13 Interesting Facts You Need To Know About Murtala Muhammed

One of Nigeria’s most remembered leaders, 37-year-old Murtala Muhammed, was killed on February 13, 39 years ago, in an abortive coup attempt led by Lt. Col Buka Suka Dimka.

Many years have passed, but the nation still remembers its great leader.

President Goodluck Jonathan via his Facebook page spoke about Murtala:

Today marks the 39th anniversary of the death of that great Nigerian hero, Murtala Mohammed, who gave his life for this great nation. In his lifetime he espoused the belief that Nigeria had come of age and is ready to play her rightful role as the leader of the Black Race and a hub for progressive government on the African continent. Thankfully, Nigeria has immortalized Murtala’s legacy in books and monuments and will continue to do so such that our youth can learn from his life of purpose and commitment to higher ideals. May his soul continue to rest in peace and may God continue to comfort his family as a grateful nation remembers his sacrifice.”


For many Nigerians, getting to know Murtala Mohammed was from the green, crispy N20 naira note, which had its face inscribed on it, and really clear-headed stories told by parents. We gathered for some must-know facts you need to know about hero of Nigeria’s nation.


1. 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.

2. On the 26th January, 1952, he was admitted as student number 941 as the school itself was founded in 1909. He was one of the ten students from Kano and finished in 1957. One of his classmates was the late General Mohammed Shuwa shot dead at his home by gunmen in Maiduguri in November 2012. Shuwa was one of the prominent figures during the Nigerian Civil War and later a leading figure in Murtala’s government. Gowon also attended the same college.

3. He attended 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 by the late Odumegwu Ojukwu. Obasanjo and Gowon also attended ROSTS.

4. Murtala might be a strong-headed soldier but he was an amazing family man. In 2006, his Yoruba wife (with partly Fulani roots), Mrs. Hafsat Ajoke Muhammed recollects the fond memories: “At home and at work, my husband was one and the same person. His behaviour at work and home were the same. He was a firm person, upright and had a great sense of humour.”

5. He was introduced to his wife by his cousin. They fell in love, hit it off, and when they met in Kaduna later, he proposed to her and they got married in Kaduna in 1963 after her studies, the same year he became a Captain. Their marriage was a blissful and peaceful one. In 1965, the marriage was blessed with a cheeky baby girl who later attended the Queen’s College, Yaba, Lagos.

6. At the time when Murtala was killed, his daughter, Zalihatu was just two years old, and Jumai was just a baby.

7. When Murtala was killed and the news was relayed to his wife, she broke down and wept for her dear husband.

8. Today, Mrs. Ajoke Muhammed is ageing gracefully, is widely respected for her charitable activities and calm demeanor. Even as a First Lady, she was not unnecessarily flamboyant. Her marriage was blessed with six children: Aishat, Fatimah, Zakari, Risqua Abba, Zalihatu, Jumai (she was just a baby, less than a year old when her father was killed). The daughters are now married.

9. By the end of 1964, Murtala was already a temporary Major (known as a T/Major).

10. The Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970) lasted for thirty blood-soaked months and one of the principal actors of that sad phase of Nigerian history was Murtala.

11. On the evening of the 30th of July 1975, Murtala made his maiden speech to the nation as the Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces

12. 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. The panel came up with a report which was utilized in the formation of new states in 1976.

13. Murtala was a blunt, outspoken and consummate risk taker. A soldier who ironically had no regard for the chain of command, he was in a class of his own when it came to dangerous exploits. A no-nonsense person, Murtala was known for his legendary outbursts of terrifying anger.


  1. A disciplined leader that would have taken nigeria to promised land but his brutal war records in asaba on defenceless civilians told another story.The same goes for late general adekunle perhaps the most intelligent and most talented of nigeria,s civil war generals but totally lacking in emotional stability and emotional intelligence to d extent of ordering troops to shoot anything or creature that moves! All these together with food blockade and air bombardment of civilian markets placed a self inflicted curse on nigerian army to extent that some of today generals are ready to sell themseves to illiterate militants and this once great army is unfortunately, ,,approximately presently like a ragtag group and a little bit worse in all ramifications .The nation needs to atone for its dark past and set up a truth and reconciliation commission and make sincere compensations where due.To sideline history as it knocks on their doorposts is the preposterous height of ignorance and irredemption parading as style and sophistication

    • You are not communicating…Too much gramer doesn’t mean you are communicating,a high school student would think same,that’s the problem with Nigerians,.listern or read speaches from Obama,cliton,BUSH,Donald and other prominent people,they communicate,don’t get me wrong I understand ur words,but it makes no sense when educating the general public,that’s why people don’t listen to Soyinka, Chris okotie and other gramerians lol cus they don’t communicate,.

