By Adewale Tijani
Emmanuel Ifeajuna is a very controversial personalty in the history of Nigeria. In Sports Circle, he was a hero. In the country’s political history, Ifeajuna was a villain. Among some Igbo, he was a betrayal.
Emmanuel Ifeajuna was Nigeria’s first gold medalist in international competition. A High jumper, he won gold medal for Nigeria at Commonwealth Games in Vancouver Canada in 1954.
Thereafter he joined the Nigerian Army and was one of the five majors who carried out Nigeria’s first military coup in January 1966. He fled to Ghana when the coup failed but was brought back to Nigeria later.
He thereafter joined the Biafran Army and fought for the secessionists during the Nigerian Civil War. But he was arrested, tried and found guilty of plotting to overthrow General Ojukwu, the Briafran leader. He was subsequently executed in 1967 alongside Colonel Victor Banjo and Major Alale.
Late Ifeajuna was an alumnus of University of Ibadan. In fact, he won the gold medal for Nigeria while he was still an undergraduate in U.I.
He was a close friend of Chief Emeka Anyaoku, former Commonwealth Secretary General. Both hailed from the same area and attended U.I and were friends during their undergraduate days.
Ifeajuna made history in both Sports and Politics, though positively and negatively. But sadly, most Nigerians often remember him for his tragic role in Nigeria’s second bloodiest coup. And this is reason, successive regimes and sports administrators refused to honour him as Nigeria’s sports hero.
Even in the Olympic Notebook which had a drawing of his image. His name was not written on the notebook, and so many did not know the man that was drawn on the notebook.
May be in future, a Pharaoh who would know the value of Joseph might emerge. Then unsung heroes like Emmanuel Ifeajuna might be given the honour they deserved.