Nigeria on July 29, 1966, experienced what
is today referred to as one of the bloodiest
military coup d’etat in Africa.
The first military coup which took place on
January 15, 1966, took the lives of many
northern leaders, It also generated
controversies which many expected General
Aguiyi Ironsi to address but he didn’t.
Ironsi instead promulgated Decree Number
34 of 1966, which abrogated the federal
system of government and substituted a
unitary system; he argued that the military
could only govern in this way. Given the
already charged atmosphere, this action
reinforced northern fears. It was at the
height of northern opposition to Unitarian State that the counter coup of July 1966 took place.
The 1966 Nigerian coup d’état began on
January 15, 1966 when mutinous Nigerian
soldiers led by Kaduna Nzeogwu assassinated 11 senior Nigerian politicians and two soldiers as well as kidnapping three others.
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.
A senior Army officer, General Johnson
Aguiyi-Ironsi then used the coup as a pretext
to annex power, ending Nigeria’s nascent
Here are 10 things you should know about
1. The coup is a fall out of the January 1966
coup which was championed by Easterners
and led to the death of many northern
2. The coup is widely called the 1966
counter coup or July Rematch.
3. It was masterminded by Lt Colonel
Murtala Muhammed and many northern
4. 2nd Lieutenant Sani Abacha, Lieutenant
Colonel Murtala Muhammed, Major
Theophilus Danjuma, Lieutenant Buka Suka
Dimka, Lieutenant Ibrahim Babangida were
part of the coup plotters.
5. President Muhammadu Buhari who was a
Lieutenant at 2 Brigade Lagos was also
named among the plotters.
6. 42 officers from Eastern Nigeria, more
than a hundred non-commissioned officers
and thousands of innocent civilians mostly
of Eastern Nigeria origin lost their lives as a
consequence of this coup.
7. Upon the termination of Ironsi’s
government, Lt Colonel Yakubu Gowon was
appointed Head of State by the July 1966
8. It was one of the events that led to the
Nigerian Civil War.
9. 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
10. In the early hours on January 15, 1966
Nzeogwu decided to turn “Exercise Damisa”
into a full blown military coup.