Wednesday, July 8, 2020
Home 2019 February

Monthly Archives: February 2019

21 Interesting Facts you did not know about Shehu Shagari


President Shehu Shagari (1925-2018) is a phenomenon and there are many inherent qualities I admire about him. As Nigeria’s President, Head-of-State, he had his flaws which were some of the factors that torpedoed his presidency just three months into his second term in office via a military coup.

However, one of the most underrated leaders in African history, Shagari did etch his name in the annals of Nigerian history. Although he presided over one of the most corrupt administrations ever experienced by Nigerians, the man from Yabo amassed no personal wealth to himself nor stashed monies in foreign accounts.

In fact, corruption probes in 1975 and 1984 against Shagari were fruitless and unyielding as nothing implicating was traced to him.

Image of young Shehu Shagari
25-year-old Shehu Shagari as a young schoolteacher, 1950.

In no particular order, I bring to you 21 interesting facts you might not know about President Shehu Shagari, the Turaki of the Sokoto Caliphate.

Shehu Shagari Interesting Facts

1. Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari started his education in a Quranic school and then went to live with relatives at a nearby town, where, from 1931-1935, he attended Yabo elementary school. In 1936-1940, he went to Sokoto for middle school, and then from 1941-1944, he attended Kaduna College.

2. Shagari was born on a Wednesday, February 25, 1925. He was a teacher, farmer, aristocrat who hailed from Shagari village in Sokoto State.

3. On December 28, 2018, at about 6:30 pm, Shagari died from a brief illness at the National hospital, Abuja. He was 93.

4. Shehu was the principal secretary to Prime Minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa during much of the First Republic until the military coup of January 15, 1966.

5. One of the most “rigged elections” in the history of Nigeria was conducted during his tenure in 1983.

Shehu Shagari was the only president in Nigeria’s history to attain the age of 90.

6. Shagari was targeted in Nigeria’s first military coup of January 15, 1966, but escaped death.

7. On February 2, 1983, President Shehu Shagari deported more than 2 million Ghanaians. Hence the phrase, ‘Ghana must go’.

8. Rain fell on the day of his inauguration in Lagos on October 1, 1979.

9. He married his first wife, Amina Shagari, twice.

10. On December 31, 1983, on New Year’s Eve, President Shagari was overthrown by then Major-General Muhammadu Buhari who later became Nigeria’s Head-of-State and incumbent President.

Image of President Shehu Shagari
President Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari, First Executive President of Nigeria, 1979-1983.

11. Shehu Shagari was the 6th child of his father, 6th Head-of-State of Nigeria and also had 6 federal government appointments before he became President.

12. As of December 28, 2018, President Shehu Shagari of Nigeria was the 15th oldest former president in the world still living and the 37th former world leader still alive.

13. During Shagari’s term as President, thieves, armed robbers would break into people’s houses not to steal money and other valuables, but food items like rice, beans, pepper, etc., especially in the capital city of Lagos. It was that bad.

14. As President, he was projected as weak, indecisive and corrupt due to the billions of dollars spent on steel development. As the years progressed, Shagari lost control of the military.

15. Shagari held the chieftaincy titles of the Ochiebuzo of Ogbaland, the Ezediale of Aboucha and the Baba Korede of Ado Ekiti.

16. After Shagari was booted out of office, he had no house anywhere in Nigeria not even in Sokoto, the capital of his state. He lived in his family house in Yabo.

Because of this, General Sani Abacha created the Department for Former Heads-of-State in the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. The department caters to the welfare of former Presidents and Heads-of-States of the country.

17. As president, Shehu Shagari was a chain smoker. However, he never smoked in public places and he so much respected the Office of the President that he stepped outside the office whenever he wanted to smoke.

18. In 1979, President Shehu Shagari established the Ministry of Science and Technology “which shall develop policies to be reflected throughout our educational system.”

19. Shagari served as the first and only President of Nigeria’s Second Republic (1979–1983), after the handover of power by General Olusegun Obasanjo’s military government.

