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The subject matter of this project report deals with the assessment of
the place of Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna in Nigeria’s socio-political
history between January 1966 – August 1967. This topic has agitated
the mind of the author for quite a long time. He was particularly
motivated to undertake this study after reading many books on
Nigeria-Biafra Civil War. He observed with interest the conflicting
reports of these authors on the immediate and remote causes of the
civil war and the role of Major Ifeajuna in the coup of January 15th
1966? He felt therefore that since the war was a major chapter in the
socio-political life of Nigeria, efforts should be made to assess the
role of Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna, one of the key players of the coup
that eventually led to the civil war.
The project is divided into eight chapters. Chapter one deals with the
Introduction which encompassed the abstract, the purpose/need for
the study, scope and limitation of the study and the
methodology/sources/organisation of the work. Chapter two deals
with the literature review. The review of literature for this study cuts
across primary and secondary sources. Chapter Three treats the
background of the man, Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna, his origin, his
school days and his military orientation. Chapter Four delves into
Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna’s role in the January 15th 1966 coup and
his leadership role in the coup. Chapter Five discussed the failure of
the five majors in the coup attempt and Ifeajuna’s flight to Ghana.
Chapter Six examines the regime of Major General Aguiyi Ironsi and
the events of the coup during which he lost his life. Chapter Seven
critically analyses Ifeajuna’s role in the Biafra war, particularly in the
Midwestern region. Chapter Eight concludes the study.
Title page . . . . . . . . . i
Approval page . . . . . . . . . ii
Dedication . . . . . . . . . iii
Preface . . . . . . . . . . iv
Acknowledgement . . . . . . . v
Table of contents . . . . . . . . vi
1. Introduction . . . . . . . . 1
1.1 Abstract . . . . . . . . . 1
1.2 Statement of problem . . . . . . 2
1.3 Purpose for the Study . . . . . . 3
1.4 Scope and Limitation of the Study . . . . 4
1.5 Methodology/Sources/Organization of the Work . 5
1.6 Literature Review . . . . . . 6
Notes . . . . . . . . 15
3. The Man Emmanuel Ifeajuna . . . . 17
3.1 Background . . . . . . . 17
3.2 Military and Political Orientation . . . . 22
3.3 Prelude to the January 15, 1966 coup . . . 27
3.4. Ifeajuna’s Role in the January 15, 1966 coup . . 30
3.5 Planning, Preparation and Execution of the
January 15, 1966 coup . . . . . 31
3.6 Leadership of the January 15, 1966 Coup:
Ifeajuna or Nzeogwu? . . . . . . 41
3.7 At last came the Burst of the Bubble . . . . .47
3.8 Treachery, Cowardice or Ineptitude among the
Plotters: Ifeajuna’s Role . . . . . . 51
3.9 The views of his childhood friend & his junior brother 54
Notes . . . . . . . . 58
5. The Failure of the Five Major s: Ifeajuna’s fault? . 61
5.1 Ifeajuna’s Flight into Ghana . . . . . 61
5.2 Whose arrest and detention ended the coup:
Ifeajuna or Nzeogwu? . . . . . . 72
5.3 Ifeajuna’s Revolutionary Credentials: Fake or Genuine? 75
Notes . . . . . . . . 77
6. The Gathering Storm . . . . . . 78
6.1 The July 29, 1966 Coup. . . . . . 79
6.2 The Road to Secession . . . . . 81
6.3 Ifeajuna as a Biafran Army Officer . . . . 83
6.4 Nigerian Revolutionary in Biafran Uniform . . 86
Notes . . . . . . . . 89
7. The Civil War: Ifeajuna in Biafra . . . . 90
7.1 Ifeajuna’s role in the Mid-Western invasion . . 91
Notes . . . . . . . . 101
Conclusion . . . . . . . 102
Note . . . . . . . . . 106
Bibliography . . . . . . . . 107
In his biography about Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu, Olusegun
Obasanjo stated that ‘biographies of men who have shaped the
course of human history have been written all over the
world………….Attempts to re-examine the lives of those who have
made contributions to this country may not only provide a better
insight, but offer possible solutions to our many
difficulties……………..”It is in this context that this study of Major
Emmanuel Ifeajuna’s role during the particularly sensitive period of
Nigeria’s political evolution has been undertaken.
