The year 1966 is very significant in the political history of Nigeria. It was the year Africa’s most populous nation first experienced military coup.
Equally, the Nigerian Civil War otherwise known as the Biafra War was fought from 1966 to 1970. It was between the forces of the Nigerian Government and the forces of Biafra which seceded from the country at that time.
It is now 55 years since the first military coup.
So, as Nigeria celebrates the 2021 Armed Forces Remembrance Day, it is necessary to take a succint look at the key actors in the civil war.
Below are some of these actors:
- Patrick Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu
One of the major actors of the military coup was Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu.
Nzeogwu was a young military officer who took part in the first military coup in Nigeria on January 15, 1966.
He led a group of soldiers who killed Nigeria’s Prime Minister and the Premiers of the Northern and Western regions of the country.
He died during the civil war.
– Major General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi
Apart from Nzeogwu Kaduna, another prominent actor of the military coup was Aguiyi-Ironsi.
Ironsi became the Head of State in Nigeria after the bloody coup of 1966 led by Nzeogwu.
He was however assassinated by a mutiny led by Northern military officers which included Major Murtala Mohammed, Captain Theophilus Danjuma, Lieutenant Muhammadu Buhari, Lieutenant Ibrahim Babangida, and Lieutenant Sani Abacha.
- General Yakubu Gowon (retd.)
Gowon became the Head of States in Nigeria in 1966 after the counter-coup which led to the death of his predecessor Major General Aguiyi-Ironsi. He was the Head of State during the duration of the civil war and remained in power till 1975.
Ojukwu was the military governor of the defunct Eastern Region which broke away as The Republic of Biafra in 1966. He became the leader of Biafra which fought against Nigeria until it surrendered on January 15, 1970. He died in 2011 at the age of 78.
Brigadier Benjamin Adekunle
He was the General Officer Commanding 3 Armoured Division, Nigerian Army. He led the 7th and 8th battalion tasked to carry out a seaborne assault on Bonny in the Bight of Benin during the civil war. He died in September 2014.
General Murtala Mohammed
Murtala Ramat Mohammed Mohammed played significant role in the counter-coup that resulted in the death of the then Head of State, Major General Aguiyi-Ironsi.
He was the Commander of the 2nd Infantry Division during the civil war, which pushed back Biafran forces from the Mid-Western Region.
He became the fourth Head of State in 1975 and was assassinated on Friday, February 13, 1976.