20. Shagari was made the Turaki of the Fula Sokoto Caliphate in 1962 by the Sultan of Sokoto, Siddiq Abubakar III.

21. In 1986, President Shehu Shagari was banned from participation in politics for life. The ban has still not been lifted.

Do you know any other facts about Shehu Shagari? Kindly let me know in the comments below.

Don’t hesitate to follow me on Twitter (@AmazingAyo) as well.

Usman dan Fodio: Progenitor of the Sokoto Caliphate

Usman dan Fodio

In 1809, Usman dan Fodio (December 15, 1754 – April 20, 1817) founded the Sokoto Caliphate. Dan Fodio, a religious author, writer and Islamic activist, was one of the urbanised ethnic Fulani communities living in the Hausa States in what is now northern Nigeria.

An instructor at the Maliki School of Law and the Qadiriyyah Order of Sufism, he remained in the city-state of Gobir until 1802, when, inspired by his reformist ideas and growing persecution by local authorities, he led his followers into exile.

This exile started a political and social transition that spread from Gobir to modern Nigeria and Cameroon and echoed in the ethnically Fula-led Jihad movement throughout West Africa.

Image of Usman Dan Fodio
Usman Dan Fodio (December 15, 1754 – April 20, 1817), Sultan of Sokoto (1803-1815).

Usman dan Fodio: A Scholar

Usman dan Fodio refused much of the pomp of rule, and although establishing connections with religious reformers and Jihad leaders across Africa, he soon handed the real leadership of the Sokoto state over to his son, Muhammed Bello.

Dan Fodio wrote more than a hundred books on religion, administration, culture, and community. He blamed the current African Muslim rulers for what he saw as corruption, paganism, or breach of the principles of Sharia law, and heavy taxation.

He promoted literacy and education, particularly for women, and many of his daughters became scholars and authors. His works and sayings are still very much quoted today.

The Teachings of Usman dan Fodio

Usman dan Fodio’s rebellion is a major episode of a movement identified as the Fulani hegemonies of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. It was followed by active jihads in Fuuta-Jalon and Fuuta-Tooro between 1650 and 1750, which led to the formation of these three Islamic states.

Dan Fodio, in addition, influenced a host of later West African jihads, including the founder of the Masina Empire, Seku Amadu, the founder of the Toucouleur Empire, El Hadj Umar Tall, who would marry one of Usman Dan Fodio’s granddaughters, and the founder of the Adamawa Emirate, Adama Modibo.

Dan Fodio was well educated in classical Islamic science, philosophy, and theology, and became a respected theological thinker. His teacher, Jibril ibn’ Umar, argued that it was the responsibility and power of the religious movements to create an ideal society free from injustice and vice. His teacher was a North African Muslim who gave his pupil a wider perspective on Muslim reformist ideas in other parts of the Muslim world.

Usman dan Fodio Jihad of 1804

In 1802, the ruler of Gobir and one of Dan Fodio’s pupils, Yunfa turned against him, revoking Degel’s autonomy and sought to assassinate Dan Fodio.

Dan Fodio and his supporters fled to the western grasslands of Gudu (now Sokoto State) where they turned to back the local Fulani nomads. Usman dan Fodio was then proclaimed the Commander of the Faithful in Gudu. This made him a political leader as well as a religious leader, giving him the power to announce and undertake a jihad, raise an army, and become its commander-in-chief.

Fulani jihad states of Africa, c. 1830.
Image Credit: Wikipedia

In Hausaland, a widespread rebellion started. This revolt was largely composed of the Fulani, who had a strong military advantage due to their cavalry. This was also strongly endorsed by the peasantry of Hausa, who felt over-taxed and marginalised by their rulers. Usman dan Fodio then launched the jihad against Gobir in 1804.

The Birth of the Fulani Empire

During the jihad, Fulani’s contact was carried along commercial routes and rivers flowing to the Niger-Benue valley, as well as the delta and the lagoons. Not only did the appeal for jihad touch other states like Kano, Katsina, and Zaria, but also Bornu, Gombe, Adamawa, Nupe, and Ilorin. Those were all locations with large or small groups of Fulani scholars.

