The photograph which you are looking at represents the front view of the Nigerian Army Museum in Zaria.
Right after I appeared in front of this museum, an assortment of polite non-commissioned officers of the Nigerian Army walked up to me and after we had exchanged pleasantries, they offered to take me on a guided tour of the complex. They appeared to realise the fact that their complex is one of the public faces of the Nigerian Army and are concommitantly courteous.
Way back in 2003, I visited the same Nigerian Army Museum for the first time. I was satisfied to see that the place even looked spruced up with a fresh coat of paint but noticed that since my last visit to the facility in 2003, exposure to the bright sunshine of the North had faded the paint of the UNIMOG truck displayed outside which in itself represents a bit of history. This is the absorbing Nigerian Army Museum which is run by a tall and quiet Colonel Ipinyomi.
Inside the museum, you have a compendium and memorabilia on the Nigerian Army since its formation in 1863. There are representations of uniforms worn by several generations of soldiers of the Army dating back to the days of the Hausa Constabulary which sufficed during the era which preceded the amalgamation of the Protectorates of Northern Nigeria and Southern Nigeria in 1914.
There was a copy of the Qu’ran which took a bullet and probably prevented the slug getting into the bearer’s chest cavity.
We got treated to the history of the induction of Nigerian-born officers into the officer corps of the colonial Army. It was the case that a certain Lieutenant Ugboma was the first Nigerian to have earned an officer commission way back in November 1948. Another set of officers including JTU Aguiyi-Ironsi, Samuel Ademulegun and Wellington Bassey were commissioned in June 1949. Stemming from the fact that Ugboma left the Army before independence in 1960, the honour of being designated the FIRST commissioned officer of the Nigerian Army(N/1) passed on to Wellington Bassey.
So we moved on to the pioneer General Officers Commanding of the three divisions which were created to prosecute the Nigerian Civil War. Of these three GOCs, two of them – Colonel (later Major General) Mohammed Shuwa N/188, a Shuwa Arab from Borno and Colonel (later General) Murtala Ramat Muhammed(N/189)were coursemates. Shuwa was the pioneer GOC of the 1 Infantry Division (today’s 1 Mechanised Division) while Muhammed, who later emerged as Nigeria’s third military ruler, was the pioneer GOC of the 2 Infantry Division(today’s 2 Mechanised Division).
During the Nigerian Civil War, 1 Infantry Division which was fortunate to have had the largest assemblage of veterans of the Second World War and the Cameroon counterinsurgency campaigns within its fold, was the most professional and methodical in its operations. They attacked the secessionist Republic of Biafra from the north while 2 Infantry Division attacked from the west.
The third division which was formed to prosecute the Nigerian Civil War was the 3 Marine Commando Division (today’s 3 Armoured Division),which mustered to attack the said enclave from the Atlantic coast and the Niger Delta. Its pioneer GOC was the colourful and quite successful Colonel Benjamin Adekunle (Black Scorpion) who was the most senior of the pioneer GOCs appointed for the newly-created divisions way back in August 1967.
Also in the museum, there was a list of rather famous officers and Civil War veteran commanders who enlisted in the Nigerian Army on December 10th, 1962. They were better known for the roles which they played in the life of the nation after they took power in a series of coups d’etat, de facto and de jure, which were staged on December 31st 1983, August 27th 1985 and November 17th, 1993.
Prominent among these coursemates were (stating the highest ranks they attained) General Ibrahim Babangida(N/438), General Mohammed Sani Abacha(N/418), Lt General Jeremiah Useni, Lt General Garba Duba, Major General Mohammed Magoro, Major General Mamman Vatsa, Major General Paul Ufuoma Omu, Major General Gado Nasko, Brigadier Ibrahim Ahmadu Bako, among others.
Now take a look at the photo above. To the far left is an Alvis Saracen armoured personnel carrier which was the most widely deployed APC of the Nigerian Civil War. Its rear doors are open, allowing for a view of the seating arrangement and interior of the armoured vehicle.
There was a lot, including medals to be seen about the inimitable RSM Chari Magumeri,a colonial era non-commissioned officer and folk hero who was remarkable for having served in the colonial-era German, British and Nigerian armies at various times during the course of a long and distinguished career which spanned both World Wars.An ethnic Kanuri from Borno,he first enlisted in the German Army and was captured by the British at the Battle of Garoua. Then, he joined the British West African Frontier Force and lastly, as the dawn of independence approached, he became a soldier of the Queen’s Own Nigeria Regiment.
Looking again at the photograph above, to the far right and partially obscured from view by the gleaming black sedan, is a UNIMOG utility truck. The passenger’s side of the truck is riddled with bullet holes. In that truck,one of the famous coursemates mentioned above in the person of Brigadier Ibrahim Ahmadu Bako, a first-rate officer was killed in an apparent exchange of fire on the night of 31 December 1983 as he made to arrest President Shehu Shagari, his alloted task on the night of that coup which ultimately ushered in the government of Major General Mohammadu Buhari at 0100 hrs on January 1st, 1984. Bako was shot whilst he was still seated on the passenger’s side of the truck.
On that fateful night, a posse of Brigadiers and Major Generals, most of whom were coursemates and had held political appointments during the Murtala/Obasanjo military regime between 1975 and 1979 but who returned to regimental duties after the assumption of office by an elected civilian government in 1979, came together and ousted the elected government of President Shehu Shagari.
Concerning the person and career of the late Brigadier Bako specifically, after the end of the liberation struggle in Rhodesia, Bako, a special operations-qualified officer it was who led the Nigerian Army’s contingent which combed the bushes of Zimbabwe, talking to guerrillas and luring them out for a selection process which eventually led to one hundred(100)of the pioneer crop of the post-independence Zimbabwe National Army officers being airlifted to Nigeria for officer training at the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna in 1980.
According to a brief summary posted on the UNIMOG truck, Brigadier IA Bako was at the time of his death, Director of the Army Faculty at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji. The mortal remains of Brigadier Bako were interred on January 6th, 1984.
The Nigerian Armed Forces as a whole retain a triservice National War Museum in southeastern Nigeria where everything from Ilyushin bombers and MiG jets, Saracen APCs, Saladin AFVs, Seaward Defence Boats, Panhard AML 60s, Ferret scout cars, Bofors anti-aircraft guns, artillery weapons to Biafran-made improvised APCs, petroleum products distillation plants, mortars, guns and rocket launchers.