The nation was thrown into turmoil on the 13th of February 1976, after the Head of State and the Chief Commander of the Armed Forces, General Murtala Ramat Muhammed, was assassinated in Lagos during an unsuccessful coup led by Lt. Col. Buka Suka Dimka. History has it in profile that Gen. Muhammed loved a low-profile lifestyle, and it was this kind of lifestyle that led to his easy assassination.
According to OldNaija’s research, on the day of Gen. Muhammed’s assassination, he was driven in an official black Mercedes Benz saloon car and escorted by his Aide-de-camp (ADC), Akintunde Akinsheinwa, an orderly and a driver, and the only visible sign of protection was a pistol carried by his orderly. Unlike today’s leaders, there was no siren-blaring and dozens of reckless driving convoy, all it took was just a traffic controller, who while carrying out his duty, stopped on the lane the Head of State’s Mercedes-Benz car was at the time of the incident.
Gen. Muhammed’s deputy, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, who was the Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters and Lt-Gen. Theophilus Danjuma, the Chief of Army Staff were also marked by the assassins to be killed on the same day and almost the same hour as the Head of State. Gen. Muhammed wasn’t lucky like Gen. Obasanjo and Lt-Gen Danjuma who still live till today.
The assassins opened fire on the General’s car and killed every living soul in it. Immediately after the assassination of the Head of State, it was confirmed that Lt. Col Buka Suka Dimka had run to the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) to announce the success of the coup, he never knew it yet wasn’t successful. At the NBC, he read his first speech, he read: “Fellow Nigerians, Murtala Muhammed’s deficiency has been detected. His government is now overthrown by young revolutionaries.” Lt. Col. Dimka, thinking the coup had succeeded, bragged on:“All the 19 military governors have no powers over the states they now govern. The states affairs will be run by military brigade commanders until further notice…” Unfortunately for him too, he didn’t live to rectify his dream of ruling Africa’s most populous country.
Unlike his predecessor, General Yakubu Gowon, General Muhammed was considered tough, dogged and fearless. It is touted that he applied this characteristics in his resolved fight to rid the country of all form of corruption by some military governor-politicians under General Gowon, whom he said had“betrayed the trust and confidence reposed in them by the nation and betrayed the ethics of their profession.”
His fight against public sector corruption, led to mass dismissals and retirement of over 10,000 public officials on the grounds of inefficiency and corruption. As it is in modern Nigeria, many of those dismissed or retired were people regarded as highly placed, with connections in high places.
Perhaps, it could be said that the difference between General Muhammed and Nigeria’s current crop of leaders is that while the General was willing to make the hard decision for a greater and brighter tomorrow even though as a military regime, today’s leaders lack the political will to make hard choices that could better the lots of the country.
Since he was alleged to be performing more than his predecessor, General Gowon, whom he ousted also as military head of state, the question of what then, could have necessitated his assassination by Lt. Col. Dimka and co had continued to resonate”?
Lt. Col. Dimka never had the chance of reading his second speech… Here is the speech: “Fellow Nigerians… On the 29th July 1975 the Government of General Gowon was overthrown.
“Some of the reasons given for the change were: corruption; indecision; arrest and detention without trial; weakness on the part of the Head of State; maladministration in general and a host of other malpractice. Every honest Nigerian will agree with me that since the changeover of government, there has not been any physical development in the whole country generally.”
On the dismissals and retirements of public servants in the fight against corruption and inefficiency, Dimka’s speech read further:“All we have is arbitrary dismissal of innocent Nigerians who have contributed in no less amount to the building of this great nation… The sad point about it all is that those who initiated the retirement or dismissal exercise are the worst offenders. You will be informed about the ill-gotten wealth in my next announcement.”
As it is with many a politician’s political battles, Dimka tried to align with the familiar mantra of the other coup plotters in the bid to steer the ship of the Nigerian state.“The people of this country have been living in a state of fear,” part of the speech read, adding:“They (referring to General Muhammed and his fellow coup plotters that ousted General Gowon from power) in fact took over power to enrich themselves.
“In view of what I have just said and a lot more which time will not permit me to mention, we the Young Revolutionaries have once again taken over the Government to save Murtala from total disgrace and prevent him from committing further blunders and totally collapsing the country before he runs away in the name of retirement to enjoy the huge fortune he got through bribe which he has now stored outside this country. I believe that charity should begin at home. Please stay by your radio for further announcements. We are all together,” so ended the speech that was never read. OldNaija got this two speeches from : http://www.thisdaylive.com
Col. Ibrahim Babangida led a detachment of soldiers to dislodge Dimka and his men at the NBC on the others of Gen. Theophilus Danjuma. Another account said it was Danjuma himself that went to the NBC to dislodge Dimka, while Dimka escaped through a tunnel.
However Lt. Col. Dimka was later caught, and was executed publicly on the 15th of May 1967 at the Maximum Security Prison in Lagos.
Gen. Muhammed Murtala was succeeded by Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, who was in power till 1979 when he handed over power to the democratic government of Alahji Sheu Shagari.
*Falola, Toyin; Heaton, Matthew (2008). A
History of Nigeria . Cambridge: Cambridge
*Ndaeyo Uko, Romancing the Gun: The
Press as a Promoter of Military Rule, Africa
Research & Publications, 2004.