Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi

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Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi

MVO, MBE
JTUAguiyiIronsi.JPG
2nd Head of State of Nigeria
In office
16 January 1966 19 July 1966
Preceded by Nnamdi Azikiwe
Succeeded by Yakubu Gowon
General Officer Commanding, Nigerian Army
In office
1965 January 1966
Preceded byMajor General Sir Christopher Welby-Everard
Succeeded by Yakubu Gowon
Personal details
Born(1924-03-03)3 March 1924
Umuahia, Abia State, Nigeria
Died29 July 1966(1966-07-29) (aged 42)
Lalupon, Oyo Nigeria
Nationality Nigerian
Political partyNone (military)
Spouse(s)Victoria Aguyi-Ironsi
AwardsMember of the Royal Victorian Order
Member of the Order of the British Empire
Military service
AllegianceFlag of Nigeria.svg  Nigeria
Branch/service Flag of the Nigerian Army Headquarters.svg Nigerian Army
Years of service1942–1966
Rank Major General
UnitCommander, 2nd Brigade
CommandsForce Commander, ONUC

Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi MVO, MBE (3 March 1924 – 29 July 1966) was the first Nigerian Military Head of States. He seized power in the ensuing chaos following the 15 January 1966 military coup, serving as the Nigerian Head of States from the 16th of January 1966 until his assassination on the 29th of July 1966 by a group of mutinous Northern Nigerian soldiers who were led by Major Theophilus Danjuma , Major Ibrahim Badamusi Babangida, and General Murtala Mohammed were army soldiers who revolted against his government in what was popularly called the July Counter Coup.

Royal Victorian Order Series of awards in an order of chivalry of the United Kingdom

The Royal Victorian Order is a dynastic order of knighthood established in 1896 by Queen Victoria. It recognises distinguished personal service to the monarch of the Commonwealth realms, members of the monarch's family, or to any viceroy or senior representative of the monarch. The present monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, is the sovereign of the order, the order's motto is Victoria, and its official day is 20 June. The order's chapel is the Savoy Chapel in London.

Order of the British Empire British order of chivalry

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is a British order of chivalry, rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organisations, and public service outside the civil service. It was established on 4 June 1917 by King George V and comprises five classes across both civil and military divisions, the most senior two of which make the recipient either a knight if male or dame if female. There is also the related British Empire Medal, whose recipients are affiliated with, but not members of, the order.

President of Nigeria Head of state and head of Nigerian government

The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is the head of state and head of government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The President of Nigeria is also the commander-in-chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces. The President is elected in national elections which take place every four years. The first President of Nigeria was Nnamdi Azikiwe, who took office on October 1, 1963. However, Shehu Shagari is the First Executive President of Nigeria elected Democratically in 1979. The current President, Muhammadu Buhari took office on May 29, 2015 as the 15th President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Contents

Early life

Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi was born into the family of Mazi (Mr.) Ezeugo Aguiyi on the 3rd of March 1924, in Ibeku, Umuahia, located in the present-day Abia State, Nigeria. At the age of eight, he went to live with his older sister, Anyamma, who was married to Theophilius Johnson, a Sierra Leonean diplomat working in Umuahia. Aguiyi-Ironsi subsequently took the last name of his brother-in-law as his first name, in admiration of Mr. Johnson for the father-figure role he played in his life.

Ibeku is a kingdom consisting of 7 clans nestled in the hilly terrain of Umuahia, in the southeastern part of Nigeria. Located in present-day Abia State, under the governance of Umuahia North Local Government, it is predominantly inhabited by Igbo people who speak a slightly different dialect of Igbo. The neighbouring kingdoms near Ibeku are interconnected by history and culture. To the south are the kingdom of Olokoro, Afor Ibeji, Amakama, Ubakala. To the east is Oboro. West are the clans of Umuokpara and Ohuhu. Then north are Uzuakoli and Abiriba. These areas were one time a part of what was called the Bende region in now Abia State.

Umuahia City in Abia State, Nigeria

Umuahia is the capital city of Abia State in southeastern Nigeria. Umuahia is located along the rail road that lies between Port Harcourt to its south and Enugu city to its north. Umuahia has a population of 359,230 according to the 2006 Nigerian census. Umuahia's indigenous ethnic group are the Igbo.

