Had the coup plotters led by Lt. Col. Buka Suka Dimka not noticed the door of General Murtala Muhammed’s Mercedes Benz car open minutes after it was sprayed with bullets from AK-47 assault rifles, triggering another round of firing, perhaps the late Head of State would have survived the brutal attack.
The lone survivor and Orderly to the late Head of State, Staff Sergeant Michael Otuwu, broke his silence in a highly emotional interview with The AUTHORITY Daily, nearly 40 years after the tragic incident.
According to the Orderly, on their way to work on the morning of Friday, February 13, 1976, the Head of State left his personal house in Ikoyi and was headed to work in Dodan Barracks, the seat of government, which he said was being renovated at the time.
Otuwu disclosed that beside the Head of State was his ADC, Lt. Akintunde Akinterinwa, himself (Otuwu) directly seated in the front passenger’s seat, with Sergeant Adamu Michika behind the wheels.
According to the Orderly, as the unsuspecting car of the Head of State stopped before a row of cars at a junction, he noticed a man in a traditional attire, babanriga (he later identified as Dimka) who approached the car, removed the flowing robe and pulled out an AK-47 rifle, shooting the driver in the head point blank.
According to the Orderly, having disabled the car by killing the driver, other soldiers clad in robes, ran towards Murtala’s car and opened fire.
“The Head of State, his ADC and I all ducked while the shooting lasted,” narrated the Orderly, sobbing uncontrollably as he recalled the traumatic incident. After the shooting, Otuwu continued, he heard the gunmen running towards the Radio House.
A few minutes later, he continued, he noticed that the injured ADC opened his door, apparently to come to the aid of the equally injured Commander-in-Chief.
According to the Orderly, the opened door alerted the assailants that the occupants of the vehicle were not dead – and this prompted the coup plotters to return a second time to, again, open fire on the car in order to finish them off. He passed out.
According to Otuwu, Generals TY Danjuma and Olusegun Obasanjo were lucky because they were also targets but escaped because they did not leave for their offices as early as Murtala did and they heard the radio announcement which may have fatefully altered their movement plans.
According to Otuwu, who enlisted in the Nigeria Army in 11 September, 1967, he had moved early that morning with the late Head of State from his Ikoyi residence to Dodan Barracks because the overthrown General Yakubu Gowon had not evacuated the official residence and it was not yet renovated.
His words: “I was his Orderly throughout to his last day during the Dimka coup. I was inside the car with him when he was killed.
“On the morning of that February 13, we were going to the office. Sergeant Adamu Michika was the driver; Sergeant Akintunde Akinterinwa, his ADC, sat behind the driver. As an Orderly, I was in front with the driver.
“While the Head of State sat behind me – I was the one who opens the door for him. That fateful day I came up in the morning to carry him to the office in Dodan Barracks. We got to the former Secretariat, now at Ikoyi, which was under construction.
Before the place they call Alag bon junction, near the labour office. The official car was a Mercedes Benz 600. It is still at the National Museum. There were about four or five vehicles in front of us. You know at that junction there was traffic. We didn’t go with sirens. During his time we didn’t go with escorts with the accompanying out-riders, road-closed signs and all that.
So when we got to the Alagbon junction, the traffic warden stopped the vehicle and we were in the queue. We were the fifth or sixth vehicle behind the forward vehicles that were stopped. That secretariat was under construction.
They put zincs around the compound behind that secretariat. Then some soldiers came in Agbada carrying AK-47 rifles. “They wore uniforms but covered them with Agbada. They had their Kalashnikovs with Agbada cover-up in form of camouflage. We never knew they were even waiting for us. Then one soldier from Golf Road shot and got our driver, Sergeant Michika. Our motor was neutralized.
“Between me and the driver was an arm-rest. On that arm-rest was Oga’s brief case. In this brief case he puts civil dress he could use as needed. When he wants to go to Mosque, he does not like going back to Ikoyi to change.
“Then some other soldiers converged on us. I can’t recall their number. They began to spray us from the back. All of us took cover. I fell on top of the driver; the blood of the driver covered my head. They thought the bullet got my head.
“After the first shooting and without return of fire they must have assumed that we were all dead. The shooting was actually in two phases. They ran to the NBC to announce the assassination. They shared themselves into three.
“There was a group waiting for Obasanjo when he was about to go to the office. Also another group was waiting for TY Danjuma at Bourdillon – our own was at Ikoyi Road. It happened we were the first target that moved early from the house to the office.
