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Tuesday, 13 February 2018

42 Years Later: On This Day, 13 February 1976, General Murtala Ramat Muhammed, Nigeria’s Then Head of State Was Assassinated In Lagos,

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On this day, 13 February 1976, General Murtala Ramat Muhammed, Nigeria’s then Head of State and Commander-in-Chief, was assassinated in Lagos, Nigeria’s then federal capital city. He was just 37, leaving behind his only wife, Ajoke, and six young children

Had the coup plotters led by Lt. Col. Buka Suka Dimka not noticed the door of General Murtala Muhammed's Mercedes Benz car open minutes after it was sprayed with bullets from AK-47 assault rifles, triggering another round of firing, perhaps the late Head of State would have survived the brutal attack.

The lone survivor and Orderly to the late Head of State, Staff Sergeant Michael Otuwu, broke his silence in a highly emotional interview with The AUTHORITY Daily, nearly 40 years after the tragic incident.

According to the Orderly, on their way to work on the morning of Friday, February 13, 1976, the Head of State left his personal house in Ikoyi and was headed to work in Dodan Barracks, the seat of government, which he said was being renovated at the time.

Otuwu disclosed that beside the Head of State was his ADC, Lt. Akintunde Akinterinwa, himself (Otuwu) directly seated in the front passenger's seat, with Sergeant Adamu Michika behind the wheels.

According to the Orderly, as the unsuspecting car of the Head of State stopped before a row of cars at a junction, he noticed a man in a traditional attire, babanriga (he later identified as Dimka) who approached the car, removed the flowing robe and pulled out an AK-47 rifle, shooting the driver in the head point blank.

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General Iliya D. Bisalla was executed along 30 other officers on March 11, 1976 for being involved in the February 13, 1976 abortive coup in which General Ramat Muhammed Murtala was killed

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Murtala Mohammed and Olusegun Obasanjo on 31 July,1975, a day after taking office

According to the Orderly, having disabled the car by killing the driver, other soldiers clad in robes, ran towards Murtala's car and opened fire.

"The Head of State, his ADC and I all ducked while the shooting lasted," narrated the Orderly, sobbing uncontrollably as he recalled the traumatic incident. After the shooting, Otuwu continued, he heard the gunmen running towards the Radio House.

A few minutes later, he continued, he noticed that the injured ADC opened his door, apparently to come to the aid of the equally injured Commander-in-Chief.

According to the Orderly, the opened door alerted the assailants that the occupants of the vehicle were not dead – and this prompted the coup plotters to return a second time to, again, open fire on the car in order to finish them off. He passed out.


According to Otuwu, Generals TY Danjuma and Olusegun Obasanjo were lucky because they were also targets but escaped because they did not leave for their offices as early as Murtala did and they heard the radio announcement which may have fatefully altered their movement plans.

According to Otuwu, who enlisted in the Nigeria Army in 11 September, 1967, he had moved early that morning with the late Head of State from his Ikoyi residence to Dodan Barracks because the overthrown General Yakubu Gowon had not evacuated the official residence and it was not yet renovated.

His words: "I was his Orderly throughout to his last day during the Dimka coup. I was inside the car with him when he was killed.

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Corpse Of Murtala Muhammed In 1976


"On the morning of that February 13, we were going to the office. Sergeant Adamu Michika was the driver; Sergeant Akintunde Akinterinwa, his ADC, sat behind the driver. As an Orderly, I was in front with the driver.

"While the Head of State sat behind me - I was the one who opens the door for him. That fateful day I came up in the morning to carry him to the office in Dodan Barracks. We got to the former Secretariat, now at Ikoyi, which was under construction.

Before the place they call Alag bon junction, near the labour office. The official car was a Mercedes Benz 600. It is still at the National Museum. There were about four or five vehicles in front of us. You know at that junction there was traffic. We didn't go with sirens. During his time we didn't go with escorts with the accompanying out-riders, road-closed signs and all that.
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So when we got to the Alagbon junction, the traffic warden stopped the vehicle and we were in the queue. We were the fifth or sixth vehicle behind the forward vehicles that were stopped. That secretariat was under construction.

They put zincs around the compound behind that secretariat. Then some soldiers came in Agbada carrying AK-47 rifles. "They wore uniforms but covered them with Agbada. They had their Kalashnikovs with Agbada cover-up in form of camouflage. We never knew they were even waiting for us. Then one soldier from Golf Road shot and got our driver, Sergeant Michika. Our motor was neutralized.

