Response To: A Dangerous Trend In The Nigerian Army – By John Okiyi Kalu



It has come to our notice that there is a campaign by some unscrupulous and unpatriotic elements whose intentions appear to be bent on destabilizing the Nigerian military and nation at large.  This campaign is being propagated in the form of a spurious article being circulated that alleges that the Nigerian Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Onyeabor Azubuike Ihejirika is on some sort of sinister and clandestine operation to “Igbonise” the Nigerian Army. The COAS has been accused of selectively promoting only Igbos at the expense of others. Well, nothing can be further from the truth, and this will be demonstrated in a very clear and dispassionate analysis in rebuttal to the openly biased and ethnically tinged attempt by some disgruntled elements.

What this hatchet job of an article has done is to selectively focus on the promotion of four officers, and then  proceed to make bold claims that these promotions were ethnically motivated because the said officers were of Igbo origin, and then conjure up a justification of why their promotions were ethnically motivated by employing a lot of hyperbole and incredulous reach in drawing conclusions from far-fetched inferences. The elements behind this very dishonest article have done this while ignoring the holistic picture of all promotions within the different cadres of the army. They focused on the promotions of Brigadiers Ugwu of the Ordinance Corps, Nwaogbo of the armored corps, Agha Okoro of the Supply and Transport Corps, and Chioba of the Corp of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers only. How can this be a complete picture when 43 Brigadiers where promoted Major Generals in 2011 and 22 promoted in 2012?

Now let’s examine the promotion exercise of 2011 based on available information:

On November 10 2011 the Vanguard published the following story on Army promotions:

The Nigerian Army Council has approved the promotion of 25 major- generals and 43 brigadier-generals, the largest number ever promoted at a go.

Following the recommendation of the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Azubuike Ihejirika, those elevated from Brigadier Generals (one star) to Major-Generals (two stars) are Director of Army Public Relations, Brigadier-General R.I.D Isa; Director of Military Intelligence, Brigadier-General A.T. Jibrin; Director of Operations at Army HQ, Brigadier General G.A. Wahab and Defence Adviser, New York, Brigadier General G. Audu.

Others promoted Major Generals are Brig-Gen. K.C. Osuji, Brig-Gen. F.S. Owonibi, Brig-Gen. Agha-Okoro, Brig-Gen. D.D. Kitchner, Brig-Gen. B.T. Oginni, Brig-Gen. E.R. Chioba, Brig-Gen. J.M. Ogidi, Brig-Gen. S.U. Labaran, Brig-Gen. A.A. Martins, Brig-Gen. A. Chukwu, Brig-Gen. M. Idris, Brig-Gen. L.N.K. Banjiran, Brig-Gen. S.U. Audu and Brig-Gen. E.F. Abejirin.

Also promoted two star-generals are Brig-Gen. T.O. Umar, Brig-Gen. H.G. Aminu, Brig-Gen. I. Sani, Brig-Gen. A.G. Ewanshia-Oloni and Brig-Gen. P.K. Ikumonein.

A statement confirming the promotions was signed by the Chief of Staff, Army Public Relations Department, Col. Usman Abdul.

Among the Colonels promoted to the rank of Brigadier-Generals are Colonel Leo Erabor, PSO to the Chief of Army Staff, Col. O.O. Adeleke, Col. J. Alexander, Col. T.K. Golau, Col. M.M. Dan-Ali, Col. L.O. Adeosun, Col. E.A. Ransome-Kuti, Col. J.T. Abubakar and Col. S.E.U. Ekanem.

A statement confirming the promotions was signed by the Chief of Staff, Army Public Relations Department, Col. Usman Abdul.

