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The Life and Times of Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu have been viewed with mixed feelings among military officials, politicians and Nigerian citizens. There is no clear picture of what the major really stood for, his source of motivation, what his personality says about him and his ideology. The study of the life and times of Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu exposes the life of a great man who achieved greatness through hard work, patience and perseverance. This work studied his genealogy, birth, education and his military career he pursued in a bid to attain greatness. This work enjoins the youth of this generation to toe the line of hard work as was seen in the life of Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, rather than living in with the ‘if you cannot beat them, join them’ mentality eating deep in Nigeria. The controversies surrounding Major Nzeogwu from his birth, family background, education, military experience and his view on the January 15, 1966 coup, including why it failed will be widely discussed in this work. This work also tells us how Major Nzeogwu was seen by his friends and enemies, his principles, his rules and his life style and how his presence changed the army either positively or negatively. The use of oral interviews and text books will be used to attain accuracy. Finally, the soul of this work is to critically examine the life of one of Nigerian’s most controversial military officer. We will be able to know if he was a hero to the people or a failure. The qualitative methodology has been injected into this work for a more detailed and accurate analysis.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Title Page i
Approval Page iii
Table of Contents vii
Photograph Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu x
CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCION
1.1 Background to the Study 1
1.2 Statement of Problem 3
1.3 Purpose of the Study 4
1.4 Significance of Study 4
1.5 Scope of Study 5
1.6 Methodology, Sources and Organization 5
1.7 Limitations 6
1.8 Literature Review 6
CHAPTER TWO: FORMATIVE YEARS
2.1 Family Background 10
2.2 Early Education 11
CHAPTER THREE: NZEOGWU’S MILITARY CAREER
3.1 Military Trainings 16
3.2 Nzeogwu’s Mission to the Congo 20
3.3 Early Postings 21
FOUR: NZEOGWU, THE REVOLUTIONARY
4.1 His Ideology and Personality 24
4.2 Early Organization and the coup 27
4.3 Plot and Execution 31
4.4 The impact of the coup on the Nigerian Polity 41
4.5 The coup aftermath 45
Chapter Five: Summary and Conclusion
5.1 Summary 51
5.2 Conclusion 52
1.1 Background to the Study:
Major Kaduna Chukwuma Nzeogwu was born in the Northern Region’s capital of Kaduna in 1937 to Igbo parentage from the mid-western region-Okpanam town, near Asaba in the present Anioma Local Government Area, Delta State into a Catholic home. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Nzeogwu were Catholics to the marrow. It is important to note here that Anioma or derogatorily referred to as “Bendel Igbo” from Middle-Western Nigeria. Growing up as a child, Chukwuma had all he wanted. He lived a comfortable life devoid of sickness or disease. He was fluent in Pidgin English, Igbo and Hausa languages. One good attribute to him, he never forgot his friends, especially those who were not as privileged as he. He loved his mother so much that he would do anything to protect her. According to Engr. Ephraim Okafor, Major Nzeogwu was not a fan of outdoor games, rather he preferred jogging. He loved reading, playing indoor games and listening to music. He loved classical music, although he enjoyed jazz and symphonies, but his overall best was military music. He hated pop sounds because he termed them unorganized noise. Major Nzeogwu loved having visitors in his house.
He was very practical and realistic; he was inquisitive too. Chukwuma was a good observer; he knew his limits, when to joke excessively with his friends and when to be serious. He loved hanging around athletic, rugged and independent minded people. Nzeogwu hated people who cringed or curried favors to achieve a task.
Chukwuma joined the Nigerian army in March 1957, when it was still colonial, but was to be controlled financially by the Nigerian Government by1958. He was so stubborn and also a rebel. His military knowledge was not extensive; Major Nzeogwu was loved and respected by his men. He was loyal to his superiors both Nigerians and British. His ability to stand up for justice for his men was an outstanding quality despite the fact that his actions might anger his superiors. He saw Nigeria as a pawn of the capitalist Western world.He was known for frequently using certain words such as; courage, propriety, honor and justice. The image of Major Kaduna Nzeogwu has been surrounded by controversies among politicians, military officers and civilians. This work will unravel the mysteries behind these controversies by looking into his early life so as to point out the basic factors that formed his ideology. It could be religious, political, but this work will explain how his environment fostered his ideology.
Kaduna Nzeogwu‘s early life and education may have affected him either positively or negatively and may have led to the formation of his personality. In an interview with Mrs. Stella Osuji, a nurse, on child psychology and its effects on the brain, almost 99.9% of every Nigerian child tends to develop the body system, most especially the brain to adapt to the environment. Chukwuma Nzeogwu was born during the colonial period, and he witnessed the evils that came with colonialism. He was also born into a Catholic family, and he spent most of his time fighting against corruption and inequality in school. Could these have led to the formation of his ideology? This work is set to unveil that. Back in Teshi, Ghana and Sandhurst, young Chukwuma was taught the life of competition, where he had to struggle hard or lose and Chukwuma was not a fan of losing. Although he tried to stand up for hi rights and that of his friends, but his actions cost him some opportunities. Chukwuma who was outspoken and who could not withstand injustice, was made to assimilate all his vices. Could this be the reason for the way he turned out?
The life of the major will be significantly discussed in this work, how his ideologies were formed, his personality and how it affected the Nigerian state and the coup, Nzeogwu had in mind a country where justice and peace would prevail, where equality would be respected, no gap between the rich and the poor and tribalism would be the wealth of a state. That country was not Nigeria. Nzeogwu lived in Nigeria when people had to bend to evil to survive, where the rich got richer and the poor, poorer. This work will look at Nzeogwu’s views on nationalism, governance, and his reasons for the coup. A comparative analysis will be induced to weigh the level of stability in Nigeria before the coup and after the coup, to see if Nzeogwu’s ideology of the coup was actually the case even after the coup.
1.2 Statement of Problem:
The life of Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu has been viewed with mixed feelings among military officers, politicians and Nigerian citizens. While some view him as a hero whose personality, equity, fact and courage salvaged the Nigerian unity and greatness, others see him as a tribalist whose hatred for a segment of the country and section truncated Nigeria’s first republic.
This work strengthens out the facts about the nature of his personality which animated his actions. Men are products of their ideologies and ideologies are fostered by time and environment. It is worthy to note that Nzeogwu lived in the time and the Nigerian environment where ethnic nationality, not competence, defined who got what. His courage in planning as well wielding people and like minds from different parts of the country into salvaging the Nigerian problem and setting the country on the part of greatness. This work seeks to answer among other questions, Nzeogwu’s views about
- The Military
- The 1966 Revolution
- The Nigerian State
1.3 Purpose of Study:
‘The Life and Times of Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu’ will help ward off ignorance. To those who think of the Major either as a devil or as an angel will at the end of this work decide on their next line of thought. ‘The Life and Times of Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu’ intends to tell a story about a man who took it upon himself to fight for the sake of his people, to go against his moral standards. This work sends a message to the readers and those ignorant of Major Nzeogwu to know what the major stood for, his background, his principles, his ideologies and his personality and how they all formed the man Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu.
1.4 Significance of Study:
Nigerians are yet to understand the personality of Major Nzeogwu. They have been blind folded by his role in the 1966 coup, thereby deviating from the main subject and portraying the major as a tribalist. This research work seeks to remove the fish scale from the eyes of Nigerians to see the real Nzeogwu. This works seeks to look into the life and times of Major Nzeogwu and to point out how his environment really shaped his personality.
This work categorically seeks to discuss Major Nzeogwu’s views, and how they reshaped the political structure of Nigeria. A deep analysis of the major’s early life, family background, education and military training will be carried out to get a detailed account of how his environment formed his ideology in relation to how it affected the Nigerian State. To the final consumers of this project, they will be able to see how Major Nzeogwu’s ideology and personality helped salvage Nigerians from the shackles of doom. This work will significantly show if the main reasons for the coup are still in existence or not.
1.5 Scope of Study:
Major Nzeogwu is a legend who sacrificed his life in the struggle for justice. He was loved by some and hated by others. This study dates from 1937 his birth to 1967 his death.
1.6 Methodology, Sources and Organization:
The use of qualitative methodology will enable an accurate and detailed understanding of the life and times of the Major. Stories told by his colleagues will go a long way in getting a clear image. Sticking to stories told by his friends alone will not portray a clear image, but by his enemies also. The methodology used here will help get a balanced work of both his good and bad side.
The use of primary and secondary sources will be the foundation of this work. Primary sources include those who were close enough to the major in the army, those that worked with him and those that fought against him. Secondary sources include research works already done on him, text books written and published on him, and images gotten from the internet.
Chapter one will give us an insight of the whole research, introducing the work, stating clearly the significance, scope, statement of problem of the work and also researchers who have researched on the major. Chapter two will usher us into the early life of the major; his parents, place of birth, and his education. Chapter three will discuss in detail his military career and chapter four will cover the image of the major, at what point the coup became inevitable, the role of the major in the 1966 coup and the aftermath of the coup. Chapter five will summarize the research work, giving the final reasons and in conclusion, ways to avoid a future occurrence of another coup.
The actualization of this work did not come on a platter of gold, rather there were landmines, if not carefully traded on, would have lead to a huge explosion. It was difficult gathering materials at first but at the end things went according to plan.
