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The Assassination of General Murtala Muhammed on February 13 1976

Murtala Muhammed's Car
The car in which Gen. Murtala Muhammed was killed

The nation was thrown into turmoil on the 13th of February, 1976 after the Head of State and Chief Commander of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, General Murtala Ramat Muhammed, was assassinated in Lagos during an unsuccessful coup led by Lt. Col. Buka Suka Dimka.

History has it that General Murtala Muhammed lived a low-profile life which made his assassination easier for the coup plotters. Around 8 am on the 13th of February, 1976, Gen. Murtala Muhammed set out for his office at Dodan Barracks in an official black Mercedes Benz saloon car. He was in the company of his Aide-de-camp (ADC), Akintunde Akinsheinwa, an orderly, Michael Otuwu and a driver.

The only visible sign of protection was a pistol carried by Michael Otuwu. Unlike many other Nigerian leaders, Murtala did not go around with a dozen of reckless-driving convoy. Near the Federal Secretariat at Ikoyi in Lagos, a traffic controller stopped the lane on which the Head of State’s Mercedes-Benz car was.

Lt-Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo who was the Chief of Staff (Supreme Headquarters) and Lt-Gen. Theophilus Danjuma, the Chief of Army Staff, were also marked for assassination on the same day and almost the same time as the Head of State. General Murtala wasn’t lucky like Lt-Gen. Obasanjo and Lt-Gen. Danjuma who survived the attack.

Assassination of Murtala Muhammed
General Murtala Muhammed

Lt-Col. Dimka and three other coup plotters (Major Rabo, Captain Parwang and Lieutenant Seri) were already in a petrol station, waiting for Murtala’s car. As the car stopped in the traffic, Dimka and his men opened fire on Murtala’s car killing everyone except the orderly, Michael Otuwu who still lives to tell his part of the story.

Otuwu explained that he had earlier seen a man on babanriga (Hausa traditional attire) approach their car immediately it stopped; this man was later identified as Dimka. Otuwu said,

“He (Dimka) shot the driver in the head, then other soldiers loyal to him ran towards the car and opened fire. Murtala would have survived the attack had the coup plotters not noticed the door of his car opened shortly after it was riddled with bullets from AK-47 assault rifles. The moment Dimka’s boys noticed the opened door, another rain of bullets fell on the car and killed Murtala this time.”

Immediately after the assassination, Lt. Col. Buka Suka Dimka ran to the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) to announce the success of the coup which unknowing to him was not yet successful.

Murtala muhammed's burial
General Murtala being laid to rest in 1976

At the NBC, Dimka read his first speech:

“Fellow Nigerians, Murtala Muhammed’s deficiency has been detected. His government is now overthrown by young revolutionaries. All the 19 military governors have no powers over the states they now govern. The states affairs will be run by military brigade commanders until further notice…”

Lt. Col. Dimka, thinking the coup was successful, bragged on,

“Unfortunately for him too, he didn’t live to rectify his dream of ruling Africa’s most populous country. Unlike his predecessor, General Yakubu Gowon, General Muhammed was considered tough, dogged and fearless. It is touted that he applied these characteristics in his resolved fight to rid the country of all form of corruption by some military governor-politicians under General Gowon, whom he said had betrayed the trust and confidence reposed in them by the nation and betrayed the ethics of their profession.”

General Murtala's car
Murtala’s car

“His fight against public sector corruption led to mass dismissals and the retirement of over 10,000 public officials on the grounds of inefficiency and corruption. As it is in modern Nigeria, many of those dismissed or retired were people regarded as highly placed, with connections in high places. Perhaps, it could be said that the difference between General Muhammed and Nigeria’s current crop of leaders is that while the General was willing to make the hard decision for a greater and brighter tomorrow even though as a military regime, today’s leaders lack the political will to make hard choices that could better the lots of the country.”

Col. Ibrahim Babangida led a detachment of soldiers to dislodge Dimka and his men at Radio Nigeria on the others of Lt-Gen. Danjuma. It was reported that Dimka escaped through a tunnel.

Dimka and other coup plotters executed
Dimka and other six coup plotters during their execution

Lt. Col. Dimka was arrested near Abakaliki in Eastern Nigeria on the 6th of March, 1976. On the 15th of May, 1976, Dimka and other six coup plotters were publicly executed by firing squad at the Maximum Security Prison in Lagos.

Gen. Muhammed Murtala was succeeded by Lt-Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo who stayed in power till 1979 when he handed over power to the democratic government of Alhaji Sheu Shagari.


