On January 15, 1966, a military coup d’état undermined the fragile harmony of a newly independent Nigeria that had been freed from the clutches of Britain only five years earlier. Codenamed Operation Damisa, the Hausa word for leopard, it was the first military intervention in the affairs of the young nation and it derailed the country’s democracy. A counter-coup followed and then a civil war.
The brains behind the coup were two belligerent young majors, Kaduna Nzeogwu and Emmanuel Ifeajuna, who was the 1954 Commonwealth Games high jump gold medallist. Both were Igbos from the south of the country.