Abia State State in Nigeria

Abia is a state in the south eastern part of Nigeria. The capital is Umuahia and the major commercial city is Aba, which was formerly a British colonial government outpost in the region, it's also one of the most populated area in Nigeria. Abia state was created in 1991 from part of Imo State. It is one of the constituent states of the Niger Delta region. It's also the 5th most industrialized state in the country, and has the 4th highest index of human development in the country, with numerous economic activities and fast growing populations as recorded by the United nations early 2018. The state also houses the biggest cattle market In Nigeria sited at the Enugu-ph highway in Umu Nneochi L.G.A

Aguiyi-Ironsi had his primary and secondary school education in Umuahia and Kano, respectively. At the age of 18, he joined the Nigerian Army against the wishes of his sister.. [1]

Military career

In 1942, Aguiyi-Ironsi joined the Nigerian Army, at the rank of a private with the seventh battalion. He got promoted in 1946 to the rank of company sergeant major. Also in 1946, Aguiyi-Ironsi was sent on an officer training course in Staff College, Camberley, England. On 12 June 1949, after completion of his course at Camberley, he received a short-service commission as a second lieutenant in the Royal West African Frontier Force, [2] with a subsequent retroactive promotion to lieutenant effective from the same date. [3]

Staff College, Camberley former staff college for the British Army and the Presidency armies of British India

Staff College, Camberley, Surrey, was a staff college for the British Army and the presidency armies of British India. It had its origins in the Royal Military College, High Wycombe founded in 1799, which in 1802 became the Senior Department of the new Royal Military College. In 1858 the name of the Senior Department was changed to "Staff College", and in 1870 this was separated from the Royal Military College. Apart from periods of closure during major wars, the Staff College continued to operate until 1997, when it was merged into the new Joint Services Command and Staff College. The equivalent in the Royal Navy was the Royal Naval Staff College, Greenwich and the equivalent in the Royal Air Force was the RAF Staff College, Bracknell.

Aguiyi-Ironsi was granted a regular commission on 16 May 1953 (seniority from 8 October 1947), [4] and was promoted to captain with effect from the same date (seniority from 8 October 1951). [4]

Aguiyi-Ironsi was one of the officers who served as equerry for Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and Nigeria, at the time she visited Nigeria in 1956, for which he was appointed a Member of the Royal Victorian Order (MVO). He was promoted to major on 8 October 1958. [5]

In 1960, Aguiyi-Ironsi was made commandant of the fifth battalion in Kano, Nigeria, with the rank of lieutenant colonel

Later in 1960, Aguiyi-Ironsi headed the Nigerian contingent force of the United Nations Operation in the Congo. From 1961-1962, Aguiyi-Ironsi served as the military attaché to the Nigeria High Commission in London United Kingdom. During this period he was promoted to the rank of brigadier. During his tenure as military attaché he attended courses at the Imperial Defence college (renamed Royal College of Defence Studies in 1970), Seaford House, Belgrave Square. He was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire, Military Division (MBE) in the 1962 New Year Honours list. [6]

In 1964 he was appointed as the commandant of the entire United Nations peace keeping force in the Congo.

In 1965, Aguiyi-Ironsi was promoted to the rank of major general. That same year Major General C.B. Welby-Everard handed over his position as the general officer Commanding, GOC of the entire Nigerian Army to Major General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi (making him the first Nigeria indigenous officer to head the entire Nigerian Army).

In January 1966, a group of army officers, led by Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu, overthrew the central and regional governments of Nigeria, killed the prime minister, and tried to take control of the government in a failed coup d'état. Nzeogwu was countered, captured and imprisoned by Major General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi.

Aguiyi-Ironsi was named military head of state on 17 January 1966, a position he held until 29 July 1966, when a group of northern army officers revolted against the government, and killed Aguiyi-Ironsi. [7]

Fall of the First Republic

On 14 January 1966, Soldiers of mostly Igbo extraction led by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, an Igbo from Okpanam near Asaba, present day Delta state, eradicated the uppermost echelon of politicians from the Northern and Western provinces. This and other factors effectively led to the fall of the Republican Government. Though Aguiyi-Ironsi, an Igbo, was purportedly slated for assassination, he effectively took control of Lagos, the Federal Capital Territory. [8] With President also an Igbo Nnamdi Azikiwe refusing to intervene and insure the continuity of civilian rule, Aguiyi-Ironsi effectively compelled the remaining members of Balewa's Government to resign seeing that the government was in disarray, he then allowed the Senate president Nwafor Orizu, another Igbo who was serving as acting president in Azikiwe's absence, to officially surrender power to him, thus ending the First Nigerian Republic.