  2. Ramat Murtala Mohammed was a good leader in the sense that he saw the war, and reversed when he became the head of state, to alleviate the sufferings of the masses! I remember the issue of “Price control board” especially” there was discipline even amongst the forces” since he was a “No nonsense man” until death snatched him away from us! May God help Nigeria with good leaders like him!!!


  4. The day he was assinated somebody who later took over was hidding under a woman’s bed in Ikoyi, Lagos. Today he thinks he is the bravest and greatest Nigerian alive. Ha…..ha…..ha……

  5. who led the coupists from abeokuta to agodi in ibadan on the morning Lt. General JTU Aguiyi Ironsi was kidnaped, dragged to the mud and murdered??? And how did nemesis catch up with that fellow…..

    • Check your facts first before making comments as though you were part of the said courpists. Lucky humans, for each an every one of them must account for all his/her deeds this world! So we ought not to worty it is very close.

    • nigeria so far has only two leaders who are non corrupt leader, aguiyi ironsi and buhari. america released this six months before the elections

    • good leaders like Abacha, Ibb and the dullard and sluggard Shagari……Show us the evidence of what the good leaders produced in your community

      • They provided dullards like u with a conducive atmosphere for freedom of speech, if not you would have been whisked away to an underground detention facility in a blink of an eye.

  6. Wen wl youth be given opportunity to av a place in history again? he was killed at 37 as a nig head of state. A 37 year graduate today is looking for job, can’t feed himsef let alone have family to feed. God intervene.

  7. Wen wl youth be given opportunity to av a place in history again? he was killed at 37 as a nig head of state. A 37 year-old graduate today is looking for job, can’t feed himsef let alone have family to feed. God intervene.

  8. You write-up simply eulogized a butcher – the Butcher of Asaba…a man that history may judge differently from the official records posted here. In 1967, though only a major, he along with Theophilus Danjuma, Joe Akahan, Martins Adamu, Sule Apolo, Shittu Alao and Sgt Walbe (Walbe was Gowon’s ADC at the time and Gowon was Ironsi’s Chief of Staff) organized the abduction and killing of General Ironsi, openly challenged Brigadier Ogundipe’s right to succeed Ironsi because Brigadier Ogundipe was not from Northern Nigeria and organized the mass killing of Igbo officers in Abeokuta and Ikeja barracks…leading to the northern coup of July 1966. During the civil war when he led Nigeria’s 2nd Army that crossed into Asaba in 1968 from Lagos through Benin, Murtala used Yoruba soldiers as shields by placing them in front to take the first hale of Biafran bullets and Ogbunigwe rocket fire bombs. They died en masse because they trusted their commanding officer and his professional judgment. He kept northern soldiers in the rear and risked them only after ascertaining enemy positions. In Asaba in 1968 after failing more than thrice to cross into Onitsha, he, in anger, began raping Igbo women daily…to everyone’s knowing. He also lined up Igbo men daily (civilians all) and executed them in open places like they were wild game. The details are gory and are neatly recorded in some of the war books that are sold openly (one of them is titled “Blood on the Niger”) by some survivors of those daily acts of genocide. In Onitsha in 1968, the Times of London reported him abducting worshipers from the Methodist church on a Sunday morning, tieing their hands behind their backs and executing them Nazi-style – all 268 of them…all of then male. He was relieved of his command of the 2nd Army by the weak Head of State – General Yakubu Gowon but retained in the army and posted to Signals from where he came back to topple Gowon in a coup in 1975 and become Head of State. He died the way he lived – by the sword. Did he experience an epiphany of sorts after the civil war in 1970 and turn overnight into a nationalist? Did he ever regret his actions against civilians, the women he raped, the soldiers under his command that he sacrificed and the fellow officers he killed in coups? I do not know and I do not want to speculate. I think we should let history judge him from the facts available and not use commentaries like the one in this write-up to celebrate a man that should have ended up in Nuremberg if he were a Nazi.

    • Hmmmmm! While I saw some comments, reeking with the same ill-fated sentimental fanatism bedeviling our nation state… Ali Bukola, regardless of his religious inclination judging by His, dared to give a most informed commentary of the persona in view. I salute his strengths and thoughtful inputs, but he cannot himself be extricated from the ills he perpetrated. We learn as we live, that posteririty never wearies from judging unbiasedly. Thank you again for thinking and writing with an open and informed mind.

