On this day 50 years ago, a group of some of Nigeria’s finest soldiers led by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu carried out the first coup in Nigeria.
Here are a few things you need to know Kaduna Nzeogwu
- Nzeogwu was an infantry and intelligence officer in the Nigeria Army
- He was trained at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst in England
- He was Igbo, but had been born in Kaduna, spoke Hausa more than he did Igbo and considered himself a northerner
- His love for Kaduna town made his colleagues nickname him ‘Kaduna’
- After the coup failed, Nzeogwu was arrested in Lagos and imprisoned
- Two days after the coup, Major General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi took over as the Head of State
- Nzeogwu was released at the declaration of Biafra Republic to fight on the side of Biafra and was killed in battle
- After the Civil War, Head of State Yakubu Gowon ordered for him to be buried in the military cemetery in Kaduna with full military honours.
The coup led by Nzeogwu was termed bloody because at the end the Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa; the Premier of northern Nigeria and the Sarduana of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello; Finance Minister, Festus Okotie-Eboh; the Premier of the Western Region, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola; Brig-Gen. Samuel Ademulegun and his wife; Brig-Gen. Zakariya Maimalari, Col. Kur Mohammed, Col. Shodeinde and Lt.-Col. Abogo Largema were brutally murdered.
Nzeogwu at the declaration of the coup gave one of the finest speeches that reflect the state of Nigeria. Sadly, fifty years after the speech still reflects the state of the nation. Part of the famous speech reads ‘…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…’
See full speech here