Theophilus Danjuma

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Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma is a retired Nigerian general who was Chief of Army Staff from 1975-1979 and was the Nigerian Defense Minister between 1999-2003.

He rose swiftly in the army ranks during the Nigerian Civil War as one of the field commanders in Enugu. As an army officer, he held the view that a properly trained and fairly treated Nigerian army could be the finest in the world.

Early life

Danjuma was born in Takum, Wukari Division of present day Taraba State, the town is close to the Cameroonian border. His father was Kuru Danjuma who witnessed the spill over of World War 1 into his Jukun town, at the time, Cameroon was still controlled by Germany. Danjuma's mother was Rufkatu Asibi.

Danjuma was educated at Takum Elementary School, Katsina-Ala Provincial School before entering the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology. At Zaria, he joined the Cadet Corps and was enthralled by the army mufti and atmosphere. Though, his original intention was to pursue an academic and teaching career before finally choosing to take the cadet officers' course in 1959 and join the army in 1960 as an officer cadet. He subsequently enrolled in the Nigerian Military Training College, Kaduna and received his commission into the Nigerian army in March 1961, he was later commissioned as a commanding officer of a platoon in Congo.

Military career

In the early to mid 1960s, Danjuma attended various military related courses including stays at Wales, Mons Officer Cadet School, Aldershot, and Fort Bragg. He was also involved in the Congo conflict as a company leader and was on duty in Tanzania. He became a captain in 1963

Danjuma's career in the military between 1966-1979, saw him play major roles in the military rise to power but also witnessing a discordant tone in the army and within the nation especially during events preceding the civil war in 1967. Danjuma saw himself after the Nigerian civil war in the middle of a national debate about the role of the military in governance the ensuing return to civil rule.

On July 29, 1966, Danjuma led a band of soldiers from the 4th battalion in Mokola area of Ibadan to carry out the house arrest of both Aguiyi Ironsi and Western regional governor, Adekunle Fajuyi while the former was visiting the region. Danjuma's grouse with Ironsi was the concern that the army dissidents or the January rebels being held in prison were not facing trial and his perceived view that Ironsi was part of the January, 1966 coup.

Prior to the commencement of the civil war when Igbos led by Ojukwu declared Nigeria unsafe for them, Danjuma married his girlfriend, Grace and was a on course in Britain along with Major Abisoye. He was immediately called back and posted to Enugu. During the Nigerian Civil War, he was a General Staff Officer in the Ist Division and was involved in the capture of Enugu where fighting started from Nsukka.

In 1970 Danjuma attended the International Court Martial in Trinidad and Tobago as Nigeria's representative, when he was appointed President of the Tribunal in a case brought against members of a failed coup attempt in Trinidad and Tobago. Following his promotion to Colonel in 1971 he spent next two years with responsibility for court-martialling Army officers proven guilty of corruption and indiscipline. In 1975 he was promoted to Brigadier and the position of General Officer Commanding (GOC) and in the following hear he became the Chief of Army Staff to the Head of State Olusegun Obasanjo. He played a prominent role in supporting the president in resisting the Dimka Coup in 1976

After the end of the Nigerian civil war, there were growing debates among the army ranks about the role and nature of military governance in the county. While some military governors were interested in seeing an elongation of military government others governing pro democracy states where reluctant to suggest prolonging military rule or civilian rule under a retired general Yakubu Gowon. By 1974, Danjuma professed a desire to see the military return to the barracks as a way to protect the reputation of the institution.

In 1975, he became the Chief of Staff (army) and later that year, his support would prove crucial to the removal of General Gowon in a coup plot led by middle ranking soldiers and divisional commanders such as Joseph Garba, Shehu Musa Yar'Adua, Abdullahi Mohammed and Ibrahim Taiwo. The new regime led by Murtala Mohammed introduced a right to veto government programs by the Supreme Military Council and gave the council decision making powers on broad government programmes.

The new council included new entrants like the aforementioned plotters and other officers such as Ibrahim Babangida, Muhammadu Buhari and Alfred Aduloju. Danjuma along with Murtala Mohamemd and Olusegun Obasanjo became the key decision makers of the military governement with Danjuma largely in control of the army. Although the new government had to make steps to acquiesce themselves with the people, the old regime was already witnessing eroding support from the people.

He retired from the Nigerian army in 1979

Army reorganization

The new administration made critical decisions such as a return to civil rule by 1979 to increase their measure of legitimacy and gain support from the populace. Among the other measures introduced were administrative and military purges and the re-organisation of the army The re-organization of the army included a proposed demobilisation exercise affecting soldiers, many of whom were recruited during the civil war without adequate training but had field and combat experience. The re-structuring also emphasized the need to have all soldiers in the barracks by 1979 and to retrain army personnel.