    • Mr Ali, I feel illumined by your sense of sanity. It gives me joy to ingest literary lines of unbiased rationalist.
      I’d like to follow you up on social media if you granted…

    • Brother please where have you been all my life? The truth just told. Its as they say the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God. I know this truth, but what has been circulated is a bunch of lies and propaganda! This country needs people like you not GEJ or buhari!!!! Pls join the movement the new PDP movement we are making it bigger,better, more responsible and transperent! Pls join us thank you!

    • Kola you are mixing up facts.You don’t know what you are saying.
      1) Walbe not there on that day. He was also not a Sgt,but a 2nd Lt. He became Gown’s ADC when he was later made c-in-c after the July counter Coup because he saved him from Maj. Ifeajuna who had detailed Gowon”s girlfriend {Edith Okongwu}to inform the January plotters about his movements the night before in their plan to kill all Northern senior officers.
      2) Col. Shittu Alao was not there: mind u he was in the Air force and on course in India.
      3) Maj. Abdulsalam Abubakar, was actually the one who organized that operation at Ibadan. He was the Chief Security detail of the Supreme Commander and was liaising with Capt. Sani Bello, Ironsi’s ADC who neutralized the Crocodile Talisman Ironsi was relying to save his life.
      4) Col. Gowon was not Chief of Staff to Gen Ironsi but took over from him as Chief of Army Staff.
      5 ) Lt Col. Murtala was at Ibadan Recce Battalion on that fateful night.Northern troops deferred to him because he was particularly pained by the callous and Brutal Murder of Mentor, Brig, Zakari Maimalari .

    • U really is on point. I love ur write up. People should learn to read history or dig deep into the past of the person they all label hero before opening their mouth in speech.. Kudos brother.. U are very much on point.

    • U really is on point. I love ur write up. People should learn to read history or dig deep into the past of the person they all label hero before opening their mouth in speech.. Kudos brother.. U are very much on point Ali Bukola. May God bless u!

  9. Hmmm. He may good in some aspect. But I don’t believe that he was perfect as all saying. Nigerian has no perfect leader in their history

  10. Ali bukola. This was a kind of leaders that Nigeria needed as at time. Everyone knew what d ibos was upto before the civil war. When Jonathan ebele was too civil in his administration his cabinet ministers took him for granted of which no man can dare to MM or buhari.

  11. until we understand dt human are never 100% perfect, then we gauge our expectations with their capabilities rather dn expecting higher dn their ability.

    Rest in peace Gen Muritala Muhammad – even though I recognize u not

  12. Allah Akibar Murtala Muhammad is great of nation in Nigerian God shall give him All ginat fidao and bosom of the land and protect there family in the name of Alla

  13. Ali Bukola thank u for educating most of us about the atrocities committed by MM in pre n post civil war in our country. The blood of innocent people he brutally murder catched up with him on that faithful day 13th 1976. GOD will judge according to d blood he shed.

  14. Am so greatful to d writer, its an eye opener for me as a person hv learnt from ds especially from all d comments, even things not thot in school. Now i see!!!! Trutfully whoeva will take Nigeria to d promise land will be enthrone, if not d throne will eject d wrong one either by default or somehow. MM cont to RIP

  15. Bukola thats a nice write-up. My father told the story of this dark minded man, cos he as well took part in the civil war as he was a loyal nigerian soldier which eventually retired a major after staying for like 17 years as a captain with no promotion just bcos he didnt pitch his tent with the likes. He said muritala died when he was trying to make ammends for his brutal shortcomming by going to mecca and organizing charity deeds but all of these could not save him when nemesis caught him up. Apart from the genocide during the civil war and his other covered deeds. The death of Adekunle Fajuyi (the bravest nigerian soldier) during d coup dat eliminated Aguyi Ironsi tells alot about muritala. See! Stop saying may allah forgive him and all the likes once you are dead you are dead and its ur works that echoes in eternity allah is not forgiving anything.

  16. Ali Bukola.. Thanks for educating me, I learn a lot in the write up and the comment I have read..? Once again thank you all…
    For all I have to say is that, who kill by the gun is also going to die by a gun shot.. Period

    • You just succeeded in showing how myopic and untrained you are, must you abuse others just to vet your anger? Try and learn the importance of unity biko,

  17. bukola u hv really spoken well if u don’t know history u cnt analize it i use to admire him alot untill i saw ur comments nemesis really caught up with him some said he was trying to make up for his pogrom but wht d lives he wasted it always make me shed tears

  18. May his gentle soul rest in jannatul firdaus, Ameen. MM is a true nationalist and African, I remember some of his speeches at Addis Ababa “Africa has come of age”. “ IT’S NO LONGER UNDER THE ORBIT OF ANY EXTRA CONTINENTAL POWER, IT SHOULD NOT LONGER TO TAKE ORDER FROM ANY COUNTRY HOW EVER IT’S POWERFUL THE DECISION OF AFRICAN’s ARE IN OUR HAND TO MAKE OR MAR.

