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The Sorrowful Story Of The First Black African Gold Medalist Who Was Executed By Firing Squad.

Emmanuel Ifeajuna was born in Nigeria in the year 1935. He was a high jumper, a skill he learnt while he was in school. He participated in national competitions including the 1954 Nigerian Athletics Championship which made him famously known as a prolific high jumper. He jumped 6 foot 5.5 inches (1.97 m) at this competition, which made him to be qualified to represent Nigeria at the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games.

While in Vancouver where the competition took place, Ifeajuna broke both the competition and the British Empire records in high jump. He was regarded a hero and received a grand welcome. 

Ifeajuna became a celebrity that his photo was used on the cover of exercise books in Nigeria.

However, he stopped training in the game and went back to school. He joined the University College of Ibadan. He got involved in student politics and became friends with some of Nigeria’s biggest poets, J.P Clark and Christopher Okigbo. 

According to reports, Ifeajuna organised many protests, but would not participate in lots of them. 

After he completed his university studies, Ifeajuna went to teach in Abeokuta, Ogun state. He left the teaching profession in the year 1960 to join the military. But due to his level of education, he rose to the rank of a major in 1966.

Emmanuel Ifeajuna was not satisfied with the way the Nigerian government was the running the affairs of the country after independence. Ifeajuna plotted a coup d'etat with Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, Timothy Onwuatuegwu, Chris Anuforo, Don Okafor, Adewale Ademoyega and Humphrey Chukwuka.

Ifeajuna arrested the then-Prime Minister, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa who unfortunately died while in detention. He also killed some army officials which include Brigadier Zakariya Maimalari and Lieutenant Colonel Abogo Largema.

The coup was later prevented by Major-General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, who later took over power to become the first military head of state. Following the failure of the coup, Ifeajuna had no choice than to flee away from Nigeria in order to have himself secured. With the help of his friends, he travelled to Benin and headed to Ghana where he was welcomed by Kwame Nkrumah.

Ifeajuna's stay in Ghana was cut short as Nkrumah’s government would be overthrown shortly afterwards. He returned to Nigeria amid assurances from Emeka Ojukwu, who assured him that his life was not at risk.

Ifeajuna returned to the military and became part of the Biafran Army. Unfortunately, Emeka Ojukwu, the leader of the Republic of Biafra accused Ifeajuna and other top military leaders of treason in 1967. He claimed that Ifeajuna and his mates were busy negotiating with Nigeria via the British and had the intention to overthrow him and take power for themselves.

Ifeajuna's trial was conducted quickly. He was sentenced to death by firing squad and was executed on September 25, 1967. According to reports, his last words were:"You may kill me now, but I am afraid it is too late. I am sorry for you all because it won’t be long before they get all of you. The Nigerians are already in your midst."

Compared to most of the planners of the coup d'etat that took in place in 1966, Ifeajuna has not been featured prominently in Nigerian history.

That was the story of Emmanuel Ifeajuna, the first Black African gold medalist who was executed by firing squad on 25th of September, 1967.

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British Empire Emmanuel Ifeajuna Ifeajuna J.P Clark Nigeria


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