Within just a few short years of the 1804 jihad, Usman dan Fodio was at the helm of the largest state in Africa, the Fulani Empire. His son, Muhammad Bello and his brother, Abdullahi carried out the jihad and took control of the administration of the Empire. Dan Fodio has worked to create an effective government based on Islamic law.

Image of Usman dan Fodio University, Sokoto
The Usman dan Fodio University, Sokoto, Sokoto State, Nigeria is named after him.

You can also follow HistoryVille on Twitter, Instagram and Subscribe to the YouTube channel. Oh, don’t forget to like our Facebook Page as well.

Death and Legacy

Usman Dan Fodio retired after 1811 and continued to write about the moral actions of the Muslim faith. Upon Dan Fodio’s in 1817, Muhammed Bello, his son, succeeded him as Sultan and became the ruler of the Sokoto Caliphate, which at the time was the largest state south of the Sahara.

Usman’s brother, Abdullahi was appointed the Emir of Gwandu and was put in charge of the Western Emirates, Nupe, and Ilorin. Thus, all the Hausa provinces, parts of the Nupe, Ilorin and Fulani outposts in Bauchi and Adamawa were all ruled by a single political-religious structure.

From the time of Usman Dan Fodio, there have been 12 caliphs, until the British conquest of Sokoto, at the beginning of the 20th century, by Lord Frederick Lugard in 1903.


Usman dan Fodio – Wikipedia

Usman dan Fodio | Fulani leader | Britannica

Usman dan Fodio (1754-1817) – BlackPast

Usman Dan Fodio | Religious Literacy Project

Will the Groundnut Pyramids of Kano ever return?


Groundnut pyramids were pyramid-like structures made from groundnut sacks. The pyramids were built in northern Nigeria in cities such as Kano, where groundnut production was a key part of the economy in Nigeria’s First Republic. They were viewed as both a tourist attraction and a symbol of wealth.

In the 1960s and 70s, as production in Nigeria shifted from agriculture to oil, the groundnut pyramids gradually disappeared.

Image of Groundnut Pyramids
The Groundnut Pyramids were seen as both a tourist attraction and a symbol of wealth.

Groundnut Pyramids

Groundnut pyramids were the invention of Alhassan Dantata (1877-1955), a prominent nut trader. Dantata came to Kano in 1919 and within five years was one of the most successful businessmen, supplying the Royal Niger Company (RNC) with most of their groundnuts. Dantata’s company kept their groundnuts at a facility in Kofar Nassarawa, and they stacked the bags in the shape of a pyramid before they were shipped.

Image of Alhassan Dantata
Alhaji Alhassan Dantata of Kano (1877-1955), a progenitor of the Groundnut Pyramids.

Many farmers in the villages were harvesting for him. Whenever it was the season, people bring groundnut from different parts of Kano to the locations of the pyramids on camels and donkeys; only few people had vehicles to bring their produce there.

His own was to get labourers to put them together in pyramids. When this was done, the agents would later transport them to Lagos for shipment abroad. Most of his customers were outside the state and the country. The groundnuts produced in Kano at that time were beyond what the state could consume; they were even beyond what the country could consume.

One groundnut pyramid could be made from as much as 15,000 full groundnut bags.

Later in 1918, Alhassan was approached by the Niger Company to help purchase groundnuts for them. He was already familiar with the manner by which people made fortunes by buying cocoa for Europeans in the Gold Coast. He responded and participated in the enterprise with enthusiasm, he had several advantages over other Kano business men: he could speak some English because of his contact with the people on the coast, thus he could negotiate more directly with the European traders for better prices.

He also had accumulated a large capital and unlike other established Kano merchants, had only a small family to maintain, as he was still a relatively young man.

Dantata had excellent financial management, was frugal and not ostentatious. As soon as he entered the groundnut purchasing business, he came to dominate the field. In fact by 1922, he had become the wealthiest businessman in Kano.

