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ThrowBack Thursday: The Murtala Muhammed’s Coup of 1975


The Nigeria-Biafran War had just ended 5 years earlier before the 1975 coup. The coup was indirectly instigated by one of the firebrand officers – General Murtala Mohammed – who helped General Yakubu Gowon himself achieve a successful counter-coup back in July 1966.

Years down the line, it appeared to the impatient military brass that Gowon was dragging his feet in returning to civilian rule and that he had excluded those who helped him win the War in his government.

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Therefore, jarred in agitation that Nigeria should return to civilian rule and prosperity, as promised after the War, Gowon was still dragging his feet and the military top cadre became restless.

While top military brass led by lieutenant Colonel Murtala Ramat Mohammed while demanding that the powers of Gowon be reduced, other top military brass such as Olusegun Obasanjo seem not to be bothered about Gowon’s continued reign.

General Yakubu Gowon was attending an Organisation of African Unity (OAU) conference when he received the shocking news that he had been ousted in a bloodless coup.

The coup of 29th July, 1975 brought to an end nine-year-old of General Gowon rule. The coup d’etat was designed such that Murtala was on a trip to London at the same time Gowon was at the conference. The decision by some prominent leaders of the coup to remain behind the scene was a tactical one.

The officers who were involved in the coup include Colonels Ibrahim Taiwo, Abdulahi Mohammed and Anthony Ochefu, Lt. Cols. Shehu Yar’Adua, Ibrahim Babangida and Alfred Aduloju among others and the Federal Guards Commander, Colonel Joseph Nanven Garba. Many of these personalities would later feature prominently in the larger scheme of Nigerian leadership and politicking.

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Immediately Joe Garba announced that Yakubu Gowon had been ousted, a military plane quietly landed in Kano despite all of the airports in Nigeria been shut. After a series of tense negotiations between the officers who were at the forefront of the coup, Murtala Mohammed reached an agreement to form an inclusive government. Olusegun Obasanjo was chosen as the chief of staff, supreme headquarters, while Theophilus Danjuma was chosen as the chief of army staff.

This rearrangement somewhat reshuffled the balance of power which was like a dagger hanging over the head of the actors before the coup.

In his address, Murtala announced the immediate retirement of several colleagues such as Vice Admiral JEA Wey – Chief of Staff, Supreme HQ, Major-General Hassan Katsina – Deputy Chief of Staff, Supreme HQ, Major-General David Ejoor – Chief of Staff (Army), Rear Admiral Nelson Soroh – Chief of Naval Staff, Brigadier EE Ikwue – Chief of Air Staff, and all other officers of the rank of major general, or equivalent. To fill up the newly empty roles in government, Murtala equally appointed officers to take up roles.

He also announced the intention of creating new states in the federation, the return to civilian rule and the setting up of a 50-man Constitution Drafting Committee.

Many of these milestones were later achieved by his deputy, Olusegun Obasanjo – as Murtala Ramat Muhammed was assassinated on February 13, 1986.



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Macaddy Gad

Macaddy is mostly a farmer in the day who also dabbles into technology at night, in search of other cutting edge intersections. He's on Twitter @i_fix_you

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