I met my first obstacle in Enugu, when I went to gather materials in the archives. I was locked out on the grounds that I am not of age to handle materials on Nzeogwu and his views on the coup and the war. Second, nobody was willing to talk to me. From my own conclusion, they were afraid of something, like someone was monitoring them, to hunt them down for telling their own side of the story. Third, I was running out of finance as I had to buy drinks for those willing to talk, to keep the interview going.
The final blow that made me come close to one of the mines, those who accepted to talk were afraid of mentioning their names. However, they gave me their titles and first names and refused to include their last names.
1.8 Literature Review:
Many research works have been carried out by scholars on the life of Major Nzeogwu and his role in the 1966 coup. Many writers have written either against or for Major Nzeogwu, and they all have a similar understanding of the Major. Although some authors have mentioned the major in passing, this research work will discuss in detail the early life and times of Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, how his environment shaped his ideology and personality in relation to the January 15th, 1966 coup.
First among these authors who have researched on the major includes a former president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who was a close friend to the major, Olusegun Obasanjo. Obasanjo described the Major as idealistic, inquisitive, precocious, and stubborn. Judging by Obasanjo’s book, Nzeogwu, Major Nzeogwu, from the early stage in his life wanted to know something about everything. Nzeogwu would ask his teachers endless questions and would end up trying to be like his teachers. Nzeogwu mapped out standards for himself to guide his life style. He stood up against injustice and favoritism, Nzeogwu was stubborn to a fault. Obasanjo failed to trace how Nzeogwu’s ideology played a part in the formation of his personality and that is what this work seeks to show.
Also, Major Adewale Ademoyega in his book Why We Struck, the story of the first Nigerian coup, portrayed Major Nzeogwu as a man after the people’s hearts, he said;
‘Nzeogwu was a good leader of men. The same could not be said of 90% of the officers. He drew the younger officers irresistibly to himself, endeavoring always to awaken in them both political and revolutionary consciousness and above all, patriotism. He spoke amusingly and all the young officers that had passed through his hands in the NMTC cherished and held him in high esteem’. 
Ademoyega cantered more on Nzeogwu’s personality and the ideology of the coup but failed to trace Nzeogwu’s origin, his background as a basic factor that gave birth to the revolutionary Nzeogwu and that is what this work seeks to unveil.
Another research work by Chris Ejiofor titled Biafra’s Struggle for Survival, spoke more on Nzeogwu. He called the major ‘invincible’ due to his method of tackling his enemies, he said
‘Among the heroes of the war was Nzeogwu, who was reported to have
undertaken several dangerous missions, guerrilla-style raids with a few
hand-picked men, attacking the enemy from the rear, striking fear into
them and sowing the seed of disarray amongst them and this earned the
nickname ‘the INVINVIBLE NZEOGWU’. Many soldiers regard him as
a god of war, a hero of heroes’.
Ejiofor got to know Nzeogwu in the army. He had little or no knowledge of the man, Nzeogwu. Where he came from, his parents, friends, enemies, likes and dislikes, how he got to that position in the army where everyone loved him and this work is out to fill the gap created by Ejiofor.
Although he was displaced by the failure of the coup, he never allowed that to prevent him from fighting. He was a role model to many, especially the Biafran soldiers. The Biafran soldiers recorded a massive success, although with poor weapons. Their fighting spirit was all that mattered as long as Nzeogwu was with them. This research is relevant in discussing the personality of the major in the coup in connection to the civil war. Major Nzeogwu had no other way of restoring justice than a coup. The coup was the only solution to corruption, but Nzeogwu forgot that psychological preparation alone was not adequate. In all the books reviewed, people are still doubtful that the 1966 coup was actually led by Major Nzeogwu.
Another author, whose work will be of important value to this work, is Alexander Madiebo, who wrote The Nigerian Revolution and the Biafran War. Madiebo gave us an inside information on why the coup was carried out, he said;
“The aim of the revolution was to get rid of the corrupt politicians and incorrigible politicians and have them replaced with true nationalists”. 
Although Madiebo was quoting Nzeogwu in the statement, he failed to link Nzeogwu’s ideology and personality in relation to the reasons why the coup was carried out, and that is what this work will prove.
- Engr. Ephraim Okafor (Oral Interview. This is a fictitious name because the informant wants to be anonymous)
Kaduna Nzeogwu. Ibadan: Spectrum Books, 1987. p.27
- Gbulie Ben, Nigeria’s Five Majors. Nigeria. Benlie Publishers. 2001 Reprint p.26
- Stella Osuji. (Oral Interview)
- Ademoyega Adewale, Why We Struck. Ibadan: Evans Brothers Ltd, 2011, p. 61
- Ejiofor Chris, Biafra’s Struggle for Survival. Enugu, CIDJAP Press, 2012, p. 11
- Madiebo Alexander, The Nigerian Revolution and the Biafran War. Enugu, Fourth
dimension publishing Co.Ltd, 1980. p1
2.1 Family Background
Chukwuma Nzeogwu’s father, James Okafor Nzeogwu was born a Christian, James’s father; Obi Nzeogwu practised the traditional religion before he converted to Christianity. Obi Nzeogwu married several wives then due to his nature of work. They lived in the village of Obodogwu, one of the clusters of villages constituting Okpanam in what was then known as Asaba division in the Igbo speaking areas of Bendel State West of the lower Niger River.
James Nzeogwu, Chukwuma’s father, lived with Father Anthony at Asaba. James was a devout catholic, and his education was sponsored by the missionaries. The initial intention of the missionaries was to ordain James a priest. After his education, he was thrown out to life as the hunt for a job began. James was unable to find the job of his choice. He embarked on a journey to the north, acting on a piece of advice given by his friends. With a letter of recommendation from Father Anthony, he went to Kaduna under the shelter of Father McCarthy, an Irish priest with the Kaduna Roman Catholic Diocese. James developed interest in the technical field and wanted to be a technician. His passion scaled through and he became a machine operator. He remained with the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (E.C.N).
Elizabeth Mgbeke, Chukwuma’s mother, was born in the village of Ugbolu near Okpanam. Elizabeth was taken at the age of 10 to Nzeogwu’s house, to be trained as a future wife. It was also the custom at that time for the father to choose wives for their sons. James and Elizabeth got married at Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church in Kaduna in 1936 and a year after, gave birth to Chukwuma. Olusegun Obasanjo wrote in his book, Nzeogwu, that Elizabeth was married to Peter, James’ younger brother who died after an appendix operation. The lot fell on James to marry Elizabeth. An elder brother should not marry the younger brother’s wife, but James’s mother compelled him to do so. Elizabeth was very energetic, hard-working and a dedicated housewife.
Patrick Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu was born on the 26th of February 1937 in Kaduna. Although Elizabeth and James had other children, they all died one after the other. While growing up, Chukwuma spoke Pidgin English, Igbo and Hausa fluently. Chukwuma began developing his “never give up spirit” from his child hood when he fought both his age mates and those above him. One thing specific about Chukwuma, he never forgot his friends even when he began his education.
2.2 Early Education
Saint Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, Kaduna, was the first school Chukwuma attended. Saint Joseph’s Nursery and Primary School was the offspring of Saint Joseph’s Cathedral. Saint Joseph’s Catholic Nursery and Primary is located in Kakuri in Tudun, Kaduna State. In an interview with Reverend Father Karris Lukas, who served as the Administrative Director in the school before leaving, Saint John was founded by the early missionaries. The mode of employment for teachers as indicated by Father Lukas includes; degree certificate and NCE. The school’s curriculum then still remains the same with the current one, they offer; Mathematics, English, Religious Studies, Primary Science, Social Studies. In terms of other extra curriculum activities, they have debate clubs, quiz, and cultural exhibitions, inter house sports and even engage other schools in competition. The school engages pupils in sports such as; football, table tennis and track events, and the teachers make sure every student partakes in the activities, if possible in more than one and their motto, knowledge, obedience and service.
Chukwuma asked endless questions, and his teachers ended up not satisfying him with their answers. Ojukwu, in his book Because I am Involved, described Chukwuma as being ‘out spoken’. Chukwuma’s ability to air his views whenever and wherever was a distinguishing quality Ojukwu pointed out. Chukwuma mastered the act of reading and writing with ease. During school holidays, Chukwuma would visit his uncle, his father’s elder brother, in Abakpa during the school holidays. The uncle was called Anthony; he is the leader of Igbos in the community. Chukwuma used to assist his uncle with errands, and he regularly accompanied him when he went hunting for birds and game around the area now known as the Nigerian Defense Academy, NDA Kaduna.
The choice for his secondary school, as pointed out by Obasanjo was limited. Chukwuma was unlikely to be admitted into Barewa College. The college was a school for northern elite and was run like an English public school. Barewa College is located at Gaskiya Road, Zaria, Kaduna State. Barewa was founded in 1921 by the British Governor, General Hugh Clifford. It was originally known as Katsina College and their motto is ‘Man Jada Wajade’, which means he who strives shall succeed.
Saint John’s College, Kaduna was also in the list of his choices but was so competitive. Anyone seeking admission in to the college must be exceptionally brilliant. Saint John is located at Ungwar Rimi, Tafawa Balewa way, Kaduna. Saint John was founded in 1949 by the Catholic missionaries and was handed over to the Kaduna State Governor in 1972. Saint John currently houses the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (Jamb) State Office, State Universal Basic Education Board, Teacher’s Service Board, Neco and The Mathematical Center. Chukwuma got into Saint John in 1950 where he met Christian Anuforo.
