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Trailblazers: Wellington Bassey, Nigeria’s First Indigenous Army Officer



In the annals of Nigerian military history, one name stands out for its pioneering spirit and dedication to service – Wellington Bassey.

As the first Nigerian to join the Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF) in 1933, Bassey broke down barriers and paved the way for future generations of military personnel.

His remarkable journey, marked by excellence and perseverance, continues to inspire and motivate Nigerians to this day.

Early Career

Born in 1912 in Calabar, Nigeria, Bassey’s entry into the military was met with opposition from his parents and community.

However, he remained resolute in his pursuit of a career in the army. Starting as a bandsman in the Royal Band Corps of the RWAFF, Bassey quickly rose through the ranks, becoming a warrant officer two, company sergeant major, and weapons instructor.

His early years in the military laid the foundation for his future success, as he demonstrated a keen sense of discipline, leadership, and strategic thinking.

Rise Through the Ranks

Bassey’s exceptional leadership skills and dedication earned him a posting to train troops in the Gold Coast (now Ghana) from 1945 to 1949.

Upon returning to Nigeria, he completed an officers’ training course in Warwick, England, and was promoted to Second Lieutenant as an infantry officer by King George VI in April 1949.

This milestone marked a significant turning point in Nigerian military history, as Bassey became the first indigenous officer to receive a commission.

His achievement paved the way for other Nigerians to pursue careers in the military, breaking down the barriers of colonialism and discrimination.

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Command Positions

Throughout his illustrious career, Bassey held various command positions, including:

– First commanding officer, Boys Company (now Nigerian Military School), Zaria
– First Nigerian commandant, Lagos Garrison, Apapa
– First commanding officer, Federal Guards (later Brigade of Guards), Lagos
– Commanding officer, Nigerian Army Depot, Zaria
– Brigade commander, first Brigade (now first division), Kaduna

In each of these roles, Bassey demonstrated exceptional leadership, strategic thinking, and a deep commitment to the development of the Nigerian Army. He played a crucial role in shaping the military into a modern, efficient force, capable of defending the nation’s interests and maintaining peace and stability.


Wellington Bassey’s legacy extends far beyond his impressive military career. He played a crucial role in shaping the Nigerian Army into the formidable force it is today.

In recognition of his contributions, the Army Barracks Camp WU Bassey and the Wellington Bassey Way in Uyo were named in his honor.

His legacy continues to inspire future generations of military personnel, and his name has become synonymous with excellence, dedication, and service to the nation.

The trailblazing career of Wellington Bassey serves as an inspiration to future generations of military personnel and Nigerians at large.

His dedication, perseverance, and leadership paved the way for others to follow in his footsteps.

As we remember this Nigerian hero, we celebrate his enduring legacy and the indelible mark he left on the Nigerian Army.

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