"Between me and the driver was an arm-rest. On that arm-rest was Oga's brief case. In this brief case he puts civil dress he could use as needed. When he wants to go to Mosque, he does not like going back to Ikoyi to change.

"Then some other soldiers converged on us. I can't recall their number. They began to spray us from the back. All of us took cover. I fell on top of the driver; the blood of the driver covered my head. They thought the bullet got my head.

"After the first shooting and without return of fire they must have assumed that we were all dead. The shooting was actually in two phases. They ran to the NBC to announce the assassination. They shared themselves into three.
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The late General Murtala Muhammed’s seven months rule as Nigeria’s third military Head of State recorded unprecedented achievements. He was guided by purposeful leadership and devoted love
"There was a group waiting for Obasanjo when he was about to go to the office. Also another group was waiting for TY Danjuma at Bourdillon – our own was at Ikoyi Road. It happened we were the first target that moved early from the house to the office.

"Before Obasanjo and TY Danjuma moved to their offices they have already heard the radio announcement. By the time of the first shooting, we being the target and their running to NBC to go and announce that they have already finished their assignment, the ADC who was still alive, thinking they were gone, opened the door of the Benz.

"In the first spraying of the car, except the driver who was killed, the three of us were injured but not dead. On observing the car door opening, one of the attackers, still within range, a Major, called to the others: "he never die, he never die." He was calling his group to return.

"This time around when they came back they finished their entire magazines. That was what happened. They carried everybody to the mortuary at Igbosere Hospital, not far from Kam Salem Police Headquarters. Because of the extreme cold of the mortuary, my left hand started shaking and one of the attendants saw it and called the nurses or doctors and said somebody was still alive.
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"From there they checked and confirmed I was still breathing. So they had to look for a vehicle to carry me to Dodan Barracks. From Dodan Barracks they looked for an ambulance and carried me to a hospital, Awolowo Road hospital, a military hospital."

Otuwu, who hails from Kogi State, spent six months in the hospital after his miraculous survival. He has not been recognized by the army or the state. Presently, he does a few jobs for late General Murtala's son, in Abuja.
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Amazing Stories Around The World, presents the speech read on that Friday morning by Colonel Buka Suka Dimka who led the failed coup. Excerpts Below:

“Good morning fellow Nigerians, This is Lt. Col. B. Dimka of the Nigerian Army calling.

I bring you good tidings. Murtala Muhammed’s deficiency has been detected. His government is now overthrown by the young revolutionaries. 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.

All commissioners are sacked, except for the armed forces and police commissioners who will be redeployed.

All senior military officers should remain calm in their respective spots. No divisional commanders will issue orders or instructions until further notice.

Any attempt to foil these plans from any quarters will be met with death.

You are warned, it is all over the 19 states.

Any acts of looting or raids will be death.

Everyone should be calm.

Please stay by your radio for further announcements.

All borders, air and sea ports are closed until further notice.

Curfew is imposed from 6am to 6pm.

Thank you. We are all together”.

A few hours after the broadcast, the coup plotters were dislodged from the radio station where Dimka was to make a second broadcast. On the orders of General Theophilus Danjuma, Colonel Ibrahim Babangida led a detachment of soldiers that stormed the radio house to dislodge Dimka and his men after a short but fierce gun battle.

Below is a text of the second speech which Colonel Dimka never got to read on the air waves:

“Fellow Nigerians,

This is Lt. Col. BS Dimka.  I now explain why we the Young Revolutionaries of the Armed Forces have found it necessary to overthrow the six month old government of Murtala.  On the 29th July 1975 the Government of General Gowon was overthrown. Some of the reasons given for the change were:

a. Corruption

b. Indecision

c. Arrest and detention without trial

d. Weakness on the part of the Head of State

e. Maladministration in general and a host of other malpractice.

Every honest Nigerian will agree with me that since the change over of government there has not been any physical development in the whole country generally.

All we have is arbitrary dismissal of innocent Nigerians who have contributed in no less amount to the building of this great nation.  A Professor was arrested, detained, dismissed and later taken to court on an article which every honest Nigerian will agree that all the points contained in that article were 100% truth.  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.

The acting General Manager of the Nigerian Airways was invited to the Dodan Barracks and detained without trial.  The people of this country have been living in a state of fear.  The Armed Forces promotion exercise is still fresh in your minds.  Whatever reasons they have for the promotion one can only say that they are ambitious.  They in fact took over power to enrich themselves.