When the British Bank of West Africa (now First Bank of Nigeria) was opened in Kano in 1929, Dantata became the first Kano businessman to utilize a bank account when he deposited twenty camel loads of silver coins. Shortly before his death, he pointed to sixty groundnut pyramids in Kano and said, “These are all mine.

One groundnut pyramid could be made from as much as 15,000 full groundnut bags.

In an article published by the Daily Trust Newspapers on Sunday, September 13, 2015, a former groundnut pyramid site in Kano was being used as a football field.

Groundnut pyramids were built all across Northern Nigeria, in cities like Kofar Mazugal, Brigade, Bebeji, Malam Madori and Dawakin Kudu. The pyramids became synonymous with Nigeria’s agriculture wealth; a postage stamp even featured a groundnut pyramid.

However, as groundnut production declined in the 1970s and 1980s the groundnut pyramids disappeared and were replaced with buildings.

Future of the Groundnut Pyramids

Former President Goodluck Jonathan, on his visit to Kano during the 2010 presidential campaign, promised that his administration would help the people to revive the groundnut pyramids, as well as put in place, the necessary infrastructure to boost its processing and packaging. He said there was a need to empower the people of Kano and boost trade and industry in the city.

Image of President Goodluck Jonathan, Groundnut Pyramids
President Goodluck Jonathan promised to revive the Groundnut Pyramids but he failed to fulfill that promise until he left office in 2015.

In 2014, Jonathan also assured that his administration, under the groundnut value chain programme, is expected to produce an additional 120,000 metric tonnes of groundnut valued at ₦24 billion and supplied to small, medium, and large scale processors.

According to him, the project was planned to be implemented in 15 states – Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Gombe, Kebbi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara. But nothing was heard of the project till the expiration of his administration in 2015.

Now, the begging question is, “Will the groundnut pyramids ever return?

You can share your thoughts in the comments below.

Follow me on Twitter @AmazingAyo.

Further Reading

60 years after, Kano Groundnut Pyramids Site Turns to Football Field

Groundnut pyramids in Nigeria: Can they be revived?

Muhammad: We do more than groundnut pyramids of those days 

50 Interesting Facts about Murtala Muhammed

Image of Murtala Muhammed
Murtala Muhammed remains the youngest Nigerian Head-of-State to die in office at 37 years, 3 months and 5 days; and the only one to die before the age of 40...

On the eve of the Saint Valentine’s Day preparation in 1976, Nigeria’s 3rd military Head-of-State, General Murtala Muhammed was assassinated on what happened to be his 200th day in office. He was only 37.

Muhammed was a man of many controversies but there is no denying that he was “detribalised”, authentic, eager, bold, popular, stubborn, incorrigible, vindictive and most of all very religious. He was a patriot who truly loved his country even if many of his policies were misplaced, misconceived and misconstrued.

Friday the 13th, of the year 1976, was just like any other day in the post-civil-war Nigeria. Lovers in the Federal Capital Territory of Lagos were finalising plans on how to surprise their loved ones. Lagos was awake to the crows of the roosters and in Ikoyi, the unofficial residence of the Head-of-State, the 37-year-old General summoned his driver, orderly and Aide-de-Camp (ADC). It was time for the business of the day. Without an inkling of anything ominous, he hopped into his official car, a black Mercedes Benz limousine and the driver proceeded along the normal route for the Dodan Barracks.

Image of Murtala Mohammed
General Murtala Muhammed (1938-1976), Nigeria’s 4th Head-of-State (July 30, 1975-February 13, 1976).

Lagosians praising their wonderful leader just minutes ago fled the scene for their dear lives with their hearts in their mouths. Drivers abandoned their vehicles, women grabbed their children, lovers tore apart and they all scurried to safety like a horrified Thompson’s gazelle evading a cheetah. There was chaos. Schools were quickly shut down as parents dashed to them to pick their wards. Anarchy loomed as the nation tipped to a precipice. It was a Black Friday not of discounted online shopping but of the gruesome murder of Nigeria’s most popular leader who exited the military-political scene, in the same manner, he entered it; in a shower of bullets.