Chukwuma’s set was the third in Saint John’s and by January 1951, there were sixty five students. Chukwuma’s father could barely pay the eleven pounds fee which would qualify Chukwuma as a boarder, James was able to convince Hyacinth Odigwe, an 18 year old with only a secondary school education, and one of the youngest teachers in the school, to accept Chukwuma to live with him.
According to Augustine Esogbue, an Emeritus Professor who studied and taught in America until when he recently retired. Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu was a leader of the Man O’ War Youth Wing. Their mothers were very close friends. Nzeogwu hails from Okpanam Town where the Asaba Airport was built between Asaba, Ibuzo, and Okpaba in Anioma. He is Anioma just like me or what others call Bendel-Igbo. Many people say Nzeogwu is Igbo. No, he is not Igbo, but Anioma. Some of his classmates can testify to this. They are: George Iweche, President of Back Benchers, late James Bawa from Minna, Professor Peter Oseidebe in Nsukka and many others.
Chukwuma first showed his revolutionary side when he lured Luke, Hyacinth’s brother, to write a protest letter to Hyacinth’s father, reporting the hard-treatment given to Luke by Hyacinth. Chukwuma often challenged Hyacinth when he thought he was right in what he had done. Chukwuma had no friends apart from Anuforo, and many of his classmates thought him rather eccentric. This though was put into play later on in Chukwuma’s life, his role in the coup and the civil war. Ojukwu also proved the thought of Chukwuma’s classmates to be true when he said in his book, Because I Am Involved, he was certain Chukwuma was rather eccentric. Chukwuma developed a phobia for the opposite sex and he would rather hangout with the boys than the girls.
Chukwuma first held a protest in Saint John’s on the grounds of injustice. ‘The school started and operated a syllabus on the basis of six years for school certificate, the first intake spent six years and sat for the certificate examination before the school authorities decided to reduce the years to five. Seven out of the second intake were allowed to sit for the exam with the first in 1954. Chukwuma was among the third intake. He thought some of his classmates would be allowed to sit for the exam with the second intake, thereby saving one year. The authorities refused the third intakes from writing with the second in 1955 and in 1956, some students in the fourth intake were asked to join the third intake to sit for the exam.’
This was what led to the protest, and all the students in the third intake were suspended, but later recalled on the grounds that they apologize. Chukwuma refused to apologize, but felt betrayed when those who led the protest with him apologized. Chukwuma came from home to write the examination. With Chukwuma’s expulsion from the school, he began studying for the army cadetship examination without his parents’ knowledge. Chukwuma’s parents got to know of their son’s success in the army when a mail came inviting Chukwuma for an interview at the military school. Chukwuma was enlisted as a soldier-in-training as an officer cadet in the Nigeria Regiment of the West African Frontiers Forces, in March 1957.
1. Obasanjo Olusegun, Nzeogwu: An Intimate Portrait of Major Chukwuma Kaduna
Nzeogwu Ibadan : Spectrum Books,1987. p.9
- Obasanjo Olusegun … pp. 10-11
- Fr. Karris Lukas (Oral Interview)
- Ojukwu Odumegwu. Because I Am Involved.(Nigeria. Spectrum Books limited). p.163
- Obasanjo Olusegun … p.20
- Ojukwu Odumegwu … p. 164
- Obasanjo Olusegun … p.28
NZEOGWU’S MILITARY CAREER
3.1 Military Academy, Teshie, Ghana and Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst
The West African Frontier Force (WAFF) provided the supporting services required for sustaining the well-being of the regiment as a composite fighting force. The support and service unit of WAFF attached to the Nigeria Regiment or the ‘army in Nigeria’, as it was often referred to, included thirty-six independent field squadron of West African engineers, works services of West African electrical and mechanical engineers, and West African military police. Technical training required by the regiment was provided at WAFF training school in Teshie, Gold Coast, and now Ghana. The Teshie Institute was a military training school that served as a pre-selection institute for prospective military officers. It was an offshoot of the former Royal West African Frontier Force and centralized initial training school for prospective officers from all over West Africa. Other officer cadets from Ghana and Sierra Leone later joined the Nigerian Cadets. This joint training forged a bond between the officer classes of West Africa.
Colonel Nicholas Onovo Rtd gave a brief explanation of the Ghana Military Academy, the military academy of the Ghana Armed Forces offers basic military training to officer cadets from the Ghana Army, Ghana Navy and the Ghana Air Force. The academy is based in Teshie in the Greater Accra Region. Entrance to the academy is by examination, and the curriculum includes military and general subjects. Duration of the course for army cadets is two years. At the end of the first six months, a few candidates were selected to finish their studies at foreign institutions such as the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst in Britain.
The Ghana Military Academy, established in 1960, also provides short courses in higher military education for the officers of the three services. The best senior officers are selected periodically to attend the Army Staff College at Camberley in Britain or one of several other senior service schools in foreign countries.
Chukwuma went for the interview at the military school, after his parents agreed to allow him to join the army. He passed both the interview and the medical text and was enlisted as a soldier-in-training as an officer cadet in the Nigeria Regiment of the West African Frontier Forces, in March 1957. Chukwuma was also prepared for further training in the Gold Coast, now Ghana. Chukwuma was trained in weapon handling, physical training drills, simple battle craft and staff studies, also on all types of operations of war. The training in Ghana was to test soldiers in knowledge, stamina, leadership and followership qualities. Chukwuma from the beginning had difficulties in mathematics and sciences, and he tried as much as possible to avoid taking courses related to them in his training in Ghana, although he did well in both intellectual and physical aspects of the course or what he would love to call ‘readable subjects’. By October 1957, Chukwuma had successfully completed his training in Ghana and was selected to move to Sandhurst for further training.
Ogbomoso Heroes, Nzeogwu classmates at Teshi, narrated their ordeal; ‘Life in Teshi was six months of pure unadulterated Hell’. The narrator went on to say; ‘I, who had hitherto prided myself on my toughness, resilience and ability to manage any condition life cared to throw at me, found myself to be thoroughly challenged mentally and physically to maintain my chosen course. We were fed a daily and unrelenting diet of rigorous, dehumanizing, physical training, arbitrary punishment, sleep deprivation, psychological harassment and inducement of fear. While the academic aspect of our training did not find me wanting, the rapidity with which cadets were expected to execute physical and academic assignments soon took its toll on my health; the midnight oil had to be burned.’
The objective of the Teshie training was to produce leaders. Leadership was conceived in two dimensions at Teshie: leadership as a personal quality, and leadership as an organisational function. Personal leadership was perceived as the ability to influence and guide other individuals, infuse confidence in other persons and to extract from them voluntary obedience. Effective leadership also denoted the ability to correctly interpret and judge current situations and accurately predict outcomes. The prevailing school of thought at Teshie was that leaders were born and not made.
Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, known as Sandhurst, is one of the military academies of the United Kingdom and is the British Army‘s initial officer training centre. Sandhurst is located at Haig Road in the town of Camberley, GU15 4PQ, near the village of Sandhurst, Berkshire, 34 miles (55 km) southwest of London. The Academy’s stated aim is to be “The National Centre of Excellence for Leadership”. All British Army officers, including late-entry officers who were previously Warrant Officers, as well as other men and women from overseas, are trained at The Academy. Sandhurst is the British Army equivalent of the Britannia Royal Naval College Dartmouth, Royal Air Force College Cranwell, and the Commando Training Centre Royal Marines. Sandhurst develops leadership in cadets by expanding their character, intellect and professional competences to a level demanded of an Army Officer on first appointment through military training and education. The course is accredited by various academic and professional institutions. The Commissioning Course lasts 44 weeks and must be successfully completed by all British regular army officers (with some exceptions) before they receive their commission. It is usually followed by further training courses specific to the Regiment or Corps in which the officer will serve.
Ogbomoso Heroes were lucky to be selected to move to Sandhurst and they also shared their ordeal; ‘At Sandhurst, however, physical exercise served the additional purpose of Ogbomoso Heroes, teaching us vital life lessons. One such exercise was the ‘chopping parade’, which was conducted by a squad of senior cadets. At the· first chopping parade, a senior squad
Courteously ordered us thus: “Listen attentively cadets! You are all required to change into the different forms of uniform handed to you within a specified period. You are all to be immaculately dressed in full accordance with the Sandhurst dress regulation that have already been explained to you. You will now begin by changing into your physical training outfits! “
Hundreds of cadets, anxious to complete the exercise within the specified period, charged towards the dormitory. Naturally, in the mad rush we obstructed one another, wasting precious time. Sanity prevailed and we proceeded in a more orderly fashion. We were compelled to repeat this exercise several times. The lesson sought to be instilled by these exercises was the old one: time waiteth for no man. Rather than stand still and be overtaken by time, we were to race ahead of time, in order to chasten time.
