HISTORY: The Killing Of Murtala Mohammed By Lt.Col. Bukar Dimka In The 1976 Coup

Here is excerpts from the 1976 coup, which is dubbed Dimka coup

February 13th, 1976 Coup
When Lt. Col. Bukar Dimka of the Nigeria Army
Physical Training Corps stepped out of his official residence on
Macpherson Road, Ikoyi, in the early hours of February 13, 1976, he had
one agenda in mind; the killing of the then Head of State, Gen. Murtala
He achieved that criminal act by gunning down the
Kano-born head of state a few minutes after the latter left the Dodan
Barracks, Obalende, the official seat of the Federal Military Government
at the time.
Muhammed’s official black Mercedes Benz was
riddled with bullets near a petrol station on Bank Road, (now Murtala
Muhammed Drive) opposite the Federal Secretariat, Ikoyi. Killed along
with him were, his ADC, Lt. Akintunde Akinsehinwa and driver.
After the assassination, Dimka had made a
broadcast at the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) studio in the
following words;
‘’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. Any attempt to foil these plans from any quarters
will be met with 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 6 am to 6 pm. Thank
you. We are all together.”
Two days after Muhammed was assassinated, Dimka
was declared wanted for treason and murder by military authorities. He
was eventually caught at a checkpoint at Abakaliki on March 5, 1976, and
brought to Lagos the following day.
On March 6, 1976, the Federal Government promptly
issued a statement on his arrest as follows: ‘’His arrest followed a
massive manhunt operation mounted by a combined team of the Army and
Police in the area.
‘’The previous day, Lt. Col Dimka had checked in
at a local hotel in Afikpo under the name of Mr C. Godwin of the Federal
Ministry of Agriculture, Enugu. Later, on his request, the hotel
manager secured for him a girl, Miss. Beatrice Agboli, with whom to
spend the night.
‘’A few hours later, the local Police security
was alerted and they closed up on him. At about 10.30 pm, he bolted away
through the window of the toilet of his hotel room into a nearby thick
bush, abandoning his car with a dangling registration number ECC 6253.”
‘’The continuous joint manhunt operation by the Army and Police resulted in his subsequent arrest near Abakaliki.’’
Barely few hours after he was brought to Lagos,
he was interrogated by the military Board of Inquiry led by Major Gen.
E. O. Abisoye.
However while Dimka was being quizzed, 32 people
including Major Gen. Illiya Bisalla, who had already been tried for
their roles in the attempted coup were executed in Lagos on March 11,
The only civilian executed among them was
Abdulkarim Zakari, a graduate of University of Ibadan, who was said to
have led Dimka and others into the studios of the NBC on February 13,
1976. The broadcaster was also cited as the man who signed for martial
music records from the NBC library the previous night.
Just as the first batch of coup plotters was
executed, Dimka’s trial begun after he was presented to the press on
March 11, 1976.
Handcuffed, Dimka who wore a kaftan dress watched
journalists listen to a tape recording of his appearance before the
board of inquiry for about five minutes. He confirmed that the voice on
the tape was his own and that it was a recording made during his
interrogation. He emphasised that the statement was not made under
According to a Daily Times publication, ‘’13
Years of Military Rule 1966-79’’ the highlights of Dimka’s confessional
statements included, ‘’Frankly speaking, I should say the beginning of
the coup idea was around January this year (1976).’’
He said he had discussions with some persons
including former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon in London and when he
returned to the country, he decided to assign responsibilities to
members of the young revolutionaries conscripted into the plan.
But Gowon, who was in exile at the time denied any prior knowledge of the coup attempt.
Dimka also claimed the coup plot was hatched by
young officers who resolved not to involve any Lieutenant Colonel and
above except himself in a bid to effect a change of government.
In his confessional statement, he said, Gen.
Bisalla had complained to him and expressed his frustration that despite
being a member of the Supreme Military Council (SMC), each time there
was a decision to be taken, he was either sent to one place or the
Dimka said ‘’ Bisalla told me that whatever will happen he want us to go ahead, and work out the details.’’
Explaining how responsibilities were distributed,
the leader of the coup plot said ‘’ When I met Major Rabo, he said that
he had finally distributed responsibilities. Major Rabo was for target
one- Head of State, Lt. Dauda was for target two- Lt. Gen. Obasanjo,
Lawrence Garba was for target three- Lt. Gen. Danjuma.
‘’Major Gagara was for Ilorin and Sokoto, Jos had
nobody. The main centres of operations were Kaduna, Ibadan, Benin where
there are Radio stations’’.
He also listed the targets of attack, that is,
those to be eliminated as the Head of State, the four GOCs, Col.
Babangida, Col. Bajowa, Col. Mohammed of Sokoto, Col. Ibrahim Taiwo of
Kwara, Col. Abdullahi of Jos and Col. Jemibewon of Ibadan.’’
Dimka also confessed before the military board of
inquiry how Zakari showed him the NBC broadcasting section on February
12, a day before the coup attempt.
On how the ex-Head of State was killed, he said
‘’ I stood at George Street with Major Rabo to wait until such a time
when the Head of State’s car was coming out. There, one Capt. Malaki who
was to give the warning order. Capt. Malaki was to be on the watch to
signal Major Rabo and Lt. William Seri on the approach of the vehicle.
So I came up and I was at the petrol station waiting.
‘’I was behind while we were talking when the
Commander –in-Chief’s car passed. In fact, I did not even see it until
when Malaki said the car has passed. So, we rushed in and then followed
and the car was held somewhere just opposite the petrol station.
‘’Lt. Seri was approaching the car when we stopped and Major Rabo rushed to him, then the firing started. ‘’
Dimka confessed that after the Head of State was
assassinated, he went to the NBC and made his broadcast that the young
revolutionaries had taken over the government.
At the end of his trial, coup leader and a number
of others were found guilty of treason and murder. Their death
sentences were confirmed by the Supreme Military Council.
Dimka and seven others were eventually executed
by firing squad at Kirikiri Prisons on May 15, 1976, for their part in
the abortive coup. Also executed by the squad was the former Governor of
the then Benue Plateau State, Joseph Gomwalk.
However, two NCOs, Sgt. Clement Yildar and
Corporal Dauda Usman escaped and were never found. They were declared
wanted by the authorities.
The situation led to the promulgation by Olusegun
Obasanjo regime of certain retrospective decrees and new military laws
justifying mass executions for coup participation.
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 an 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 favour 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 p.a.?

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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