Now we can begin to see the falsehood being peddled in the allegation that Ihejirika’s promotions were ethnically motivated to favour the Igbos as the list provided shows no such trend. Let’s take a count of Brigadiers and Major Generals promoted against their ethnicities since this is where the focus of the disgruntled elements seems to lie. Below is a list of 23 Brigadier Generals promoted to the rank of Major Generals in 2011.  It will be instructive to compare the number Igbo officers promoted to the number of officers of other ethnic groups promoted:

  1. 1.       Director of Army Public Relations, Brigadier-General R.I.D Isa—————————North
  2. 2.       Director of Military Intelligence, Brigadier-General A.T. Jibrin—————————North
  3. 3.       Director of Operations at Army HQ, Brigadier General G.A. Wahab———————North
  4. 4.
    Defence Adviser, New York, Brigadier General G. Audu.———————————–North
  5. 5.       Brig-Gen. K.C. Osuji——————————————————————————-SE
  6. 6.       Brig-Gen. F.S. Owonibi—————————————————————————SW
  7. 7.       Brig-Gen. Agha-Okoro—————————————————————————-SE
  8. 8.       Brig-Gen. D.D. Kitchner————————————————————————–(Unverified)
  9. 9.       Brig-Gen. B.T. Oginni—————————————————————————–SW
  10. 10.    Brig-Gen. E.R. Chioba—————————————————————————-SE
  11. 11.    Brig-Gen. J.M. Ogidi——————————————————————————(Unverified)
  12. 12.    Brig-Gen. S.U. Labaran—————————————————————————North
  13. 13.    Brig-Gen. A.A. Martins—————————————————————————-SW
  14. 14.    Brig-Gen. A. Chukwu——————————————————————————SE
  15. 15.    Brig-Gen. M. Idris———————————————————————————-North
  16. 16.    Brig-Gen. L.N.K. Banjiran———————————————————————–(Unverified)
  17. 17.    Brig-Gen. S.U. Audu——————————————————————————-North
  18. 18.    Brig-Gen. E.F. Abejirin—————————————————————————SW
  19. 19.    Brig-Gen. T.O. Umar——————————————————————————North
  20. 20.    Brig-Gen. H.G. Aminu—————————————————————————-North
  21. 21.    Brig-Gen. I. Sani———————————————————————————–North
  22. 22.    Brig-Gen. A.G. Ewanshia-Oloni—————————————————————–SS
  23. 23.    Brig-Gen. P.K. Ikumonein————————————————————————SS

Out of 23 names only four (4) appear to be Igbo names; Osuji, Agha-Okoro, Chioba and Chukwu; now that is only 17% of the number of Brigadiers promoted to Major Generals in 2011 as published by the Vanguard in November of 2011. The SE is one of 6 geopolitical zones in the country, and simple math tells us that if geopolitical zones were taken into account during promotions of officers, as it should in such a polarized and tribalised country as Nigeria, that is exactly 17% of promotions per cadre per geographical zone, given there are personnel from each zone available to be promoted. So what is the source of this contrived brouhaha? Is this not much ado about nothing? Who could be behind this, but those bent on destabilizing Nigeria for whatever selfish and nefarious ends they may have?

For good measure, below is a summary of the 2012 promotion details as published in National Mirror on December 20 2012:

Director, Army Public Relations Department, Brigadier General Bola Koleoso, who was promoted to the rank of Major General, in a statement, listed those promoted to the substantive rank of Major General to include:

  1. 1.        Brigadier General NO Ojiji of the Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC);
  2. 2.       Brigadier General HA Salihu; Commandant, Depot Nigerian Army,
  3. 3.       Brigadier General SZ Uba of the Defence Headquarters
  4. 4.       Brigadier General ET Nienge of the Nigerian Army School of Supply and Transport.
    Brigadier General David Enetie of Headquarters Infantry Corps Centre,
  5. 5.       Brigadier General Mashudy O. Adekanye of the Nigerian Army Ordinance School, Commander of 23 Brigade Nigerian Army
  6. 6.       Brigadier General John N. Nwaoga and Brigadier General Patrick G. Ogah of Army Headquarters Directorate of Training and Operations.
    Brigadier General Donald MN Oji of Nigerian Army Signals School
  7. 7.       Brigadier General Tanko Y. Gaiya of the AFCSC
  8. 8.       Brigadier General Bamidele O. Ologundudu of the Nigerian Defence College (NDC)
  9. 9.       Brigadier General Abbas O. Adekanye of the Central Workshop; Commander 1 Brigade Nigerian Army, Brigadier General Tamunomieibi I. Dibi; Commander 2 Brigade
  10. 10.     Brigadier General Tukur Y. Buratai; Commander 4 Brigade
  11. 11.    Brigadier General Obi A. Umahi
  12. 12.    Brigadier General Chuckwudi BB Odunukwe of the Directorate of Data Processing; Defence Attache to China
  13. 13.    Brigadier General Sulaiman D. Aliyu
  14. 14.    Brigadier General Junaid S. Bindawa of the Nigerian Army Armoured School (NAAS)
  15. 15.    Brigadier General Obidah T. Ethan serving in the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL)
  16. 16.    Brigadier General Obasina A. Ogunbiyi of the Nigerian Army Medical Corps
  17. 17.    Brigadier General Friday M. Airende of the Special Vehicle Plant