Danjuuma then felt the army was immobile and the cost to train the soldiers was eating up defense budget leaving room for equipping the men. He emphasized demobilisation and proposed economic programs to cushion the economic blows to the retrenched soldiers. Along with demobilisation came the promotion of 14 prominent officers to the position of general, including Danjuma who rose to become a Lieutenant General rising over Defense Commissioner and former superior, Bissala. Both the purges and promotions caused discontent within the military. After an abortive coup in February 1979, the army council in charge of promotions was re-constituted and further restructuring in the army went on such as the construction of barracks. (1)

Business career

South Atlantic Petroleum

In 1998, Danjuma as chairman of South Atlantic Petroleum signed a oil prospecting license with the federal government of Nigeria on oil block OPL 246. The block later generated major oil finds including the more than 600m barrel Akpo field and other finds such as Egina and preowei. In 2006, South Atlantic sold a 45% stake in the block for $2.27b dollars in a complicated deal with part of it going for reimbursement to Total and Petrobras.

Nigeria America Line (NAL) Formed in 1979 by General TY Danjuma (Rtd), Nigeria American Line (NAL) began business and initially leased a ship called 'Hannatu' which traded between Lagos and Santos in Brazil when Nigeria's bilateral trade agreement had opened the sea routes to economies in the South American markets. NAL went on to win patronage from Nigeria's National Supply Company (NNSC) to bring in government goods from. NAL's list of growing clients included DICON Salt (Nigeria) and project cargoes for Iwopin Paper Mill, ANNAMCO and Volkswagen Nigeria. NAL became a member of AWAFC (American West African Freight Conference), Brazil-Nigeria Freight Conference and the Mediterranean Line (MEWAC). With the formation of the National Maritime Authority (NMA) IN 1987/88, the profile of NAL increased as NMA encouraged indigenous operators to claim their share of internationally traded cargo involving Nigeria. NAL began with a core indigenous staff of about 12 in 1979. In 2009 staff in NAL-COMET is closer to 250 including approximately 12 expatriate staff members. From the Lagos office the NAL-COMET Group has opened branch offices in Port Harcourt which serves Onne, Warri and Calabar seaports

COMET Shipping Agencies Nigeria Ltd COMET Shipping Agencies Nigeria Limited was established in 1984 by Danjuma, primarily to act as an agent for Nigeria American Line (NAL). COMET has grown and by the late nineties became one of the largest independent agents operating in Nigeria with experience in handling many types of vessels and cargo. In 2009 Comet handled over 200 vessels at the ports of Lagos, Port Harcourt, Calabar and Warri. In 2005 NAL-COMET acquired a roll-in-roll-out port (RORO) in Lagos which makes it the largest independent port operators in Africa.

Business investments

Danjuma owns various interest in different ventures including in the shipping sector where he founded Comet Shipping and the Nigerian American line. He has also chaired the board of Chagoury and Chagoury Construction, the former Universal Trust Bank and was a former board member of S.C.O.A. Nigeria. He has served on the board or at one time owned interest in the following firms: MED Africa Group, First Universal, Nigerian American Ltd, Sahel Publishing Company, Tati Hotels, Jos, Continental Re-Insurance, Guinness Nigeria, Elf Oil, Nigeria Eagle Flour Mills, Eastern Bulchem, Ideal Flour Mills, Pan Ocean oil and Michelin Motor Tyre Services. (2)


Since 1999 Danjuma has played an active role in Nigerian politics, some of his key appointments have been:

  • 1999 Appointed as Minister of Defence to President Olusegun Obasanjo's Cabinet
  • 2003 Appointed as Chairperson for investigative committee on the Warri conflict
  • 2010 Nominated as Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Council by Acting President Goodluck Jonathan

While in Office, Gen TY Danjuma sought to curb the politicisation of the military, and was an firm supporter of democracy and the Rule of Law. He also oversaw the renaming of all Nigerian Barracks and Cantons, from those of civilian or living persons. He was also widely known to be an avid opponent of President Obasanjo's attempts in 2006 to engineer a way that would enable himself and state governors to serve more than two consecutive terms.

TY Danjuma Foundation

In December 2008, the TY Danjuma Foundation was created in Nigeria.

The Foundation's principal aims are to provide durable advantages through the implementation of development programs. The Foundation plans to operate more as a philanthropic organisation rather than simply as a charity. This would allow for the foundation to seek out other deserving causes and Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to partner with and make grants available.

The TY Danjuma Foundation seeks to alleviate poverty in communities by providing basic amenities, education for children and young adults while also providing free medical care for indigent people. Currently, USD500,000 has been given out as grants to NGOs working to relieve suffering in Danjuma’s home state of Taraba. Taraba is historically one of Nigeria's most impoverished states, compounded by the absence of a health service which catered for the masses. Furthermore, the state has the highest case of river blindness and other debilitating illnesses.

The TY Danjuma Foundation is currently partnering with over 50 NGOs throughout Nigeria, and with the support and cooperation of 36 state governors. One of the many NGOs which is being supported by the Foundation is CASVI working in Takum, Wukari and Donga. CASVI's main area of expertise is on the provision of free eye care services such as the treatment of river blindness in Wukari, Ibi and Donga.


  • (1)Simone K. Panter-Brick. Soldiers and Oil: The Political Transformation of Nigeria
  • (2)Aaron Tsado. Federalism in Africa: The Imperative of Democratic Development. p 132
  • (3)Africa Confidential. Volume 43 Number 3. Published 8 February 2002
  • (4)Africa Confidential. Volume 43 Number 9. Published 3 May 2002