Life in Victoria College in Sandhurst was a little bit lonely for Chukwuma. It was reported by Colonel John Kabore of the Ghanaian Army that Chukwuma did not have close friends among the British cadets in Sandhurst. Chukwuma avoided social functions. In his first year report at Victory College in Sandhurst, his commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Turbull wrote:
“He has worked well in his first year. No examination failures. Weakest
subject is mathematics. Inclined towards superficial grasp of many aspects
of a subject probably due to the breath of his initial impression here. A
confident, mature and sound cadet. He does not emerge as a leader but
will probably do so among his countrymen. He is always cheerful. An
above average gymnast and a good trier at most activities.”
Chukwuma was too outspoken and this cost him major appointments. By the end of Chukwuma’s course, he was presented by a good report. He also went to Hythe in Kent, for a platoon weapons course, which would complete his preparation and training as a young infantry officer. After his military training in Ghana, Sandhurst and Kent, Chukwuma finally returned to Nigeria. After his operation in the Congo and later postings, he also went to Indian Staff College in 1964.
3.2 To the Congo
Nationalism had assumed a new dimension in Africa, particularly in the Congo, where whoever was white was a Belgian and had to be killed. The United Nations, following the unrest in Congo, requested that the Nigerian Government contribute troops for peace-keeping operations in the Congo, now Zaire. The Fifth Battalion was the First Nigerian contingent, following its performance in training and in internal security operations in the South Cameroons. Following these performances, the Fifth Battalion was marked to put a stop to the crisis in Congo. Preliminary reconnaissance reports had indicated that, for the peace keeping to be effective, the Nigerian contingent must be commanded by Nigerians and not by the British. Brigadier-General Godwin Alabi-Isama, who was in Nigerian Military Training College at that time, recorded in his book that in order to achieve peace in Congo, ‘The Nigerian Army, as a matter of deliberate policy decided to Nigerianise the junior officer cadre in the Nigerian contingent sent to the Congo’.This led to the posting in and out of officers in the Fifth Battalion. Some British officers were posted out while some Nigerian officers were posted in and they included; Lieutenant Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, Henry Igboba, David Okafor, Foluso Shotomi and Ray Matthew Dumuje, as the first Nigerian Quartermaster of the battalion. Chukwuma was appointed baggage officer, and his tasks included collecting stores, boxing, labelling, recording and weighing them. The Nigerian contingent was divided into two; ‘A Company and B Company’.
The first operation the Nigerian troops had to carry out in the Congo was to put a stop to the disturbance about to be caused by some Congolese, although the disturbance never took place. Finally, the Nigerian contingent settled in Kasongo. The Congolese governor and his team were delighted to see that Chukwuma and Obasanjo were discussing with them in broken Swahili and Lingala, based on a possible way to end the crisis, although they could hardly understand the duo. Chukwuma’s actions in the Congo were of a ‘brother protecting a brother’. It played out when Major Largema went to Namoya and failed to return on time. Chukwuma wasted no time in embarking on a search for him until he brought him back in good condition. Chukwuma urged his team to socialize with the Congolese troops, after noticing that the Nigerian contingent kept to themselves.
Time came for the operation in the Congo to come to an end. The Nigerian contingent had no difficulty in returning back to Nigeria as each soldier held tightly to their individual responsibilities. Chukwuma visited all his Congolese friends and bade them farewell with parting gifts of drinks, cigarettes.
3.3 Early Postings
By the end of May 1960, Chukwuma returned to Nigeria. He was posted to First Battalion in Enugu, where Major Aguiyi Ironsi was the second-in-command, under a British commanding officer. He was later posted to the Fifth Battalion in Kaduna after he sought to fight for his rights and put a stop to racism which he faced in the First Battalion where he thought he would take over command from a British short service commissioned national service officer.
After the peace keeping in the Congo, Chukwuma was posted to Army Training Depot, Zaria, as a training officer. Chukwuma spent six months in the Army Training Depot, Zaria before he was posted to Army Headquarters in Lagos, to take charge of the military intelligence section. Chukwuma investigated the treasonable felony case against Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the Action Group Leader. This was the major task he faced in the military intelligence sector. Chukwuma was later sent on an attachment to the United Kingdom. Chukwuma left Lagos to attend the Indian Staff College in 1964 and on his return from India by the end of 1964, he was posted to the Nigerian Military Training College (NMTC) Kaduna.
1. Obasanjo Olusegun, Nzeogwu: An Intimate Portrait of Major Chukwuma Kaduna
Nzeogwu Ibadan : Spectrum Books,1987. p.29
- Colonel Nicholas Onovo Rtd (Oral Interview. This is a fictitious name because the informant wants to be anonymous)
- Obasanjo Olusegun … p.30
- http://www.sandhurst.mod.uk/cpg_rmas/index.php Source URL: 19 July, 2018
- Obasanjo Olusegun … p.30
- Obasanjo Olusegun … p.31
- Brigadier-General Alabi-Isama Godwin. The Tragedy of Victory. Spectrum
Books Limited. 2013, p.11
- Brigadier-General Alabi-Isama Godwin. The Tragedy of Victory. Spectrum
Books Limited. 2013, p.11
NZEOGWU, THE REVOLUTIONARY
4.1 His Ideology and Personality
One can possibly say that Nzeogwu’s ideology developed fully during his work in the Army Headquarters in Lagos, in charge of military intelligence. His work had exposed him, more than any other officer, to the virtues and vices of the military and political leadership. Before that, the first stage of the development of his ideology can be linked to his early life, where he found out for himself that in order to live, one must fight. His education also opened his mind to a wide range of possibilities that the fittest survives. In Teshi, Nzeogwu was trained to compete or lose, to lead or follow. In Sandhurst, Nzeogwu was taught the fundamentals of time, to act before others. These shaped his ideology which formed the personality of the man we are discussing. During his stay in the Army Headquarters in Lagos, he read about Eoka, the Greek underground movement in Cyprus, and Archbishop Makarios, the Malayan insurgency and uprising, Giap’s People’s War and People’s Army, the guerrilla activities in Algeria and in Portuguese African territories, and was convinced of the necessity to fight to liberate the whole Africa. Nzeogwu’s reading habits gave him “dangerous ideologies” which motivated him in the 1966 coup. Guerrilla warfare was the tactics put in place. Also Abdel Nasser was the major role model that shaped Nzeogwu’s ideology. In what I call a “Future Prophesy”, Ademoyega pointed out the possibilities that led to the success of the coup in Egypt, although he failed to state categorically the planning of an impossible coup in Nigeria, he also pointed out the impossibility of a coup in Nigeria. Why We Struck, a book written by Ademoyega, pointed out that unlike Egypt, Nigeria was a heterogeneous society, with more than one spoken language and religion, although Egypt had one known enemy, Nigeria had so many enemies from different regions.The Egyptian revolution of 1952, known as the July 23 revolution, began on July 23, 1952, by the Free Officers Movement, a group of army officers led by Mohammed Naguib and Gamal Abdel Nasser. The revolution was initially aimed at overthrowing King Farouk.
Nasser, in his life time was adored by millions of people and hated by others. A single-minded, determined and fearless patriot who saw through the platitudinous humbug of imperialists and was honest enough to say so, he refused to surrender the sovereignty of his country to those whose interest was only to exploit the country’s resources, and in spite of many odds against him, he stuck to his guns to his dying day.
However, Nasser had more political ambitions, and soon moved to abolish the constitutional monarchy and aristocracy of Egypt and Sudan, establish a republic, end the British occupation of the country, and secure the independence of Sudan (previously governed as an Anglo-Egyptian condominium). The revolutionary government adopted a staunchly nationalist, anti-imperialist agenda, which came to be expressed chiefly through Arab nationalism, and international non-alignment.
In 1882, British forces intervened in Egypt during the Anglo-Egyptian War. In 1888 at the Convention of Constantinople, Britain won the right to protect the Suez Canal with military force, giving Britain a base to dominate Egyptian politics. Though nominally still an Ottoman vassal, Egypt became a British protectorate. After World War I, Britain placed a reliable member of Muhammed Ali’s dynasty on the throne and declared Egypt a protectorate. During World War II, Egypt was a major Allied base for the North African campaign. After the war, British policy continued to focus on control of the Suez Canal, which was vital for imperial trade.
The Free Officers Movement (sometimes referred to as the Young Officers Movement) was formed by a group of reform-minded officers which, backed by the Soviet Union and the United States, coalesced around a young officer named Gamal Abdel Nasser. They used an army general, Muhammad Naguib, as its head to show their seriousness and attract more army followers. In the warning that General Naguib conveyed to King Farouk on 26 July upon the king’s abdication, he provided a summary of the reasons for the Coup:
“In view of what the country has suffered in the recent past, the complete vacuity prevailing in all corners as a result of your bad behavior, your toying with the constitution, and your disdain for the wants of the people, no one rests assured of life, livelihood, and honor. Egypt’s reputation among the peoples of the world has been debased as a result of your excesses in these areas to the extent that traitors and bribe-takers find protection beneath your shadow in addition to security, excessive wealth, and many extravagances at the expense of the hungry and impoverished people. You manifested this during and after the Palestine War in the corrupt arms scandals and your open interference in the courts to try to falsify the facts of the case, thus shaking faith in justice. Therefore, the army, representing the power of the people, has empowered me to demand that Your Majesty abdicate the throne to His Highness Crown Prince Ahmed Fuad, provided that this is accomplished at the fixed time of 12 o’clock noon today (Saturday, 26 July 1952, the 4th of Zul Qa’ada, 1371), and that you depart the country before 6 o’clock in the evening of the same day. The army places upon Your Majesty the burden of everything that may result from your failure to abdicate according to the wishes of the people”.