I was not born then but my parents, especially my father, told me many stories of Murtala Muhammed and would even sing songs composed for him after his death by Ayinla Omowura and co. You can listen to the song here.

Therefore, I have found it incumbent upon me to adumbrate some interesting facts you might not know about the man, Murtala Muhammed who was struck down by his fellow soldiers in the primetime of the day at the primetime of his life.

Let’s roll……….

Early Life, Education, and Career

1. Murtala Muhammed was born Murtala Rufai Mohammed on Tuesday, November 8, 1938, to Risqua Mohammed and Uwani Ramatu in the Kurawa quarters of the ancient city of Kano. He was the second child of 8 children. At first, he was referred to as Murtala Kurawa but later became known as the name we know him with today-Murtala Muhammed. When he became Head-of-State, he changed the Rufai to his mother’s name Ramatu or in full Ramatallah (Mercy of God) and became known as Murtala Ramat Muhammed.

2. Muhammed had his primary education at the Cikin Gida Primary School and the Gidan Makama Primary School all in Kano between the years 1944 to 1952. He also attended evening classes in Koranic education which were evident later in his military career.

3. On January 26, 1952, Murtala Muhammed became the 941st student admitted to the famous Barewa College (formerly Government College), Zaria and graduated five years later in 1957 obtaining his Senior Secondary School Certificate. His predecessor, General Yakubu Cinwa Gowon was his senior in the same school as General Shuwa Mohammed, shot dead in his home by gunmen in Maiduguri in 2012, was one of his classmates who would go on to be a prominent figure during the Nigerian Civil War.

Murtala Muhammed remains the youngest Nigerian Head-of-State to die in office at 37 years, 3 months and 5 days; and the only one to die before the age of 40.

4. In 1958, he was admitted to the Regular Officers Special Training School (now Ghana Military Academy) in Teshie, Ghana where he was taught, along with Benjamin Maja Adekunle “The Black Scorpion”, by erstwhile Biafran Warlord and Oxford University-educated officer, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, an intelligent man of uncommon brilliance, on infantry tactics and military laws. Both men would later fight their teacher, 10 years later, in a bloody civil war.

5. In 1959, as it was required of all cadets from all over British West Africa, Mohammed proceeded to the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst, England for course completion and commissioning when he became a Second-Lieutenant in 1961.

6. In 1962, Muhammed served as a member of the Nigerian-led United Nations Peacekeeping Force in the Congo which was commanded by Brigadier-General (at that time) Johnson Thomas Umunakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi, Nigeria’s first military Head-of-State.

7. On his return from Congo, he was ADC to the Administrator of the Western Region, Dr. Moses Majekodunmi, who had been appointed by Prime Minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa in the wake of the Operation Wet-ie, a political crisis which bedevilled the old Western Region where the regional government was suspended after a state of emergency had been declared by the Federal Government.

8. In 1963, Murtala Muhammed joined the Army’s Signal Corps as he was appointed Officer-in-Chief of the First Brigade Signal Troops in Kaduna. Later that year, he attended further training at the Catterick School of Signals also in England for advanced signals course in telecommunications.

9. In 1964, he was promoted to the rank of Major and appointed Officer Commanding 1 Signal Squadron in Apapa, Lagos.

Love, Marriage, and Family

10. In 1961, as a Second-Lieutenant, Muhammed met his future wife, Hafsat Ajoke, a Yoruba woman who was studying at the School of Dental Hygiene in Lagos. His cousin had introduced them to each other. It was love at first glance and when they met again in Kaduna two years later in 1963, the 24-year-old Captain proposed to her and they got married.

In 1966, when Chief Obafemi Awolowo was released from prison in Calabar and flown to Lagos, it was a young Major Murtala Muhammed who volunteered to drive him to his hometown, Ikenne.

