It has been 40 years since the assassination of General Muritala Mohammed. It is in remembering him that INFORMATION NIGERIA has put together these 12 things you should know about him.
1. Muhammed was born Murtala Rufai Muhammed but he changed his name from Rufai to Ramat when he became Head of State
2. He was born on a Tuesday, the 8th of November, 1938 in the Kurawa Quarters of Kano State to Risqua Muhammed and Uwani Ramatu, he had 7 siblings (one girl and seven boys) and he was the second child.
3. He was a student of the late Odumegwu Ojukwu in 1959 at the Regular Officers Special Training School , ROSTS (Teshie, Ghana), now Ghana Military Academy where he was taught as a 2nd Lieutenant infantry tactics and military laws
4. Both Murtala later faced his teacher Ojukwu in a bloody duel in the Nigerian Civil War.
5. His Yoruba wife (with partly Fulani roots), Mrs. Hafsat Ajoke Muhammed said they met in 1961 while she was studying at the School of Dental Hygiene in Lagos. He proposed to her and they got married in Kaduna in 1963 after her studies with the union producing 6 children.
6. He was a mastermind of the 1966 coup and he wanted the post of the supreme commander of the Nigerian armed force for himself even when Gowon was his senior in the Military.
7. Murtala’s challenges during the war happened shortly after, as he attempted to cross the River Niger to Biafra. Despite the recommendation of his superiors at Army Headquarters in Lagos that he waits for the bridge, which had been blown up by the retreating Biafran forces, to be rebuilt, he insisted on a riverine crossing. Twice he was beaten back, but he steadfastly kept resolve and finally made it through on his third attempt. Shortly after this, Muhammed fed up with reprimands from Army headquarter, decided to quit his command and left for an extended holiday in the United Kingdom, but not before threatening to resign his commission. His historic military feats during the war won him National acclaim and respect even from his adversaries.
8. Few days before he was killed, on the 3rd of February 1976, he made an announcement that the Federal Capital would be moved to a ‘federal territory of about 8,000 square kilometers in the central part of the country Abuja.
9. He introduced the phrases “Fellow Nigerians” and “with immediate effect” to the national lexicon.
10. He set up a panel headed by Justice Ayo Irikefe on the creation of seven more states (Niger, Bauchi, Gongola, Benue, Ogun, Imo and Bendel) to the 12 existing ones on 22nd December, 1975.
11. While planning a coup against his own Commander-in-Chief, Gowon, Murtala, then a brigadier, went to Muhammed D Yusufu, who was Gowon’s Chief Security Officer (CSO) and told him pointblank that there was a plan for a coup and he could go and reveal it to ‘anyone he liked’. That was not Murtala’s first time of announcing a coup in such a blunt manner. He did the same in July 1966 before Aguiyi-Ironsi’s government collapsed.
12. Murtala Muhammed was killed, aged 37, along with his Aide-De-Camp (ADC), Lieutenant Akintunde Akinsehinwa in his black Mercedes Benz saloon car on, February 13, 1976 in an abortive coup attempt led by Lt. Col Buka Suka Dimka, when his car was ambushed while en route his office at Dodan Baracks Lagos. The only visible sign of protection was a pistol carried by his orderly, therefore making his assassination an easy task.