Remembering Murtala’s Rightful Place In History


By Okafor Udoka‏


The factual history of a nation is the nation itself because it presents a detailed, unbiased and accurate account of what was, what is and what could be if lessons of history are applied in the leadership and development of a country. However, the case of Nigeria is too “good” to be termed history talk less of a factual one as accounts have been “dressed” to suit the whims and caprices of the power mongers and, in some cases, the media.

It is on the strength of the foregoing that the young people are today taught, in “school” and homes, to celebrate and indeed adopt as role models characters who have no pride of place in human history. It is saddening to read on social networks youth celebrating Murtala Ramat Muhammed today. Yes, death is the very end of every man but on what basis can a Nigerian mark the remembrance of the death of Murtala Ramat Muhammed? What for?

It is no longer news that Murtala Muhammed supervised the greatest genocide in human history- the Asaba genocide. After murdering, Major Gen J. U. T Ironsi, his commander-In-chief and master minding the pogrom of 1966 in his capacity as the Inspector of Army Signals unit, young Murtala craved for heroism and more blood in Nsukka and fired the first shot that led to the Civil war which claimed the over 4 million lives of Igbos; in an attempt to win the war he had started, he hurriedly chiselled miscreants, ex-convicts and men of no character into 2 Division and marched eastwards, hence commencing the history of genocide from Benin to Onitsha.

As the 2 Division captured Benin, Murtala led his soldiers to loot the Central of Bank of Nigeria in Benin to celebrate his “heroic” feat of conquering “Biafran rebels” before embarking on a raping spree, maiming and killing of defenseless Nigerians; Murtala’s squad had no mercy, they raped Igbo women, executed the pregnant ones and had their fetuses disembowelled and littered on the streets of Agbor to Asaba. He reached his peak with the lining up and killing of over 2000 Igbo men and boys at Asaba on October 7, 1967 for alleged “Biafra sympathy” before crossing the Niger River to kill 300 people who had ran into a Church for safety from invading federal forces.

It is an open secret that Murtala was the most indiscipline and tactless soldier who caused the Federal government lives and ammunitions during the civil war; according to Retired Major-General James Olululeye “Murtala had very little respect for constituted authority while he would not tolerate disrespect from subordinates”. He challenged Major Gen Yakubu Gowon on several occasions and threatened to “remove him” from office the way he brought him to office. And finally, he did but as a fearful soldier, he propped up young colonels to do the hard work and flew back into the country after the coup. Responding to newsmen after his sack in far away Uganda while attending OAU meeting, Major Gen Yakubu Gowon said, “Murtala madly took over government”.

As the Head of state, he could not assert himself as a Kano State indigene nor Bendel State as evident in his first tour of Mecca with the Emir of Kano and ruler of Auchi owing to the fact that his grandfather had migrated to Kano from Auchi in search of a greener pasture. The fear that open acceptance of his Auchi lineage would land him in political trouble impeled Murtala to distance himself from his lineage and indeed people of Auchi.

The arrival of Murtala as the Nigeria’s Head of state signalled the end of third development plan and systemic development of Nigeria as he abruptly suspended its implementation and went ahead to entrench the elevation of mediocrity in the civil service with the sacking of competent civil servants, military service men and public official hovering over 10, 000.

The story of Murtala is that of senseless bloodshed as he also owned up when confronted during coup planning stage by the young colonels who were instructmental to his installation as the Head of state, the shameless Murtala said “I have enough blood on my hands, I don’t wish to add more”. Indeed Murtala represent not a hero or a name worthy of mentioning in civilized societies and to the hearing of the young generation. No wonder Chief Sam I Mbakwe had to move manfully in revising Queen Elizabeth Hospital (FMC) Umuahia to its original name immediately he became the Governor of old Imo State; the hospital was earlier renamed by Olusegun Obasanjo’s government to immortalize Murtala.

The face of Murtala adorns the N20 note; as everything associated with Murtala, many Nigerians had lost their lives as a result of N20 at police checkpoints and violent crimes involving N20 are uncountable, and these crimes sadly leads to deaths. One begins to wonder how many more would die before the CBN and FG realizes that the face of Murtala which adorns that N20 note is an aberration to humanity and insult to the dead as well as a disgrace to the living.

As the Head of state, Murtala had the best chance to apologize to Nigerians, especially ndigbo, for his role in orchestrating the 1966-70 genocide against humanity but he arrogantly carried on as if he did not cause Nigeria and its people pains, bloodshed and retrogression. Hence to the young generation, we shall urge: sing not Murtala’s praises in Aba, celebrate him not in Ikole-Ekiti and never stop to condemn his role in our national history in Sokoto; let posterity never be kind to him and may we have a president that will manfully consign him into the dustbin of history where he rightly belongs by renaming the nation’s busiest International airport in Lagos and try him posthumously at ICC, Hague soonest while giving befitting national burial and remembrance to those who died by his guns from Benin to Asaba and Nsukka.

February 13, 2012
Okafor C. Udoka


  1. 247Report should not publish utter rubbish like this. The article is not objective and unbalanced. The author is clearly tribalist, non patriot, and takes pleasure in promoting hatred.

  2. Why nt blame ojokwu 4 causin d war by tryin to brake up frm d country,n Gen Yakubu Gowon hu is d then head of state. Bcos of ur tribalism n hate 4 murtala,u r hia wastin ur tym n resources writin rubish. U beta wake up n face d reality dat ur so called biafara will neva come into existence n d minute ur ndigbo try to repeat ur rubish brake up,jst knw history wil repeat itself n no body wil folow u. And knw dt murtala’s name wil continue to live in history n minds of Nigerians,n his name wil b immortalised,while ur so called ojokwu has died n gone with his name 2 d grave.