Head of state

194 days in office

Aguiyi-Ironsi inherited a Nigeria deeply fractured by its ethnic and religious cleavages. The fact that none of the high-profile victims of the 1966 coup were of Igbo extraction, and also that the main beneficiaries of the coup were Igbo, led the Northern part of the country to believe that it was an Igbo conspiracy. Though Aguiyi-Ironsi tried to dispel this notion by courting the aggrieved ethnic groups through political appointments and patronage, his failure to punish the coup plotters and the promulgation of the now infamous "Decree No. 34"—which abrogated the country's federal structure in exchange for a unitary one— crystallized this conspiracy theory. [9]

During his short regime Aguiyi-Ironsi promulgated a raft of decrees. Among them were the Constitution Suspension and Amendment Decree No.1, which suspended most articles of the Constitution (though he left intact those sections of the constitution that dealt with fundamental human rights, freedom of expression and conscience were left intact). The Circulation of Newspaper Decree No.2 which removed the restrictions on press freedom put in place by the preceding civilian administration. [10] According to Ndayo Uko, the Decree no.2 was to serve "as a kind gesture to the press.." to safeguard himself when he went on later to promulgate the Defamatory and Offensive Decree No.44 of 1966 which made it an "offense to display or pass on pictorial representation, sing songs, or play instruments the words of which are likely to provoke any section of the country." [10] He also as per the proposals of a single man committee [11] passed the controversial Unification Decree No. 34 aimed to unify Nigeria into a unitary state.

Counter coup and assassination

On 29 July 1966 Aguiyi-Ironsi spent the night at the Government House in Ibadan, as part of a nationwide tour. His host, Lieutenant Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi, Military Governor of Western Nigeria, alerted him to a possible mutiny within the army. Aguiyi-Ironsi desperately tried to contact his Army Chief of Staff, Yakubu Gowon, but he was unreachable. In the early hours of the morning, the Government House, Ibadan, was surrounded by soldiers led by Theophilus Danjuma. [12] Danjuma arrested Aguiyi-Ironsi and questioned him about his alleged complicity in the coup, which saw the demise of the Sardauna of Sokoto, Ahmadu Bello. The circumstances leading to Aguiyi-Ironsi death still remain a subject of much controversy in Nigeria. His body and that of Fajuyi were later discovered in a nearby forest.

Legend

The swagger stick with a stuffed crocodile mascot carried by Aguiyi-Ironsi was called "Charlie". Legend had it that the crocodile mascot made him invulnerable and that it was used to dodge or deflect bullets when he was on mission in the Congo. Despite the stories, the crocodile mascot probably had something to do with the fact that the name "Aguiyi" translates as "crocodile" in Igbo. [13]

Personal life

Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi was married to his wife Victoria in 1953. Aguiyi-Ironsi's son, Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi, was appointed to the position of Nigeria's Defence Minister on 30 August 2006 – forty years after his father's death. [14]

Award

Gallantry medal (was awarded by the Austrian Government to Lt Col Aguiyi-Ironsi, Maj Njoku, two expatriates and twelve Nigerian soldiers for their role in the Congo in 1960, in freeing an Austrian ambulance unit which was arrested and imprisoned by the Congolese authorities because they claimed the unit were Belgian parachutists).

See also

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References

  1. "nigeria johnson thomas umunnakwe aguiyi ironsi biography and profile".
  2. "No. 38682". The London Gazette (Supplement). 5 August 1949. p. 3793.
  3. "No. 39332". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 September 1951. p. 4812.
  4. 1 2 "No. 40148". The London Gazette (Supplement). 13 April 1954. p. 2279.
  5. "No. 41573". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 December 1958. p. 7654.
  6. "No. 42555". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 December 1961. p. 43.
  7. Obotetukudo, Solomon (2011). The Inaugural Addresses and Ascension Speeches of Nigerian Elected and Non elected presidents and prime minister from 1960 -2010. University Press of America. pp. 56–57.
  8. Time Magazine "Nigeria: The Men of Sandhurst".
  9. "General Ironsi's Address May 1966" . Retrieved 5 February 2017.
  10. 1 2 Uko, Ndaeyo. Romancing the gun: the press as promoter of military rule.
  11. "OPERATION" . Retrieved 5 February 2017.
  12. "1966: Ironsi" . Retrieved 5 February 2017.
  13. Siollun, Max. Oil, politics and violence: Nigeria's military coup culture (1966–1976). p. 63.
  14. Nwankwere, Lucky; Kilete, Molly (2006-08-31). "Obasanjo drops Defence Minister…Aguiyi-Ironsi's son takes over". Online Nigeria. Retrieved 2007-01-25.
Political offices
Preceded by
Nnamdi Azikiwe
Head of the Federal Military Government of Nigeria
January 16, 1966 – July 29, 1966
Succeeded by
Yakubu Gowon