While the Free Officers planned to overthrow the monarchy on 2to3 August, they decided to make their move earlier after their official leader, Muhammad Naguib, gained knowledge, leaked from the Egyptian cabinet on 19 July, that King Farouk acquired a list of the dissenting officers and was set to arrest them. The officers thus decided to launch a preemptive strike and after finalizing their plans in meeting at the home of Khaled Mohieddin, they began their coup on the night of 22 July.
Nzeogwu’s personality revolves around his ideologies. Although he was a loyal to his religion, as a Christian, he never broke the law, and he tried his possible best to avoid staining his image. He was against discrimination, corruption, and other vices. He sought to put an end to the evils in the world, Nigeria to be precise and hoping the army would nurture such ideology. Nzeogwu was disappointed knowing full well that corruption was also in the army and the politicians were in charge of the army. Following the unrest in the country at that time, he knew he had to do something fast. Nzeogwu did not wait for God to come and do something. He knew it was time to put his education, training, and readings to the test. Nzeogwu, in a quest to stabilize Nigeria, took her in a journey of no return.
4.2 Early Organization of the Coup:
Odumegwu Ojukwu, a man after the peoples’ hearts, has given us a wider and deeper clarification on what really led to the coup. In his book, Because I Am Involved, ‘identity crisis’ was the true problem with Nigeria. He went further to say that; Nigeria of today is a “socio-path in search of society.” Our leaders have been and still are politicians in search of a national programme. We live in a country in search of a common character. The source of our problem is rooted in our fear of unity- or to put this in a different way, our lack of will to transform our primordial instincts and create a modern polity.
According to Lieutenant Henry Anyakora, ‘the road to the coup was a gradual process. There is no doubt that the British invasion in Africa, Nigeria to be precise, led to a wide range of revolts, from ethnic groups unwilling to accept such control. The British had to support and give power to those who supported and remained answerable to them. They came to exploit the country and enhance the development of their own country. With the amalgamation of 1914, Nigerians should have forged a national, cultural, social, political and religious ideology. The concept of divide and rule was adopted to remind Nigerians of their differences; political, cultural, social and religious. This concept led to the unhealthy underground wars between ethnic groups’. Madiebo also pictured the situation during the divide and rule period. He said; “This integration proceeded faster in the south than in the north which always saw an uncontrolled integration of tribes as a threat to its religion, culture and customs”.
Madiebo also aired his own view on the army. The army was merely a part of an all-embracing British Western African Army called the Royal West Africa Frontier Force (RWAFF). This force included the armies of Nigeria, Gold Coast (now Ghana), Sierra Leone and Gambia. The average Southern Nigerian had little or no interest in the army, and it became easy for the interested ones to do whatever they wished without being questioned, and among the interested ones were the British who took the opportunity as an advantage for themselves. They installed all the military weapons and locations in greater percentage in one area and the remaining two other areas.
According to Madiebo’s account of these installations, we can see reasons Nzeogwu decided to control the coup from the North.
3rd Battalion Kaduna
5th Battalion Kano
1 field Battery (Artillery) Kaduna
1 field Squadron (Engineers) Kaduna
88 Transport Regiment Kaduna
Nigeria Military Academy Kaduna
Ordnance Depot Kaduna
44 Military Hospital Kaduna
Nigeria Military Training College Kaduna
Reconnaissance Squadron and Regimental Kaduna
Nigerian Air Force Kaduna
6th Battalion (while under formation) Kaduna
Ammunition Factory Kaduna
Recruit Training Depot Zaira
Nigeria Military School (NMS) Zaira
4th Battalion Ibadan
2 Field Battery (Artillery) Abeokuta
2 Reconnaissance Squadron Abeokuta
1st Battalion Enugu
He went further to disclose that there were no military units in Midwestern Nigeria and those in Lagos were either administrative or ceremonial. Regardless of the north having almost 90% of the installations, they were not interested in the army. The ethnic quota system for recruitment into the army, which was introduced shortly before independence, provided the solution to capture the interests of the northerners. The north would provide 60%, east and west, 15% each and Midwest, 10%. Even with the quota, the north could hardly fill their own, and some southerners took the advantage by passing for northerners and getting recruited into the army in the name of ‘ethnic balance’.
The criterion for promotion in the army was based more on political considerations than on efficiency or competence. This situation forced some southerners who were interested in politics to join political parties to gain military promotions and appointments with ease.
Cadets pledged their loyalties to these politicians, carrying out certain tasks for them and dancing to their tunes. This situation called for immediate action, as some officers who could not tolerate these illicit acts had to act to prevent future damage. Ademoyega, who was loyal to his country and could not cling to any politician for promotions, attached himself to other officers who shared similar ideology, and this was the beginning of the revolution.
The army was divided into groups; first were those traded with the politicians. This group saw that the existing system favored them and they loved it. Second was a large majority of officers who were neither here nor there, but desired to eat their bread buttered on both sides and not be disturbed by the wickedness of the rulers. Third was a very small and articulate group who hated both the military and political situation in the country. 
This small group began holding meetings and began to sow the seeds of political awareness and revolutionary consciousness even spreading it to other young officers. This small group began planning a revolution with the same ideology, “freedom”, if they eventually got into power. This revolution was aimed at bringing professionals together to work collectively for the community, and giving each person a sense of purpose.
Chukwuma Nzeogwu was a Sandhurst- trained officer. He was brilliant and much loved cadet before he was commissioned. He was the first Nigerian to be trained in military intelligence. He was loved by all, but usually free with middle level and senior officers.
By July, 1965, the revolution had started to warm up. The matter was seriously discussed, and more officers were talked into joining the revolution. Obasanjo helped to scout and brain-wash young officers into accepting the revolution and pledging their loyalty.
In order to bring the officers together for rehearsals for the coup without attracting much attention, “Exercise Damisa” was initiated, “Damisa” is the Hausa word for Leopard. Captain Ben Gbulie, who was among the twenty student officers organized by Ademoyega for the battle course and remained the only captain to take part in the coup, recounted his ordeal in his book, Nigeria’s Five Majors.
4.3 Plot and Execution:
The revolution was to be carried out in December, 1965, at Enugu, during the annual Army inter-unit shooting competition, which was to have been attended by all senior officers including Ironsi, the General Officer Commanding. According to Nzeogwu, he arranged to round up all senior officers and put them under sedation until he had peacefully taken up the government. But the plan was foiled as some senior officers failed to attend. Ademoyega gave us a clue of how the coup was to take place and all actions were to commence by 0200 hours, January 15, 1966. The officers who took part in the coup included, Nzeogwu, Chukwuka, Ademoyega, Ifeajuna, Anuforo, and Okafor. They all played a vital role in the coup; Major Ifeajuna and two subalterns were to arrest the Prime Minister, Sir Abubarkar and the Federal Minister for Finance, Chief Okotie Eboh. Major Anuforo and one subaltern were to arrest Colonel K. Mohammed and Lieutenant – Colonel Unegbe. Major Okafor, one captain and a subaltern were assigned to arrest Major-General Ironsi and Brigadier Maimalari. Major Chukwuka and a subaltern were to arrest Lieutenant-Colonel Pam. Major Ademoyega, a captain and three subalterns were to occupy and control all strategic locations of the Federal Capital, including the control room at Lion Building (The Police Headquarters), the P. & T. Telephone Exchange, Parliament Building, The Nigeria External Telecommunications Operation Room and the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC). 
The books written by different authors on the coup, agreed to one particular fact; the young officers were ignorant of the fact that they were about to carry out a coup. They thought the exercises they carried out often; “Exercise Damisa” was the practical aspect of their training, not knowing they were getting ready for a coup. This fact was pointed out by Madiebo; “At about 0900 hours of 16 January, 1966 the young officers under me who took part in the coup- Lieutenant Bob Egbikor and Olafemiyan came back to the unit and reported in my office. They talked glibly of how they had gone on an authorized exercise, during which they suddenly realized it was a coup, and they were forced to take part against their will”. Also Ademoyega pointed the same fact; “What made “Exercise Damisa” special was not that it was a night exercise. That was normal-but that it was also designed to serve an additional and peculiar purpose. That purpose was not explained to the majority of the officers and men taking part in the exercise until the D-Day”.
Finally, “Exercise Damisa” was ready for take-off. The coup had two phases, the first phase and the second phase. The first phase was the arrest of top political figures and senior officers in the army, while the second phase included, completion of any uncompleted tasks of phase one, the occupation and control of the various military units in Lagos including the Army Headquarters to effect a favorable disposition of all troops, immediate link up with the out stations, Abeokuta, Kaduna, Ibadan and Enugu, the control of the airport and the initial broadcast over the network of the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation.
Since the coup plotters were almost 90% Igbo, the coup was deemed an Igbo coup, notwithstanding the involvement of officers from other tribes. The coup was recorded a success in all states except Lagos and Enugu. One thing to point out here is the fact that all authors of the coup kept pointing accusing fingers at Ojukwu for betraying the revolution. Ojukwu, who was a close friend to Nzeogwu, was never ready to join in any plot that would tarnish his image in the army. Rather, he was siding with whoever was victorious. Madiebo, who was accused of leading Nzeogwu in the wrong direction and working for Ironsi, Gowon and Ojukwu to stop the revolution, also pointed out the fact that Ojukwu belonged to the winning side. Ademoyega described Ojukwu as both “crafty and selfish, and would neither give nor withhold his loyalty. He was running with the hare and chasing with the hounds. He was an opportunist who put himself above the safety of the nation.
