Johnson Thomas Aguiyu-Ironsi was born on 3rd March, 1924, into the Mazi family in Ibeku Umuahia present-day Abia State in Nigeria. At the age of eight, he moved to live with his older sister who was married to Theophilius Johnson, a Sierra Leonean diplomat. In admiration of Mr. Johnson for the father-figure role he played in his life, he adopted his last name.
He joined the Nigerian Regiment in 1942 as a private with the seventh Battalion and later promoted to company sergeant major. He has since been promoted to many ranks like second lieutenant at the Royal West African Frontier Force with a subsequent retroactive promotion as lieutenant, granted a regular commission and was promoted to Captain and many more others. Indeed, he rose through the ranks to become the first Military Head of State Nigeria.
He seized power amidst ensuring chaos following the military coup in January 1966 which brought leadership of the country on it’s knees. As military leader, he was a brilliant ruler and a dictator. He ruled from 16th January a day after the coup until his mysterious assassination on this day, 29th July, 1966, after he was questioned by Danjuma on his involvement in the coup, seeing the demise of Ahmadu Bello the Sardauna of Sokoto upon arrest during what was called a July counter coup. His death till date is subject to a lot of controversy in Nigeria.