|2nd Head of State of Nigeria|
16 January 1966 –19 July 1966
|Preceded by||Nnamdi Azikiwe|
|Succeeded by||Yakubu Gowon|
|General Officer Commanding, Nigerian Army|
1965 –January 1966
|Preceded by||Major General Sir Christopher Welby-Everard|
|Succeeded by||Yakubu Gowon|
|Born||3 March 1924|
Umuahia, Abia State, Nigeria
|Died||29 July 1966 42) (aged|
Lalupon, Oyo Nigeria
|Political party||None (military)|
|Years of service||1942–1966|
|Unit||Commander, 2nd Brigade|
|Commands||Force Commander, ONUC|
Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi (3 March 1924 – 29 July 1966) was a senior Nigerian military officer and the first Nigerian Military Head of State. He seized power in the ensuing chaos following the 15 January 1966 military coup, serving as the Nigerian Head of State from 16 January 1966 until his assassination on 29 July 1966 by a group of mutinous Northern army soldiers who revolted against his government in what was popularly called the July Counter Coup.
The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is the head of state and head of the national executive 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. The current President, Muhammadu Buhari took office on May 29, 2015 as the 15th President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The 1966 Nigerian coup d'état began on 15 January 1966, when mutinous Nigerian soldiers led by Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu and Emmanuel Ifeajuna killed 22 people including the Prime Minister of Nigeria, many senior politicians, many senior Army officers, and sentinels on protective duty. The coup plotters attacked the cities of Kaduna, Ibadan, and Lagos while also blockading the Niger and Benue River within a two-day span of time before the coup plotters were subdued. The General Officer Commanding, of the Nigerian Army, Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi then used the coup as a pretext to annex power, ending Nigeria's nascent democracy. It was one of the events that led to the Nigerian Civil War.
The 1966 Nigerian counter-coup, or the so-called "July Rematch", was the second of many military coups in Nigeria. It was masterminded by Lt. Colonel Murtala Muhammed and many northern military officers. The coup began as a mutiny at roughly midnight on July 28, 1966 and was a reaction to the killings of Northern politicians and Officers by mostly Igbo soldiers on January 15, 1966 The July mutiny/counter coup resulted in the murder of Nigeria's first military Head of State General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi and Lt Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi in Ibadan by disgruntled northern non-commissioned officers (NCOs). Upon the termination of Ironsi's government, Lt. Colonel Yakubu Gowon was appointed Head of State by the July 1966 coup conspirators.
Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi was born to his father Mazi (means Mister in Igbo) Ezeugo Aguiyi on 3 March 1924, in Umuahia-Ibeku, present-day Abia State, Nigeria. He was eight years old, when he moved in with his older sister Anyamma, who was married to Theophilius Johnson, a Sierra Leonean diplomat in Umuahia. Aguiyi-Ironsi subsequently took the last name of his brother-in-law as his first name, who became his father figure. At the age of 18, Aguiyi-Ironsi joined the Nigerian Army against the wishes of his sister.
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 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. Abia state was created in 1991 from part of Imo State. It is one of the constituent states of the Niger Delta region.
The Federal Republic of Nigeria, commonly referred to as Nigeria, is a federal republic in West Africa, bordering Niger in the north, Chad in the northeast, Cameroon in the east, and Benin in the west. Its coast in the south is located on the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean. The federation comprises 36 states and 1 Federal Capital Territory, where the capital, Abuja is located. Nigeria is officially a democratic secular country.
Aguiyi-Ironsi had his primary and secondary school educations in Umauhia and in Kano.
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. In 1949, after completion of his course at Camberley, he was promoted second lieutenant of Royal West African Frontier Force.
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 promoted to captain in 1953 and again promoted to Major in 1955. He was part of the officers who served as Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and Nigeria’s equerry at the time she visited Nigeria in 1956.
In 1960, Aguiyi-Ironsi was made commandant of the fifth battalion in Kano, Nigeria, with the rank of lieutenant colonel
Later in 1960, he 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 general and during his tenure as military attaché he attended some courses at the Imperial Defence college (renamed Royal College of Defence Studies in 1970), Seaford House, Belgrave Square.
The United Nations Operation in the Congo was a United Nations peacekeeping force in the Republic of the Congo that was established after United Nations Security Council Resolution 143 of 14 July 1960. The mission was launched to help restore stability to the Congo after it fell into conflict and disorder following independence. ONUC was the UN's first peacekeeping mission with a significant military force. It was withdrawn in 1964.
In diplomacy, an attaché is a person who is assigned ("attached") to the diplomatic or administrative staff of a higher placed person or another service or agency. Although a loanword from French, in English the word is not modified according to gender.
The Royal College of Defence Studies (RCDS) instructs the most promising senior officers of the British Armed Forces, Her Majesty's Diplomatic Service and Civil Service in national defence and international security matters at the highest level, to prepare them for the top posts in their respective services. It forms part of the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom, and is its most senior and prestigious component. In addition, there are many overseas attendees these days, who are close allied to the United Kingdom government.
