Emmanuel Ifeajuna is the man on your 1980s and 1990s Exercise Book and he is someone you might have thought is another work of art or graphics representation.
The first time Emmanuel Ifeajuna appeared before a crowd of thousands he did something no black African had ever done – he won a gold medal at an international sporting event.
“Nigeria Creates World Sensation,” ran the headline in the West African Pilot after Ifeajuna’s record-breaking victory in the high jump at the 1954 Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver.
He was the pride not just of Nigeria but of a whole continent.
His nine track and field team-mates won another six silver and bronze medals, prompting a special correspondent to write “Rejoice with me, oh ye sports lovers of Nigeria, for the remarkable achievements of our boys”.
Ifeajuna, feted wherever he went, would soon see his picture on the front of school exercise books. He was a great national hero who would remain Nigeria’s only gold medallist, in Commonwealth or Olympic sport, until 1966.
The next time Ifeajuna appeared before a crowd of thousands he was bare-chested and tied to a stake, facing execution before a seething mob.
He had co-led a military coup in January 1966 in which, according to an official but disputed police report, he shot and killed Nigeria’s first prime minister.
The coup failed but Ifeajuna escaped to safety in Ghana, dressed as a woman and was driven to freedom by a famous poet. Twenty months later, he was back, fighting for the persecuted Igbo people of eastern Nigeria in a brutal civil war that broke out as a consequence of the coup.
Ifeajuna and three fellow officers were accused by their own leader, General Emeka Ojukwu, of plotting against him and the breakaway Republic of Biafra.
They denied charges of treason: they were trying to save lives and their country, they said, by negotiating an early ceasefire with the federal government and reuniting Nigeria. They failed, they died
The day of the execution was 25 September, 1967, and the time 1.30pm.
There was a very short gap between trial and execution, not least because federal troops were closing in on Enugu, the Biafran capital, giving rise to fears that the “guilty four” might be rescued.
He was executed along with three others namely Victor Banjo, Phillip Alale and Sam Agbam.