11. Their marriage was blessed with six children, two boys, and four girls; Aishat (1965) a lawyer, Zakari (1966-1994) shot and killed in 1994 in unclear circumstances, Fatimah (1967) horticulturist cum accountant, Risqua Abba (1969) only surviving son and was Senior Special Assistant to President Olusegun Obasanjo on Privatisation in the Fourth Republic, Zeliha (1972) Economist cum Real Estate agent and Jumai (1975) an Economist as well.

12. Muhammed’s uncle, Alhaji Inua Wada was the Minister of Defence (State) during the Tafawa-Balewa-led First Republic. His uncle, mother, wife, and children all survived him.

1966 Coup and Counter-Coup

13. When Nigeria’s first military coup, which killed top senior military officers and Nigeria’s leading politicians, was carried out on January 15, 1966, by Major Kaduna Nzeogwu and co., Muhammed was still in Lagos. With some angry Northern soldiers, they decided to conduct their own investigations and tortured and interrogated soldiers who had not been in the barracks during the coup.

14. After Nzeogwu surrendered to Head-of-State Aguiyi-Ironsi, Muhammed was one of the soldiers who arrested him when he eventually arrived Lagos from Kaduna.

15. In a bid to quell outrage from Northern soldiers, Head-of-State Aguiyi-Ironsi appointed them to senior sensitive posts. Aguiyi-Ironsi promoted Muhammed to Lieutenant-Colonel and appointed him Nigeria Army’s Inspector of Signals. A position that would prove strategic in the counter-coup six months later.

16. Despite his new rank, Muhammed was not happy and did not hide his disdain of the Igbos nor Aguiyi-Ironsi that he once referred to the Head-of-State as a “fool” and made it clear he would avenge the deaths of his northern colleagues.

Image of Murtala Mohammed and family
Murtala Muhammed with wife, Ajoke and children, Fatimah and Risqua Abba, 1969.

17. As Inspector of Signals, Northern soldiers met at Muhammed’s house in Lagos to plan for the July counter-coup. Muhammed would also pick up co-conspirators in his car at an arranged rendezvous and drive them around without stopping why they plotted.

18. Murtala Muhammed was Nigeria’s second secessionist after Major Isaac Adaka Boro (1938-1968), the Ijaw rebel leader who had declared the Republic of Niger Delta in February 1966. He was the leader of the July coup whose intention was to break the Northern Region out of Nigeria. Hence the code name for their coup was “Araba” a Hausa word which means “let’s separate”.

19. Though caught unawares and not in their original plan, the counter-coup began in Abeokuta on the night of July 28, 1966, till the morning of July 29, 1966. Muhammed coordinated events from Lagos and with a team of soldiers hijacked airplanes the International Airport, Ikeja in order to transport northern families back to the North in anticipation of the North’s exit from Nigeria.

20. 27-year-old Lieutenant-Colonel Murtala Muhammed was the inspiration behind the July 29, 1966, countercoup which saw the abduction, torture, and deaths of the Head-of-State, Major-General Johnson T.U Aguiyi-Ironsi, Military Governor of the Western Region, Lieutenant-Colonel Francis Adekunle Fajuyi and many officers and soldiers of Southern origin, majority of whom were Igbo.

21. After intense debates for over three days and Muhammed’s failure in not breaking the North from Nigeria, General Gowon became Head-of-State much to Muhammed’s chagrin.

22. As the power behind the throne, Muhammed would often turn up uninvited for Supreme Military Council (SMC) meetings and this caused a rift between him and Gowon that would last for a decade until Gowon’s overthrow and Mohammed’s subsequent death.

The Nigerian Civil War

23. During the civil war, Mohammed was appointed General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the newly formed 2nd Division of the Nigerian Army whose task was to evict the Ojukwu-led Biafrans from the Midwest of Nigeria. He literally built this division from the scratch and drove the Biafrans out of the Midwest Region in a blistering offensive that earned him the nickname Monty of the Midwest after Britain’s World War II commander, Field Marshall Bernard “Monty” Montgomery.

