Nigeria lost first opportunity for change with Murtala’s death – Buhari

Nigeria lost first opportunity for change with Murtala’s death – Buhari
February 13 22:49 2016

President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday said Late former Head of State, General Murtala Mohammed was on the verge of sanitizing the country after years of corruption before his assassination.

The President said the country lost its newly found momentum with his death.

President  Buhari and other prominent Nigerians gathered in Abuja to reflect on Murtala’s  legacies, 40 years after he was killed in failed coup  attempt by Buka Suka Dimka.

He was killed on Friday, February 13 1976 in Lagos on his way to Mosque.

As part of the event marking the 40th anniversary,  the
Murtala Mohammed Foundation (MMF) put together an interactive memorial lecture with the theme: Regional Strategy and State Building: Portents and Prospects.

The occasion also witnessed a 5-minute documentary on the life and times of Mohammed.

Buhari, then a Lt. Col in the army and the Military Governor of the North-East states noted that the death of Murtala robbed the country of a great foundation because, according to him, “Murtala was on his way to putting Nigeria back to the path of order and discipline after years of drift, corruption and near despair. It would not over stating the fact to say that, Nigeria lost its newly found momentum with Murtala’s demise. “

“Gen. Murtala’s story has been told over and over again, in the last 40 years. Suffice it to say that his mother brought him up through her efforts, paid the expenses for his education and general welfare. In turn, Murtala repaid her by his exemplary performance in school, in military training in war, in peace and in government.”

The President said though the late Mohammed was his senior in the army, he had developed a great liking and respect for him on account of his professional excellence, competence straightforwardness and general interest and concern for upcoming officers, including his humble self.

Buhari described the late Head of State as a man in a hurry, adding that, that accounted for some of his actions, which some people misunderstood.

“But what he could not tolerate, was incompetence and idleness. The relationship between Murtala and some senior officers waa not always easy, but no one could doubt his inspirational qualities or call into question his love and dedication to the service of Nigeria.”

The President recalled that by the time Murtala was given a Command during the civil war, the federal side was on the defensive, the rebels had over-ran the then Mid-West and reached as far as Ore, just 100 miles from Lagos, “but by dint of sheer bravery, improvisation and resourcefulness, he mustered a rag tag group of soldiers, integrated them into the entirely new division, knocked them into fighting shape, recovered Mid-West and eventually across the Niger, alas there were terrible casualties on both sides, but Murtala’s motto was to get the job done, as quickly as possible, sacrifice and loss were part of the risks of war. ”

“On assuming the role of Head of State in 1975, Murtala set out with a single-minded determination seldom seen in Nigeria’s leadership. Decisions were on fast track. Two major developments were prominent among his legacies, the movement of federal capital from Lagos to Abuja and the creation of seven new states to make 19 states of the federation then,” the President said.

He continued: “We are here to honour a national hero and patriot, not to mourn him  and to take a new lesson from his achievements, his love for  Nigeria and Nigerians from wherever they came, his intense professionalism, his impatience for incompetence and lack of patriotism and his loyalty to friends and colleagues. His life was marked by extra-ordinary passion, energy and determination to make Nigeria better. These are values that the young and old alike should remember and celebrate.”

Also speaking, former Minister of Defence, General TY Danjuma (rtd) commended the organisers for the consistence in marking the event which he said helps  to put some of the issues surrounding his death  in  proper perspectives, noting that, without that, mischief makers could cash in to distort history for their selfish advantage.

Danjuma said he was listed among those to be eliminated if the coup had succeeded. In-fact, he said Dimka and his group listed him as number three of those to be killed, but added that when they showed it to Gen. Ilyasu Bissala, the latter brought his name forward to number two, meaning he would have been the next after Murtala, who was the main target.

His words, “That I live today is by the special grace of God. From that moment 40 years till date have been moments of emotions for me, in fact, I have considered them as divine.”

The Executive Secretary\CEO of the MMF, Mrs. Aisha Muhammed-Oyebode in her welcome remarks lamented the decay  in the civil service.

She however expressed joy that the Buhari administration was currently waging a relentless against corruption, just like her father would have done.

Mrs. Muhammed-Oyebode, who was 12 years old when her father was assassinated described him as a zealous believer in African liberation, noting that he was a simple and radical idealist and “We are imbibing the zero tolerance for corruption and are promoting the ideal as a way of expressing our distress by the commercialization of public service.