On the 15th of May, 1976, the perpetrators of the February 1976 abortive coup were executed by a firing squad at the Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison in Lagos.
It was during this abortive coup, led by Lieutenant Colonel Buka Suka Dimka, that the Nigerian Head of State, General Murtala Muhammed, was killed. Below is the speech rendered by Lt-General Olusegun Obasanjo (who succeeded Gen. Murtala) after the execution.
The Supreme Military Council has been meeting to consider, among other things the conclusions of the Military Tribunal appointed by the Federal Military Government to try those involved in the abortive coup of February 13. The Council has confirmed the sentences passed by the Tribunal. Those condemned to death by firing squad have been executed today. These include Lt-Col B.S. Dimka and Mr J.D. Gomwalk, two of the principal actors of the abortive coup.
With these executions and the other sentences confirmed we have now substantially disposed of the major issues arising from the coup attempt. Let me assure the nation that throughout the investigations, scrupulous efforts were made to ensure that all those accused were fully heard and given a fair trial. Indeed it was because of our desire to be meticulous in the pursuit of justice that it took this long to put the issues resulting from the abortive coup behind us.
Regarding Yakubu Gowon, you are aware of the effort being made to get him back to Nigeria and answer the serious allegations on his complicity in the abortive coup. He has continued to resolutely refuse to come despite the guarantees for his safety and fair trial which the Federal Military Government has given him. In spite of this refusal, we have resisted the expediency of trying him in absentia because of our belief that he should be given a chance to be fully heard and fairly tried. We have similarly assured the British Government of Yakubu Gowon’s safety and justice.
These assurances were personally conveyed by the Commissioner for External Affairs. Believing in the strength of the relationship that existed between our two countries and peoples, we had requested the British Government to facilitate Yakubu Gowon’s return to Nigeria. The British Prime Minister through a message brought by his Minister of State for Foreign Affairs has now informed us of the decisions of his government not to grant this request.
We have made it clear to the British Government that any country which harbours Yakubu Gowon, or for that matter, Dauda Usman and Clement Yildar, is committing an unfriendly act towards the government and people of Nigeria. In the meantime the Supreme Military Council has decides to dismiss Yakubu Gowon from the Nigerian Army. He will from now be treated as a wanted person to face the allegations against him any time he sets foot on Nigerian soil. Dauda Usman and Clement Yildar have also been dismissed from the army.
February 13, 1976 as a tragic day for all of us. No one should be in doubt about the unmitigated disaster and unparalleled bloodshed which would have ensured had the coup of February succeeded. We mourned the death of our late dear Head of State, General Murtala Ramat Muhammed, and those who were murdered with him, in as befitting a way as our energies and sorrows allowed. With the tragedies behind us, we should now pursue with determination and vigour, our declared polices and programme of action. We have all learnt valuable lessons from the sad experience which we must never forget. Our purpose is to instill a new sense of public morality among all classes of Nigerians. Let me therefore, here and now serve notice hat we shall now allow inefficiency or improper conduct on the part of any public officer.
This administration will not be diverted from its chosen course. Ours is a responsible administration. Those who have genuine grievances or complaints should use the established channels to secure redresses. But anyone who takes the law into his hands will henceforth have himself to blame. The Federal Military Government will continue to ensure the smooth running of all our essential services. His is a time for sacrifice not intransigence. We have not allow selfish elements or those who appear bent on breaching the solidarity between the government and the people of this our great country to unleash industrial, student, economic and other forms of unrest.
We shall be severe in our dealing with foreign and Nigerian profiteers who try to stand in the way of our policy to free our economy and improve the lot of the ordinary and deprived citizenry of this country. I expect every public officer indeed, every Nigerian to measure up to a high degree of efficiency, integrity and moral rectitude. The purge of the public service of undesirable elements was undertaken to revitalize the service.
This objective has not been fully achieved. Those that are diligent and honest in their work need not fear. Indeed they would be rewarded. But those who continue to be indolent, inefficient or corrupt will be removed. These standards are set not only for public servants but for all Nigerians.
Our Nigerians so far has shown the need to heighten our sense of civic responsibility and vigilance. This is your nation; it belongs to all of us. If we allow it to be ruined, each one of us will be ruined. This administration believes in the capacity of Nigerians to make her a great country where social and economic justice, political freedom and the rule of law prevail. We are dedicated to the pursuit of this goal. I am therefore calling on every one of you to rise to the challenge. Good night.
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- Omipidan. Teslim Opemipo (2015). The Assassination of General Murtala Muhammed on February 13 1976. https://oldnaija.com/2015/07/13/the-assassination-of-general-murtala-ramat-muhammed-on-february-13-1976/
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