Both men joined the Nigerian Army in the early 1960s (Ugokwe claimed that he enrolled on the same day as both Buhari and Shehu Musa Yar’Adua).
Ugokwe was officially put on army leave after the “reprisal coup” of July 1966. His escape from the North which had become unsafe for officers and people of Eastern Region origin was facilitated by Lt. Colonel Hassan Usman Katsina, the governor of the Northern province to whom he was serving as aide-de-camp. In September 1966, Ugokwe was escorted to Kaduna Railway station by Ibrahim Babangida and Garba Duba before embarking on his journey to the Eastern Region.
Ugokwe fought on the side of the secessionist state of Biafra between 1967 and 1970 as a brigade commander. He was reabsorbed into the Nigerian Army after the civil war with a loss of seniority.
He was significantly involved in two prominent military operations after his reabsorption into the Nigerian military.
As a Major, he was instrumental in flushing out dissident soldiers led by Lt. Colonel Buka Suwa Dimka from Broadcasting House during the abortive coup of February 13th 1976. The mission was organised by the “Core Commander” of the Armoured Corps, Lt. Colonel Babangida (in relation to whom Ugokwe had had 6 months seniority when both were members of the Armoured Recce Squadron prior to the civil war) and carried out on the ground by Ugokwe, the Regimental Commander, and Lt. Colonel M.B. Mayaki; Ugokwe leading the armoured offensive and Mayaki (himself an armoured corps officer) the infantry assault. Captain Jimmy Okojoko was also an influential fighter on the ground.
. As a member of the General Staff in April 1983, Lt. Colonel Ugokwe was assigned by Major General Buhari, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) the Third Armoured Division in Jos, to recapture 21 islands located on Lake Chad from Chadian forces led by Idriss Deby, the Chief of Army Staff. Ugokwe arranged for the relocation of the headquarters of the Third Armoured Division to Maiduguri and in combination with 21 Armoured Brigade succeeded in recapturing all 21 islands along with an extra two islands that were seized.
He retired in 1985 as a Lieutenant Colonel. Lt. Colonel Ugokwe died on December 30th 2016.
Muhammadu Buhari was involved in the coup which overthrew Major General J.T.U. Aguiyi-Ironsi in July 1966 and fought for the Federal side in the Nigerian Civil War. He was also involved in the coup of July 1975 which removed General Yakubu Gowon and brought to power Brigadier Murtala Muhammed.
During the 1970s, Buhari served as a military administrator of Bornu State, the Federal Commissioner for Petroleum and Natural Resources and as Military Secretary.
Buhari graduated from the US Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, as a Master in Strategic Studies. During the early 1980s, first as a Brigadier and then as a Major General, he went on to perform General Officer Commanding roles for army divisions; two infantry and the other armoured, before he emerged as the Head of State following the coup which overthrew the civilian administration of President Shehu Shagari on New Years Eve in 1983.
Buhari was himself overthrown by a coup led by Major General Ibrahim Babangida in August 1985. He was placed in detention for a period of time.
Buhari made a number of failed attempts at becoming a civilian president during the 2000s, but is presently serving his second term as a civilian president of the Fourth Republic.