This study is by no means a biography. Rather, it is a scholarly effort
to illuminate the misunderstood and maligned role of a man who
shaped a cloudy period of Nigeria’s history. The focus is a reexamination and analysis of who Emmanuel Ifeajuna was, and what
he did in relation to events in Nigeria between January, 1966 to
August, 1967. A perusal of this study will hopefully contribute to the
expansion of the frontiers of knowledge about this seminal period in
Nigeria’s history. More importantly, the search for national cohesion
and stability is an on-going project which requires effective
dependence on historical guidance. And the understanding of the
roles of the principal actors in the earth-shaking dramas of Nigeria’s
political history during the period under study, will in no small
measure contribute to the attainment of this objective.
Much has been written and said about the January 15th , 1966 coup
and its aftermath. But it is that these accounts are not devoid of
exaggerations and misrepresentation. In some cases, these accounts
are inaccurate. Given the emotional and sensitive nature of such a
development, such stance is understandable. Be that as it may,
there is a call occasioned by social pressure to put the course of
events in its right perception and fill the lacuna in the knowledge of
these events which still remain forty years after these events. While
this study makes no claims to being exhaustive, it seeks to provide
fuller and more accurate insight into the coup and its aftermath by
looking at the deeds of one of its major architects, Major Emmanuel
Also, prejudice, misconceptions and outright ignorance characterize
knowledge among Nigerians and even foreigners about
developments in Nigerias and even foreigners about developments in
Nigeria politics between the first military coup and the civil war in the
country. Indeed, the roles of leading characters in this period of the
country’s history have been suppressed, misinterpreted and even in
some cases, misrepresented for selfish political, ethics and social
goals. If the purpose of history is to till the truth, then the frontiers of
knowledge on these characters have to be widened, and erstwhile
misconceptions re-examined. Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna is one of
such character whose role in the period of Nigeria history under study
needs to be presented more realistically and dispassionately. It
therefore becomes expedient to expand the frontiers of knowledge on
what Major Ifeajuna did, how he did it and why he did it in the course
of Nigeria’s political evolution between January 15, 1966 and August
1967. With that, the role he played during that event in Nigeria’s
history will be better assessed and understood.
This study is not a biography of Emmanuel Ifeajuna. It is a scholarly
examination of the roles of this controversial man in the historic
events during the sensitive period of Nigeria’s history under study.
Using a plethora of historical sources and methodology the study
aims at providing a balanced understanding and predation of
development between Nigeria’s first military coup and the civil war.
This is only possible if the roles of leading participants and actors are
brought to the fore. Emmanuel Ifeajuna’s place cannot be ignored if
this objective is to be fulfilled.
This study also seeks to contribute to the age old national discourse
for stability and political cohesion which Nigeria has been seeking
since independence. This has become necessary by looking at the
roles of leading characters who have radically altered the country’s
socio-political landscape. Hopefully, a historical study of their actions
will contribute to this search for peace and stability in the country.
Finally, this study aims at providing a historical account of what really
happened during the brief occupation of the former Mid-Western
Region by the Biafran forces during August 1967, and the
implications for inter group relations and stability in Nigeria.
This study is subject to inherent limitations which are worth stating
and taking into consideration. The time frame is a decisive limiting
factor. It restricts the scope of the research to Major Ifeajuna’s role
and events within a definite period, January 15th
1966 to August
1967. The time frame, therefore limits the account to the roles the
subject had played in Nigeria’s history during the period of study. It
can be however, be argued that outside his 1954 exploits at the
British Empire (now Commonwealth) Games, Major Emmanuel
Ifeajuna most essentially captured the attention of Nigeria and the
world from the time the guns blasted Nigeria’s democracy to pieces
on January 15th
, 1966.