The coup recorded a huge success in all regions except in the south and in the east. Ironsi was never found in his house as expected, and this was the beginning of the end of the revolution. He attended another party after Maimalari’s party, although believed to have been tipped off on the coup. He went straight to the Federal Guard’s Barracks to attach to himself a group of loyal soldiers to fight against the coup. Lieutenant Oguchi, who was to leave for Enugu on the 13th, failed, due to lack of transport, but made it to Enugu in the early hours of the 15th. He was however unable to carry out his mission of arresting Dr. Okpara, who was hosting his visitor, Archbishop Makarios, the president of Cyprus, who was on a state visit to Enugu after the Commonwealth Games.
In an interview with Engr. Sylvester Ani, ‘the ideology making waves worldwide that the Igbos led the coup could also carry along the fact that they also led to the downfall of the coup’. The coup led by Majors, Nzeogwu, Chukwuka, Ademoyega, Ifeajuna, Anuforo and Okafor, all Igbos with the exception of Ademoyega, a Yoruba, was also foiled by Major-General Ojukwu, Colonel Arthur Unegbu, Major-General Madiebo, and Lieutenant-Colonel Nwawo.
The coup recorded a huge success in the north under the leadership of Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu, but there were other unit commanders in the city and in Zaria and Kano, who were not part of the revolution and were yet to be contacted to know their stand and these included; Major Madiebo of the Nigerian Army Artillery, Major Katsina of the Nigerian Reconnaissance Corps, Lieutenant-Colonel Bassey of the Nigerian Army Depot at Zaria, and Lieutenant-Colonel Ojukwu of the 5th Battalion, Kano. Madiebo was forced to join the revolution after finding out that officers of his unit were now full revolutionaries and were answerable only to Nzeogwu. Madiebo feared being shot if he played against the revolution. Ademoyega described Madiebo as “tribalistic”. Nzeogwu went to see Katsina at home and engaged him in a discussion. Katsina gave in to the revolution. However, Madiebo painted a rather harsh picture of how Katsina gave in to the revolution. Nzeogwu came in with a few soldiers and demanded to know on which side Katsina belonged. The latter, who was addressing his unit in readiness for action against the coup, had no other choice than to declare his support. A message was sent to Colonel Bassey, a veteran of the Second World War. He was ignorant of what the revolution stood for, but submitted to it. Ojukwu proved difficult. He pretended to be in support, but kept in touch with Ironsi, to whom he pledged his loyalty.
With the failure of the coup in southern Nigeria, Nzeogwu was bitter and began making plans to invade the south. He also had plans to punish those who had promised to support the revolution, but later on changed their minds. He pointed out Ojukwu and Katsina as enemies of the revolution and decided to do away with them. Katsina was accused of showing insufficient interest in the revolution, and Ojukwu was accused of being a “let down”. With the bond of friendship still in existence between them, Nzeogwu gave Ojukwu a second chance and sent Madiebo down to Enugu to engage in a discussion with him. Major Okafor’s inability to carry out his task in Lagos, led to the rise of the resistance, led by Ironsi. This resistance posed a threat to the actualization of the coup. Not only was Ironsi the reason for the failed coup in Lagos, Colonel Unegbu, the Quarter Master General, “a thorough-bred Igbo patriot” who, was in charge of the armory in Lagos, refused to surrender the keys to the coup plotters. Instead he gave his life in exchange.
Martial law was declared by Nzeogwu over the north to send a message to the south that the north was fully in the hands of the revolutionaries. The constitution was suspended, and the regional government and elected assemblies were dissolved. Nzeogwu was ready to take over the remaining parts of the country which had not supported the revolution. In the morning of 16th January, Nzeogwu called a conference of all officers in Kaduna to give them his orders. He divided his troops into three crack forces; the first force was to move north and take Zaria and Kano, the second was to advance south-west through Jebba to Ibadan and prepare the ground for launching into Lagos, the third was to advance south-east to Enugu through Makurdi.This was when Madiebo came in with his plan to foil the revolution. Madiebo accepted the fact that he advised Nzeogwu rightly or wrongly to give up the idea of launching an attack on the south. His points simply were that Nzeogwu had fulfilled his mission of abolishing corruption by overthrowing the civil regime and handing power over to the military and therefore any other attack would seem like a military struggle for power. With these points, Nzeogwu called off the attack.
Meanwhile, Madiebo refused to meet Ojukwu to engage him in a discussion into supporting the revolution and also collecting some money on the grounds that his presence was highly needed in Kaduna. The junior who was sent was arrested by Ojukwu. A special force was set up, under Captain Onwuatuegwu to move to Kano to make sure the 5th Battalion declared their support for the revolution. This plan was also foiled by Madiebo, who convinced Nzeogwu to devise a more peaceful means of doing so. This, according to Madiebo, was a quick and tidy end to Nzeogwu’s revolution. Since he could not fight against the revolution on the outside, he had to fight on the inside. Madiebo had been receiving orders from Ironsi and Gowon. Madiebo was told by the duo over the telephone, to bring Nzeogwu down to Lagos, dead or alive. The plan was to use troops to attack Nzeogwu, but this plan proved abortive; all the troops in Kaduna were loyal to Nzeogwu. They also planned to sedate him by pretending to tend to his wounded neck. This also proved abortive, as only one doctor, a northerner was allowed to treat him. Finally, Madiebo had succeeded in taking Nzeogwu to hand over power to Ironsi. This was possible under two conditions; guarantee of safety for Nzeogwu and others who took part in the coup and assurance that the aims of the revolution would be upheld at all times by the Lagos regime. According to other authors, Nzeogwu laid down five conditions to be met before handing over, but Madiebo omitted three, thereby saying there were only two main conditions. The five conditions included;
- A guarantee of safety for himself, his officers and all men who took part in the coup.
- A guarantee for them of freedom from legal prosecutions then or at any later time.
- Compensation to be paid to the families of all officers and men who lost their lives during the coup.
- The release of all officers and men who were detained in the south.
- The assurance that the people whom we fought to remove would not be returned to office.
These conditions were accepted by Ironsi, but as the saying goes, “Be careful when the Greeks give you a gift.” Ironsi never had any intention of keeping to the conditions set by Nzeogwu. Lieutenant –Colonel Nwawo, the Nigerian Military Attaché in London, was specially flown down to speak to Nzeogwu to hand power over and assured him of his safety in Lagos. He flew to Lagos with Nzeogwu after handing power over to Katsina. Nzeogwu was welcomed with an 84mm Carl Gustav anti-tank Recoilless Rifle, the type he had used to destroy Sarduana’s castle, mounted and cocked and pointed at him. Nwawo felt ashamed of what he had done to his friend. Nzeogwu travelled in non-combat military dress and was completely unarmed.
He behaved himself and was not shot, was escorted straight from the airport to the maximum security prison in Kirikiri. With the arrest and detention of Nzeogwu, the revolution was brought to a complete stop, and the hunt for other ringleaders and officers who took part in the coup started.
4.4 The impact of the coup on the Nigerian Polity and why it failed.
When the military came to power in Nigeria on January 15, 1966, they became deeply involved in the political process. In fact, they got involved in a process which is incompatible with their professional training and orientation. They attempted, for example, to restructure the polity, through series of policy statement backed by military decrees. It is in this context that they created states and local governments and it is also in these contexts that they introduced administrative reform affecting the bureaucracy and the civil service in their attempt to restructure the civil service. Some of these may be legitimate while in most cases they were undertaken to satisfy parochial interests which invariably gave rise to additional problems which the military seems incapable of addressing. After decades of military misadventure in politics, Nigerians came to realize that military intervention which they were so ecstatic about and welcomed was an aberration and a huge retrogression for the country. Military rule is not open and inclusive, but rather it is restrictive, exclusive and quite often outright authoritarian. In its attempt to rule, the military mobilized ethnic, regional, religious and communal identities. The more the political process is heightened, the more the political process is threatened with instability and therefore the easier it becomes for the military to legitimize its stay in power on the ground that it wants to prevent the dismemberment of the country.
The coup failed, due to the role played by some Igbo soldiers such as Ojukwu, who refused to give his support to the coup on account of military rank. In an interview with Associate Prof. Innocent Uzoechi, he said; ‘Ojukwu ranked higher than Nzeogwu in the army, arrogance of power was put into play by Ojukwu in his refusal to support the coup. Ojukwu was ignorant of the coup and such, did not support the coup because the coup would not favor him’. Ironsi also formed resistance to match that of the coup plotters. Madiebo was commissioned by Ironsi and Gowon to foil the coup. Madiebo talked Nzeogwu into withdrawing his troops from their advancement into Lagos and also to hand over power to Ironsi. Also, according to Sergeant Oliver Ochiagha, ‘Colonel Arthur Unegbu, the Quarter Master General’s refusal to submit the keys to the armory in Lagos to the revolutionists, led to its failure’. Also Lieutenant-Colonel Nwawo, the Military Attaché in London also convinced Nzeogwu to hand over to Ironsi with full protection, but ended up putting his friend to shame.
