Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu

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Patrick Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, (1937–1967) 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 Delta State.

Background[edit]

Major Nzeogwu was an infantry and intelligence officer of the Nigerian Army. His Hausa colleagues in the Nigerian Army gave him the name “Kaduna” because of his love with the town. Nzeogwu was an ambitious young military officer and a Roman Catholic. He attended the military academy at Sandhurst in England, and was a rebellious military officer who eventually became the Chief Instructor at the Nigerian Military Training College in Kaduna. 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. Major Nzeogwu was the first Nigerian Officer to hold that appointment from November 1962 to 1964 and the first to stage a bloody military coup. Nzeogwu could not have been responsible for sparing South Eastern politicians during the coup because he was in charge of the North while fellow coupists were in charge of the East.

1966 Coup[edit]

In the early hours of January 15, 1966, Nzeogwu led a group of mostly northern officers on a supposely military exercise and led them to attack the official residence of the premier of the north Sir. Amadu 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 . The coup failed, and he was later arrested in Lagos on January 18, 1966. He was in the company of Lt. Col. Conrad Nwawo.

The leniency with which the new leader, General Aguiyi Ironsi (also an Igbo), handled the coup plotters led to the dissatisfaction of northern officers and subsequently resulted in a counter- coup on the 29th of July, 1966.

Nzeogwu was initially detained at the Kirikiri maximum security prison in Lagos, before later being transferred to the East. He and other January 15 mutiny detainees were subsequently released from jail by Lt. Col. Emeka Ojukwu (also an Igbo) at the end of the first quarter of 1967, following demonstrations by Igbo students of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

Nigerian Civil war and death[edit]

On May 30, 1967, The nation of Biafra declared its independence from Nigeria. Nzeogwu was released from close observation, and asked to go into battle on the side of the Biafrans. A Biafran he never believed in as he was opposed to secession of the eastern region from the Nigeria federation. On July 29, 1967, Nzeogwu - who had been promoted to the rank of 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 Inua 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 honour. The Nigerian soldiers that found his corpse cried, most of whom were of Northern origin. This lay credence that he was lured to the battle front by the Biafran authorities to be eliminated as he never believed in the Biafra war.

His corpse was buried in Kaduna military cemetery with full military honours. The corpse was never deposited at any national archives nor dismembered as speculated in some quarters. Major General Yakubu Gowon the then head of state referred to Nzeogwu as a detribalized Nigerian. Most Nigerians who know him share that view.

See also[edit]