24. However, in the excitement, soldiers of the 2nd Division under Muhammed carried out a grotesque and despicable massacre of unarmed Igbo civilians in the Midwest which is popularly known today as the Asaba Massacre.

25. Interestingly, during the massacre in Asaba, Muhammed personally saw to it that the mother of Major Kaduna Nzeogwu was kept safe and not harmed.

Ironically, the International Airport, Ikeja, Murtala MUhammed hijacked in the July 29, 1966 counter-coup, was renamed Murtala MUhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos by his successor, General Olusegun Obasanjo. The Airport is one of the busiest airports in Africa.

26. Without seeking Gowon’s approval, Muhammed installed Major Samuel Ogbemudia as the new Military Governor of the Midwest who would stay on until Muhammed removed him eight years later in the events of the July 29, 1975, bloodless coup that ousted Gowon.

27. Buoyed by his success in the Midwest, Muhammed moved further East to the strategic town of Onitsha but the Biafran troops had blown up the Niger Bridge (the only land access) and choose to cross the river with a direct assault. Defying orders from Lagos, he lost many men while trying to cross thrice. In fact, the River Niger killed more of his men than the Biafrans’ weapons.

Image of Murtala Mohammed, 20 naira
Portrait of Murtala Mohammed on the old 20 naira note.

28. For defying orders, Muhammed was replaced with Colonel Ibrahim Haruna but the Division had been so battered that Haruna himself was replaced with Colonel Gibson Jalo. Muhammed returned to Lagos in March 1968 and resumed his previous post of Inspector of Signals. He was promoted to the Colonel rank the next month in April 1968.

Post Civil War Years, Coup Plot and Rule as Head-of-State

29. In October 1971, at the end of the war, Muhammed was promoted to the Brigadier rank after taking a Staff College course at the Joint Service Staff College in England. He was 33.

30. In August 1974, Brigadier Murtala Muhammed was appointed Federal Commissioner for Communications replacing Joseph Tarka, who had resigned on corruption charges, and combined it with his military duties and continued to serve as Inspector of Signals.

31. On October 1, 1974, Gowon postponed the return to civilian rule in 1976 with the reason that the country was not ready and “the politicians had learnt nothing and forgotten nothing”.

32. Less than a year later, on July 29, 1975, while on a foreign summit of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) at Kampala, Uganda, General Yakubu Gowon was overthrown in a bloodless coup and Murtala Mohammed was installed as Nigeria’s 4th (and 3rd Military) Head-of-State.

33. Having seen much bloodshed and witnessed two military coups cum a brutal civil war, Muhammed did not take part in the coup that brought him to power but gave his blessings and moral support to the plotters. He also promised to frustrate any move to have them executed should the coup fail.

Ojukwu taught Murtala Mohammed infantry tactics and military law in Teshie, Ghana. The student fought his teacher during the Civil War.

34.  During the coup-plotting, Muhammed was in London and after Gowon’s removal, he returned to the country. Muhammed’s plane was the only plane to land in Nigeria on that day and his first act was to totally dismantle the arrangement of Gowon’s governing regime and his key men.

35. In his inaugural speech on July 30, 1975, Murtala Mohammed “invented” these phrases, “Fellow Nigerians” and “with immediate effect”, into the Nigerian political vocabulary.

36. As soon as Muhammed became Head-of-State, all of the 12 Military Governors that served under Gowon were immediately dismissed from their posts and retired. The heads of Air Force, Navy, Police and Deputy Inspector-General of Police were also compulsorily retired along with all officers of the rank of Major-General and above (that is, anyone that was senior to any member of the new regime).

37. The July 1975 coup was the first time in Nigeria’s history that the executors of a coup apportioned political appointments between themselves. Officers who carried out the two previous coups (January and July 1966) had no interest in governing the country nor personally participating in any political activity.

