AN ASSESSMENT OF THE PLACE OF MAJOR EMMANUEL IFEAJUNA IN NIGERIA’S SOCIO-POLITICAL HISTORY BETWEEN JANUARY 1966 – AUGUST, 1967

AN ASSESSMENT OF THE PLACE OF MAJOR EMMANUEL IFEAJUNA IN NIGERIA’S SOCIO-POLITICAL HISTORY BETWEEN JANUARY 1966 – AUGUST, 1967

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PREFACE

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.

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1    ABSTRACT

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 re-examination 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.


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1.2       STATEMENT OF PROBLEM

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 Ifeajuna.

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


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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.

1.3    PURPOSE/NEED FOR THE STUDY

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.


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1.4       SCOPE AND LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY

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


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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.

1.5       METHODOLOGY /SOURCES/ORGANIZATION OF THE WORK

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 evidence.

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.


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LITERATURE REVIEW

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 life.

The book portrays the involvement of the architects of the January 15, 1966, coup, including Emmanuel Ifeajuna. It idealizes the actions


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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


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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 putsch.

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


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