THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MAJOR CHUKWUMA KADUNA NZEOGWU, 1937-1967

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MAJOR CHUKWUMA KADUNA NZEOGWU, 1937-1967

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ABSTRACT

The Life and Times of Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu have been viewed with mixed feelings among military officials, politicians and Nigerian citizens. There is no clear picture of what the major really stood for, his source of motivation, what his personality says about him and his ideology. The study of the life and times of Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu exposes the life of a great man who achieved greatness through hard work, patience and perseverance. This work studied his genealogy, birth, education and his military career he pursued in a bid to attain greatness. This work enjoins the youth of this generation to toe the line of hard work as was seen in the life of Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, rather than living in with the ‘if you cannot beat them, join them’ mentality eating deep in Nigeria. The controversies surrounding Major Nzeogwu from his birth, family background, education, military experience and his view on the January 15, 1966 coup, including why it failed will be widely discussed in this work. This work also tells us how Major Nzeogwu was seen by his friends and enemies, his principles, his rules and his life style and how his presence changed the army either positively or negatively. The use of oral interviews and text books will be used to attain accuracy. Finally, the soul of this work is to critically examine the life of one of Nigerian’s most controversial military officer. We will be able to know if he was a hero to the people or a failure. The qualitative methodology has been injected into this work for a more detailed and accurate analysis.

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background to the Study:

Major Kaduna Chukwuma Nzeogwu was born in the Northern Region’s capital of Kaduna in 1937 to Igbo parentage from the mid-western region-Okpanam town, near Asaba in the present Anioma Local Government Area, Delta State into a Catholic home. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Nzeogwu were Catholics to the marrow. It is important to note here that Anioma or derogatorily referred to as “Bendel Igbo” from Middle-Western Nigeria[i]. Growing up as a child, Chukwuma had all he wanted. He lived a comfortable life devoid of sickness or disease. He was fluent in Pidgin English, Igbo and Hausa languages. One good attribute to him, he never forgot his friends, especially those who were not as privileged as he. He loved his mother so much that he would do anything to protect her. According to Engr. Ephraim Okafor, Major Nzeogwu was not a fan of outdoor games, rather he preferred jogging. He loved reading, playing indoor games and listening to music. He loved classical music, although he enjoyed jazz and symphonies, but his overall best was military music. He hated pop sounds because he termed them unorganized noise. Major Nzeogwu loved having visitors in his house.[ii]

He was very practical and realistic; he was inquisitive too. Chukwuma was a good observer; he knew his limits, when to joke excessively with his friends and when to be serious. He loved hanging around athletic, rugged and independent minded people. Nzeogwu hated people who cringed or curried favors to achieve a task[iii].

Chukwuma joined the Nigerian army in March 1957, when it was still colonial, but was to be controlled financially by the Nigerian Government by1958. He was so stubborn and also a rebel. His military knowledge was not extensive; Major Nzeogwu was loved and respected by his men. He was loyal to his superiors both Nigerians and British. His ability to stand up for justice for his men was an outstanding quality despite the fact that his actions might anger his superiors. He saw Nigeria as a pawn of the capitalist Western world.[iv]He was known for frequently using certain words such as; courage, propriety, honor and justice. The image of Major Kaduna Nzeogwu has been surrounded by controversies among politicians, military officers and civilians. This work will unravel the mysteries behind these controversies by looking into his early life so as to point out the basic factors that formed his ideology. It could be religious, political, but this work will explain how his environment fostered his ideology.   

Kaduna Nzeogwu‘s early life and education may have affected him either positively or negatively and may have led to the formation of his personality. In an interview with Mrs. Stella Osuji, a nurse, on child psychology and its effects on the brain, almost 99.9% of every Nigerian child tends to develop the body system, most especially the brain to adapt to the environment.[v] Chukwuma Nzeogwu was born during the colonial period, and he witnessed the evils that came with colonialism. He was also born into a Catholic family, and he spent most of his time fighting against corruption and inequality in school. Could these have led to the formation of his ideology? This work is set to unveil that. Back in Teshi, Ghana and Sandhurst, young Chukwuma was taught the life of competition, where he had to struggle hard or lose and Chukwuma was not a fan of losing. Although he tried to stand up for hi rights and that of his friends, but his actions cost him some opportunities. Chukwuma who was outspoken and who could not withstand injustice, was made to assimilate all his vices. Could this be the reason for the way he turned out?

The life of the major will be significantly discussed in this work, how his ideologies were formed, his personality and how it affected the Nigerian state and the coup, Nzeogwu had in mind a country where justice and peace would prevail, where equality would be respected, no gap between the rich and the poor and tribalism would be the wealth of a state. That country was not Nigeria. Nzeogwu lived in Nigeria when people had to bend to evil to survive, where the rich got richer and the poor, poorer. This work will look at Nzeogwu’s views on nationalism, governance, and his reasons for the coup. A comparative analysis will be induced to weigh the level of stability in Nigeria before the coup and after the coup, to see if Nzeogwu’s ideology of the coup was actually the case even after the coup. 

1.2 Statement of Problem:

 The life of Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu has been viewed with mixed feelings among military officers, politicians and Nigerian citizens. While some view him as a hero whose personality, equity, fact and courage salvaged the Nigerian unity and greatness, others see him as a tribalist whose hatred for a segment of the country and section truncated Nigeria’s first republic.

