It was a startling discovery for many to find that Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu was not from the Igbo ethnic group from Southern-Eastern Nigeria, but an Anioma or derogatorily referred to as “Bendel Igbo” from Middle-Western Nigeria.
Augustine Esogbue is an Emeritus Professor who studied and taught in America until when he recently retired .He was a family friend of the Nzeogwus .According to him “I cannot remember the house number and road where Chukwuma was born in Doka or Gari meaning metropolis ,because it happened a long time ago . But I was born in House number F11, Ibadan Street, Kaduna on December 25th, 1940. My father hails from Isieke Umuekea Village in Ibusa Town of Oshimili North of Asaba-now in Delta State.When he died, my uncle adopted me, I left Kaduna, my mother and family friend Chukwuma in Kaduna. But I later fled from the custody of my uncle due to the hard labour of farming, because I was the only male in the midst of his female children. My uncle wanted to send me to a Teachers Training College, but I fled the hardship of farming from Asaba, crossed the River Niger on a boat to Onitsha, boarded a train from Enugu to Kaduna and then to Birnin Yero village railway station along the Kaduna Zaria Road, where my elder brother Peter Esogbue worked in the Post and Telecommunication (P and T), as the officer in charge of the Morse Code of the Railway. The train officials allowed me to have a free ride because they knew my uncle in Birnin Yero. I enjoyed my stay there because there was steady supply of cow hump meat, otherwise known in Hausa language as tozo. I later wrote the entrance examination to Saint John’s -now Rimi College- Kaduna. I met Chukwuma in form two while I was his junior in form one. Up to when I finished secondary school, my mother was in Kaduna, and they were family friends with the Nzeogwus because they come from the same area, and have the same language, even though they understand and speak the Igbo language.”
Professor Augustine said because his class was made up of gifted students, the school Principal, a Reverend father said we are recommended to be the first set of students to register and write the West African School Certificate Examination (WASCE) in form five instead of in form six in 1956 alongside the senior students in form six. My senior, that is, late Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu and his class went on strike to protest the promotion, asking why should we be allowed to take the examination with them. They protested and when they were ordered to go back to school, they refused, and they were later expelled. The church community came and begged the reverend father, and he said they would not let them come back until they apologized. Everybody did except Nzeogwu and one of his friends. They left school without writing the WASCE.
Before then, he was a leader of the Man O’ War Youth Wing. His mother and mine were very close friends. Nzeogwu hails from Okpanam Town where the Asaba Airport was built between Asaba, Ibuzo, and Okpaba in Anioma. He is Anioma just like me or what others call Bendel-Igbo. Many people say Nzeogwu is Igbo. No, he is not Igbo, but Anioma. Some of his classmates can testify to this. They are: George Iweche, President of Back Benchers, late James Bawa from Minna, Professor Peter Oseidebe in Nsukka and many others.
Professor said when they were in college, they loved and revered Sardauna, Azikiwe and Awolowo, and they loved him most when he hosted the Queen during her visit to Kaduna in 1956.
However, somebody who knew Major Nzeogwu as a teenager is Alhaji Abubakar Musa Abubakar who is a community leader in Abakwa in Kaduna metropolis. “I knew Chukwuma since when he was a teenager.He was born in Kazaure Road in Kaduna metropolis and he used to come and stay with his uncle -his father’s elder brother- in Abakpa during the school holidays. The uncle is called Anthony, he is the leader of Igbos in the community, and the house is about one hundred meters to the Abakpa Primary school. But the house has since been sold and its original shape distorted by the new occupants. Nzeogwu used to spend his holidays here.He was known to all then as Chukwuma and he used to assist his uncle with errands and he regularly accompanied him when he went hunting for birds and games around the area now known as the Nigerian Defence Academy, NDA Kaduna. Chukwuma attended primary School in Kaduna, but I don’t know whether he attended Secondary school before he joined the Army and did his training in the Nigerian Army Depot, Zaria as a recruit before he was later upgraded to an officer cadre, because he could read and write in the English Language. But he was very fluent in Hausa language.”
Similarly, Alhaji Abdullahi Dan Mata said after Sardauna was killed, some people started saying “Dan Abakpa” meaning he was from Abakpa area of Kaduna metropolis.
He said the people of Abakpa were not happy with the insinuation that the late Nzeogwu was associated with Abakpa, while he was not born or bred there, but he used to visit his uncle named Anthony.”
On his account of the 1966 coup, Alhaji Abubakar said he was in his tailoring shop when he heard about the coup. He said they later summoned courage to go and see what happened in the late Sardauna’s house, because they heard that the house was burnt and that the Premier had been killed.
He went to the House of Sardauna and then to the house of Alhaji Isa Kaita and joined Alhaji Saidu Barda and Hajiya Ta-Funtua in evacuating the goods of the Minister of Education from the Minister’s quarters to his personal house in Dutse Close, Unguwan Shanu.
According to him, nobody attacked or arrested Anthony, even though he was the leader of Igbos in the community. On the eve of the Nigerian Civil War in 1967, Igbos gathered in the house of Anthony and later proceeded to the South-Eastern Nigeria through the rail station in Abakpa. And after the civil war, they came back and claimed their house, until recently when they sold it and left the area.
Similarly, the chief Driver to the late Premier of the Northern region, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Alhaji Ali Sarkin Mota said, “Sardauna loves children, that is why when he wanted to enlist youths into the army, he did not discriminate between Hausa, Fulani or youths from western and eastern parts of Nigeria to fill the quota of the North. He just assisted whoever came to him. Chukwuma Nzeogwu added the name Kaduna when he wanted to join the military. He used to visit Sardauna even when he was a military officer.
Alhaji Ali Kwarbai, Sarkin Motan Sardauna said he worked that day till late in the night after taking the late Premier of the Western Region, Chief Ladoke Akintola to the airport to return to Ibadan.After he informed the Sardauna about an impending coup and some errands, because it was late in the night, and he had a busy schedule in the morning, he did not go home, but slept in the staff quarters of Sardauna on the day of the coup when Nzeogwu killed Sardauna .He said he survived the ordeal because he lay down under the bed during the sporadic shooting in the residence. The betrayal and killing of Sardauna by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu made him sick for almost six months before he later regained his consciousness.
Meanwhile, it is confirmed that late Major Chukwuma “Kaduna” Nzeogwu was buried in Kaduna. His grave is in the Commonwealth War-military-Cemetery located at Kashim Ibrahim Road, with the signboard Major C K Chukwuma Nzeogwu, grave number 9.
This reporter contacted the residence and office of the late Premier which was renamed Arewa House, which is also the center for historical documentation and research of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria, where a senior officer said they were not aware where Nzeogwu was buried.But they later found out and confirmed after two days that Nzeogwu was indeed buried in the military cemetery in Kaduna.