“Before Obasanjo and TY Danjuma moved to their offices they have already heard the radio announcement. By the time of the first shooting, we being the target and their running to NBC to go and announce that they have already finished their assignment, the ADC who was still alive, thinking they were gone, opened the door of the Benz.
“In the first spraying of the car, except the driver who was killed, the three of us were injured but not dead. On observing the car door opening, one of the attackers, still within range, a Major, called to the others: “he never die, he never die.” He was calling his group to return.
“This time around when they came back they finished their entire magazines. That was what happened. They carried everybody to the mortuary at Igbosere Hospital, not far from Kam Salem Police Headquarters. Because of the extreme cold of the mortuary, my left hand started shaking and one of the attendants saw it and called the nurses or doctors and said somebody was still alive.
“From there they checked and confirmed I was still breathing. So they had to look for a vehicle to carry me to Dodan Barracks. From Dodan Barracks they looked for an ambulance and carried me to a hospital, Awolowo Road hospital, a military hospital.”
Otuwu, who hails from Kogi State, spent six months in the hospital after his miraculous survival. He has not been recognized by the army or the state. Presently, he does a few jobs for late General Murtala’s son, in Abuja.
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The Supreme Commander of the Nigerian Armed Forces, Major Gen J T U Aguyi-Ironsi and the Military Governor of the then Western Region, Col Adekunle Fajuyi arriving at their last state function in Ibadan into a well coordinated trap set by then temporary Major Murtala Mohammed, Captain Martin Adamu, Captain TY Danjuma and some other Northern Army officers on July 29, 1966 exactly 51 years ago today.
The bloody events of that night at the Government House Ibadan and military formations in Lagos, Abeokuta and some other parts of the country were the major factors that led to the Nigerian Civil War which claimed over one million lives.
May their souls rest in peace.
Here is a detailed report of the events of that faithful night as captured by the renowned military historian and heart surgeon, Prof Nowa Omoigui : IBADAN, FRIDAY, JULY 29, 1966 (“Paiko’s Wedding”)
The situation in Ibadan on July 28 was tense. Northern civil servants, chiefs and traditional rulers who had come for the Conference of Traditional rulers were eager to get out of the South, fearful that they would be targetted in the so called “Plan 15” Igbo Plot. Indeed there were false rumors that the conference Hall was slated to be blown up. At the regimental parade for General Ironsi a small controversy erupted in the Press about the observation that northern troops refused to (or could not) sing the National Anthem. Arguments went back and forth on TV about whether their lips were moving.
Nevertheless, there was a grand reception in the evening hosted by the Military Governor, Lt. Col. Francis Adekunle Fajuyi, which belied the tensions that were simmering underneath. Fate was beckoning. Both Ironsi and Fajuyi were distinguished veterans of the Congo peace-keeping operations (ONUC) from 1960-64. Then Brigadier JTU Aguiyi-Ironsi was the overall Force Commander for the last six months of the operation. Fajuyi was well known as the first Nigerian officer to be honoured with an international military citation. As a Major, he was awarded the Military Cross (MC) for personal action in leading C company of the 4QNR in combat on November 27, 1960 and subsequently extricating it from an ambush during operations on January 3, 1961.
Nevertheless, following the call from Lt. Pam Mwadkon in Abeokuta, Lt. Garba Dada (Paiko) woke up other northern officers at the 4th Battalion, including Major TY Danjuma, a staff officer at AHQ who was temporarily staying at the Letmauk Barracks, having accompanied Major General JTU Aguiyi-Ironsi from Lagos. The Barracks is named after a town called Letmauk, site of a bitter campaign in April and May 1944 to retake AN from the Japanese in Burma, by the 1st Nigerian Brigade of the 82nd West African Division during World War II.
Dada told Danjuma: “Sir, we will have to do the same thing. The most important target is the Supreme Commander. For as long as he is there, everything we are doing here is nothing. We should go there.”
After a brief meeting with Lts. Ibrahim Bako and Abdullai Shelleng, a quick phone call was made to Lt. Col. Murtala Muhammed in Lagos, seeing as Muhammed had earlier contacted the boys to stand down from their group’s pre-planned coup. But Muhammed initially urged restraint, seeing as he was unsure whether his earlier confrontation with Anwunah meant that Igbo officers and soldiers in Lagos were already armed and may well have the advantage – as Anwunah had threatened. However, concerned that exposed northern mutineers in Abeokuta would be isolated and thus likely arrested and charged if they delayed action, Danjuma, Dada, Bako, Shelleng, and the duty officer (James Onoja) decided to overrule Muhammed and proceed with operations in Ibadan. Because Danjuma did not go to Ibadan with combat dress, he borrowed one from Lt. James Onoja* who had recently come back from a course in the US, and wore it right over his pyjamas. Then Danjuma armed himself with a hand grenade for suicide in the event of mission failure.