Another limitation to the study is that it does not provide a sufficient
basis for understanding the entire personality of the subject – Major
Emmanuel Ifeajuna. It is a study of the place and roles of Major
Ifeajuna in relation to a definite historical episode in Nigeria. Thus, the
study may not help those who are interested in unraveling in its
entirety the personality of the controversial historical character under
focus in this work. The study draws attention to aspects of the
subject’s personality which help to analyse the trends of Nigeria’s
politics between January 1966 – August 1967.
The study’s focus on a single character in the earth-shaking historical
events of our study period gives the impression that a mono-casual
factor in history is given an undue emphasis. It is a fact that Ifeajuna
was not the sole character, or even the major causative factor of the
coup of 1966 and the outbreak of the civil war in 1967. The
searchlight on Ifeajuna therefore goes to show and directs attention
to the extent major Ifeajuna shaped these events in which he
eventually lost his life, and/or how these events affected him.
This research makes use of a plethora of historical methodologies in
the bid to arrive at illuminating interpretations and conclusion.
First, the principal of content analysis is adopted. This involves a
rigorous examinations of the explicit and implicit contents of the
sources used. Although inferences and ‘educated guesses’ are not
ignored, no attempt is spared at drawing conclusions based on extent
Secondly, a cross fertilization and synthesis of sources is pertinent in
a study of this nature. The fundamental thesis can be summed up as
the quest for the truth about Emmanuel Ifeajuna’s place in the cloudy
period of Nigeria’s political history between January 1966 and August
1967. The antithesis is a cross-examination of the dissenting
positions on what Ifeajuna did, how and why he did it in relation to the
events of the period of study. The synthesis can be defined as the
conclusions drawn based on the available evidence.
The historical nature of this study necessities a narrative format which
is devoid of ideological or model-seeking paradigms. However,
information and interpretations from non-historical sources are
adopted and subjected to rigorous analyses.
A research of this nature inevitably involves extensive review
literature. This is because of a number of reasons. Every academic
study should aim at principally expanding intellectual horizons, and
this calls for seeking for and filling in the lacuna in the knowledge of
the subject under scrutiny. Thus, literature review is necessary.
Secondly, literature review for a subject of this nature involves a
search for sources and implicit dimensions and issues that bear on
this study.
The review of literature for this study cuts across primary and
secondary sources. Adewale Ademoyega’s Why We Strack1
is a
seminal work which extensively covers events in Nigeria’s history
within the period under study. The book provides an in- depth
background to understanding the events in which Major Emmanuel
Ifeajuna was deeply involved. Written by the sole survivor of the trio
who planned the January 15, 1966 coup – the others were Emmanuel
Ifeajuna and Chukwuma Nzeogwu – the book provides an insight into
the personality of Emmanuel Ifeajuna and his deeds or misdeeds in
the grim events leading to the first coup, during the actual coup itself,
as well as during the Mid-western invasion in the course of the civil
war. Indeed, the book is a key to unlocking the role of Ifeajuna in the
cloudy period of Nigeria’s history, in the course of which he lost his
The book portrays the involvement of the architects of the January
15, 1966, coup, including Emmanuel Ifeajuna. It idealizes the actions
of Ifeajuna in the Mid – Western invasion and the coup against the
Biafran Government for which he (Ifeajuna) was executed. However,
the book lacks objective interpretation of facts. Given that the writer
and the subject of this study were very close friends, intellectual
school mates, comrades – in – arms both in the Nigerian and Biafran
Military, co-coup plotters and co-detainees, the inability of
Ademoyega to reasonably distance himself is understandable.
However, the work is significant for the fundamental insights it
provides into the period under study. The book is not the biography of
Ifeajuna, but only provides information and assessment of what he
did in the course of Nigeria’s political history between January 1966 –
August 1967.
Ben Gubulie’s Nigeria’s Five Majors 2
is a short but gripping insider
account of the January 15, 1966 coup. Told from the perspective of
the writer who eagerly participated in the coup, under the command
of Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu, the book analyses the planning,
preparation, execution and failure of the coup. Thus, as a
fundamental, in –depth narrative of the antecedents of the coup in
which Ifeajuna was deeply involved, it makes an invaluable
contribution to our knowledge of the subject matter of our study.
