Front view of the Nigerian Army Museum. An Alvis Saracen is seen on the far left.

Front view of the Nigerian Army Museum. An Alvis Saracen is seen on the far left.

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.

About beegeagle

BEEG EAGLE -perspectives of an opinionated Nigerian male with a keen interest in Geopolitics, Defence and Strategic Studies


  1. doziex says:

    WOW, how little we nigerians do to exploit our complex and at times glorious history.

    Oga Beegeagle, you mean to tell me that their is no way the courteous museum curators you encountered can collaborate with NTA , nigerian army records and historians and the boisterous indigenous nigerian filmakers.

    The purpose of this collaboration, would be to give documentory and historical accounts of the vast exploits of the NA. Past and present.
    They should look to the history channel and the military channel as a blue print.

    For instance, what was NA’s role in the standing up of the Zimbabwean national army.(ZNA) ?
    ZNA’s own historical account credits the chinese, the north koreans, the british, but no mention of nigeria’s role. Did NAF not train the initial crop of ZAF pilots?
    And now, we hear from you about Col. Baku’s role. In gathering the 1st 100 members of what is today one of the more formidable armed forces in africa.

    Nigeria should learn to appreciate the official accounting of our history. For if we don’t, someone else will tell it, twist the facts, or omit it altogether.

    • beegeagle says:

      At this time when we need to reposition the Nigerian military in the consciousness of Nigerians, it would not be out of place for the Presidency to male available the sum of 150 million for a research and documentation project which would lead to the production of a 5-hour long documentary on the military as a whole.
      This would then be beamed to all crannies of the huge country with a view towards public enlightenment. There are still too many cynical Nigerians who need to be carried along.

      Such a documentary would be very rich in content and would feature interviews with several generations of officers who played critical roles in the nation’s military. Those of the pre-independence era such as David Ejoor, Civil War commanders such as Obasanjo, TY Danjuma and IBM Haruna, former service chiefs such as Michael Adelanwa, Akin Aduwo(Navy), Chris Alli and Salihu Ibrahim(Army), Emmanuel Ikwue and Dominic Bello. We have outstanding ECOMOG Commanders such as Dogonyaro and Olurin alive and well, commanders of the Somali expedition such as Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Bakassi Peninsula theatre commanders such as Saleh Maina, JTF Niger Delta commanders such as Sarkin-Yaki Bello all well and kicking to tell our story. We have excellent peacekeepers such as Generals Agwai, Obiakor, Owonibi and Obi to talk to. We also need to talk to the officers who returned to the Nigerian military after their stint with the Biafran Armed Forces such as Simon Uwakwe, Bob Akonobi, Chris Ugokwe etc. Thankfully, we also have many now-amnestied officers who left to form the Biafran Army but who have now been restored to their Nigerian Army ranks – eg Capt. Emmanuel Nwobosi. We also have to seek out and interview soldiers who fought in all these wars at home and abroad. Finally, we need to touch down in Sierra Leone and Liberia to interview the actors in the wars in which we were involved as a nation out there in West Africa.

      On the day that I visited the museum, I deliberately did not request to see the Director, Colonel Ipinyomi. Neither did he know that I visited. But way back in the late 1990s when I used to visit Colonel (now retd,Brig.Gen) Oki at AN Barracks in Lagos, I took notice of three Captains at the Corps HQ at that time – one of whom was Ipinyomi. They were personable, forward-looking and modern. I was an undergraduate of the University of Lagos at the time and looked up to them for reasons which cannot be divulged here. But I am sure that Ipinyomi and his counterparts in the sister services can be trusted to do niche work.

      This project has been on my mind for 5 years now but the finances (US$1 million) have been lacking. I would participate if called upon and I am sure that two excellent Nigerian military historians would join in. I should be able to reach out to Max Siollun who in turn should be able to get Prof. Nowa Omoigui to commit to the project. I am sure that the NSA and the service chiefs realise the value of such a research and documentation project for national orientation.

      Writing in a 2007 online commentary, Beegeagle wrote as follows concerning the coup day attack on General Murtala Muhammed who, with his aides, had survived the first wave of attacks on the Presidential limousine.


      ” After the second onslaught on the
      General’s limo, the General, his ADC and
      his driver Sgt Adamu Minchika lay dead.

      Unbelievably, his orderly Staff Sgt. OTUWE, whose name suggests that he may have come from the Ika area in the north of Delta state, SURVIVED. He continued his service in the army until the late 1980s and rose to the rank of Warrant Officer. His last unit was the 2 Mechanised Div Garrison HQ.

      Perhaps the NA Records unit, NAEC and the DMI can do Nigeria a massive favour by tracing this man and recording his accounts of that momentous day for posterity. ”


  2. muyi1 says:

    this is jimmy
    I am grateful for showing this slice of Nigerian History unfettered. There were some parts that were even more educational than others. I never knew WHO UGBOMA was till you educated us amatuer military historians We all thought it was W.U. BASSEY.
    Yeah I know mr BEEAGLE I am always asking questions very little is known about shuwa even as a kid the only WORDS KNOWN about SHUWA were QUIET, METHODICAL can you shed some light on this man and his reputation in handling the 1 ST DIVISION. little tid bit wasn’t Brig BAKU also SHAGARI’S cousin/ nephew which enraged shagari to no end?

  3. to4shizzle says:

    I have been saying this with Mordern Technology Advancement there is a need to bring together a yearly NA and Armed Forces Museum fair to showcase our history and do battle enactments for entertainment and also it wont be a bad idea to remake a movie on our civil war (hollywood used one part in their bruce willis award winning rising sun moive) where our soldiers where potrayed in a good light those guys gave the special forces aka SOCOM peeps a run for their lives crackshot and mercilless and professional as it is meant to be

    As for this educative repose’ I’m shocked to kno there is even a triservice museum I wonder wat tourism in this country has become a lot needs to be done to reposition our military thanks for the lessons also can you brief us more on the Black scorpion dude I will like to know more on this fearless leader who striked fear during the War

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s