  19. May his gentle soul rest in jannatul firdaus, Ameen. MM is a true nationalist and African, IT remind me some of his speeches at Addis Ababa “Africa has come of age”. “ IT’S NO LONGER UNDER THE ORBIT OF ANY EXTRA CONTINENTAL POWER, IT SHOULD NOT LONGER TO TAKE ORDER FROM ANY COUNTRY HOW EVER IT’S POWERFUL THE DECISION OF AFRICAN’s ARE IN OUR HAND TO MAKE OR MAR.

  20. Mr bukola, you have said it all. MM killed the innocent people of biafra during the civil war in the name of nigeria. Buhari is another person that God will pay for his own deeds.

  21. As to my northern countrymen who claim the north has records of producing the best leaders so far, how come the most mentally impoverished, socially backward, and with a high record of poverty of all sort is so highly recorded in the north! U guys should correct your perceptions early so that the larger picture which is Nigeria would remain our major and primary focus! I pray PMB would use this tenure to also correct the unpublished ills perpetrated in his earlier times

  22. My partner and I stumbled over here from a different website and
    thought I may as well check things out. I like what
    I see so now i am following you. Look forward to looking over your web
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  23. but all thing are name for the nation to get it cheaper in is name eg eran (meat)muri and abo(plate)muri so he tried. if did those things before election Nigeria woun’t. reject him.so the best leader are from north

  24. ali bukola history is a very funny thing bcos it all depends on whose account you read, as a good student it becomes ur responsibility to decipher whether what u read is right or not. all did ur claims if they are true infers DAT murtala hates d people from d south particularly d yorubas. analytically dat is a bogus claim, for a man whose mother is a southerner and his only wife who doubled as mother of his. children is Yoruba even though he is entitled to marry as many as four. does it sound reasonable DT you hate a people at d same time seek to b related to them. I hope we all use our brain

  25. it is so painful that our good leaders are going. The ones we are having now are only trying to feed themselves thereby neglecting those that elected them. God bless Nigeria.

  26. With all these write-up and comment here,my conclusion is i don’t see anybody giving u d perfect story of d past but God knows better. And I don’t belief that only wicked people killed by sord bcos “JESUS” was also killed by enemy

  27. Akani yusuf, His wife is yoruba Fulani. As for those who are shouting Allahu Akuba may his soul rest in peace he is a hero should all say the same to the Bokoharam General, Abubakar Shekau Who is either dead or alive because his is fighting a holy war by killing innocent people. Mr Ali Bukola, thanks a million times for making some of us to believe that there are some people in this country who can stand for truth no matter where they come from. Your sense of sanity, your unbiased mind is what we need to be one Nigeria. Thanks alot.

  28. Ali Bukola, may God bless you for exhuming this buried and almost forgotten truth about that animal. If he was alive he would have been tried for war crimes. How we immortalise mediocres in this country. He is probably a hero in hell not to me. The Nigerian govt has been doing everything to expunge such accounts as yours from our historical curriculum. This is why you cannot find much on the Biafran war made available to the younger generation online. But times are changing and the truth is becoming open 50yrs after the Biafran genocide. Please drop your twitter handle.

  29. @Ali Bukola..i’ve met lot of great actors of Nigeria civil war. Even a general by name gen. Alabi Isama, n lot of low ranks officers in fact 1 is working with me right now. They never say any thing like what u are just saying now. Pls don’t mislead people 4 ur own personal gain….

    • Where u expecting them to admit? You shud read a lot of history books…even from a neutral point of view go and read Frederick Forsyth “the making of an africa legend: The biafra story”  Forsyth was an MI3 undercover and he told the whole story even from the military side both Nigeria and biafra. After reading that then u will be able to understd what happened years ago. Haruna even admitted to the genocide he carried out under the command of MM(he admitted it b4 oputa panel) but said he was not sorry about it,you can imagine. Gowon also apologised . If those that carried the crime can admit to it who are the people you spoke to?.‎

  30. Did you mention that he was one of the most wicked and depraved soldiers in world history, killing hundreds if not thousands of unarmed civilians including women and children in Biafra?. ‘He that goes by the sword, dies by the sword.’


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