New GOCs and Head Quarters:

– GOC of 1 Division(Kaduna;), Maj Gen.Wahab ——————————-Northerner
– GOC of 2 Division(Ibadan, Oyo;), Maj-Gen. Ahmed Jibri ——————Northerner
– GOCs of 3 Division(Jos, Plateau), Maj-Gen. Ebiobowei Awala————South South
– GOC of 81 Division(Victoria Island, Lagos) is Maj-Gen. Obi Umahi —- South East
– GOC of 82 Division(Enugu), Maj-Gen Ashimiyu Olaniyi —————— South West


Again here there is no sign of inequity in the promotions favouring any particular ethnic group as alleged. In fact two officers who were alleged not to have been promoted – Nienge and Adekanye are on this list, and this is not even an exhaustive list of all promoted! So what is the game here? Obviously it is not one that bodes well for the stability of the country.

The article is fraught with hateful language and innuendo; several officers promoted who happen to be Igbo are referred to as “the Igbo boy” . There is so much warped logic and impossible extrapolations and conclusions drawn from inconclusive analysis that will make one dizzy, for example, one Col Soloye is alleged not to have been promoted because of his “outstanding personal and professional records”.

How preposterous!

They continue this incredulous reach by further stating that “The plan here, just as in the case of Oyekan, is to slow down this rising star who might get in the way of Igbo officers “destined” by General Ihejirika to rise above him”.

Again, how preposterous! What is the source or proof of this bold conclusion? Unless this article was produced by superhuman mind readers this is pure baseless conjecture of the highest order. It is important to note at this juncture that none of the officers’ records who have been described as “outstanding” and being overlooked for promotion have been independently vetted. These are just claims by faceless disgruntled elements. Until independently vetted, they remain just claims. Another example of this superhuman mind-reading faculty demonstrated in this article is the case of one Col. Jidda, who for whatever reason was not promoted at a certain time, but the mind readers have gone ahead to explain that “the idea is for Jidda to wait for the Igbo boy to graduate from NIPPS so they can be presented next year with other officers from NDC course 21. Most likely, some Igbo officers would then edge out Jidda who will then suffer the faith of Col Oyekan and Col Soleye”.


Normally these types of baseless claims will not see the light of day in a civilized society, but we are talking of Nigeria afterall, where such poisonous and unfounded allegations have the capability of creating instability and unwarranted bloodshed as has been numerously demonstrated in the short history of the country. That is why it is important to set the record straight now before agents of destruction hijack the fragile peace of the country.

The article mentions cases of several officers who for one reason or another are believed to have been bypassed for promotion. This may or may not be true, but this section of the article does not talk about the Igbo officers who were also bypassed. In any promotional exercise there are bound to be those who will be disappointed as top positions are limited, and the Nigerian Army is no exception. One comes off reading this article thinking only Igbos get promoted in the Nigerian Army, while all others get bypassed. How incredulous! Suffice it to say that Ihejirika is not responsible for all promotions within the army. Most officers are promoted based on a recommendation from their supervisors and superiors, based on merit, as in any other professional organization. There is no way Ihejirika can be personally involved in the promotion of every officer within the Nigerian Army, and so some of these grudges IF legitimate need to be taken up with the supervisors of the concerned officers and not the COAS.

