Biography Of Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu: Lead Coup Plotter of the First Military Coup in Nigeria

This is the Biography of Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, lead coup plotter of the first military coup in Nigeria.


According to Wikipedia, Major Patrick Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, (1937–1967) was a Nigerian military officer who played a leading role in the January 15, 1966 military coup, an event that derailed Nigeria’s nascent democracy and introduced military rule to Nigeria. Nzeogwu was born in the Northern Region’s capital of Kaduna to Igbo immigrant parents from the Mid-Western Region-Okpanam Town, near Asaba in the present day Anioma, Delta State.

Background and education

Nzeogwu attended Saint Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Kaduna for his elementary education and for his secondary education attended the competitive Saint John’s College in Kaduna, where he became close friends with Christian Anufuro.

In March 1957, Nzeogwu enlisted as an officer-cadet in the Nigeria Regiment of the West African Frontier Force and proceeded on a 6-month preliminary training in Ghana, then Gold Coast. He completed his training in Ghana by October 1957 and proceeded to The Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst where he was commissioned as an infantry officer in 1959. He later underwent a platoon officer’s course in Hythe and a platoon commander’s course in Warminster. 


On his return to Nigeria in May 1960, Nzeogwu was posted to the 1st Battalion in Enugu where Major Aguiyi-Ironsi was the second-in-command under a British officer. He was later posted to the 5th Battalion in Kaduna where he became friends with Olusegun Obasanjo. His Hausa colleagues in the Nigerian Army gave him the name “Kaduna” because of his affinity with the town.

After serving in the Congo in 1961, Nzeogwu was assigned as a training officer at the Army Training Depot in Zaria for about 6 months before getting posted to Lagos to head up the military intelligence section at the Army Head Quarters where he was the first Nigerian officer. The forerunner of the Nigerian Army Intelligence Corps (NAIC) was the Field Security Section (FSS) of the Royal Nigerian Army, which was established on 1 November 1962 with Captain PG Harrington (BR) as General Staff Officer Grade Two (GSO2 Int). The FSS was essentially a security organization whose functions included vetting of Nigerian Army (NA) personnel, document security and counter intelligence.

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Major Nzeogwu was the first Nigerian Officer to hold that appointment from November 1962 to 1964. As a military intelligence officer, he participated in the treasonable felony trial investigations of Obafemi Awolowo and other Action Group party members. According to Olusegun Obasanjo, “Chukwuma had some scathing remarks to make about [Nigeria’s] national security, and about those who were being investigated. If he had his way, he said, his treatment of the whole case would have been different”. 

Nzeogwu reportedly stepped on toes of army officers in his capacity as a military intelligence and even clashed with the Minister of State for the Army, Ibrahim Tako Galadima also known as Galadima Bida. Consequently, he was posted to the Nigerian Military Training College in Kaduna where he became Chief Instructor.

1966 Coup

Main article: 1966 Nigerian coup d’état

In the early hours of January 15, 1966, Nzeogwu led a groupof Igbo soldiers on a supposedly military exercise and led them to attack the official residence of the premier of the north, Sir Ahmadu Bello in a bloody Coup that saw the murder of the Premiers of Northern and Western Nigeria. The Prime Minister, a federal minister, two regional premiers, and top Army officers from the Northern and Western regions of the nation were brutally murdered. The premier of the Eastern region (where most of the plotters came from), the Igbo President of federation and the Igbo Army Chief were the only notable individuals spared.

According to a Nigerian Police Special Branch Report, Nzeogwu executed at least 4 army and police security personnel including one of the men on his team (Sergeant Daramola Oyegoke). Nzeogwu also participated in the execution of Col. Raph Shodeinde, his superior officer at the Nigerian Military Training College and is reported to have shot indiscriminately at fleeing women and children.

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Aguyi Ironsi assumed power, and Nzeogwu was later arrested in Lagos on January 18, 1966. He was in the company of Lt. Col. Conrad Nwawo.

Nigerian Civil war and death

On May 30, 1967 Biafra declared its independence from Nigeria, this was spurred by the incessant killing of Igbos in Northern Nigeria and refusal of then military head of state General Yakubu Gowon to mobilize security personnel to stop the killings.

Nzeogwu was released from close observation, and asked to go into battle on the side of the Biafrans.

On July 29, 1967, Nzeogwu – who had been promoted to the rank of a Biafran Lt. Colonel – was trapped in an ambush near Nsukka while conducting a night reconnaissance operation against federal troops of the 21st battalion under Captain Mohammed Inuwa Wushishi.

He was killed in action and his corpse was subsequently identified. After the defeat of Biafra and the end of the war, orders were given by the Head of the Nigerian government, Major-General Yakubu Gowon, for him to be buried at the military cemetery in Kaduna with full military honours.



The Author


I am Maduawuchi, the Editor of Nigerian Infopedia. I am a Biochemist, I love God, I love my family and I love my life. Writing is natural to me that's why I love what I do... Captain, Leader, Motivator, Brother and Friend. Saved by Grace alone.

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