But the book leaves a few lacunae on the intellectual frontier. The
writer was actually recruited into an already hatched plot, and was not
an insider, thus, he would not have known all the aspects of the plot
know certain dimension inevitably involving Ifeajuna, who was an
insider. Also the writer’s active role in the coup was in Kaduna under
Nzeogwu. It was only after the failure of the coup and subsequent
detention of the plotters that he could glean information about the
botched operation of the coup in Lagos, which was spearheaded by
Ifeajuna. Thus, his account about Ifeajuna in relation to the coup is
second-hand. Thirdly, the book unduly idealizes the plotters of the
first coup, including Ifeajuna. Finally, the book limits its scope to the
first coup of January 15, 1966.
However, the book is important as a fundamental text for appraising
Ifeajuna’s role in the planning, execution and failure of Nigeria’s first
Perhaps, One of the most significant primary source materials for this
research is Ifeajuna’s unpublished book3
. This manuscript, which is
untitled, has been copiously quoted by many scholars and writers of
the political crises that troubled Nigeria in the mid-1960s. The
manuscript has been confirmed as a work by Ifeajuna. It gives an
insight into the personality of Ifeajuna, his record of rebellion as a
student, and his role in and interpretation of the January 15, 1966
coup. As a source of fundamental information, it is invaluable.
But the work does not throw light on Ifeajuna’s role in the postJanuary 1966 political developments in Nigeria. Given his, intense
involvement in combat, his detention, his exile and subsequent
execution, this lacuma is understandable.
The book titled Nzeogwu 4
is a short biography of Major Chukwuma
Nzeogwu, one of the architects of the first coup, by his friend,
colleague and the former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun
Obasanjo. The book gives an insight into the personality, background
and upbringing of Nzeogwu. Since it inevitably discusses and
analyses the first Nigerian Military coup and its aftermath, it inevitably
pays attention to the place and role of Ifeajuna in these
developments. The book also gives some insight into Ifeajuna’s
The book, however, is principally about Nzeogwu, not Ifeajuna. Thus,
information and analysis about the latter are incidental to the writer’s
quest to analyse Nzeogwu’s place in Nigeria’s political history.
Ifeajuna’s involvement is highlighted only insofar as it illuminates
Nzeogwu’s role. The book clearly portrays Nzeogwu as the leader of
the first coup – a historical controversy which continues forty years
after the putsch.
Biafra War Revisited 5 written by Egbebelu Ugobelu is an account of
the war by a former Biafran soldier. It dwells on the background to
Nigeria’s political evolution and tensions and the conflicts between
1966 -1970. The writer is openly pro-Biafran in his approach and
analysis. Undoubtedly the writer shows a favourable disposition
towards Nigeria’s first military coup and its architects. But he is less
disposed to eulogizing the roles of key Biafran commanders (of which
Ifeajuna was one) in the invasion of the Mid-Western region by
Biafran forces.
The book does not provide in – depth information or interpretation of
Ifeajuna’s roles in these events. Although it dwells on the causative
factors in Nigeria’s first putsch and the subsequent civil war, it does
not dwell on the specific roles of key architects of these events (of
which Ifeajuna was one) .However, the book is significant because it
provides background information and a historical context for situating
the crises in which Ifeajuna featured prominently. It also provides a
clarification of the tribal? or ethnic nature of the conflicts that are said
to have characterized the first coup.
The Brothers’ War 6
by John de St. John is an in-depth, analytical and
voluminous account of the Nigerian civil war by a British journalist. It
pays attention to the causes, nature, course and conclusion of the
civil war in which Ifeajuna was involved.
However, the book does not give an in- depth analysis of the place
and roles of Ifeajuna in these momentous events. Perhaps where his
role comes close to being highlighted is in the section which deals
with the invasion of the Mid- Western region. Since the book is by no
means a biographical account or a history text, it is devoid of
historical interpretations. But it is a goldmine of information because
of its author’s objectivity and background information which helps to
contextualize Ifeajuna’s roles in the events under discussion.
