The Nzeogwu and Ademoyega I Knew – #Nigeria

My beautiful picture

Adewale Ademoyega


Someone who knew Majors Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu and Adewale Ademoyega well during their days in Kaduna, Nigeria, in the 1960s sent asked me to post the photo of Ademoyega above and the article below. I will not add to or subtract from the text, except to say that the writer was well acquainted with, and knew both men well.

I have pasted the text verbatim below without any editing.

By Kate Rosentreter


The fifty-year anniversary of the January 1966 coup seems an appropriate time to share a photo of Adewale Ademoyega. During the two years I taught school at the Government College Kaduna, Tim Carroll and I (both serving as Peace Corps volunteers) had the unique experience of befriending two intelligent and delightful army officers: Adewale (Wale) Ademoyega and Chukwuma (Chick) Kaduna Nzeogwu. When Wale learned I was teaching Nigerian History, he suggested a book he’d authored, The Federation of Nigeria, might provide a more balanced view of Nigeria’s history than the British text in use at the time. The book sparked interesting and spirited conversations with Wale and eventually led to a treasured friendship.

On 15 January 1966, I could not fathom the violence perpetrated by a group of Nigeria’s army majors, especially in the North where I’d lived. Nor could I imagine how later in the same year, there were Nigerians capable of the carnage visited upon Igbo civilians living in the North. That said, Wale’s involvement in the first of those events, Nigeria’s first coup, continues to haunt me and causes me to reflect again and again upon the goals he and the other majors espoused.

The Adewale I knew was a Nigerian first and foremost. He never indicated he favored the Igbo, the Yoruba, the Hausa, or any other ethnic group over another, and I firmly believe he would not have knowingly allied himself with those who did. He regularly expressed concern about how little the government was doing to promote economic prosperity, better living conditions, and universal education, and used his free time to research rumors of corruption within the government.

In retrospect, I remind myself that in the 1960’s the United States was locked in conflict with the Soviet Union. At that time it would have been difficult for me and others to support the socialist society Wale described in his book, Why We Struck. However, as I observe the problems facing Nigeria today and the trend of governments in Europe, Canada and the United States toward democratic socialism, I wonder if some of the economic and social plans the majors envisioned for Nigeria may have been well ahead of their time.




17 responses

  1. Thanks, Max, for posting this. I was also a Peace Corps volunteer, though in Lagos, and by the time of the first coup was married to my Igbo husband. I appreciate Kate’s perspective.

  2. Max, thanks for posting this. The write up seems to be incomplete

  3. Horace Millar-Jaja | Reply

    A Nice write up from Kate, who had insight and friendship out side the scope of the military lives of these two officers.

  4. The first coup in nigeria was mostly influenced by foreign intelligence agencies french intelligence & mossad because tarfewa balewa was against creation of israel.

  5. Hello Catherine. I did not actually realise you were a Peace Corps volunteer too. Would be great to get your perspective too since you were based in Nigeria at the time (in a different city to Kate).

    Horace, yes Kate has a marvellous memory and her recollection of the events and personalities is fluid even though lots of time has elapsed.

  6. African states always has foreign masters & influence she has been divided between western imperialist & communist east bloc,for example niger delta was trained by russia because she has no oil company in the region, while france has hand in boko haram, because she helped cameroun with vital secret in bakkassi peninsular hence elf & cgg was expelled, boko haram has no sea port or airport how do they get their military hardwares & training?

  7. Kate Rosentreter | Reply

    Dafe, In regard to your first post: you connect the coup to Sir Ahmadu Bello and Israel. That is a coup theory I’ve not heard before. I’m not Jewish so perhaps I was not paying attention way back then. I have read Bello’s book: My Life, and I recall no mention of Israel there. Nor did Adewale ever bring it up.

  8. Dafe, those are interesting claims. Do you have any evidence of the involvement of foreign intelligence agencies?

    As for your observations about insurgents in the north getting weapons even though they are not near an airport or coastal water, are you aware that the Sahel region has been awash with weapons since the fall of Gaddafi in Libya? This is an unstable region where many countries have experienced insecurity and insurgency.

  9. After france tested her nuclear bomb in the sahara desert tafewa balewa publicly condemned the act,which france never took lightly that was why france backed secession of biafra french mercenaries actively involved,as for foreign intelligence services kaduna nzeogu did not act alone without their help he was debriefed by a mossad agent posing as catholic priest twice, boko haram got most her weapon from libya yes agreed that’s many years ago they must have ran out supplies,they wont go to libya to get fuel food money & munition with the multi national joint task force all the borders are strictly monitored why is it you still much bombing than antisipated?

    1. Dafe, you have evidence that Nzeogwu was “briefed” by foreign intelligence agents?

    2. It has become common for Africans to blame external/foreign influence on their predicaments, this is not to say that there are no external influence in some cases, but I beg to differ, what external influence caused “operation wet i e” and all the riots in the then Western region even before the coup? Nigerians need to look at causative factors, not just some factors, sometimes however external influence take advantage of an existing situation, but to say that an external influence was the root of Nigeria’s problems is as African as it gets…this is the same way we point fingers at ourselves since independence. Another question is was it external influence that Jailed Awolowo? Was it external influence that made Balewa to strategically appoint Northerners into leadership positions of the military? By the way, Buhari is has just done the same recently, same ideology 50+ years later! If people that are very passionate about Nigeria shows up again, they will say it’s external influence!

      In summary, no external influence is as strong as tribalism and nepotism, these are the seeds upon which any ‘influencer’, be it external or internal, mount it’s agenda. To blame external influence is to say that Africans lack self direction or ability to orchestrate their own fate. If an external influence came through you and used you for any agenda, then you’re the weak link in the African state, I will blame you and not the external influence. To point the finger out to an external influence is to deny responsibility, it’s a way to deny ownership and own up to our errors, bias, and nepotism, and avoid addressing the root problem, that is ourselves. Why are are always trying to deny that we are the problem? Shifting responsibility to an ‘influencer’ be it internal or eternal, does not solve any problem.

  10. Thank you so much for this post Max and for documenting our history so diligently. Would have loved to see a picture of Kate from her Peace Corps days and today. Thanks for sharing this story Kate. Your perspective is very valuable is straightening out the events that culminated in the civil war.

    1. Thanks for your comment Afroscribe. I would have done but wanted to protect Kate’s privacy. I also did not want her to become entangled in Nigerian politico-history wahala! ;-)

  11. Coups are means of settling scores in africa north east would like to see one of their son become head of state so many african countries are interested in nigeria this gives min.of defence diverse interest & infiltration.

  12. Ademoyega was the bravest of the coup plotters , after Nzeogwu and i respect and admire his staraighthtforwardness. #NoRealNigerianSoldiersAnymore

  13. You have said it all. From what I read in that book, it’s plain obvious those young majors came way beyond their time. I weep for my country, for deciding to quell these important books and remove history from the Nigerian education system. Some people are afraid of the truth coming to light. We have to address the issues that preceded and gave birth to the first coup so that for once our country can sleep in peace…

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