Top 8 Facts About the First Military Coup in Nigeria

The first military coup in Nigeria took place on January 15, 1966, this will forever be remembered in Nigeria because it was the first time that the Nigerian military ever thought of taking power which led to a series of dark moments in the country’s history.


Never before in the history of Nigeria had anyone thought of a coup. The events of January 15, 1966 was the first time ever that junior Nigerian military officers attempted to take power in Nigeria.

The coup d’etat though not as successful as the junior officers wanted, effectively overthrew the government of President Nnamdi Azikiwe and Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa and with this, Nigeria’s political, social and military history changed forever.

Even if the coup, was not completely successful, it laid the groundwork for later coups and counter coups in Nigeria.

Without fail, Nigerian Infopedia presents to you, top 8 Facts about the first military coup in Nigeria that you might be unaware of.

Facts About the First Military Coup in Nigeria: Top 8

1. On August 1965, 1 Yoruba and 4 Igbo Majors in the Nigerian Army commenced plotting a coup d’état against the government of then President, Nnamdi Azikiwe and his Prime Minister, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.

 2. The 1966 coup d’etat was the catalyst that led to the Nigerian Civil War which started in 1967.

3. On January 15, 1966 Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu turned a night-time training exercise known as “Exercise Damisa” into a full blown military coup.

4. The original intent of the coup was to correct political wrongdoings in the country because the Majors felt that the men at the helm of affairs were running Nigeria aground with their corrupt ways.

5. The incomplete coup saw General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, annex power, ending Nigeria’s nascent democracy.

6. The officers involved on both sides of the coup are (Conspirators): Maj. Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu (Igbo), Maj. Timothy Onwuatuegwu (Igbo), Maj. Emmanuel Ifeajuna (Igbo), Maj. Chris Anuforo (Igbo), Maj. Don Okafor (Igbo), Maj. Adewale Ademoyega (Yoruba), Maj. Humphrey Chukwuka (Igbo), Capt. Emmanuel Nwobosi (Igbo), Capt. Ben Gbulie (Igbo)and Capt. Ogbu Oji (Igbo).

Government officials include: Prime Minister Abubakar Balewa † (Bageri), Premier Ahmadu Bello † (Fulani), Premier Samuel Akintola (Yoruba), Finance Minister Festus Okotie-Eboh (Itsekiri), Gen. Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi (Igbo), Brig. Samuel Ademulegun (Yoruba), Brig. Zakariya Maimalari (Kanuri), Col. Kur Mohammed (Kanuri), Col. Ralph Shodeinde † (Yoruba), Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon (Ngas), Lt. Col. Abogo Largema (Kanuri), Lt. Col. James Pam (Berom), Lt. Col. Arthur Unegbe (Igbo), Lt. Col. Conrad Nwawo (Igbo) and Maj. Hassan Katsina (Fulani).

7. Nigerian soldiers led by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu assassinated 11 senior Nigerian politicians and two soldiers as well as kidnapping three others.

8. Some of those who were murdered in the 1966 coup include the Prime Minister of Nigeria, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa; the Premier of Northern Nigeria, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello: the Premier of Western Region; Sir Samuel Ladoke Akintola; the Finance Minister, Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh; the wife of Ademulegun, Mrs. Lateefat; the wife of the then Premier of Northern Nigeria, Hafusat; Zarumi Sardauna, the Senior Assistant on Security to the then Premier, Ahmed Ben Musa and the Government Driver to the then Premier, Ahmed Pategi.

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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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