Alexander Madiebo’s book titled, The Nigerian Revolution And The
Biafran War.
, is an eyewitness account of the momentous events
under scrutiny in this study. The book is seminal to this study
because the writer, a high ranking army officer on the Nigerian, and
later on the Biafran side, knew Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna well and
was able to interact with him in the course of the events in which
Ifeajuna was involved. The book provides an in – depth assessment
of the coups of 1966 and the Nigerian civil war. The account, is
sympathetic to the Biafran cause but the writer’s objectively,
painstaking attention to historical accuracy, and critical approach to
issues makes the book a goldmine in the quest to understand the
background to the events in which Ifeajuna played significant and
controversial part.
The book however is deficient in relation to this research in that it is
not, per se, a searchlight on Ifeajuna. Also, it does not highlight his
roles in the coup of January 15, 1966.
Robin Luckham’s The Nigerian Military: a Sociological Analysis of
Military and Revolt, 1960 – 1969 8 is a scholarly treatise on the
Nigerian military class within the years in which the momentous
events focused on by this study occurred. The well researched book
highlights the diverse philosophies, concepts, affinities and political
trends in which the Nigerian Army of that period, especially its officer
corps, was based. It provides a context in which the institution in
which Ifeajuna forged his career was moulded during the crises. The
book is also significant because it highlights the currents and forces
that moulded the revolutionary crop of army officers, to which Ifeajuna
But the book is a sociological study which does not take into account
historical contexts. The authors of the revolution which ushered in the
coup, including Ifeajuna and Nzeogwu, are presented here as
significant members of a class, not as individual architects of a radical
military action which altered the country‘s socio-political equilibrium.
The book does not also delve deeply into the civil war years in which
Ifeajuna was a significant actor. Per se, the book is not a study of the
major events in which Ifeajuna played major roles.
Although Oliver Ifeanyi Anyabolu’s Nigeria: Past to the Present: 500
B.C. to the Present9 is a slim overview of Nigeria’s history which
hardly paid attention to Ifeajuna’s role in the country first coup and the
civil war. It is important as a basic text for understanding the
background to the momentous events of Nigeria’s history. It also
highlights phases of the invasion of the Mid-West by Biafran forces.
Nowamaghe A. Omoigui’s The Midwest invasion of 1967: Lessons for
today’s geopolitics10 is a scholarly and in-depth analysis of the
invasion and brief occupation of Nigeria’s Mid-Western region by the
Biafran forces. It delves beyond mere military and strategic plans and
operations, and looks at the political implications of that episode of
the war. The account also pays attention to the human element and
component of the exercise – a significant aspect of historical study
which is often neglected or relegated in a work of this nature.
This study pays extensive attention to the place, roles and
implications of the actions and non-actions of Emmanuel Ifeajuna in
the invasion. It analyses Ifeajuna’s place in the invasion and
occupation of the region, and draws logical conclusions. Indeed, the
work provides an extensive background for situating the context of
events that finally cost Ifeajuna his life on September 22, 1967. It is a
goldmine of information, analysis and interpretation on the subject
But the work does not pay enough attention to the first two coups
which are an essential background to understanding the civil war.
The first military coup, for example is only cursorily mentioned and its
architects, including Ifeajuna, only came to the limelight in the context
of their roles in the invasion and occupation of the Mid- West by
Biafran forces.
The Prelude to the January 15, 1966 Coup11
, an account by
Nowanagbe A. Omoigui, is a concise analysis of the events leading
up to the first coup, the roles of the military and the ruling class,
relations between them prior to the coup, and the actual putsch. It
provides a background for understanding Ifeajuna’s role in the coup.
But the account does not pay sufficient attention to Ifeajuna as an
individual architect of the coup.
