see Humphrey Chukwuka in Enugu, the former capital of the Eastern Region and present capital of Enugu State.

She was 30 years old in 1966 when Chukwuka took James away and never returned him to her as promised.

Elizabeth did not call for justice as an alternative to the loss of her beloved husband neither was she avid for tribal accusations.

She just uttered those difficult words: "I FORGIVE YOU."

She died softly on the 10th of May 2011, surrounded by her children and her illustrious moral superiority. 

Source: A Carnage Before Dawn, by Ayomide Akinbode

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