39th anniversary of the death of Nigeria's first Military Head of State - CVIEW NEWS

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Thursday, 30 July 2015

39th anniversary of the death of Nigeria's first Military Head of State




Yesterday marks the 39th anniversary of the death of Nigeria's first Military Head of State; Major-General Johnson Thomas Unumakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi.
Brief biography of the late leader;
1. He was born on March 3, 1926 to Mazi Ezeugo Aguiyi in Umuahia, the current capital of Abia State. He was of Ubeku clan.
2. He was raised by his elder sister who was married to a Sierra Leonean diplomat, named Theophilius Johnson. Owing to the respect he had for his brother-in-law, he adopted his surname 'Johnson'.
3. He joined the then West African Frontier Force at the tender age of 18 precisely in 1942 as a supporting staff.
4. He initially trained at Eaton Hall, England before proceeding to the Royal Army Ordnance Corps after which he was commissioned as the 4th Nigerian into the officers' corps of the emerging Nigeria Army on 12 June 1949.
5. Upon his return to the country, he served as the aide-de-camp to the then Governor-General of Nigeria, Sir John Macpherson. He carried out the same function as he was assigned as equerry to Queen Elizabeth II when she toured Nigeria in 1956.
6. By 1961, he had risen to the rank of a Lt.-Colonel as was posted to serve in the peacekeeping mission in Congo when political crisis erupted in the central African country. He was in charge of the 5th Battalion stationed to keep peace in Kivu and Leopoldville (Now Kinshasa). He was to become the overall head of the country's contingent to the mission.
7. As a consummate negotiator, he was responsible for negotiating the release of Austrian and Nigerian troops that were captured by Katangese rebels, a feat that earned him a medal of honour by the global organisation.
8. By the time his four year duty tour of Congo ended, he had risen to the rank of a Brigadier. He took over the overall command of the Army from British officer, Major General Christopher Welby-Everard in 1965 to become the country's first two-star general.
9. He took over the country as the First Military Head of State in January 1966 and was killed six months later in a counter coup.

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