In 1964 he was appointed at the commandant of the entire United Nations peace keeping forces in the Congo.
In 1965, Aguiyi-Ironsi was promoted to the rank of major general. that same year major general CB 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 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.
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.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.
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.
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.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." He also as per the proposals of a single man committee passed the controversial Unification Decree No. 34 aimed to unify Nigeria into a unitary state.
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.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.
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.
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.
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).
Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu was a Nigerian military officer and politician who served as the military governor of the Eastern Region of Nigeria in 1966 and the leader of the breakaway Republic of Biafra from 1967 to 1970. He was active as a politician from 1983 to 2011, when he died aged 78.
General Yakubu "Jack" Dan-Yumma Gowon is the former head of state of Nigeria from 1966 to 1975. He took power after one military coup d'état and was overthrown in another. During his rule, the Nigerian government prevented Biafran secession during the 1967–70 Nigerian Civil War.
Patrick Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, was born on 26 February 1937 in Kaduna and died in a mysterious circumstance on 29 July 1967 in Nsuka sector during the Nigeria Civil War.
Francis Adekunle Fajuyi,. MC, BEM was a Nigerian soldier of Yoruba origin. and the first military governor of the former Western Region, Nigeria.
Lieutenant Colonel Bukar Suka Dimka was a Nigerian Army officer who played a leading role in the February 13, 1976 abortive military coup against the government of General Murtala Ramat Mohammed. Dimka also participated in the Nigerian Counter-Coup of 1966 which toppled the government of General Aguiyi Ironsi.
A Man of the People (1966) is a novel by Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe. This satirical novel is a story told by the young and educated narrator, Odili, on his conflict with Chief Nanga, his former teacher who enters a career in politics in an unnamed modern African country. Odili represents the changing younger generation; Nanga represents the traditional customs of Nigeria. The book ends with a military coup, similar to the real-life coups of Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu and Yakubu Gowon.
This article is about the particular significance of the year 1966 to Nigeria and its people. See also: Timeline of Nigerian history.
The 1966 anti-Igbo pogrom was a series of massacres committed against Igbo people and other people of southern Nigerian origin living in northern Nigeria starting in May 1966 and reaching a peak after 29 September 1966. These events led to the secession of the eastern Nigerian region and the declaration of the Republic of Biafra, which ultimately led to the Nigeria-Biafra war. The 1966 massacres of southern Nigerians have been described as a holocaust by "Greene -1975. The Struggle for Secession 1966–70: A Personal Account of the Nigerian Civil War by N. U. Akpan. The Nigerian Civil War 1967–70. The Royal African society in January 1975 and others have variously been described as genocide.
Chief Victor Babaremilekun Adetokunboh Fani-Kayode, Q.C., SAN, CON (1921–1995) was a leading Nigerian politician, aristocrat, nationalist, statesman and lawyer. He was elected deputy premier of the Western Region of Nigeria in 1963 and he played a major role in Nigeria's legal history and politics from the late 1940s until 1995.
Colonel Ibrahim Taiwo was a Military Governor of Kwara State from July 1975 to February 1976 during the military regime of General Murtala Mohammed. He assisted in establishment of the University of Ilorin, which was founded by decree August, 1975.
Brigadier-General John Atom Kpera was the first Military Governor of Anambra State in Nigeria from March 1976 to July 1978, after it had been created from the old East Central State during the military regime of General Olusegun Obasanjo. Later he was Military Governor of Benue State from January 1984 to August 1985 during the military regime of Major-General Muhammadu Buhari.
Lt. Colonel Joseph Akahan was Chief of Army Staff (Nigeria) from May 1967 until May 1968, when he was killed in a helicopter crash during the Nigerian Civil War.
William Walbe, was a colonel in the Nigerian Army who served as the military aide-de-camp (ADC) to General Yakubu Gowon, the third Nigerian Head of State.
The Operation UNICORD was an offensive launched by the Nigerian Army at the beginning of the Nigerian Civil War. It involved the capture of 6 major Biafran towns near their northern border.
Timothy Onwuatuegwu was a Biafran Army Major and former Nigerian Army Major. He was a leading military figure in the Nigerian Civil War and a participant in the 1966 Nigerian coup d'etat.
Emmanuel Arinze Ifeajuna was a Nigerian army major and high jumper who played a principal role in the January 15, 1966 military coup. He was the first Black African to win a gold medal at an international sports event when he won at the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games. His winning mark and personal best of 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m) was a games record and a British Empire record at the time.
Brigadier Ibrahim Bako was a senior officer in the Nigerian Army who played a principal role in two Nigerian military coups: the July 1966 counter-coup and the December 1983 coup. The 1983 coup ousted the democratic government of Shehu Shagari while the July 1966 coup ousted the military government of General Ironsi. Bako was killed while attempting to arrest President Shehu Shagari during the December 1983 coup d'état.
| Head of the Federal Military Government of Nigeria |
January 16, 1966 – July 29, 1966