1966 Nigerian coup d'état

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1966 Nigerian coup d'etat
Date15–16 January 1966
Flag of Nigeria.svg Government of Nigeria Flag of Nigeria.svg Rebel Army Officers
Commanders and leaders
Nwafor Orizu[1]
Abubakar Balewa 
Ahmadu Bello 
Samuel Akintola 
Festus Okotie-Eboh 
Kaduna Nzeogwu
Timothy Onwuatuegwu
Emmanuel Ifeajuna
Adewale Ademoyega
Chris Anuforo
Humphrey Chukwuka
Don Okafor
unknown unknown
Casualties and losses
22 dead 0

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[2] including the Prime Minister of Nigeria, many senior politicians, many senior Army officers (including their wives), and sentinels on protective duty.[3][4] 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 the Nigerian Army, Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, was compelled to take control of the government of a country in upheaval, inadvertently putting Nigeria's nascent democracy on hold.[5] His ascendancy to power was deemed a conspiracy by the coup plotters, who were mainly Igbo officers, to pave the way for General Aguiyi-Ironsi to be Head of State of Nigeria. Consequently, the retaliatory events by Northern members of the Nigerian Army that led to deaths of many innocent Igbo soldiers and civilians caused the Nigerian Civil War.[citation needed]


In August 1965 a group of Army majors (Emmanuel Ifeajuna, Timothy Onwuatuegwu, Chris Anuforo, Don Okafor, Humphrey Chukwuka, and Adewale Ademoyega) began plotting a coup d'état against incumbent Prime Minister Abubakar Balewa.[6] The coup was planned because according to the majors, the men at the helm of affairs were running Nigeria aground with their corrupt ways. Ministers under them were living flamboyant lifestyles and looting public funds at the expense of ordinary citizens.[citation needed]

The president of Nigeria, Nnamdi Azikiwe left the country in late 1965, first for Europe, then on a cruise to the Caribbean. Under the law, the Senate president, Nwafor Orizu, became acting president during his absence and had all the powers of the president.[7]


In the morning of 15 January 1966, at a meeting with some local journalists in Kaduna seeking to find out what was going on, it was brought to Major Nzeogwu's attention that the only information about the events then was what was being broadcast by the BBC.[8] Nzeogwu was surprised because he had expected a radio broadcast of the rebels from Lagos. He is said to have "gone wild" when he learnt that Emmanuel Ifeajuna in Lagos had not made any plans whatsoever to neutralize Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi who was the Commander of the Army. Therefore, Nzeogwu hurriedly drafted a speech which was broadcast on Radio Kaduna sometime around 12 a.m. and in which he declared martial law over the Northern Provinces of Nigeria.[9][10]


Acting President Nwafor Orizu made a nationwide broadcast, after he had briefed President Nnamdi Azikiwe on the phone about the decision of the cabinet, announcing the cabinet's "voluntary" decision to transfer power to the armed forces.[citation needed] Major General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi then made his own broadcast, accepting the "invitation". On 17 January, Major General Ironsi established the Supreme Military Council in Lagos and effectively suspended the constitution.[1]


Adewale Ademoyega[permanent dead link], member of the trio that formed the coup in his book why we struck said

"There was no decision at our meeting to single out any ethnic group for elimination. Our intentions were honourable, our views were national and our goals were idealistic. Even those earmarked for arrest, four were northerners, two were Westerners and two were Easterners."[citation needed]

Below is a comprehensive list of casualties from the coup.[2]


Military and police[edit]


  1. ^ a b Abubakar Ibrahim (29 July 2008). "The Forgotten Interim President". Daily Trust. Retrieved 28 February 2010.
  2. ^ a b Siollun, Max. Oil, Politics and Violence: Nigeria's Military Coup Culture (1966-1976). Algora Publishing, 2009. p. 237. ISBN 9780875867106.
  3. ^ a b Omoigui, Nowamagbe. "SPECIAL BRANCH REPORT: "Military Rebellion of 15th January 1966". Gamji.com. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  4. ^ a b Kirk-Greene & Millard. Crisis and conflict in Nigeria: a documentary sourcebook, Volume 1; Volume 9. Oxford University Press, 1971. p. 124.
  5. ^ Times, Premium (28 December 2015). "Was Power Initially Handed Over To or Taken Over By the Military?, By Eric Teniola - Premium Times Opinion". Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  6. ^ Bolashodun, Oluwatobi (15 January 2016). "50 Years After: 8 Facts To Know About The January 15, 1966, Coup D'état". Legit.ng - Nigeria news. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  7. ^ "Why Zik escaped death in 1966". Vanguard News. 18 August 2018. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  8. ^ Bolashodun, Oluwatobi (15 January 2016). "50 Years After: 8 Facts To Know About The January 15, 1966, Coup D'état". Legit.ng - Nigeria news. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  9. ^ Nzeogwu's Declaration of Martial Law - 15 January 1966
  10. ^ "Radio broadcast by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu – announcing Nigeria's first Military coup on Radio Nigeria, Kaduna on January 15, 1966". Vanguard. Retrieved 7 March 2017.