Emmanuel Ifeajuna: Erased from Nigerian History

Interesting articles on how Emmanuel Ifeajuna (the first black African to win a Commonwealth Games gold medal in high jumping) has been erased from Nigeria’s history due to his involvement in the January 15, 1966 coup and civil war in Nigeria.






21 responses


    1. Abdulsalam never staged a coup.

      1. I agree with the removal of the names of all coupists as labels for street names, names of airports, universities etc. Yes, they shouldn’t be honored. But we should do the same for all other VIP rogues, civilian or military. I say this because the thieves continue to thrive and they continue to be honored with national awards, chieftaincy titles, honorary PhDs, etc. Let’s also be sure that when the fraudulent honorees are our friends, members of our ethnic groups, family members, etc. we will complain just as vehemently.

        However, I don’t believe the names of coupists or other figures should be removed from “national records.” That would be similar to distorting history. Historical records must be preserved with the good and bad. We can’t trash WWII, the transatlantic slave trade, Hitler, Idi Amin or Nigeria’s War. There’s something to learn from the good and bad.

        1. Phillip, if we started removing street/monument names on that basis, we’d have to rename most streets and places in all 36 states!

          1. Hm…I guess, except for those not named after people, and there are quite a few. But it might be worth the try…if we are going to stop honoring our VIP crooks….

          2. that’s will nt be too hard class 6 children can come up wth 36 names of real people

        2. Good talk, lots of lessons to be learnt.

  2. I don’t think Ifeajuna has been erased from Nigerian history because of his involvement in the first coup and civil war. He is actually still cited in a significant number of publications. Also, he hardly took part in the civil war as he was executed in Enugu before he could fully immerse himself in it. His stigmatization, if that’s what it is, mainly came from his participation in an alleged rebellion against Ojukwu along with Victor Banjo, Philip Alale and Sam Agbam. While he was a villain in the eyes of northerners and a number of people from non-Igbo ethnicities, he was still largely revered in the East (mainly by Ibos) until he was charged with co-participating in the alleged insurrection against Ojukwu and the Government of Biafra. When this happened, he became an all-round villain, as he fell from grace among his own people. To this day, the name, Ifeajuna, remains something of an anathema in Nigeria while other first-coup plotters from the East are at least widely exonerated (if not venerated) by Ibos and a significant number of non-Ibos. I even met one of Ifeajuna’s sons who refuses to use “Ifeajuna” as his last name but uses his middle name, “Arinze.”

    1. Thanks for the detailed reply Phillip. As for Ifeajuna maintaining some veneration in the east among Igbos, what about the derogatory civil war song sung by Igbos which described Ifeajuna as a sell out? He seems to be unique (among January 66 coup plotters) for being disliked by northerners AND Igbos alike.

      1. Hi Max. I don’t think Ifeajuna would have been denigrated in the song if he wasn’t ultimately touted as one who tried to overthrow Ojukwu along with others mentioned in my previous post. The war had begun, but he didn’t have a chance to play any extensive role in it. Before then, he wasn’t particularly disliked by the Ibos (Igbos?). So, it is more likely his alleged betrayal of Biafra (I guess you can call it his role in the infant state) that caused his being widely detested. It should be remembered that Njoku (who also fell out with Ojukwu and was imprisoned most of the war) was periodically castigated in the same song. Up until he (Njoku) fell out with Ojukwu, he also wasn’t disliked by the Ibos. I guess the real truth behind these men being cited as enemies of Biafra and/or Ojukwu is what hasn’t quite yet unfolded.

        1. You are right re the song. It refers to Ifeajuna selling out the Biafran cause. Ojukwu’s falling out with Ifeajuna, Banjo, Njoku, Alale and others is testament to the sort of challenges Biafra would have faced had it managed to succeed. Before long Ojukwu would have faced a coup from within, and would have had to become increasingly authoritarian in order to stay in power.

          1. Bingo…which probably explains why some of those closest to him were civilians. They were not likely to overthrow him. Njoku (who lived across from us in Enugu) disagreed with him staunchly, at best, for which there was little or no room. Njoku eventually resigned his position as Army Commander and could have been let go. But, considered a threat, he was detained through most of the war. I remember Uncle Hillary to be a very jovial even if gentle officer. One can understand Ojukwu’s apprehensions, being that the sense of trust and camaraderie within the military had been terribly tainted at this point. It is ironic that there has hardly ever been serious reassessment of, or search for comprehensive, valid documentation on the truth behind the executions of Ifeajuna and others, as well as Njoku’s imprisonment. If justice is truly at the core of Biafra’s creation, these issues must be readdressed extensively…especially by those who currently showcase themselves as global Biafran emissaries.

            1. Phillip, seniority and camaraderie was badly disrupted by the two 1966 coups and army officers no longer trusted each other. Also, Ojukwu was threatened by the presence of men like Njoku who held the same rank as him and who were actually senior to him in the Nigerian army. For his part Njoku did not enjoy taking orders from someone he regarded as a junior officer. Have you read Nelson Ottah’s “Rebs Against Rebels” on the execution of Banjo, Ifeajuna, Alale?

              1. I agree with your points here, including the fact that Njoku was actually senior to Ojukwu militarily. Interesting, since Ojukwu had a problem accepting Gowon as his superior. I wonder what the yardsticks were for appointing the Governor of the East by Ironsi (when there were the likes of Njoku). No, I haven’t read Ottah’s work. How can I access it?

                1. If mental capacity and intellect were the barometers that Ironsi used to appoint Military Governors, then there was no better candidate than Ojukwu for the east. Appointing more senior officers like Imo and Njoku would have removed experienced commanders from operational command in the army. Hassan Katsina was an astute choice for the north since the north “knew” him (an Emir’s son). The Ottah book is out of print (like most books on Nigerian history!). Perhaps try a good university library.

                  1. Very interesting, thought-provoking comment regarding Ojukwu’s intellect. These days that doesn’t seem to matter much. I think the importance of this attribute was best demonstrated in his handling of issues at Aburi. Moving forward, I wonder if other attributes would have come in handy. I’ll check for the book at some university libraries, perhaps beginning with my institution, the University of Maryland University College.

                    1. Moving forward, Ojukwu’s intolerance of opposition and autocratic style would have caused problems.

    2. Nice talk philip.

  3. I think it may have already begun to stir problems, going by the writings of people like Madiebo, Njoku, N.U. Akpan, Efiong and, of course, the actions of those who may have attempted to rebel against him.

    1. After August 1966, Ojukwu was not willing to take orders from anyone who was not a full Colonel or Brigadier in the pre-coup Nigerian army.

      1. Interesting…but also explains, at least in part, his issues with Gowon.

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