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General Aguiyi-Ironsi’s widow, Victoria, dies at 97

The wife of Nigeria’s first military Head of State, Major-General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe (J.T.U.) Aguiyi-Ironsi, , Chief (Mrs) Victoria Nwanyiocha Aguiyi-Ironsi, is dead.

Mrs Aguiyi-Ironsi died in the early hours of Monday, aged 97.

Born on November 21, 1923, she was the second First Lady of Nigeria from January 16, 1966 to July 29, 1996 when her husband was assassinated in in counter military coup.

General Aguiyi-Ironsi was killed in Ibadan in the counter-coup led by late General Murtala Muhammed. It led to the emergence of General Yakubu Gowon as Head of State.

Reflecting on her life since after the gruesome murder of her husband in an interview with The Guardian newspaper on June 3, 2016, she said: “The truth is that 29th of July this year will be 50 years since my husband was killed. By then, I had eight children. I have seen hell and at the same time, I have seen heaven.”

Following the killing of her husband, Chief Mrs. Victoria Aguiyi-Ironsi, who never re-married, raised their children alone and they all went on to play important roles in Nigeria’s development.

She explained why she never remarried in The Guardian newspaper interview.

“I never thought of marrying again. I saw many white people and black people who wanted to marry me, but they were not of the type of man that I married.

“If you knew what I went through, you will sympathise with me. When they come to introduce that kind of talk, I would look at them from their hairs to their toes and ask, why have you come to say you want to marry me. Are you not afraid? I will say to them, “when you marry me tomorrow, will you take me to Buckingham Palace so that I will remove Johnny’s picture and put your own in his place, or what?”

“The man I married, I didn’t know whether I was a wife or sister or what. There was nothing he did not teach me. He molded me as he wanted and when he was going, he knew that I would never remarry. He knew I would train his children. So why would somebody because of earthly things ask me to remarry. It couldn’t be, please.

“After the war, it was the question of, ‘I want to marry you’, and I think that somebody who will see a woman with eight children and still insist on marrying her is not serious. What is the person coming to do?

“When we were in the convent, there was a way you look at a man and we will say you have committed adultery. So, we were the “holy of the holies.” The only man I knew was my late husband. The man who so loved me and cared for me; a man who could dress my hair while we were in London, and even on our wedding day. He was the only one I could marry. There was nothing he did not do for him.

“From my childhood, I have always been a strong person. I danced so much in my youth and every December, I was the one leading the dance troupe in my community. I never stopped until the year I married. Go to my village, Ohokobo Afara and find out what I am telling you. I was born in Ohokobo Afara and married in Ndume.

“For me, having children was no issue. Before anybody could suspect that I was pregnant, then you know that the pregnancy was in the seventh month. If I had remarried after the death of my husband, I would have also given birth to four or five children more. This is because of my age and nature of life.”

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