Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi

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Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi
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
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 (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.

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 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.

Contents

Early life

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 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. Abia state was created in 1991 from part of Imo State. It is one of the constituent states of the Niger Delta region.

Nigeria Federal republic in West Africa

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. [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. In 1949, after completion of his course at Camberley, he was promoted second lieutenant of Royal West African Frontier Force.

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 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.

United Nations Operation in the Congo 1960s United Nations military operation

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.

Royal College of Defence Studies Training institute for senior officers of the Armed Forces and Civil Service in defence and international security matters.

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. [2]

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. [3] 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. [4]

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. [5] 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." [5] He also as per the proposals of a single man committee [6] 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. [7] 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. [8]

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. [9]

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. 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.
  3. Time Magazine "Nigeria: The Men of Sandhurst".
  4. "General Ironsi's Address May 1966" . Retrieved 5 February 2017.
  5. 1 2 Uko, Ndaeyo. Romancing the gun: the press as promoter of military rule.
  6. "OPERATION" . Retrieved 5 February 2017.
  7. "1966: Ironsi" . Retrieved 5 February 2017.
  8. Siollun, Max. Oil, politics and violence: Nigeria's military coup culture (1966–1976). p. 63.
  9. 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