            This work strengthens out the facts about the nature of his personality which animated his actions. Men are products of their ideologies and ideologies are fostered by time and environment. It is worthy to note that Nzeogwu lived in the time and the Nigerian environment where ethnic nationality, not competence, defined who got what. His courage in planning as well wielding people and like minds from different parts of the country into salvaging the Nigerian problem and setting the country on the part of greatness. This work seeks to answer among other questions, Nzeogwu’s views about

a.       Nationality

b.      Governance

c.       The Military

d.      The 1966 Revolution

e.       The Nigerian State

1.3 Purpose of Study:

‘The Life and Times of Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu’ will help ward off ignorance. To those who think of the Major either as a devil or as an angel will at the end of this work decide on their next line of thought. ‘The Life and Times of Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu’ intends to tell a story about a man who took it upon himself to fight for the sake of his people, to go against his moral standards. This work sends a message to the readers and those ignorant of Major Nzeogwu to know what the major stood for, his background, his principles, his ideologies and his personality and how they all formed the man Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu.

1.4 Significance of Study:

            Nigerians are yet to understand the personality of Major Nzeogwu. They have been blind folded by his role in the 1966 coup, thereby deviating from the main subject and portraying the major as a tribalist. This research work seeks to remove the fish scale from the eyes of Nigerians to see the real      Nzeogwu. This works seeks to look into the life and times of Major Nzeogwu and to point out how his environment really shaped his personality.

            This work categorically seeks to discuss Major Nzeogwu’s views, and how they reshaped the political structure of Nigeria. A deep analysis of the major’s early life, family background, education and military training will be carried out to get a detailed account of how his environment formed his ideology in relation to how it affected the Nigerian State. To the final consumers of this project, they will be able to see how Major Nzeogwu’s ideology and personality helped salvage Nigerians from the shackles of doom. This work will significantly show if the main reasons for the coup are still in existence or not.

1.5 Scope of Study:

Major Nzeogwu is a legend who sacrificed his life in the struggle for justice. He was loved by some and hated by others. This study dates from 1937 his birth to 1967 his death.

1.6 Methodology, Sources and Organization:

The use of qualitative methodology will enable an accurate and detailed understanding of the life and times of the Major. Stories told by his colleagues will go a long way in getting a clear image. Sticking to stories told by his friends alone will not portray a clear image, but by his enemies also. The methodology used here will help get a balanced work of both his good and bad side.

The use of primary and secondary sources will be the foundation of this work. Primary sources include those who were close enough to the major in the army, those that worked with him and those that fought against him. Secondary sources include research works already done on him, text books written and published on him, and images gotten from the internet.

Chapter one will give us an insight of the whole research, introducing the work, stating clearly the significance, scope, statement of problem of the work and also researchers who have researched on the major. Chapter two will usher us into the early life of the major; his parents, place of birth, and his education. Chapter three will discuss in detail his military career and chapter four will cover the image of the major, at what point the coup became inevitable, the role of the major in the 1966 coup and the aftermath of the coup. Chapter five will summarize the research work, giving the final reasons and in conclusion, ways to avoid a future occurrence of another coup.

1.7 Limitations

The actualization of this work did not come on a platter of gold, rather there were landmines, if not carefully traded on, would have lead to a huge explosion. It was difficult gathering materials at first but at the end things went according to plan.

            I met my first obstacle in Enugu, when I went to gather materials in the archives. I was locked out on the grounds that I am not of age to handle materials on Nzeogwu and his views on the coup and the war.  Second, nobody was willing to talk to me. From my own conclusion, they were afraid of something, like someone was monitoring them, to hunt them down for telling their own side of the story. Third, I was running out of finance as I had to buy drinks for those willing to talk, to keep the interview going.

            The final blow that made me come close to one of the mines, those who accepted to talk were afraid of mentioning their names. However, they gave me their titles and first names and refused to include their last names.

1.8 Literature Review:

Many research works have been carried out by scholars on the life of Major Nzeogwu and his role in the 1966 coup. Many writers have written either against or for Major Nzeogwu, and they all have a similar understanding of the Major. Although some authors have mentioned the major in passing, this research work will discuss in detail the early life and times of Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, how his environment shaped his ideology and personality in relation to the January 15th, 1966 coup.

First among these authors who have researched on the major includes a former president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who was a close friend to the major, Olusegun Obasanjo. Obasanjo described the Major as idealistic, inquisitive, precocious, and stubborn. Judging by Obasanjo’s book, Nzeogwu, Major Nzeogwu, from the early stage in his life wanted to know something about everything. Nzeogwu would ask his teachers endless questions and would end up trying to be like his teachers. Nzeogwu mapped out standards for himself to guide his life style. He stood up against injustice and favoritism, Nzeogwu was stubborn to a fault. Obasanjo failed to trace how Nzeogwu’s ideology played a part in the formation of his personality and that is what this work seeks to show.

Also, Major Adewale Ademoyega in his book Why We Struck, the story of the first Nigerian coup, portrayed Major Nzeogwu as a man after the people’s hearts, he said;

‘Nzeogwu was a good leader of men. The same could not be said of 90% of the officers. He drew the younger officers irresistibly to himself, endeavoring always to awaken in them both political and revolutionary consciousness and above all, patriotism. He spoke amusingly and all the young officers that had passed through his hands in the NMTC cherished and held him in high esteem’. [vi]

Ademoyega cantered more on Nzeogwu’s personality and the ideology of the coup but failed to tr





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