The biggest joke of the article is the insinuation of the entrenchment of nepotism and mediocrity against the COAS by citing the promotion of Brigadier Onoeveta, the former ADC to late President Umaru Yar’adua. First, Onoeveta is not Igbo, nor is he related to the COAS in any way, so how do they get off alleging nepotism? They ask the question “what explains the retention and preferential treatment being given to Brigadier Onoeveta, who is notorious for mediocrity.” (sic) and go on to provide the answer, “One possible explanation for this elevation of mediocrity is that it is a calculated attempt to achieve certain sinister or diabolical objective perhaps known only to General Ihejirika and the dark forces behind his actions”.

What a caricature!

There are also patent falsehoods and outright lies, for example the article claims that Brigadiers Oginni and Martins, were passed over for their junior Igbo counterpart, but this has been verified false as both were among those who were promoted in 2011.  Brigadiers Nienge and Adekanye were also alleged to have been passed up for promotion but show up on the list of those promoted in 2012. Why this and why now? Could there be some elements in the Army or in the country at large who are looking for a repeat of 1966, where false and unfounded rumours in the Nigerian Army set the Northern NCOs and junior officers against their Igbo colleagues and officers in a bloody orgy of bloodletting that left over 300 Igbo army corpses in its wake and culminated in the Nigerian Civil War?

The false propaganda continues with the allegation that Ihejirika is somehow trying to repeat a non-existent 1966 agenda “according to which all non-Igbo senior officers were eliminated and replaced, as shown below, by Igbo officers appointed by General Ironsi, on 17th January 1966?”

The following names were then given as Ironsi’s Igbo appointments:


Serial Name Command Ethnic group
1 Lt Col George Kurubo Chief of Staff Nigeria Airforce Ibo, East
2 Lt Col Njoku Commanding Officer 2nd Brigade Ibo
3 Major H. Igboba Commanding Officer 2nd Battalion Ibo, East
4 Major. G. Okonweze Commanding Officer, Abeokuta Garrison Ibo, Mid West
5 Major Nzefili Commanding Officer 4 Battalion Ibo, Mid West
6 Major Ochei Commanding Officer Federal Guards Ibo, Mid West
7 Major D. Ogunewe Commanding Officer1Bn Ibo, East
8 Lt Col Bassey Commanding Officer 1 Brigade East Non Ibo
9 Major Okoro Commanding Officer,3 Battalion Igbo, East
10 Major F Akagha Commanding Officer Depot. Igbo, East

Aside from the obvious falsehood of Kurubo not being Igbo, it will be shown below how data has been selectively edited  and
manipulated to portray a false image and give a false message. Below is the true composition of Ironsi’s Military postings and Federal appointments:

A-Ironsi’s Military Postings:

Major General Johnson Aguiyi Ironsi—-Head of State————————————————————–East

Lt. Col. Hassan U. Katsina——————Military Governor of Northern Region—————————–North

Lt. Col. Francis A. Fajuyi——————-Military Governor of Western Region——————————-West

Lt. Col. Chukwuememka O. Ojukwu—–Military Governor of Eastern Region——————————–East

Lt. Col. David A. Ejoor———————-Military Governor of Mid-Western Region——————-Mid-West

Brigadier Babafemi Ogundipe————-Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters (SHQ) ———————West

Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon———————Chief of Staff, Army—————————————————–North

Lt Col George T. Kurubo——————-Chief of Staff, Airforce ————————————————–East

Commodore J.E.A Wey———————Chief of Staff, Navy——————————————————-West

Alhaji Kam Selem—————————-Inspector General of Police——————————————–North

Major Mobolaji Johnson——————–Administrator, Lagos Capital Territory—————————–West

Mr. S.O. Wey———————————-Secretary to the Supreme Military Council————————–West

Lt. Col Hilary Njoku————————-Commanding Officer 2nd Infantry Brigade,  Apapa—————East

Lt Col W. U. Bassey————————–Acting Commanding Officer 1st  Brigade,  Kaduna—————–East

Lt. Col. Philip Efiong————————SHQ—————————————————————————-East

Major Ibrahim Haruna———————Chief Ordnance Officer————————————————–North

Major David S.  Ogunewe——————Commanding Officer 1st Battalion, Enugu—————————–East

Major Israel Okoro————————–Commanding Officer 3rd  Battalion, Kaduna————————–East

