Aguiyi-Ironsi was the first Nigerian soldier to be a Major-General from the rank of private. He joined the Army at the age of 18 in 1942 against his sister’s wishes.

As Head of State, he banned the Hausa language as the lingua franca of the Nigerian military (and civil service examinations in the North) and enforced the English language (many Hausa infantry soldiers could not speak English).

In his 194 days as Head of State (the shortest military rule in Nigerian history), he made sure fundamental human rights and freedom of expression were not abused.

He promulgated Decree No.2 which removed the restrictions on press freedom the Sir Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa-led civilian administration had put in place and Decree No 44 which made it an “offense to display or pass on pictorial representation, sing songs, or play instruments the words of which are likely to provoke any section of the country,” in March 1966.

He also passed Decree No. 34 which aimed to unify Nigeria into a unitary state and make the country one single entity for an easy administration in May 1966.