  3. The author of the article against Murtala knows nothing. Personally, his AFRICA HAS COME OF AGE speech is the best ever given


    Ogunjimi James Taiwo

    “What do the dangers or sacrifices of a man or a people matter when what is at stake is the destiny of humanity.” – Che Geuvera

    Yesterday marked 36 years since one of the greatest leader Nigeria ever had was killed. I’ve read different tributes and different criticisms as regards Late General Murtala Muhammed.

    Personally, i believe that the way he stood up to the western forces makes him a hero to remember. He may not have been a flawless man, but if there is anything Africa needs, it’s freedom from western colonisation. His speech at the OAU summit made him one of the most respected leaders. Below is the speech:

    “Africa has come of age. It is no longer under the orbit of any extra continental power. It should no longer take orders from any country, however powerful. The fortunes of Africa are in our hands to make or to mar. For too long have we been kicked around: for too long have we been treated like adolescents who cannot discern their interests and act accordingly. For too long has it been presumed that the African needs outside ‘experts’ to tell him who are his friends and who are his enemies. The time has come when we should make it clear that we can decide for ourselves; that we know our own interests and how to protect those interests; that we are capable of resolving African problems without presumptuous lessons in ideological dangers which, more often than not, have no relevance for us, nor for the problem at hand.”

    We should never forget that this speech practically signed his death warrant. After the speech, many believed he was a walking corpse. We shouldn’t forget what he stood and died for.

    Murtala was a man who didn’t believe in formalties. He adopted a low profile policy, so for the 200 days he was Head of State he lived in the same house he had occupied as Director of Army Signal Corps and drove to work at the Dodan Barracks every morning from his house. No convoy. No sirens. No outriders. Few days after his assumption of office, Murtala shunned the sirens and convoy and rode alone with his driver, from Lagos to Kano, a journey of more than one thousand kilometres, in his personal car.

    He was a man who wasn’t just interested in the wealth of our nation, he stood for our liberation from western forces. In an interview with The Punch of May 4th 1982, the late Chief MKO Abiola, a very close friend of Murtala, said that Murtala had only Seven Naira Twenty Two Kobo (N7.22) in his bank account when he died.” He wasn’t like the parasitic leaders we have today, who live off our money like lichens.

    Murtala never detained a single person in the 6 months that he led the Nigerian nation. When former Lagos University Law Lecturer Dr. Obarogie Ohonbamu wrote in his magazine, African Spark that Murtala had corruptly enriched himself before becoming Head of State, and accused him of owning fleets of trailers and rows of houses, Murtala did not descend on him with his heavy boot as most military dictators, he quietly went to Igbosere magistrate court and sued Ohonbamu for libel. At the last hearing, the case was adjourned till 17th March, 1976, but Murtala was assassinated on 13th February.

    As we remember him, we should remember what he stood for. We shouldn’t just remember him, we should fight for what he fought for. He fought for our freedom from those who believed they could dictate to us, those who thought themselves superior to us and those who are taking advantage of us. The onus lies on us to either break free of western dictatorship or remain slaves forever.

    Murtala set our feet on the path to continental freedom, are we going to follow through on that path? Or would we rather remain slaves forever? You see. . .the choice is ours.

    James Ogunjimi

  5. The author did justice to the true Murtala Muhammed. That guy was a murderer who is no fit to be called a Nigerian hero. The government should remove his murderous face from our N20 note and replace it with a great Northerner like Aminu Kano or Waziri. Anybody who has kind words for MM should have his head examined. How can you position a man who killed his boss in cold blood as a hero? How can a weakling who lined up defenseless civilians and shot them at pointblank range as a national hero? Very soon some of our people on this page will name airports after Boko Haram late leader. While Mohamed killed some, he killed many and deserve Kano airport being named after him. Sick nation of sick people.

  6. Asuquo, pls recall MM tookover govt in a bloodless coup, before then he was a civil war warlord. As a soldier he would either kill or be killed whether through war or as was prevalent then through coup d etat. He died in the circumstance of a condemnable coup. Let God judge him accordingly. Lets put behind our collective losses of lives and properties of more than two decades, remember a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then. MM meant well for Nigeria in his 200 days in office no other leader till date has demonstrated transparency and anti-corruption better than him.Gen Buhari tried a bit, but unfortunately he did nt show up to prove the point when called at Oputa Panel. Let the legacy be remembered by the future leaders of this Great Nation. Nigeria will survive

  7. A. S. Lawal, tell me which Nigerian leader didn’t “mean well” in his first 200 days in office? Name ONE!

    “As a soldier he would either kill or be killed whether through war or as was prevalent then through coup d etat”. Please explain what is soldierly in lining up unarmed civilian men, women and children and executing them Idi Amin style. Am surprised that there are people who can’t see that this man is EVIL. You referred to a “condemnable coup” simply because that coup failed. If it had succeeded, Dimka would have “meant well” in his first 200 days. Right?

    My brother, Murtala Muhammed executed his commander in Chief who trusted him with his life. That is the height of wickedness. Even innocent Fajuyi that refused to give up his guest was murdered by Murtala and TY Danjuma. An these are the people we honor in Nigeria?

    Very soon, you will type that Boko Haram leader, Yusuf, meant well while alive. That is the tragedy of a nation where even evil is defended and celebrated. Thank God that Murtala had a taste of his wickedness from Dimka. Dimka should be in N5000 notes and Jos airport should be named after him too.

    Sorry Nigeria!


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