Major Festus Akagha———————–Commandant NRTC, Zaria————————————————East

Major Eyo Ekpo—————————–Military Secretary, SHQ—————————————————-East

Major Joe Akahan—————————Commander 4th Battalion, Ibadan————————————-North

Lt. Col. Michael Okwechime————–Chairman Sports Council and Inspector of Engrs.————Mid-West

Lt. Col. Macaulay Nzefili——————-Military General Manager, Railways—————————-Mid-West



Northerners ————-5

Mid Westerners———3




A couple of important facts need to be noted here:

  1. 1.       Not all officers of Eastern origin are Igbo, for example Kurubo is Kalabari, Effiong is Efik, Ekpo is Efik etc.
  2. 2.       The East had the most number of officers (~70%) in the officer corps during this time. (Luckham)
  3. 3.       Entrance examination cut off points had been drastically lowered in an engineered bid to allow Northerners who couldn’t score high enough to make the passing grades to be enrolled en masse into the Army to catch up with other regions as a result of a push by the then Sardauna of Sokoto and Minister of Defence both from the North. (Luckham)
  4. 4.       A lot of junior northern officers like Gowon, Haruna, M. Muhammed were rapidly promoted to positions way above their ranks by Ironsi to make up for some of the losses of the North in the January coup. (Efiong )
  5. 5.       Ironsi went way out of his way to appease the North with promotions, appointments, and reassurances to no avail. He was murdered on July 29 1966 by mutinous Northern officers citing a laundry list of paranoid claims and allegations about a grand Igbo plot to take over the country that have been proven to be false by all credible historians.


B-Ironsi’s Federal Appointments:

Secretary to the Federal Military Government———————————-Westerner

Agriculture and Natural resources————————————————-Westerner



Works and Housing——————————————————————–Westerner



External Affairs————————————————————————-Northerner


Internal Affairs (two) ——————————————————————Northerner



Economic Development—————————————————————-Mid-Westerner




Mines and Power————————————————————————Mid-Westerner




Others (three) —————————————————————————-Easterner


Mid Westerner


Northerners ————-8

Mid Westerners———7




C- General Managers, Chairmen, Directors and Secretaries of Federal boards and Corporations

Electricity Corporation of Nigeria—————–General Manager——————————-Expatriate


Railways————————————————-General Manager——————————-Easterner


Ports Authority General Manager—————–General Manager——————————-Westerner


Shipping Line——————————————-General Manager——————————-Westerner


Coal Corporation————————————–General Manager——————————-Easterner


Board of Customs and Excise———————–Chairman—————————————–Westerner


Airways————————————————–General Manager——————————-Expatriate


Industrial Development Bank———————–General Manager——————————-Northerner


Nigerian External Communication—————-General Manager——————————-Expatriate


Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation—————Director——————————————-Westerner


Board of Inland Revenue—————————-Chairman—————————————–Westerner


Nigerin Produce Marketing Company Ltd——Chairman—————————————–Westerner

Managing Director—————————–Northerner


Central Bank——————————————-Governor——————————————Northerner



Northerners ————-6

Mid Westerners———1





It is now becoming clear that this is a campaign of calumny and evil propaganda of epic proportions aimed at destabilizing the peace of this nation. If this is not treason then what is? The evil elements behind this campaign have to be fished out and brought to book. Nigeria’s stability is too fragile for these types of expensive political games that have gone on for too long from certain elements who do not want progress for this country. When other nations have moved ahead with industrialization and technological development we are still bogged down by tribal/religious and ethnic conflicts in 2013. Are we cursed? Nigeria is now a laughing stock of smaller African nations who used to look up to us as Africa’s potential super power, and yet we are not able to pause for a second to get our heads out of the sand to self-examine and self-correct after 50 years of rudderless existence as an independent nation. How long can we continue this way? This is definitely not the path forward to a vibrant and prosperous nation. Some things have got to give. Nigerians need to rise up and claim their country from those bent on keeping us behind.




  1. 1.
  2. 2.
  3. 3.
  4. 4.       January 15:  Before and After, 1966 Nigerian Crisis, Government Printer, Enugu.
  6. 6.       Nigeria and Biafra, My Story, Philip Efiong, 2007
  7. The Nigerian Military, A Sociological Analysis of Authority and Revolt 1960-67, Robin Luckham


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