Home AFRICA Prime Minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa is killed in Nigeria’s first military coup

Prime Minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa is killed in Nigeria’s first military coup

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Saturday, 15 January 1966

Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was the first Prime Minister of Nigeria after it gained independence. He served his term as Prime Minister from 1957 until he died in 1966 when he was kidnapped and killed in the country’s first military coup. Balewa’s term was tumultuous due to tensions in the western Region of the country. Nigeria was comprised of three regions each with a considerable amount of self-governance. This caused tensions as the leaders of the respective regions were set on completely separating their regions from the influence of the Federal Government and other regional leaders.

When one of the leaders in the western region Obafemi Owolowo was charged with treason by Balewa’s government, it led to many of Balewa’s supporters turning against him. Violence broke out in the region after elections took place in 1965; as many were not pleased with the outcome. The tension and violence in the area eventually led to the coup in 1966.

During his reign as Prime minister, Balewa had been influential in the formation of the  and had been vocal in his condemnation of the Sharpeville massacre in South Africa. He was knighted in 1960 by Queen Elizabeth II.

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