Remembering General Murtala Ramat Mohammed 37 years after – By Charles Ikedikwa Soeze



General Murtala Ramat Mohamed former head of state and commander in chief of armed forces, federal Republic of Nigeria was assassinated on Friday 13th February 1976 in Lagos through an abortive coupled by Lt .Col. Bakar Suka Dimka including Captain Dauda and Sergeant Clement Yilda. He was born on 8th November 1938 in Kano.

One can say that among all the military heads of state that ruled Nigeria, none made great impact within a short time like the late General Murtala Mohammed. It is on record that during his tenure as head of state between 29th July 1975 and 13th February 1976, he pursued vigorous policies of return to civil rule, reorganization of the Federal government structure, accountability in public service, discipline, state creation vibrant economic plans and a dynamic diplomacy.

He had his early education at the Cikin Gida and Gidan Primary schools in the ancient city of Kano. Thereafter, Mohammed proceeded to Government College Zaria for his secondary school education before enlisting in the Nigerian army. After his training at the Sandhurst Royal Academy in England, he worked briefly in the Army signals corps in that country.

General Mohammed was part of the Nigerian contingent to the United Nations Peace Keeping Force in Congo, when civil war threatened that country. He commanded the first brigade signal troop in Kaduna in 1963, later left the country to England for further military training. When he came back to Nigeria, he was appointed commanding officer, one signal squadron and in November, 1965, acting chief signal officer. Based on his promotion to Lt. Col. he became the inspector of signals in Lagos.

A civil war hero, General Mohammed commanded the second infantry division and fought seriously to put the Biafra force under check. After civil war in Nigeria, he attended the joint services staff college, England. As a Brigadier- General, Mohamed was made the Federal Commisioner of Communications from August 1974 to 29th July, 1975 when he and his colleagues overthrew Yakubu Gowon, the then head of state.

Murtala’s removal of Gowon came at a point when Gowon reneged on his promise to hand over power to democratically elected government in 1976. At that period, the civilian populace was no longer interested in Gowon’s military administration. This is because Gowon and his military governors were accused of massive corruption. They had a lot of money to play with due to the oil boom. Consequently, Mohammed sacked all the governors with the exemption of Brigadier General Oluwole Rotimi and Mobolaji Johnson.of Western and Lagos states respectively. His investigations revealed that all the military administrators and governors (with the exemption of Rotimi and Johnson) that served under Gowon had betrayed the trust and confidence reposed in them by the nation. In the words of Mohammed, those of them who wore uniforms betrayed the ethics of their profession and they are a disgrace to their profession. They should be ashamed of themselves”. Mohammed purge of the civil /public service was sharply criticized because it became a tool for witch-hunting and robbed the public service of permanence and continuity. The process was suspended on the 21st of November 1975.The exercise was appraised in the military in politics from Aguiyi-Ironsi and Ibrahim Babaginda edited by Dinkson Agegha: ”As it turned out to be, the great purge has perhaps remained till date, the most impact making purification ever carried out by any Nigerian government on the country’s civil service and leadership. The Buhari -Idiagbon purge was perhaps something near it”. His radical foreign policy, however, made him a darling of the oppressed, especially his position on Angola. In 1975, he announced Nigeria support for the soviet- backed popular movement for the liberation of Angola because according to him South Africa supported the rival National union for the total Independence of Angola (Uniao Nactional para a independencia Total de Angola).this action irked the United State.

Professor Patrick Wilmot. A west-Indian academic who once taught at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria and was later deported by the IBB regime for teaching revolution said that one could assess the significance of Murtala Mohammed in Africa if one read is speech of 11th January 1976, delivered in Addis Ababa, at the Organization of African Unity (OAU) now African Union (AU) Summit Wilmot said Mohamed recognized the strategic importance of the South African struggle for the rest of the continent. He saw the attempt of the South African to avert the struggle and he saw Angola as a test case of his struggle. When the Portuguese were defeated, the South Africans, and the Americans using UNITA, tried to forestall the victory by declaring war against MPLA. The Nigerian leader defeated the fallacy of Africa leaders calling for a national government. Murtala recognized that the FNLA and UNITA were not true liberation movement and that they were being promoted by South Africa. Having realized this, he supported the MPLA”.

According to Wilmot, General Murtala Ramat Mohammed made it clear that Africans interests could not be compromised, ”He told Henry Kissinger to get lost ”. Kissinger was then US Secretary of State.

Charles IkedIkwa Soeze is a Mass Communication Scholar from first degree to doctoral level, public affairs analyst and currently Assistant Director (Administration)/Head, Academic and Physical Planning at the Petroleum Training Institute (PTI) Effurun, Delta State. 08036724193




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