38. As Head-of-State, Murtala Muhammed tackled corruption effectively. After getting rid of Gowon’s cronies, he set his sight to the civil service. Muhammed unleashed a massive onslaught against public sector corruption and inefficiency on a scale never seen before in the country. This led to a wave of dismissals and retirements of over 10,000 public officials who summarily dismissed and retired on the grounds of inefficiency and widespread corruption.

Image of Murtala Benz Car
The Mercedes Benz where Muhammed was shot and killed. It still lies at the National Museum, Onikan, Lagos, with the bloodstains and bullet holes still visible.

39. Muhammed laid out the framework for the return of Nigeria to democratic rule on October 1, 1979, and also the relocation of the Federal Capital Territory to Abuja in the centre of Nigeria which was fulfilled in 1991. He stressed that the military did not intend to stay in office “a day longer than necessary” and also increased the number of states from 12 to 19 with the creation of seven new states: Anambra, Imo, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Oyo, and Plateau, ten days before his death, on February 3, 1976.

Murtala Mohammed Death

40. For several months, Muhammed’s government functioned with four Brigadiers at its apex (Muhammed, Obasanjo, Danjuma, and Bissalla) until January 1976 when it embarked on a bizarre promotion exercise which served no purpose other than to create tensions in the army as Danjuma was promoted Lieutenant-General while Bissalla who was Danjuma’s senior was only promoted to the rank of a Major-General (a rank below Danjuma) and as Commissioner of Defence, was also superior to Danjuma in office. Additionally, Muhammed never bothered to take his personal security more seriously and continued to live in his house at 6, Second Avenue, Ikoyi, Lagos without relocating to the Dodan Barracks.

41. On Friday, February 13, 1976, General Murtala Muhammed departed for work along his usual route on George Street but as his car crawled in the infamous Lagos traffic outside the Federal Secretariat Ikoyi, a group of soldiers would-be assassins, Lieutenant-Colonel Buka S. Dimka, Major Rabo, Captain Malaki, and Lieutenant William Seri, rushed over to his car and sporadically sprayed a plethora of gunshots which killed the Head-of-State, his ADC, Lieutenant Akintunde Akinsehinwa, his driver, Sergeant Adamu Minchika and mortally wounding his orderly Staff Sergeant, Michael Otuwe. This happened after only 200 days in office.

Other Interesting Facts

42. Murtala Muhammed could speak the Yoruba language fluently. As Head-of-State, Muhammed was suspected by the western countries of having communist views due to his activities in Angola.

43. In 1966, when Chief Obafemi Awolowo was released from prison in Calabar and flown to Lagos, it was a young Major Murtala Muhammed who volunteered to drive him to his hometown, Ikenne.

44. His portrait adorns the 20 naira note. It is the only note to feature a military man as other notes feature civilians.

45. In every major capital city in Nigeria, there is a “Murtala Muhammed Way”.

46. When the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) first announced Mohammed’s ascension to power, they stated his name as Murtala Rufai Mohammed but 24 hours later, it was corrected Murtala Ramat Mohammed.

47. Muhammed was born in Kano. He is also buried in Kano. His body lies at the Massalacin Murtala and prayers are held in remembrance of him every year.

48. Ironically, the International Airport, Ikeja, Murtala Muhammed hijacked in the July 29, 1966 counter-coup, was renamed Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos by his successor, General Olusegun Obasanjo. The Airport is one of the busiest airports in Africa.

The Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos.

49. Murtala Muhammed wished Nigeria adopted a democracy without political parties in the build-up to the drafting of the 1979 constitution.

50. Murtala Muhammed remains the youngest Nigerian Head-of-State to die in office at 37 years, 3 months and 5 days; and the only one to die before the age of 40.

Thank you very much for your patience and attention. If you feel there are other facts I  must have missed concerning the life of General Murtala Ramat Muhammed, please fill in the comment box below and I would gladly engage you in a healthy conversation.

You can follow me on Twitter @AmazingAyo

You can also subscribe to our YouTube channel for interesting historical videos.

error: Content is protected !!
We use cookies in order to give you the best possible experience on our website. By continuing to use this site, you agree to our use of cookies.
Privacy Policy