  1. Falola, Toyin; Heaton, Matthew (2008). A History of Nigeria;  Cambridge University Press
  2. Ndaeyo Uko, Romancing the Gun: The Press as a Promoter of Military Rule, Africa Research & Publications, 2004.
  3. Omipidan. Teslim Opemipo (2017). Head of State Lt-General Olusegun Obasanjo’s Speech Following The Execution of February 1976 Coup Plotters Led By Dimka. OldNaija.
  4. Omipidan, T. O. (2021, April 5). How Dimka’s Lust for Woman Led to His Arrest After the Failed 1976 Coup. OldNaija.

Cite this article as: Teslim Omipidan. (July 13, 2015). The Assassination of General Murtala Muhammed on February 13 1976. OldNaija. Retrieved from


  1. That serverd Dimka right… My dad told me everyone was ok during Murtala’s regime.
    Carry on Oldnaija.

  2. Initially I didn’t like Murtala Mohammed because of the atrocities I heard he committed in the counter coup of 1966 and the civil war that followed soon afte,r but I read he surprised all by being a brilliant supreme commander when he ruled Nigeria.

  3. Thank u old naija…Murtala is a gud leader but i heard it that he lead d coup in 1966 which leads 2 d death of Aguyi Ironsi

    1. So what?? If murtala killed ironsi, ironsi is a first bad leader in my country naija. Firstly when ironsi came to nigerian government whow much people was killed by his commentSo what?? If murtala killed ironsi, ironsi is a first bad leader in my country naija. Firstly when ironsi came to nigerian government whow much people was killed by his comment???

      1. You are just another rag tag, rampaging illiterate on here. At least, Nemesis also caught up with Murtala. Isn’t it interesting that the same 6 months that Ironsi spent before they ganged up and killed him is the same 6 months Murtala spent before he too was sent to the great beyond?
        Bloody trash talker!

    1. Totally senseless opinion. Seeking his way to the top while wasting other peoples lives, and you expected him to enjoy that top? Joker!

      1. Thanks for your comment, Stevo. I didn’t expect Murtala to enjoy ‘the top’ nor did I say he would. Nevertheless, he had his share of the cake- the law of military retribution. Your visit is highly appreciated, Mr. Stevo.

  4. Nobody was Messiah in all our past head of state or president but hide under the skin of pretense and looting the benefit of majority. God will lead us through one day.

  5. Thank u for d story,i was given d assignment on d assasination of Gen. muritala muhammed nd nw av understand every hint of d assasi natio of d great man.Thanks!!!!!!!!

  6. murtala is a man DAT have gud ambition for his country, but it quit unfortunate DAT buka suka dimka and his groups did nt allow him to do DAT,may his soul rest in peace

  7. Really Gen. Murtala was a good leader. his goodness in leadership is still unique. may God grant him an eternal rest in aljannatul firdaus. God bless Nigeria

  8. quite some history. it makes me remembered my father of blessed memory who would recount
    the events to me in details with names of the plotters and victims. he was -at the time of the coup -a police officer. I love that man- Murtala. killed shortly before I was born. may their gentle souls rest in perfect peace.

  9. indeed,Murtala Mohammed was invincible Nigerian hero whose sacrifice and leadership styles would remain immortal in the minds of patriotic Nigerian.May Allah forgive his shortcomings. Ameen.

  10. My father told me this story when I was a young boy. If col Dimka could have allowed Muritla to rule this country for at least 3-4 years I believe Nigeria could have been a better place on planet earth.

  11. I love this history indeed. May God guide our leader’s right, bless nigeria and bless every one. Thank u very much.

  12. However Lt. Col. Dimka was later caught,
    and was executed publicly on the 15th of
    May 1967 at the Maximum Security
    Prison in Lagos.
    Gen. Muhammed Murtala was succeeded
    by Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, who was in
    power till 1979 when he handed over
    power to the democratic government of
    Alahji Sheu can Dis be? was dimka executed before the Nigeria civil war?

  13. I wish i was a military then i could have turned dimka to something else before he was kill.for not allowed murtala to take us to the promised land,oh! too bad for dimka.

  14. Murtala was indeed a great leader. He would certainly have been Nigeria a better country if only Dimka had allowed him rule for at least 4years. It is sad Nigeria will never have such a leader again.

  15. As one of the comments said, MURTALA led Asaba massacre, led the counter coup of July 1967, so what are we talking about? Positive history or negative history?

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