The main failure of the coup was the inability of the plotter to know that within the Nigerian polity:
1. COUPS DON’T WIPE CORRUPTION OUT
In his speech, Nzeogwu said the aim of the revolutionary council was to establish “a strong united and prosperous nation, free from corruption and internal strife”.
But corruption is far from over in Nigeria, despite the efforts of successive governments to rid the country of the menace. The problem of corruption is even getting deeper, proving that the coup failed to achieve what was perhaps its most important aim.
2. THE ENEMIES ARE STILL WITH US
“Our enemies are the political profiteers, the swindlers, the men in high and low places that seek bribes and demand 10 percent; those that seek to keep the country divided permanently so that they can remain in office as ministers or VIPs at least, the tribalists, the nepotists, those that make the country look big for nothing before international circles, those that have corrupted our society and put the Nigerian political calendar back by their words and deeds,” Nzeogwu said.
The coup leader made it clear that through the support and assistance of Nigerians, the so-called enemies would be defeated. One look at the polity and all these people are still intact.
3. THE NIGERIAN SHAME STILL A REALITY?
Whether the coup plotters meant it or not, one of their objectives was to make the citizens “no more ashamed to say that they are Nigerians”.
But the present realities show otherwise. Fifty-one years after that event, many Nigerians do not have patriotic spirit. While many countries which were at par with the country in the 60s have since joined global economies, Nigeria is still grappling with numerous challenges, leaving many with nothing but just associating with the country through identity. In any case, too many Nigerians are not proud of their nationality; not that they are unpatriotic, they’re just finding it hard to pinpoint how their country is serving them.
4. REFORMATION OF THE SOCIETY
As a measure to check immorality, the military regime of Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, which seized power after the coup, introduced the death penalty to prevent excesses such as looting, arson, homosexuality, rape, embezzlement, bribery or corruption, obstruction of the revolution, sabotage, subversion”.
Has the maximum sentence restored orderliness into the country? Everyone has the answer!
5. OPPRESSION EVERYWHERE
“We are not promising anything miraculous or spectacular. But what we do promise every law-abiding citizen is freedom from fear and all forms of oppression,” Nzeogwu had said.
Like other promises, the short-lived regime could not liberate the people in the exact manner it promised, and signs of oppression, even by the military itself, remain commonplace.
The plotters of that coup hinged their action on marginalistation of their ethnic group. Incidentally, there is a renewed campaign against this same ‘marginalisation’, with attempt to resuscitate the Republic of Biafra.
Nigeria’s unravelling over the past decades has shown that coups are far from the solution to any of the country’s problems. Hard to say if Nigerians have learnt this lesson, but time will surely tell.
The rate of corruption in Nigeria before the coup even grew worse after the coup. Nzeogwu’s ideology on the coup, to have a country where the life of every Nigerian matters, was shattered. The ideology failed to achieve its aim in Nigeria. The final failure of the coup came with the arrest of Nzeogwu and all those involved in the coup, and this led to the end of the revolution.
4.5 The Coup Aftermath
With the end of the revolution, Major-General Aguiyi Ironsi became the head of state and Lieutenant Colonel Gowon, the Army Chief of Staff. Ironsi failed to realize the fact he was sitting on the keg of gun powder, He failed to see the future, and rather he was busy attending to himself and to those around him. Lieutenant Colonel Banjo, the commander of the Nigerian Army Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (NAEME) assisted Ironsi to take over the Federal Government in order to persuade him into actualizing the conditions given by the revolutionaries. This singular act aroused suspicion, and he was termed a revolutionary. He failed to actualize his aim, as he was arrested on the grounds of entering the Supreme Commander’s office with a pistol in his pocket. Over a hundred soldiers who took part in the coup were detained, with the exclusion of northern soldiers, although they took part in the coup. Also, all the NPC ministers detained by Nzeogwu due to their corrupt life styles were released and never rearrested. Ademoyega described the reign of Ironsi as scandalous. His regime was termed “the do nothing government.” He was really afraid to move his feet. He therefore dragged and dragged his feet instead of moving them. He was also afraid to lift his fingers. Therefore, he clasped and clasped them instead of lifting them. Ironsi surrounded himself with his own type of Nigerians, the non-revolutionary type of easterners and mid-west Ibos. He therefore promoted more than a dozen and a half of them from Major to Lieutenant-Colonel.
According to Offodile, “The narrative that the January coup was an Igbo coup was used to mobilize the counter coup in July.” Everyone saw the coup coming and made mention of a possible overthrow of the Ironsi government. Oba CD. Akran, the former Finance Minister in the Akintola Government who was in Warri prison, was of the opinion that the Ironsi regime was a regime of “Ibo domination” and would soon be destroyed by the northerners. He also expressed his certainty that Ibos would be attacked and killed in many thousands in the northern region.
One similar connection with the coup and the counter coup as pointed out by Offodile was the inability to point out a particular leader leading the revolt. The Northern revolt started out in a slow, deliberate and systematic manner and was conceived in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, by Northern Nigerian civil servants and politicians and executed by Northern civil servants and their military counter parts. With mass killing and pogrom targeted at the Igbo and Easterners all over Nigeria, particularly in the north. 
The major reason for the massacre in the north according to Warrant Officer Class 11 Abdul-Aziz Idris, was the provocation of the northerners by the Ibos living there. Pictures of the dead Sardauna and the triumphant Nzeogwu were displayed in Ibo shops and houses. There were even songs composed by the Ibos celebrating the overthrow of the Northern leader. The Emirs gave Katsina a memorandum, to pass to Ironsi, asking for the abrogation of the unification decree and the trial of the “January boys”. Ironsi refused to adhere to their memorandum, but promised to consult them on any matter that affected the country as a whole and that solved the problem.
Meanwhile, the massacre in the north against the Ibos was becoming unbearable, and nobody was ready to do anything. It was commonly claimed that Ojukwu, the governor of the East, called on the Ibos, fleeing from the north in the wake of the massacres, to return to their homes, only for them to be massacred in much larger numbers the following September. It was pointed out by Jorre that Ironsi failed because he failed to recognize the conflicting passions released by the January coup in Nigeria. He lacked the political judgement and sensitivity indispensable for the situation he inherited.
According to Staff Sergeant David Churchill, Major Murtala Mohammed was reportedly the leader of the mutiny, an indiscriminate killing of eastern officers in the barracks. The counter coup was led by Lieutenant-Colonel Yakubu Gowon. The long accepted narrative, Offodile writes, has been that Major Murtala Mohammed led the counter coup of July 1966, but wanted to pull the north out of Nigeria. His group was persuaded to stay in Nigeria and somehow, Gowon emerged as Head of State. Murtala was leading the revolt with no intention of taking over power, and Gowon was smart enough to tap into this opportunity.
In a proof that Gowon was actually the leader of the coup, Major Yakubu Danjuma, was the head of operations in the government house, and the only person who could have deployed him was no other than the Chief of Army Staff, Gowon. In a brief profile written on Danjuma, one thing was certain; he was tribal to the core. Although he attributed some of his habits to Nzeogwu such as, the love for classical music, similar views on the role of the army in times of national crisis. He took Nzeogwu as his closest friend but things fell apart in the January coup which in his own view was one sided and on tribe received more of the heat. He was disappointed and later on staged the counter coup to avenge the death of his tribal brothers from the northern part of the country.
Ibadan housed the counter coup, where the Head of State, General Ironsi, was staying. Danjuma woke up in the early hours of July 29, 1966 and was informed of the mutiny in Abeokuta barracks. He quickly moved into the government house and arrested Ironsi, who was on a tour of Western Nigeria and with his host, Lieutenant-Colonel Fajuyi. Both were later killed that day. Danjuma was reported to have been in contact with Gowon, even on the day the coup took place. He lost control of his troops, when in the course of the arrest, he was told by a soldier to dispose Ironsi of his staff which was claimed to be diabolic. On refusal, the table turned against Danjuma, and he saw himself taking orders form a junior officer among his troops. He did not fight against them, for he was risking being held responsible for the death of Ironsi, whom he knew had nothing to do with the January coup. More so, he recounted how he helped Ironsi foil the coup. He, however, handed Ironsi and Fajuyi over to Lieutenant Walbe to take charge. Major Akahan was also reported to have spoken to Gowon on the day of the coup. He was instructed to secure the life of Ironsi, but was too late to accomplish his task as Walbe had already killed Ironsi alongside Fajuyi.
The year 1967 saw the end of a hero, a legend and a warrior. Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu died in 1967 while fighting the Nigerian civil war. His body was taken to Kaduna and was given a hero’s burial.
1. Obasanjo Olusegun, Nzeogwu: An Intimate Portrait of Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu
Ibadan : Spectrum Books,1987. p.76
- Ademoyega Adewale, Why We Struck. Evans Brother Limited. Reprint, p.43
- Okoye Mokwugo, Embattled Men. Fourth dimension publishing
Ltd. 1980, p.147
- Ojukwu Odumegwu. Because I Am Involved. Nigeria. Spectrum books Limited Ibadan.
- Lieutenant Henry Anyakora (Oral Interview. This is a fictitious name because the informant wants to be anonymous)
- Madiebo Alexander. The Nigerian Revolution and The Biafran War.
