10 Military coups that shaped Nigeria's history

10 Military coups that shaped Nigeria's history

Nigeria's Politics have witnessed a lot of evolutions right from the early days of independence. Coup d'état, is the sudden, violent overthrow of an existing government by members of the armed forces. We consider coups (successful and unsuccessful) that has happened in Nigeria before Democracy fully came in.

1966 Military First Military Coup: On January 15, 1966, a group of military officers led by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu staged Nigeria's first military coup, resulting in the assassination of Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and several other political leaders. Northern Region Premier Ahmadu Bello, Western Region Premier Ladoke Akintola, finance minister Festus Okotie-Eboh, and the four highest-ranking northern military officers.

1966: July Counter-Coup: Just six months later, on July 29, 1966, a counter-coup led by northern military officers targeted mainly Igbo officers. This happened during Agunyi Irosi's regime as he was thrown out of office by August 1st and Lieutenant Colonel Yakubu Gowon became head of state and it spread ethnic tensions and widespread violence. This coup set the stage for the Nigerian Civil War.

1975 coup: On July 29, 1975, Colonel Joseph Nanven Garba, a close friend of Gowon's, announced on Radio Nigeria that he and other officers had decided to remove Gowon as head of state and commander-in-chief. General Yakubu Gowon, who was away attending an OAU summit in Kampala was overthrown in a bloodless coup by Brigadier Murtala Mohammed.

1976 coup attempt: In a coup attempt on February 13, 1976, General Murtala Mohammed was assassinated in his car in Lagos by a group of soldiers. His driver, aide, and Ibrahim Taiwo, the military governor of Kwara state were also killed. The coup was led by a group of officers who called themselves "young revolutionaries" in a radio broadcast. However, they lacked both military and civilian support. The coup was denounced by division commanders and government leaders outside Lagos and was quickly suppressed.

1983 coup: On December 31, 1983, Major General Muhammadu Buhari led a coup that ousted President Shehu Shagari's civilian government, citing widespread corruption and economic mismanagement. The coup deposed the democratically elected government of President Shehu Shagari, and ended the Second Nigeria Republic. Major General Muhammadu Buhari was installed as the Head of State after the coup.

1985 coup: On August 27, 1985, General Ibrahim Babangida led a bloodless coup that ousted General Muhammadu Buhari, citing his government's perceived lack of progress and authoritarian tendencies. During this coup, Buhari himself was away from Lagos and his chief aide, Major General Tunde Idiagbon, was on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.

1986 coup attempt: In 1986, Nigeria was rocked by yet another attempt to overthrow the government, this time led by Major-General Mamman Vatsa, a prominent military officer and Minister of the Federal Capital Territory under General Ibrahim Babangida's regime. The coup plot known as "vasta coup" failed and on March 5, 1986, Major-General Vatsa and several other high-ranking military officers were arrested and charged with treason.

1990 coup attempt: On April 22, 1990, Major Gideon Orkar led a failed coup attempt against General Ibrahim Babangida's government, resulting in his arrest and execution.

1993 coup: On November 17, 1993, General Sani Abacha seized power in a coup, suspending the transition to civilian rule initiated by the annulled June 12 presidential elections. Babangida resigned and appointed Ernest Shonekan as interim president on 26 August 1993. Shonekan's administration only lasted 3 months as he was overthrown in a Palace coup led by General Sanni Abacha.

1997 coup attempt: In 1997, General Abacha accused Lieutenant-General Oladipo Diya of an attempted coup.Diya and his co-conspirators reportedly harbored dissatisfaction with the direction of the Babangida government, hence the reason for the coup attempt. The coup failed and on December 21, 1997, Lt-General Oladipo Diya alongside Maj-Gen Abdulkarim Adisa, Maj-Gen Tajudeen Olanrewaju, and several other high-ranking military officers were arrested and charged with treason. Diya and his colleagues were tried in a military tribunal and initially sentenced to death, but later commuted to a 25-year jail term. When Abacha died in 1998, Diya was pardoned by the late Head of State's successor, Abdusalami Abubakar.

On May 29, 1999, Nigeria returned to civilian rule with the inauguration of President Olusegun Obasanjo, marking the end of decades of military dictatorship.


Keep up to date with our latest articles and uploads...