We are convinced that some of the programmes announced for a return to civilian rule are made to favor a particular group. To mention only one.  Maitama Sule is a politician.  But has been appointed Chief of Commissioners for Complaints.  This is to prepare him for the next political head at all cost.  How many of you know that Maitama Sule is on a salary of N17,000 per annum?

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.”

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Those who had the booming sound of the gunshot that early Friday morning on February 13, 1976, knew it was trouble. But those who subsequently heard the incoherent words of the principal assailant, Lt. Col. Buka Suka Dimka on the airwaves as he imposed a dawn to dusk curfew rightly upgraded the trouble sign to an unmitigated disaster. 

Dimka had in the mind of many right-thinking Nigerians aborted what was seen as the Nigerian renaissance as captured by the 198 eventful days of the Murtala Mohammed administration. 

Murtala Muhammed Following the killing of the head of state, Gen. Murtala Mohammed and his aide-de-camp, Lieutenant Akintunde Akinsehinwa, who has the record of being the youngest and lowest ranking officer to have held the position of ADC to a head of state, Dimka moved over from the death scene near the Federal Secretariat, Ikoyi, Lagos to the nearby studios of the then National Broadcasting Corporation, NBC to proclaim his infamy to the world. 

A tape of martial music earlier procured through a staff of the station, Abdulkarim Zakari was inserted while Dimka made his now infamous broadcast. Imposition of curfew Zakari, the broadcaster, became the only civilian among the 38 persons executed for the coup. 

While Dimka’s imposition of a curfew from morning to night bewildered many, it was a sign of his desperation and lack of comfort to other officials and men of the Nigerian Armed Forces. Others claimed that Dimka who was known to have spent much of the preceding night on a drinking spree may have been intoxicated. Senior officers like the junta’s number two man, Lt. Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, the army chief, Lt. Gen. Theophillus Danjuma and a number of army commanders in Ibadan, Kaduna, Benin and Enugu, escaped the dragnet of the insurgents. The targets had been chosen primarily because of their senior positions or because they were in states with radio stations. The only other target felled was Col. Ibrahim Taiwo, the military governor of Kwara State. 

The killing of Taiwo was to later feed currency that the coup was a response by the Plateau officers to the removal of General Yakubu Gowon as head of state the year before. Taiwo played a frontline role in the coup that removed Gowon and had allegedly served as the national coordinator for the execution of the coup. 

Within seven hours of the first broadcast, as the loyal troops regained their composure, strategies were laid out on how to nap Dimka who had by that time fortified himself with among fellow rebels in the premises of the broadcasting station in Ikoyi. The duty of rooting out Dimka was given to Col. Ibrahim Babangida, a senior officer of the armoured corps who had been specifically delegated by Danjuma who had relocated his headquarters from the Defence Headquarters to the nearby Bonny Camp. Following the order, Babangida proceeded to the Ikeja Cantonment where he took some armoured tanks to confront Dimka at the NBC in Ikoyi. 

Meanwhile, besides Ilorin and for a little while in Benin, the coup was of no significance in the rest of the country. In Benin, the brigade commander initially gave the order to the radio station to link up with the broadcast from Dimka’s broadcast which was being repeatedly broadcast. 

The action from Benin, however, provoked other commanders in other brigade headquarters notably Calabar and Kaduna to take over local radio stations to affirm their loyalty to the military junta. 

Even worse for Dimka, the grassroots support he envisaged was not just missing but in Lagos was even hostile. Students of the University of Lagos took to the streets to denounce the action. Martial music the morning wore on, Dimka was practically on his own, only holding on to the radio station from where he continued to broadcast martial music and his announcement overthrowing Mohammed to the great displeasure of Danjuma. 

By 2 p.m. Babangida had arrived Ikoyi with his armoured column. Why Danjuma chose Babangida for the role of ousting Dimka has remained a matter of much speculation especially given insinuations that the two men were friendly. 

However, Babangida proceeded with military alacrity in his task. In a move that has won him much accolade, Babangida reportedly approached Dimka without arms supposedly to persuade him. Whatever he told Dimka may have made the coup leader to realise that the end was there for him and it was not too long that day that armoured tanks moved to force him out. However, Dimka controversially slipped out of the building and escaped reportedly first to Jos before heading South towards the Southeast State, particularly to Afikpo where he had a popular girlfriend called Ugo.



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