REMEMBERING MAJOR GENERAL J. T. U. AGUIYI-IRONSI WHO WAS ASSASSINATED FIFTY-TWO YEARS AGO BY NORTHERN SOLDIERS LED BY THEOPHILUS DANJUMA AND MUHAMMADU BUHARI.
Today, Biafrans all over the world remember the late Major General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi who was assassinated in the early hours of July 29, 1966, by a group of Northern soldiers led by the then Major Theophilus Danjuma and Lieutenant Muhammadu Buhari. The Northern soldiers carried out their dastardly act in response to an earlier coup in January 15th of same year by another group of soldiers drawn from both the Northern and Southern parts of Nigeria, which resulted in the death of prominent Nigerians such as Felix Okotie-Eboh, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Ahmadu Bello, Samuel Ladoke Akintola, Ahmed Ben Musa, Brig. Samuel Ademulegun, Brig. Zakariya Maimalari, Col. Ralph Shodeinde, Lt. Col. Arthur Unegbe, and others. Although the majority of the January 15th coup plotters were non-Igbos, it was still dubbed an “Igbo coup” which then gave rise to the July 29th counter-coup in which 100% of the coup plotters were from Northern Nigeria including the current president of Nigeria, Retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari.
“Johnny” as he was fondly called by his wife, Victoria Aguiyi-Ironsi, hails from Umuana village in Ndume community of Ibeku clan in Umuahia, Biafraland. Johnny was born on March 3, 1924, and at the age of 18 joined the Nigerian Army at the rank of a Private. Because of his outstanding performance, Johnny was promoted to the rank of company Sergeant within four years of enlisting in the Army. Between 1946 and 1949, Aguiyi-Ironsi completed an officer training course at Staff College, Camberley England and was promoted to a Second Lieutenant of the Royal West African Frontier Force. From promotion to the rank of Captain in 1953, Aguiyi-Ironsi became a Major in 1955, and a Lieutenant Colonel in 1960 and the Commandant of the Fifth Battalion in Kano. It was at this point that he led the Nigerian contingent of the United Nations (UN) peace-keeping Force in the then Congo and in 1964 became the overall commandant of the entire UN Forces in Congo.
Having completed advanced courses at the Imperial Defence College, Seaford House, Belgrave Square, Johnny was promoted to Brigadier and later Major General in 1965. With the retirement of Major General Christopher B. Welby-Everard, Aguiyi-Ironsi became the General Officer Commanding (GOC), Nigerian Army, thus being the first indigene to head the entire Nigerian Army.
After the failed coup of January 15, 1966, and with the attendant confusions, the civilian government handed over power to the Nigerian military and on the 17th of January 1966, Major General J. T. U. Aguiyi-Ironsi became the military head of state of Nigeria. Six months later, he was assassinated at Government House Ibadan (now the capital of Oyo state) by Major Theophilus Danjuma and his fellow Northern soldiers prominent among whom was Lieutenant Muhammadu Buhari who traveled from his military post at 2 Brigade in Lagos to Ibadan to kill his Commander-in-Chief. Johnny died, leaving his adorable wife and First Lady, Victoria Aguiyi-Ironsi from Ohokobo-Afara Umuahia-Ibeku, as well as eight children.
Today, Biafrans all over the world remember their illustrious son who was murdered in his prime by Northern soldiers in a revenge for a hoax and non-existent “Igbo coup.” It is instructive that many of those who carried out the dastardly act were also assassinated or executed later in their military careers and those still alive are either in a vegetative state or their communities are facing ethnoreligious cleansing such as is the case with the leader of the 1966 soldier-assassins, Retired Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma.
Biafrans will also not forget over 40 high-ranking Army Officers of Biafran extraction who were massacred between July 29 and September 30, 1966, at the orders of Theophilus Danjuma and Yakubu Gowon. We also remember more than 200 rank-and-file soldiers from Biafraland murdered, between July and August in 1966, by the rampaging Northern soldiers at the various Army formations in Nigeria.
We console the families of our dead heroes and we make a solemn declaration and promise that their death will never be in vain because we know that they were murdered for the simple fact that they were Biafrans. Hence, we shall restore the nation of Biafra to the disappointment and chagrin of these Northern assassins in military uniforms. Indeed, Biafra shall be restored and our dead heroes shall forever be remembered.
May the soul of Major General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi and the souls of all the dead soldiers of Biafran extraction rest in the bosom of Chukwu Okike Abiama, Iseeeeeee! Iseeeeeee!! Iseeeeeee!!