Enugu, Nigeria. Fourth Dimension Publishing Co. Ltd. 1st pub 1980, p. 4
- Madiebo Alexander. The Nigerian Revolution and The Biafra War… 8
- Madiebo Alexander. The Nigerian Revolution and The Biafra War…10
- Ademoyega Adewale. Why We Struck… p.32
- Ademoyega Adewale. Why We Struck… p.49
- Ademoyega Adewale. Why We Struck… p.71
- Madiebo Alexander. The Nigerian Revolution and The Biafra War…17
- Ademoyega Adewale. Why We Struck… p.72
- Sylvester Ani (Oral Interview. This is a fictitious name because the informant wants to be anonymous)
- Ademoyega Adewale. Why We Struck… p.90
- Madiebo Alexander. The Nigerian Revolution and The Biafra War…24
- Madiebo Alexander. The Nigerian Revolution and The Biafra War…25
- Ademoyega Adewale. Why We Struck… p.95
- Associate Prof. Innocent Uzoechi (Oral Interview)
- Sergeant Oliver Ochiagha (Oral Interview. This is a fictitious name because the informant wants to be anonymous)
- Ademoyega Adewale. Why We Struck… pp.151-156
- Ademoyega Adewale. Why We Struck… p.156
- Ademoyega Adewale. Why We Struck… p.156
- Offodile Chudi… The Politics of Biafra. Safari Books Ltd. 2016, p.37
- Ademoyega Adewale. Why We Struck… p.155
- Madiebo Alexander. The Nigerian Revolution and The Biafra War…29
- Warrant Officer Class 11 Abdul-Aziz Idris (Oral Interview. This is a fictitious name because the informant wants to be anonymous)
- John, De St Jorre. The Nigerian Civil War. Great Britain. 1972 print p. 61
- Staff Sergeant David Churchill (Oral Interview. This is a fictitious name because the informant wants to be anonymous)
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
Although Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu was not by nature a violent man, he did not deviate from the fact that he was a revolutionary. He was a born revolutionary, and he showed this singular quality at the early stage in his life. Nzeogwu’s ability to take up responsibility at any time was also a major character of his life and the times he pondered on a balanced country in which equity was obtainable. His education, which played out in his involvement in the 1966 coup, his early military postings which opened his eyes and mind to the events happening in Nigeria and the world, reshaped his ideology. Nzeogwu’s personality was shaped by his ideology; his motivation was based on books he read.
Nzeogwu read revolutionary books, he read about warfare more than diplomacy. As a little boy, Nzeogwu organized and carried out successful riots. Although he had to pay the price for each riot, this young mind never stopped the fight for justice, knowing full well he would always get caught in the end. His involvement in the 1966 coup was not by accident. This was who he was. His early life and education formed his ideas, and he built his personality on the foundation of his ideology. The life and times of Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu portrays a man who began the fight for freedom at a young age. He wanted to be free so he had to endure life’s pain to achieve his goal. Nzeogwu had a distinguishing character. He took responsibility for his actions and he loved exercising power. He loved control. This thirst for power was shown in his secondary school where he carried out riots against the school authorities, Teshi where he was formed to love power and Sandhurst where he was trained to use power.
Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu has been the light of the first republic. He is a role model to the youth. We can see a man who lived his life fighting against corruption and injustice. Nzeogwu was surrounded by friends and enemies alike, but he possessed that charm that draws everyone closer to himself. It is certain that the 1966 coup failed to achieve some of its goals, although it left a big impact in the lives of Nigerians. The state of the country remained the same after the coup which means, ‘COUPS DON’T WIPE CORRUPTION OUT’ rather they result in more coups.
One thing was certain in 1966, there existed political and social unrest that affected the country, even the army. Even the citizens wanted the death of their leaders, but had no power to do so. The coup plotters, in their defence for the actualization of the coup, wanted to restore equity and peace to their country by targeting the top important, corrupt citizens of the country. The setting of the coup was outside the eastern geographical area, although the plotters were Mid-Ibos and Ibos alike. The actual people that carried out the coup were the northerners, who did not know their mission but at the end were happy the coup took place.
Finally, propaganda is a disease. Propaganda was used by the elites to brain wash the citizens of Nigeria into believing that the coup was Igbo origin and was channelled towards terminating the northerners and promoting the domination of the Igbo race. It also portrayed Nzeogwu as the enemy. I can firmly tell everyone that Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu was that man who was misunderstood by the world.
1. Obasanjo Olusegun, Nzeogwu: An Intimate Portrait of Major Chukwuma Kaduna
Nzeogwu Ibadan : Spectrum Books,1987 p.145
- Obasanjo Olusegun, Nigeria. Spectrum Books, p.76
- Ademoyega Adewale. Why We Struck. A story of the first Nigerian military coup.
Ibadan, Evans Brother Limited. Reprint2011.p.245
List of Informants
|1||Associate Prof. Innocent Uzoechi||78||Lecturer||Direct||Enugu||19/6/18|
|2||Lieutenant Henry Anyakora||57||Lieutenant||Direct||Lagos||20/6/18|
|3||Warrant Officer Class 11 Abdul-Aziz Idris||65||Warrant Officer||Indirect||Lagos||24/6/18|
|4||Engr. Sylvester Ani||60||Engineer||Direct||Enugu||27/6/18|
|5||Sergeant Oliver Ochiagha||60||Sergeant||Indirect||Calabar||27/6/18|
|6||Engr. Ephraim Okafor||63||Engineer||Direct||Abuja||30/6/18|
|7||Colonel Nicholas Onovo Rtd||58||Colonel||Direct||Calabar||1/7/18|
|8||Staff Sergeant David Churchill||61||Staff Sergeant||Indirect||Lagos||1/7/18|
|9||Mrs. Stella Osuji||53||Nurse||Direct||Enugu||17/7/18|
|10||Reverend Father Karris Lukas||65||Catholic Priest||Direct||Kaduna||17/7/18|
Ademoyega, Adewale. Why We Struck. A story of the first Nigerian military coup.
Ibadan, Evans Brother Limited. Reprint2011.
Armstrong, Adejo, Matiu. The Nigerian Civil War: Forty Years After, What Lessons?
Benue State, Nigeria Aboki Publishers, 1st pub 2008.
Bourne Richard. Nigeria. London, Zed Books Limited. 1st pub 2015.
Brigadier-General Alabi-Isama Godwin. The Tragedy of Victory. Ibadan, Nigeria
Spectrum Books Limited, 2013.
Ejiofor, Chris. Biafra’s Struggle for Survival Enugu. 2012 published,
Cidjap Press, Uwani.
Ezeani, Emefiena. In Biafra, Africa Died, The Diplomatic Plot. London.
Veritas lumen publishers, 2nd edition.
Forsyth, Frederick. The Making of an African Legend: The Biafran Story. Great Britain
Richard clay ltd.1979 reprint.
Isichie, Elizabeth. A History of the Igbo People. Great Britain Redwood burn limited 1st
John De St. Jorre. The Nigerian Civil War, Great Britain 1972 print.
Madiebo, Alexander. The Nigerian Revolution and The Biafran War. Enugu,
Nigeria. Fourth Dimension Publishing Co.Ltd. 1st pub 1980.
Muffet, D.J.M. Let Truth Be Told. Great Britain. Hudahuda Publication Company. 1982
Obasanjo Olusegun, Nzeogwu: An Intimate Portrait of Major Chukwuma Kaduna
Nzeogwu Ibadan : Spectrum Books,1987.
Offodile, Chudi. The Politics of Biafra and the Future of Nigeria.
Nigeria. Safari Books Ltd. 2016.
Ojiako, James. 13 Years of Military Rule. Lagos Daily Times of Nigeria Limited. 1979.
Ojukwu, Emeka. Because I Am Involved. Nigeria Spectrum books limited
Okocha, Emma. Blood on the Niger. Gomslam International.2012.
Okonkwo, Onuigbo, (Esq). The Man, General T.Y. Danjuma (Rtd) Gcon, A Brief
Profile. Aba, 1st edition. Esquire b Press and Books Co. 2014.
Onyefuru, Goddy. To Save Nigeria, the Revolutionary Coup and the Civil War. Enugu
Rabboni Nigeria limited. 2009, reprint.
Orjinta, Aloysius. The Death of Biafra. University of Nigeria press. 1st pub 2012.
- http://www.sandhurst.mod.uk/cpg_rmas/index.php Source URL:
|Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu’s Family Members|
|Obi Nzeogwu Chukwuma’s Grandfather|
James Chukwuma’s Father
Source: Obasanjo Olusegun, Nzeogwu: An Intimate Portrait of Major Chukwuma Kaduna
Nzeogwu Ibadan : Spectrum Books,1987
|Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu’s Siblings|
Twin girls (died before their naming ceremony)
Josephine (was born deaf and dumb, and she was Chukwuma’s favourite)
Source: Obasanjo Olusegun, Nzeogwu: An Intimate Portrait of Major Chukwuma Kaduna
Nzeogwu Ibadan : Spectrum Books,1987
Appendix 3 Photo Gallery of Nzeogwu’s Life
Saints John’s College, Kaduna Military Academy, Teshie, Ghana
The Queen inspecting cadets in Mons Officer Cadet School in the UK
Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst
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