of power would have a hard time understanding why a sitting military head of
state would drive through Lagos traffic with no security.
13th of February 1976 after the Head of State and the Chief Commander of the
Armed Forces of Nigeria, General
Murtala Ramat Muhammed, was assassinated in Lagos during an
unsuccessful coup led by Lt.
Col. Buka Suka Dimka. History has it that Gen. Muhammed loved a
low-profile lifestyle, and it was this kind of lifestyle that led to his easy
lack of self-importance with which Murtala, as he was fondly called by most
Nigerians, went about his business.
parents’ 11 children, Murtala joined the army at the age of 19.
degrees and training programs, he was made Colonel, barely 30 at the time.
the seat in January 1966.
overthrown while attending the 12th summit of the Organisation of African Unity
(OAU) in Kampala, Uganda.
Information (equivalent to the role of Minister for Information and Communication
in today’s administration) took power as the new Military Head of State.
Chief of Staff, Defence HQ, (a role which was practically the same as being
Vice President), set about changing a lot of the policies and overhauling the
institutions that had made Gowon unpopular in his final days in power.
for the nation, a clear sense of patriotism that had been lost when Nigeria’s
first civilian leaders first began to show that having the key to the vault
means that money will begin to vanish and then show up in unexpected places, in
expensive cars and fat bank accounts.
re-organising and demilitarising a large wing of the Nigerian army, reducing
the total number of active soldiers by 100,000.
Federal Capital Territory due to Lagos being overcrowded.
the Abuja area as the new capital ahead of other proposed locations.
would in the future move to a federal territory location of about 8,000 square
kilometres in the central part of the country.
favour of the North, Murtala cancelled and nullified the results, much to the
pleasure of the other regions who were desperate for equal representation.
everyone as he wished to be treated.
and everyone else with a sense of expectation.
direct and ambitious. His decisiveness, especially, won him popular support
region and other soldiers who felt they deserved a bigger say in the direction
of the country, his changes seemed too abrupt, too radical, too intense even.
Some called him mercurial.
this led a group of soldiers to call time on his government and cut him down in
Murder in the Capital
way to work in Dodan Barracks. While sitting in his Black Mercedes Saloon Car
along with his Aide-De-Camp (ADC), Lieutenant Akintunde
Akinsehinwa, he was ambushed by a group of soldiers.
bullets, a task that was made all the easier because the only visible sign of
protection was a pistol carried by his orderly.
Head of State, the coup plotters swung into action, taking, first, the media.
the two largest newspapers and strengthening the reach of state-owned media,
particularly the radio network.
over the government. He went ahead to declare a 12-hour
that Murtala had been killed and in a country where war was only a recent
memory, there was already a rumour-based list of things to expect.
successful, to wrestle power from the government.
Lagos, people were too scared to come out of their homes and go to work, for
fear of reprisal attacks by troops loyal to Murtala or a tussle between both
of this new found wealth made its way into building infrastructure and making
cities like Lagos a desirable destination for the West and corporate concerns.
World Championship Tennis Pro Circuit Series.
Stockton were vying for the prize money while enjoying the many
bounties that Lagos has to offer.
where they were staying, of the coup after Paul Svehlik, the
WCT tour manager had called him to tell him about the assassination.
to the radio. He had come to the country as part of a tour sponsored by Pepsi.
went on the radio, their lives were suddenly at risk.
take back the radio station from the coup plotters.
went off the air. In the tussle, Dimka narrowly escaped being shot.
announcing its return, the radio station came back on the air.
Broadcasting Corporation went off the air. The Federal
Government wanted to take over the radio station from the coup plotters.
recaptured, the radio station came back on the air with highlife music.
successful and a curfew was still in effect.
the Federal Government announced that Murtala had died and Olusegun Obasanjo
was the new Head of State.
was that the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had
murdered Murtala. Nigeria was not the place for any foreigner to be in those
The military disrupted the rest of the games, entering into the courts and
ordering everyone out with automatic rifles and clubs.
leaving an 18-inch scar on his back. Parsons was on his way to the Reuters
office in Lagos to file the breaking story when he was assaulted.
Government provided transport for the players and they left the country.
Ambassador, before flying out of the country.
bringing Dimka to justice.
coup so he quickly became the focus of a massive manhunt.
companion, at Friendship Hotel in Afikpo, in Eastern Nigeria.
military officers and civilians were executed by firing squad.
cleanest legacy of any Nigerian military leader.
civil war. Nigerians may forget but the people of Asaba remember when his
division of the army murdered a majority of the town’s male population,
creating an imbalance that is still evident till this day. That mass murder is
known as the Asaba Massacre and it remains one of the biggest scars from the
favour, as with many of his peers. But that takes nothing away from the work he
imprint of dedication and empathy.
currency, specifically the 20 Naira note.
parks, gardens, buildings and other monuments named after him.
good, but while we have the benefit of hindsight, we will look back at days
like that fateful morning in February and think about what it could have been.