Just like most African Countries, Nigeria has also had its own period of coups. Within this period, the country has been ruled by 8 military Head of States. Their reign didn’t last for a very long time with some losing their lives in the process. Some of these coups claimed the lives of both military officials and civilians. According to reports, Nigeria has had 5 successful coups, 2 unsuccessful ones, and some alleged and abortive coups. For this post, we are only going to be focusing on the successful ones.
1. January 1966 Coup
This is the first ever coup that took place in Nigeria. It occurred precisely on January 15, 1966, and it was led by Lieutenant (Lt.) Colonel (Col.) Kaduna Nzeogwu. The led to the death of Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto and Premier of Northern Nigeria, Chief S.I. Akintola, the Premier of Western Region, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Prime Minister of Nigeria, Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh, Federal Minister of Finance and other military officers. Although the coup was poorly carried out in some parts of the country, it still turned out successful. Major-General Johnson Thomas Ununakwe Aguiyi Ironsi was eventually sworn-in as the Military Head of State of Nigeria.
2. July 1966 Coup
Another coup was staged just six months after the first coup. The coup was carried out by three young Northern military officers who were led by Lieutenant Colonel Murtala Muhammed. The coup was carried out as a result of the Decree No. 34 which they saw as an indirect attack to the Northerners. The coup led to the death of the then Head of State, Major-General J.T.U. Aguyi-Ironsi. Afterward, General Yakubu Gowon was then sworn-in as the new Military Head of State.
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3. July 1975 Coup
Another coup was staged in July 1975 to overthrow the government of General Yakubu Gowon. It was successful but bloodless and it was masterminded by General Murtala Muhammed, the same person that led the previous coup. As a result, General Murtala Muhammed was sworn as the Head of State.
4. December 1983
Another successful coup was carried out on the 31st December 1983 by Major General Muhammadu Buhari. The ousted the then civilian president, Shehu Shagari. In addition, the coup led to Brigadier Ibrahim Bako, a loyal officer to the government.
5. August 1985 Coup
Approximately 20 months after Major General Muhammadu Buhari took over, a successful palace coup was carried out. Thus, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida came into power and became the Head of State.
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