Lt Col Victor Adebukunola Banjo, was the first Nigerian Director of the Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Corps of the Nigerian Army. He joined the Army in 1953 as Warrant Officer 52 and he was the sixteenth Nigerian to be commissioned as an officer. (NA 16). A product of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, he also obtained a B Sc. in Mechanical Engineering. His travails began immediately after the January 15, 1966 coup, which brought Major-General Thomas Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi to power.
Three days after Aguiyi-Ironsi came to power, Banjo was summoned to the office of the Supreme Military Commander and was arrested while he was still waiting to see the Head of State. He was accused of planning to kill the Head of State and detained. It is however believed and this much has been suggested in other writings on that tumultuous moment in Nigerian history that Banjo was detained because it was thought that he had a hand in the January 15, 1966 coup. It was a difficult moment for Nigeria as the January 15 coup had inflamed tribal passions and divided the military, and Aguiyi-Ironsi more or less did not know what to do.
Banjo was detained in various prisons between January 1966 and May 1967. He had a young family of four children, and a young wife, his incarceration expectedly destabilized his family life. In A Gift of Sequins, we see how through letter writing, he tried his best to keep in touch with his wife and children, playing the dutiful husband and father by correspondence. Banjo's letters reveal much about his character and personality and his views about the circumstances of his time. He was a doting father and an affectionate husband. His letters to his wife drip with love and care. He was a well-read man of ideas, a lover of books and a frank, forthright intellect. He understood both English and French and communicated with his wife in both languages, not hiding his preference for the latter, which he considered far more flexible and romantic. Through a period of one year and half, we are taken through Banjo's life in prison and how he tried to cope with the ordeal of incarceration. His letters are shot through with anger and disappointment.
Northern Army leaders successfully carried out a counter coup against the incumbent Nigerian president Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, an Igbo. Along with Ironsi many Yorubas were killed. Banjo, a Yoruba, attempted to defend a Yoruba officer but was arrested and thrown in prison by Olusegun Obasanjo. Banjo proclaimed his innocence but he was refused a trial.
When Biafra was proclaimed on May 30, 1967 Banjo was pardoned by President Odumegwu Ojukwu and made Colonel due to his involvement in a 1966 coup. When the Nigerian Army invaded Biafra on July 6, 1967 Ojukwu sent Banjo and General Albert Okonkwo to invade Nigeria. Banjo was able to capture Benin City in less than a day and was able to get within 300 kilometers of the Nigerian capital Lagos. After Banjo was repulsed at the Battle of Ore he decided to plot a coup against Ojukwu as well a plot to assassinate Nigerian President Yakubu Gowon. Banjo wired a letter to the United States asking for support for his cause but was denied. One of Banjo's fellow plotters informed Ojukwu about the plot and Ojukwu had Banjo and 2 other coup plotters arrested. After a two-day trial Banjo and the two other plotters were found guilty of treason and were sentenced to death. On September 22, 1967 Banjo, Emmanuel Ifeajuna, and Philip Alale were marched into the Enugu city center and were tied to a pole. A firing squad of Biafran soldiers fired at them. When Banjo was hit he yelled "I'm not dead yet!" and he had to be shot four more times before he died.