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General Johnson Umunakwe Aguiyi-ironsi: A Forgotten Hero Keeps Returning - Politics - Nairaland

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General Johnson Umunakwe Aguiyi-ironsi: A Forgotten Hero Keeps Returning by EzeUche22(m): 6:24am On Sep 13, 2010
Ironsi,  A Forgotten Hero Keeps Returning
BY ALABI WILLIAMS,

THIS week, Nigerians will remember the late General Johnson Thomas Umunakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi, former Head of State and one of the fallen heroes of the tragic political events of 1966. The tale of Ironsi represented a major loss for the immediate members of his family, his Igbo kinsmen and Nigerians in general. Beyond this, his demise deepened an inherited culture of distrust and political instability in the country.

The late General was an urbane military officer, widely travelled and well liked. But he had to help absorb some of the pains and contradictions of being a Nigerian.

As the colonial government was departing Nigeria in the early 1960s, there was a glaring need to stabilise the polity. The Regions were largely autonomous, even as they possessed glaring peculiarities. Therefore, within the larger ethnic groups, a motley of interests had to be secured just as the smaller ethnic groups equally demanded for their minority interests within the large political space.

The military was a sensitive organ in the midst of conflicting regional interests. Those who exercised rare vision knew that over time, the military would play a major role in Nigeria's political history. The immediate challenge was to transform it from being a colonial army into a national one. That was monumental, because real balancing of forces was needed to assuage ill feelings among the people of Nigeria. And for a newly independent country, that was some burden.

Eventually, in 1965, Major-General Aguiyi-Ironsi topped the list of four other senior officers, who were tipped to take over from Major-General Sir C.E Welby Everad, as the General Officer Commanding (GCO) the Nigerian Army. The regional politicians, who saw the need to have one of their own to command the army, contested that position.

On account of the relative number of officers from the North, the British showed some liking for the region. But it would appear that the colonial masters applied fairness, to balance the huge political weight of the North's with a controlling command of the military by the South.

Besides, Ironsi stood very tall with his military experience garnered over the years. At age 17, he worked as a civilian storesman at the Nigerian Ordinance Deport, Apapa, Lagos. Later, he enlisted as a private soldier in the 7th Battalion of the Nigerian Regiment. That was in the early 1940s. By 1948 he was selected for officer training course in Britain's Camberley Staff College. He returned to Nigeria as a Second Lieutenant in 1950. In 1952, he again attended a course of instruction at the School of Infantry at Warminster on Salisbury Plain.

In 1953, he served as A.D.C to the then Governor, Sir John Macpherson. By 1956, he was appointed an Extra Equerry to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, both at Buckingham Palace in London and on the Queen' tour of Nigeria. He was later promoted Lieutenant Colonel and placed in command of the Fifth Battalion stationed in Kano. At attaining the rank of Brigadier, he was sent to London as Military AttachZ to the Nigerian High Commission.

In 1960, he commanded the Nigerian Contingent to the Congo where the United Nations tried to restore order in that crisis-torn country. Here, he had first hand experience at crisis management and Ironsi is acknowledged to have demonstrated courage and leadership. From there, he returned to London as Military Adviser to the Nigerian High Commission, where he took time off to do a course at Imperial Defence College, Camberley. Yet again in 1964, he was recalled to the Congo to re-enact the feat of 1960. This time, he commanded the entire United Nations Contingent.

This was the background that gave the late General a head start when it came to looking for an indigenous General Officer Commander for the Nigerian Army.

The political situation in the country in the early years after Independence was very unstable. That provided opportunity for a group of brilliant young officers to stage the January 15, 1966 coup. Records of the events that culminated in the coup do not link the late General Officer Commanding the Army with those horrible events. If he had knowledge of the plans by those officers to eliminate the major regional political actors of the First Republic, his actions before and after that coup did not clearly explain. But there was anger in the North following the success of the coup in the North and partially in the West. The Eastern politicians were saved of the horrors of the coup either by omission or commission.

[b]In the aftermath of January 1966, it was Ironsi, who battled to patch up the disaster and save Nigeria an imminent ethnic assault. In his wisdom, he collapsed the regional groupings into a unitary system of government with a central, powerful command. He appointed Military Governors to man the four regions - Lt. Colonel Hassan Usman Katsina for the North, Lt. Colonel Francis Adekunle Fajuyi for the West, Lt. Colonel David Akpode Ejoor for the Mid West and Lt. Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu for the East. It was planned that after some time, these officers would exchange positions all in the spirit of engendering unity.

Gen. Ironsi believed so much in the unity of Nigeria. What else to expect from a widely travelled military officer, who witnessed crises in the Congo and experienced good governance in the UK

To secure the peoples' confidence Ironsi's regime managed to distribute key positions in a manner that reflected federal character. The Supreme Military Council (SMC) had nine members including the four regional governors, Service Chiefs and the Attorney General and the Inspector General of Police. The 23 Permanent Secretaries' jobs in the Federal Public Service were shared among eight Northerners, seven Midwesterners, five Westerners and three Easterners.[/b]

He proposed a new Constitution that would prepare the country for a new democracy. Towards that end, he appointed Chief Frederick Rotimi Alade Williams and former Attorney General, Dr. T.O. Elias to help do an outline for the new Constitution.

On the economy, Ironsi put together a think-tank to do a blueprint for growth and productivity. Dr. Pius Okigbo and Chief Simeon Adebo were put in charge.

