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Remembering General Murtala Muhammed. by dangote7510(m): 8:45am On Feb 13, 2016
In this season of rudderless leadership
characterised by wanton corruption, insecurity
and darkness, when the single most quoted
reason for our abysmal bad luck has been bad
leadership, Murtala stands out. Without doubt he
was the greatest Nigerian leader ever.
Today,February 13, marks the 40th anniversary
since this Nigeria’s most dynamic leader was
assassinated in an abortive coup in 1976.
Murtala has now spent 40 years in his grave.He
would have been 76 this year, as he was born in
1938 (see the Twenty Naira note).
Our social studies and history books should be
reviewed so that we can teach our children The
Story of Murtala.
Our children should be told this feel-good story:
that there was once a Nigerian leader who
epitomised selflessness, discipline and
The younger generation needs hope, and there is
a lot of it in this man. They should know, for
example, that Murtala would have executed, as
they do in China, Fuel Subsidy thieves; in fact,
the culprits would not have dared ab initio. It is
not enough, even unfair, to list Murtala among
the ‘has-been’ of Nigerian leaders. He was e
pluribus unum!
At least one organisation is keeping the Murtala
Torch alive – the Murtala Muhammed
Foundation (MMF) a Nigeria-based non-
governmental organisation dedicated to
engendering socio-economic change through
encouraging discourse and debate on issues
pertinent to Africa’s development and
programmes specially focused on citizens in a
democratic state of law.
MMF’s CEO is, Aisha Oyebode, the late General’s
first child, herself an accomplished legal
practitioner with an LLM and MBA.
Last October, the MMF held the third in its
Annual Policy Dialogue series with the theme
“Investing In Nigeria’s Future: Unlocking the
Potential of our Next Generation of Leaders.”
The Dialogue explored different strategies for the
development of effective leaders for Africa in
general, and Nigeria in particular, including
strategies for: Identifying youth that possess
innate leadership qualities;
Coaxing out the innate leadership qualities in the
youth; Refining and honing the identified
leadership qualities for effective deployment;
Motivating the trainee leader to desire the
vocation of leadership and to embrace the
societal responsibility of leadership.
Exactly what Africa, and Nigeria, will need, if
they are to ‘come of age’!
Much has been written about Murtala and much
will continue to be written. Apart for from the
fact that, within the 199 days he was Nigeria’s
Head of State (July 29, 1975 to February 13,
1976) Murtala initiated the return to civilian rule
which culminated in 1979, created more states
from 12 to 19, initiated far-reaching local
government reform, initiated the movement of
the Federal Capital from Lagos to the middle of
the country (and today Abuja is a reality), it can
be argued that his most important contribution to
nation-building was in instilling discipline in the
In his book, ‘The Trouble With Nigeria’, Professor
Chinua Achebe tells the story of how “on the
first morning of Murtala’s regime, the notoriously
tardy Lagos employees managed to find a way to
get to work on time – beating the stifling traffic
and transport problems which had always formed
part of their standard excuse for being late for
The new helmsman’s ferocious reputation was
such that Lagosians dared not cross him on his
first day in office. Despite the fact that there
were just as many vehicles on the road,
Lagosians got to work on time for fear of
offending the military strongman from Kano.”
Another writer, Aliyu Ammani, writing a few years
ago, described Murtala’s 199 days as the “most
dynamic, pragmatic, breathtaking, purpose-driven,
result-oriented period of our country’s political
history...Murtala jolted a sleeping nation into life.
The vibrancy in his voice was arresting.
The fire in his eyes charmed and awed the
nation. Murtala had adopted a low profile policy,
so for the 200 days he was Head of State he
lived in the same house he had occupied as
Director of Army Signal Corps and drove to work
at the Dodan Barracks every morning from his
house. No convoy. No sirens. No outriders. Few
days after his assumption of office, Murtala
shunned the sirens and convoy and rode alone
with his driver, from Lagos to Kano, a journey of
more than one thousand kilometres, in his
personal car.”
Ammani continued:
“Murtala never detained a single person in the 6
months that he led the Nigerian nation. When
former Lagos University Law Lecturer Dr.
