On this day, 15th of January in 1966, five Army majors and accomplices of the Nigerian military seized power, overturning the democratically-elected government of Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa. This was the first military coup in Nigeria.
It was the first time the military intervened directly in Nigeria’s political affairs. The coup was bloody, leading to the death of several key political figures including Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa, his Finance Minister – Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh, the Northern Region Premier and the Sardauna of Sokoto – Alhaji Ahmadu Bello and the Western Region Premier – Chief Ladoke Akintola. In the course of the first military coup in Nigeria, scores of senior military officers, some of the best in the Nigerian Army, were also killed.
The key participants in the coup were Kaduna Nzeogwu, Emmanuel Ifeajuna, Timothy Onwuatuegwu, Chris Anuforo, Don Okafor, Humphrey Chukwuka Adewale Ademoyega.
The coup plotters who called themselves ‘REVOLUTIONARIES’ attacked Kaduna, Ibadan, and Lagos while also blockading the Niger and Benue River within a two-day span of time before they were subdued.
The General Officer Commanding, of the Nigerian Army, Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi was compelled to take control of the government of a country in upheaval, inadvertently putting Nigeria’s democracy on hold.
According to the majors, the coup was planned because the men at the helm of affairs were running Nigeria aground with their corrupt ways. Ministers under them were living flamboyant lifestyles and looting public funds at the expense of ordinary citizens.
Thanks for reading, OldNaija.