23 Hard Facts About The First Military Coup In Nigeria

The first military coup in Nigeria can be considered one of the malicious origins to the present chaotic Nigerian reality as we have it today.

One ruled by severe poverty, sustained by tribal wickedness, to the point that its many evils are now almost self inflicted.

Nigeria is now nothing but a cooking pot of boiling confusing spiraling beyond her natural limits.

It is already a failed civil society.

In fact, there is almost nothing civil about its administrative construct.

The first military coup in Nigeria did more damage to tribal relations in Nigeria than any other conflicts before recorded.

A military betrayal for power that would solidify the discontent between the Igbos of the East and the Hausa/Fulani’s in the North.

Today we shall be discussing the events and characters that played out through the different episodes.

Listed below are the different facts surrounding the coup of 1966.

Read: The Name Nigeria Was Given by Who?

23 Interesting Facts About The First Military Coup In Nigeria

1. 22 people with the Prime Minister of Nigeria included were killed during the coup of 1966 led by Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu and Emmanuel Ifeajuna.

Those killed included many senior politicians, many senior Army officers (including their wives), and sentinels on protective duty.

2. The coup itself was subdued and later hijacked by another military officer (a General of the Nigerian Army) by the name Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi.

3. The initial coup itself was plotted by a group of Army majors (Emmanuel Ifeajuna, Timothy Onwuatuegwu, Chris Anuforo, Don Okafor, Humphrey Chukwuka, and Adewale Ademoyega).

4. The coup attempt was unsuccessful. Leading to the different factors that would usher in the civil war.

Creating a cheap means through which Johnson Aguiyi Ironsi would seize power.

Becoming the first Nigerian Military Head of State.

He would rule from 16 January 1966 until his assassination on 29 July 1966 by a group of Northern Nigerian soldiers who were led by Major Ibrahim Badamusi Babangida and two others in the persons of Major Theophilus Danjuma and General Murtala Mohammed.

5. The coup was plotted against the incumbent Prime Minister Abubakar Balewa, who was in the process assassinated.

6. While The president of Nigeria at that time, Nnamdi Azikiwe had already left the country in late 1965, first for Europe, then on a cruise to the Caribbean. Consequently saving his own neck.

7. The transition from civilian government to a military one was officially declared by acting President Nwafor Orizu through phone about the decision of the cabinet, to “voluntary” transfer power to the armed forces.

A delicious invitation that Major General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi hurriedly accepted.

8. On 17 January, the new military head of State, Major General Ironsi established the Supreme Military Council in Lagos and effectively suspended the constitution.

9. Four of the most famous people assassinated by the coup were:

  • Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa
  • Premier Ahmadu Bello
  • Premier Samuel Ladoke Akintola
  • Finance Minister Festus Okotie-Eboh

first military coup in Nigeria

10. Nzeogwu had to conscript young soldiers from the Nigerian Military Training College to carry out the coup in Kaduna.

11. Ahmadu Bello was shot by Nzeogwu. Bello’s faithful bodyguard who came to defend him with a bow and arrows was also shot, as well as one of his wives who tried to shield him with her body.

12. The Lagos branch of the coup was led by Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna.

Ifeajuna together with some lieutenants went straight to the residence of the Prime Minister Abubakar Tafewa Balewa.

Once there, they would kill the Prime Minister in his bedroom.

13. Ifeajuna’s murder of his commanding officer Maimalari is considered by many as the single greatest act of treachery on the night of the coup.

14. Balewa, Kur Mohammed and Okotie-Eboh were initially kidnapped, but killed later when it became clear that the coup was not going to succeed.

15. It is true that it has come to be known as “the Igbo Coup” but what many people has failed to realize is that several officers of northern origin took part in the first Nigerian coup.

16. Ifeajuna was the “brains” behind the coup and even wrote a manuscript on the reasons why he felt a military coup was necessary. It was never published.

17. Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu was the only Major to successfully execute the coup in his designated target region.

18. Realising that Ironsi was rounding up those that took part in the coup, Ifeajuna fled to Ghana, leaving Nzeogwu to face the consequences of their action.

19. Nzeogwu was killed in the early days of the Nigerian civil war while fighting for Biafra.

Nzeogwu’s body was discovered during the Nigerian civil war by federal soldiers, they took his body away for burial with full military honours (but not before his eyes had been plucked out).

20. Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna was Executed during the Nigerian civil war after planning a rebellion against Lt-Col Ojukwu.

21.Major Don Okafor was abducted from Abeokuta prison (where he was detained for his part in the coup) by northern soldiers in July 1966, and killed (several accounts say he was buried alive).

22.The First Military coup in Nigeria proved to be the catalyst for several military regimes – each one progressively more authoritarian than the one that preceded it.

23. Major Chris Anuforo was abducted from Benin prison (where he was detained for his part in the coup) by northern soldiers in August 1966, tortured and killed.

This is where we draw the curtain on this one. As a Nigerian I believe that the information provided would be useful for educational purposes.

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