Obarogie Ohonbamu wrote in his magazine
African Spark that Murtala had corruptly enriched
himself before becoming Head of State, and
accused him of owning fleets of trailers and rows
of houses, Murtala did not descend on him with
his heavy boot as most military dictators, he
quietly went to Igbosere magistrate court and
sued Ohonbamu for libel. At the last hearing, the
case was adjourned till 17th March, 1976.
Murtala was assassinated on 13th February. And
in an interview with The Punch of May 4th 1982,
the late Chief MKO Abiola, a very close friend of
Murtala’s, said that Murtala had only Seven
Naira Twenty Two Kobo (N7.22) in his bank
account when he died.”
And that is why all lovers of Murtala would miss
Chief Abiola – every year while he was alive, the
Chief would take full-page adverts in several
newspapers remembering his friend and
reminding Nigerians of their hero. Sadly, last
Thursday, not many media houses even
remembered to commemorate the anniversary,
although this newspaper’s sister publication,
Daily Trust, of Thursday carried a prominent
story about the neglected Murtala Cenotaph in
Lagos, erected at the exact location the late
leader was assassinated.
Still on this hero of our generation, the writer
Aliyu Ammani had further stated: “Murtala
pursued an aggressive foreign policy with Africa
as its centrepiece.
On the 11th of January 1976, an extra-ordinary
meeting of the OAU Heads of Government was
convened in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to tackle the
Angolan question. Murtala made the historic and
flamboyant appearance at the conference where
he gave the powerful Africa Has Come of Age
“Mr. Chairman, when I contemplate the evils of
apartheid, my heart bleeds and I am sure the
heart of every true blooded African bleeds.’ Thus,
Murtala opened the powerful and deep moving
Africa Has Come of Age speech. Murtala
continued: ’Rather than join hands with the
forces fighting for self-determination and against
racism and apartheid, the United States’
policymakers clearly decided that it was in the
best interest of their country to maintain white
supremacy and minority regimes in Africa…Africa
has come of age. It’s no longer under the orbit
of any extra-continental power. It should no
longer take orders from any country no matter
how powerful…gone are the days when Africa
will ever bow to the threat of any so-called
There was thunderous ovation from the Africa
Hall and Murtala Muhammad went back to his
seat, little knowing that he had exactly 34 days
more to live.”
In Murtala, the age-old argument about leaders
being born or being formed raised its head
But, as Wikipedia says, leadership has qualities
which include charismatic inspiration, initiative
and drive; role modeling; preoccupation with a
role; a clear sense of purpose and commitment;
result-orientation; and optimism. It could be said
Murtala possessed all, if not more, than these
leadership qualities. One thing Murtala had in
abundance was charisma, known in Hausa as
This was not unrelated to the fact that he had
been a fearless person since he was a small boy.
(This writer remembers reading somewhere the
late Chief Sunday Awoniyi recollecting that, at
Barewa College in Zaria, Murtala did not pick
fights with his equals: he fought higher, with his
It is almost unbelievable that Murtala died at 38,
while his age-mates of 70 to 80 are still around,
busy messing up his beloved country which, alas,
May Allah’s mercy be upon General Murtala

Re: Remembering General Murtala Muhammed. by Elosky20: 8:48am On Feb 13, 2016
Re: Remembering General Murtala Muhammed. by dangote7510(m): 9:02am On Feb 13, 2016
did you read it?
Re: Remembering General Murtala Muhammed. by kunlesufyan(m): 9:11am On Feb 13, 2016
Good write up,I think he's the best president we'v ever had in Nigeria.if only they allowed him work..the part that talk about how he dealt with the situation involving the lecturer proves he is a man that respects the right of man..he could have just ordered the man be beaten to pulp..
Re: Remembering General Murtala Muhammed. by dangote7510(m): 11:52am On Feb 13, 2016
Good write up,I think he's the best president we'v ever had in Nigeria.if only they allowed him work..the part that talk about how he dealt with the situation involving the lecturer proves he is a man that respects the right of man..he could have just ordered the man be beaten to pulp..
yes, is true

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