(*Some accounts say it was Akahan’s uniform, but the Onoja version is likely more correct, confirmed by Danjuma himself. In any case Akahan was out of the loop until daybreak).
Soldiers were then hurriedly selected from infantry companies at Mokola commanded by Onoja and Shelleng. While Shelleng took one group to man checkpoints along the Lagos and Abeokuta roads to protect the southern approaches to the city, 24 soldiers under Lt. James Onoja, some say in two landrovers mustered by the MTO, Lt. Jerry Useni, accompanied Major Danjuma to the Government House in the early hours of July 29, 1966. The specific initial objective was to isolate the premises, disconnect the Supreme Commander from the chain of command and arrest him as a tool for negotiations regarding the boys who killed Okonweze and others at Abeokuta. The Government House was already guarded by elements of the National Guards company, led by Lt. William Walbe, who was in charge of a 106 mm recoilless rifle group, along with some soldiers on duty from the 4th battalion whose reporting relationship was to the adjutant of the battalion as well as the duty officer.
THE TAKE-OVER OF THE GOVERNMENT HOUSE, IBADAN
Upon arrival there, having established that the Supreme Commander was in, Major Danjuma was confronted by two command problems. Both arose from the fact that he neither belonged to the 4th battalion nor was he part of the National Guard, although he was senior to all the boys on the ground. First task, therefore, was to ensure the cooperation of those elements of the 4th battalion who were on duty there. The second was to secure the cooperation of the National Guard Commander on the ground. In order to address the first problem he asked the adjutant (“Paiko”) to issue a “legitimate” order that all his soldiers on duty be disarmed by the duty officer (Onoja) who was there to conduct a “legitimate” inspection. After being disarmed by the Duty Sergeant, they were illegitimately screened and those who could be trusted (ie northerners), illegitimately rearmed. Then they were supplemented by the pre-selected group Danjuma brought along from the barracks with Onoja. To deal with the second problem he confronted Lt. William Walbe directly and secured his cooperation. This wasn’t too difficult. Although they were in different cells, Walbe himself had been attending separate meetings in Lagos with Joe Garba and others and was well aware of the outlines of a coup plot although he did not expect one that night.
Once the building was surrounded and the 106 mm gun positioned in support, Danjuma came under pressure from the boys on the ground to proceed with the operation. There were fears, based on myths acquired in the Congo, that General Ironsi was assisted by “juju” and that he could disappear at anytime using his “crocodile”. Junior officers who had come to join the party urged immediate attack, some even suggesting a repeat performance of the Nzeogwu assault on the Nassarawa Lodge in Kaduna in January. They wanted the 106 mm weapon used to bring down the complex. Danjuma resisted the pressure.
Lt. Col. Hilary Njoku, Commander of the 2nd Brigade in Lagos, then emerged from the main building and was walking right past the soldiers on duty moving toward the gate. One account says he came up from Lagos with Ironsi, had been staying at the guest house next to the main lodge, but was at the main lodge where Ironsi was staying, socializing with both Ironsi and Fajuyi. Another account says he came up from Lagos that evening when rumors of a coup gained strong currency among senior Igbo officers in Lagos to brief the C-in-C. When he attempted to leave the premises, ostensibly to mobilize loyal units, he was shot at by soldiers who had been ordered not to let anyone out and he responded in kind. (Some say he shot first). Luckily he escaped with serious injuries, some say with no less than 8 pieces of shrapnel in his thigh. Njoku initially made his way to the University College Hospital but had to escape again when a “mop up” team came searching for him.
At this point, Lt. Onoja asked for permission to leave, saying he was going to get more ammunition from the barracks. However, he panicked and ran away in one of the landrovers, fearing that Njoku’s escape meant the coup would fail. He was later arrested at Jebba.
When it became apparent that Njoku had escaped, Danjuma, guarded by two soldiers, made rounds to check all guard positions around the lodge and was moving toward the guest house when he heard the phone there ringing. He asked one of his guards to break the window so he could reach in to answer the phone. According to General Danjuma (rtd), this is how the conversation went:
Gowon: “Hello. I want to speak to Brigade Commander. I want to speak to Colonel Njoku.