Seminal to this research are interviews conducted by News Watch
Magazine12 with Chukwuemeka Odumegwu – Ojukwu, Biafran’s
Head of State, in September and October 1992. These interviews
are a gold mine of first hand information for many reasons. First, the
interviewee is an active participant in all the events in which Ifeajuna
was involved. He provides perspective and illuminations on the
events of the period. The interviews are also significant, given that
Ojukwu had a personal relationship with Ifeajuna, outside official and
military connections. Perhaps more poignant is the fact that Ojukwu
signed Ifeajuna’s death warrant. Ojukwu, in his capacity as the
commander of the fifth Battalion, Kano, played no small role in
crushing the January 15, 1966 coup. Thus, the interviews are
important because of the illuminations they provide on a personal
level. Perhaps, much more important is the fact that as the head of
the secessionist government of Biafra, Ojukwu provides a context for
understanding the momentous events of the period under study. The
interviews also go beyond Ifeajuna as a person and seek to provide
an understanding of the context in which he did what he did. The
interviews also provide a basis for ascribing the leadership of the
January 15, 1966 coup to Emmanuel Ifeajuna, which is a
controversial historical argument.
The outcome of the interviews, though significant remain the views
and perspectives of one man, Ojukwu, who was, indeed, a very
significant actor in these events. The perspective provides an
illumination on Ifeajuna’s roles which are not conventional. But
Odumegwu Ojukwu cannot be and indeed may not be, privy to every
aspect of the political and social milieu in which Ifeajuna was
moulded. Also, one cannot ignore the historical realities of oral
sources used in this study in relation to human bias and prejudice
particularly in relation to the allegation that Ifeajuna was involved in a
coup plot to over throw Ojukwu’s government.
Fredrick Forsyth’s Emeka13 is a short biography of Chukwuemeka
Odumegwu-Ojukwu but it is important to this study for a number of
reasons. The writer provides a critical perspective to Ifeajuna’s role in
the Mid-Western invasion. Though the account briefly portrays
Ifeajuna in an unflattering light, it helps to show the context in which
he (Ifeajuna) was either eulogized or demonized by students of the
events under focus in this study.
(1.) Olusegun Obasanjo Nzeogwu (Ibadan. Spectrum Publishers, 1987)
(2.) Robin Luckham, The Nigerian Military: A Sociological Analysis Of
Military and Revolt, 1960 – 69. (Cambridge Cambridge University
Press) 1988; p.32.
(3.) Adewale Ademoyega, Why We Struck: The Story of Nigeria’s first
military coup (Ibadan: Evans Publishers, 1981).
(4.) Ben Gubulie, Nigeria’s Five Majors (Onitsha: Africana – FEP
Publishers, 1981)
(5.) Ifeajuna’s unpublished manuscript, as quoted in Nzeogwu
(Obasanjo) and The Brother’s War by John de St. Jorre.
(6.) Olusegun Obasanjo, Nzeogwu (Op.cit p.30, 1987).
(7.) Egbebelu Ugobelu, Biafra War Revisited (Spartanburg, USA:
Obiesili Publishing Company, 1994).
(8.) John de. St Jorre, The Brothers’ War (Boston, USA: Houghton
Mifflin Company, 1972).
(9.) Alexander Madiebo, The Nigerian Revolution and the Biafran
War(Enugu: Fourth Dimension Publishers, 1980).
(10.) Robin Luckham, The Nigerian Military: a Sociological Analysis of
Military and Revolt, 1960-69. (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1971).
(11.) Oliver Ifeanyi, Anyabolu, Nigeria Past to Present: 500 B.C to the
Present (Enugu: Classic Publishing Company, 2000).
(12.) Nowamagbe A. Omorigui, The Midwestern Inasion of 1967:
Lessons for Today’s Geopolitics. www.dawodunet.october 3,
(13.) Nowamagbe A, Omoigui, The Prelude. Bloody Coup of January
1966. Delta/Nigeria_facts/Miitary Rule.
June 24, 2002.
(14.) Emeka Ojukwu, Interviews with Newswatch Magazine,
September 28 and October, 1992.
(15.) 13. Fredrick Forsyth, Emeka (Ibadan: Sepectrum Publishers,


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