, 12 tweets, 3 min read
“Exercise Damisa”

On the 15th of January 1966, the Nigerian army led by Major Patrick Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, carried out the first military coup in Nigeria. They attacked the cities of Lagos, Ibadan, and Kaduna as well as blockaded the Niger and Benue Rivers.
The military accused the politicians of corruption. In Nzeogwu’s words:"We wanted to get rid of rotten and corrupt ministers….We wanted to gun down the bigwigs our way."
In the weeks leading up to January 15th, Nzeogwu often took his troops on a night-time “training exercise” known as “Exercise Damisa”. Some of the men were unaware that the military exercise they were participating in, was actually a practice run for a military coup to
overthrow the Government. The commander of the 2nd Brigade in Kaduna; Brigadier Ademulegun, was unhappy with the night time training when he noticed that the soldiers had been going close to (the Northern region Premier: the Sardauna of Sokoto) Ahmadu Bello’s Lodge.
Ademulegun reprimanded Nzeogwu and warned him to keep his military exercises away from the Premier’s lodge. But took no further action as he was unaware of Exercise Damisa’s real purpose.
In the early hours of Jan 15 1966, Nzeogwu turned “Exercise Damisa” into a military coup.
He led a group of soldiers into a bush adjacent to the Premier’s lodge. There, he informed the men of their real mission: they were to attack the Premier’s lodge.
They stormed the Premier’s lodge and Nzeogwu personally conducted a search, found Bello and shot him.
The Lagos branch of the coup was led by Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna.  He was an international athlete who held the commonwealth high jumping record. Ifeajuna was assisted in Lagos by Majors Wale Ademoyega, Don Okafor, Chris Anuforo and Humphrey Chukwuka.
At around 2am, Ifeajuna and his troops stormed Prime Minister Abubakar Tafewa Balewa’s residence and arrested him. The Prime Minister was killed when it became obvious that the coup was going to fail.

In Ibadan, the Premier of the western region; Chief Samuel Akintola, was
attacked and killed by Captain Emmanuel Nwobosi and his men. But, President Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo survived.

Thus, General Johnson Aguiyi Ironsi took over power and arrested the coup plotters.
Although the 1966 coup was not completely successful, it laid the foundation for the issues we currently face in the country as it was tagged an 'Igbo Coup'.

After 6 months, a counter-coup was arranged; 'the return match' and was planned by northern Nigerian soldiers.
Aguiyi-Ironsi was killed and Gowon became the Head of state.
Many Igbo civilians and soldiers were also killed in the Northern parts of the country.
This made thousands of Igbos move to the south-east and in 1967, Ojukwu declared Biafra.
After the meeting at Aburi, Gowon went back on his words and this led to the Nigeria - Biafra civil war that lasted for 3 years.

Millions of lives were lost.
#NigeriaAt59 #IndependenceDay #October1st #Nigeria #naijaat59
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