Danjuma: “May I know who is speaking?”
Gowon: My name is Gowon. Yakubu Gowon.”
Danjuma: “Ranka dede. This is Yakubu Danjuma.”
Gowon: “Yakubu, what are you doing there? Where are you?”
Danjuma: “I am in the State House here.”
Gowon: “Where is the Brigade Commander?”
Danjuma: “He is not around.”
Gowon: “Have you heard what has happened?”
Danjuma: “Yes, I heard and that is why I am here. We are about to arrest the Supreme Commander. The alternative is that the Igbo boys who carried out the January coup will be released tit for tat since we killed their own officers.”
Gowon: (after a period of silence) “Can you do it?”
Danjuma: “Yes, we have got the place surrounded.”
Gowon: “But for goodness sake we have had enough bloodshed. There must be no bloodshed.”
Danjuma: “No, We are only going to arrest him.”
At this point Danjuma replaced the phone as yet another command crisis with the soldiers on the grounds was brewing. It is not clear from available information what Gowon did with the explosive information he had just gained from Danjuma or how he and Ogundipe planned to deal with it. Danjuma does not say that Gowon or any other senior officer explicitly ordered him to desist from his activities. To what extent, then, did knowledge that Ironsi was already surrounded by elements of the 4th battalion affect efforts to send a Helicopter or the force structure of any potential rescue mission? It appears that, at least in dealings with Ibadan, a decision was made, by omission or commission, to adopt a negotiating rather than fighting attitude to the mutiny.
This is an area which will attract considerable attention of researchers in the future. Some have used it to implicate Gowon in the coup but depending on what other information he had at that point about availability of loyal fighting units, this may be too harsh a conclusion to draw without additional clarification from Gowon himself. He may well have been stalling to allow him time to make alternative plans. Certainly, neither the National Guard company, 2nd (in Lagos) nor 4th (in Ibadan) battalions nor the garrison at Abeokuta were usable at that point. Even if they were willing, battalions in Enugu, Kaduna and Kano were too far away to be useful, particularly considering the lack of emergency strategic airlift capability. In any case, any thinking along these lines was quickly neutralized by Murtala Muhammed’s decision to seize Ikeja airport at dawn. Lastly, Gowon may have viewed Danjuma as the lesser of two evils – the other being an all out effort by mutinying junior officers to get their hands on the General (which is what eventually happened). In retrospect, at that point only a foreign power could have mustered the might to stage a complex night-time military rescue operation to save Ironsi. But there is no evidence that such an option was ever considered.
In any case, when Onoja ran away, TY Danjuma was isolated. With no duty officer on ground, and no other officer from the 4th battalion on the premises, the NCOs began to wonder if they should take strange orders from this Major they had never met, wearing a mis-sized American satin combat uniform on top of pyjamas and who wasn’t even from their unit. They began to wonder if Danjuma might even be an Igbo officer based on his physique and bearing and perhaps even his reluctance to destroy the building. Fortunately for Danjuma, Lt. Abdullai Shelleng returned briefly from his checkpoint on Abeokuta road to check on things and persuaded the NCOs to obey him, assuring them that he was a northerner.
Other officers also arrived back on premises as daybreak approached, including “Paiko” himself. Nervous soldiers then appealed directly to Garba Dada (Paiko) to blow up the house but he refused to do so unless Danjuma gave the okay. Danjuma chose to maintain the siege, waiting patiently for the occupants to emerge from the building. The opportunity would come at 8 am when the Governor and Head of State were scheduled to go for official engagements in town. The one curious oversight, though, was that no effort was made to cut off the phone lines at the lodge.
At 6:30 am General Ironsi’s Army ADC, Lt. Sani Bello emerged from the building to find out what was going on. After a brief confrontation with Danjuma and a group of hostile northern NCOs, he was arrested, told to remove his shoes and sit down on the ground. As members of the Head of State’s convoy and delegation began arriving from guest chalets they too were detained and asked to sit on the ground. They include many others like Colonel Olu Thomas, an army physician, and Chief C. O. Lawson, Secretary to the Government, arrested at about 7:30 am.
At this point, Lt. Col. Fajuyi personally emerged from the building. Some accounts claim that his ADC had absconded during the night and switched sides. Danjuma describes his conversation with Fajuyi as follows:
Fajuyi: “Danjuma come. What do you want?”