However, all these did not impress the northern politicians and soldiers, who still nursed the grudge over the January 1966 coup. As the General was visiting the regions and reconciling with traditional rulers across the country, plans were in top gear to pull the carpet under his feet. That was what took place on July 29, 1966. He was assassinated in Ibadan during a tour of the Western Region on peace mission.

After his dead, Nigeria became further polarised with ethnic irredentism taking front stage against the much-needed unity. The absence of Ironsi robbed Nigeria of maturity in the military. The crop of younger officers who seized control of government could not manage the crisis, which culminated in a three-year civil war.

After the war, little was done to record for history the attempt made by the late General to restore hope in the country. It was only his close friends and colleagues, who attempted to rehabilitate his legacy, particularly in showing love to members of his immediate family, until recently when his son was offered an ambassadorial position.

The lesson for Nigeria is that every attempt should be made to conserve political experience, rather than wasting them. Imagine what Nigeria would have gained if Gen. Aguiyi-Ironsi were alive to participate in the mediation before the civil war. Perhaps, the war wouldn't have been if his maturity and experience were harvested. Perhaps too, the military would not have plunged Nigeria into a wasteland as they laid siege to the economy, if Ironsi were allowed to mid-wife it into a responsible force. And for the Igbo, perhaps this civil war trauma would have been averted.

There can be consolation for Nigeria over the killing of Aguiyi-Ironsi if his legacies are dispassionately preserved, to serve as a lesson for those who are willing to learn. It will not make enduring sense if the collective memory of the man continues to remain in the margin. There is so much to learn from the life and times of Ironsi.

Re: General Johnson Umunakwe Aguiyi-ironsi: A Forgotten Hero Keeps Returning by EzeUche22(m): 6:32am On Sep 13, 2010
He will not be forgotten! I wish Nigerians gave him honor that he rightfully deserves.

1 Like

Re: General Johnson Umunakwe Aguiyi-ironsi: A Forgotten Hero Keeps Returning by Onlytruth(m): 6:41am On Sep 13, 2010
Ezeuche, just an aside. Your profile picture, are you in that picture? The guy stooping under looks like you. Is that you? I like that picture.
Re: General Johnson Umunakwe Aguiyi-ironsi: A Forgotten Hero Keeps Returning by excanny: 8:43am On Sep 13, 2010
He was one man who believed in the unity of this country and proved himself to be a leader who was beyond regional or tribal affairs.
Re: General Johnson Umunakwe Aguiyi-ironsi: A Forgotten Hero Keeps Returning by MMIRIENWEILO: 9:29am On Aug 02, 2012
May the God of our land biafria keep your soul and many others because they are an unborn leader. MAY YOUR SOUL PROTECT YOUR CHILDREN BECAUSE ONE DAY OUR PEOPLE WILL REJOICE BECAUSE THE WORLD ARE NOW LAUGHING AT US BUT THEY DID'NT KNOWN THAT IN BIAFRIA LAND WIL ALWAYS BEARING GOOD SEED AND STRONG LEADERS LIKE YOU AND MANY OTHERS LIKE CHIEF DR NNAMDI AZIKIWE, DIM ODIMEGWU OJUKWU, CHIEF OKOYE OMATALI OKOLO, MAJOR CHUKWUMA NZOGWU AND MANY OTHER OLD HEROS AND YOUNG HEROS, BECAUSE WHEN I SPOKE THAT WILL MAKE YOU TO FEEL MORE HAPPY BECAUSE OUR PEOPLE DID NOT FORGOTHEN OUR LATE LEADERS BECAUSE WE STILL HERE ON EARTH TO ANNOINED YOURS NAMES WITH HOLY OIL FROM GOD BUT WE SHALL FIGHT IT AGAIN TO GAIN OUR FREEDOM BECAUSE WE ARE NOT YET GAIN OUR FREEDOM LIKE OTHER COUNTRYS ACROOS THE GLOB. BUT BY THE NAME OF OUR LAND, THE NIGROS WE GAIN FREEDOM BUT IT CAN ONLY TAKE US MUCH TIME,PRACTICE EXPERINCE TO DO IT. PEACE SHALL RAIN TO MY PEOPLE. BECAUSE AM NOT SPOKEN IT IS VOICE FROM THE GOD. THANKS (THE PRINCE OF PEACE)
Re: General Johnson Umunakwe Aguiyi-ironsi: A Forgotten Hero Keeps Returning by Nobody: 9:41am On Aug 02, 2012
WHO WAS AGUIYI IRONSI AGAIN?
Re: General Johnson Umunakwe Aguiyi-ironsi: A Forgotten Hero Keeps Returning by T9ksy(m): 11:08am On Aug 02, 2012
torkaka: WHO WAS AGUIYI IRONSI AGAIN?

Exactly!!!

Another duplicitous motha phocking slime ball from the Land .........!!!
Re: General Johnson Umunakwe Aguiyi-ironsi: A Forgotten Hero Keeps Returning by IjogzK(m): 8:30am On Aug 08, 2014
Aguyi Ironsi lives On.
Re: General Johnson Umunakwe Aguiyi-ironsi: A Forgotten Hero Keeps Returning by gbugbru(m): 6:37pm On Jan 23, 2016
T9ksy:


Exactly!!!

Another duplicitous motha phocking slime ball from the Land .........!!!
[i][/i][color=#006600][/color]
People like you are to be fed with canfur, to suppress your gulible actions. And stupidity...

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