Danjuma: “I want the Supreme Commander”
Fajuyi: “Promise me that no harm will come to him”
Danjuma: words to the effect that no harm would come to Ironsi and that he was only being arrested.
Fajuyi: “I will go and call him.”
Chorus of northern NCOs: “No, Sir. Don’t allow him to go.” Danjuma: (talking to Fajuyi who had briefly turned around) “Sir, you see what I have. This is grenade. If there is false move two of us will go.”
At this point Fajuyi led the way into the building with the grenade bearing Danjuma and five armed soldiers (including Lt. Walbe) right behind him, essentially using him as a cover as they climbed the staircase and went upstairs to meet General Ironsi.
Ironsi: “Young man”
Danjuma: “Sir, you are under arrest.”
Ironsi: “What is the matter?”
Danjuma: “The matter is you, Sir. You told us in January when we supported you to quell the mutiny that all the dissident elements that took part in the mutiny will be court-martialled. It is July now. You have done nothing. You kept these boys in prison and the rumours are now that they will be released because they are national heroes.”
Ironsi: “Look, what do you mean? It is not true.”
At this point Ironsi and Danjuma began arguing, with Fajuyi getting in between them and reminding Danjuma again and again of his promise that no harm would come to Ironsi.
Danjuma: “Fajuyi get out of my way. You, just come down.”
Danjuma: (to Ironsi) “….You organized the killing of our brother officers in January and you have done nothing to bring the so called dissident elements to justice because you were part and parcel of the whole thing.”
Ironsi: “Who told you that? You know it is not true.”
Danjuma: “You are lying. You have been fooling us. I ran around risking my neck trying to calm the ranks, and in February you told us that they would be tried. This is July and nothing has been done. You will answer for your actions.”
At this point Danjuma and Lt. Andrew Nwankwo, Ironsi’s AirForce ADC, had a fierce verbal exchange, with one holding a grenade with the pin pulled and the other holding a pistol. But with the fingers of five other soldiers on the triggers of automatic weapons, Nwankwo was outgunned.
IRONSI AND FAJUYI ARE KIDNAPPED
When the group got downstairs, Danjuma instructed the 4th battalion adjutant, Lt. Garba Dada (“Paiko”), to arrange for both Fajuyi and Ironsi to be taken to the guest house on the cattle ranch at Mokwa “pending date of full inquiry”. Lt. “Paiko”, however, informed Danjuma that he was not a party to the commitment he made to Fajuyi (or Gowon) about their safety and a fierce emotional argument erupted between Danjuma and the others. At this point a northern soldier tapped Danjuma on the shoulder with a loaded rifle and, speaking in Hausa, said:
“These foolish young boys. That is the kind of leadership you have given us and messing us up. They killed all your elders and you are still fooling around here. The man you are fooling around here with will disappear before you know it.”
The other soldiers agreed with this soldier and pounced on both Ironsi and Fajuyi, wrestling them to restrain any movement. Danjuma, faced with one command crisis after another all night, had finally lost control.
Fajuyi turned to Danjuma and said: “You gave us the assurance.”
Danjuma replied: “Yes, Sir. I am sure you will be all right.”
He was wrong.
Two landrovers took the captives away while Danjuma hitch-hiked back to the barracks. Both Ironsi and Fajuyi were squeezed into the front seat of one vehicle while Ironsi’s ADCs, Lts. Bello and Nwankwo were behind. Two officers, Lts. Walbe and Dada, accompanied the group with one joining the driver of the lead vehicle. The command vehicle led another vehicle full of armed troops. Among those soldiers said to have been present include the 4th battalion unit RSM Useni Fagge, Sergeant Tijjani (from Maiduguri), Warrant Officer Bako, and other soldiers including Dabang, Wali, and Rabo. Some of those involved were later to come to prominence during the unsuccessful Dimka coup of 1976.
They drove to Mile 8 on Iwo road, where the group dismounted and went into the bush, crossing a small stream. Ironsi and Fajuyi were subjected to beatings and interrogation. General Ironsi acted a soldier as he was questioned, refused to be intimidated and remained silent, refusing to confess any role in the January 15 coup. Indeed, according to Elaigwu, “It was reliably learnt from an officer and a soldier on the spot that it was Ironsi’s muteness amidst a barrage of questions that led to his being shot by an angry Northern soldier.” Other sources suggest that the “angry northern soldier” may have been Sergeant Tijjani. Details are murky.
Fajuyi was also shot. Although the western region publication “Fajuyi the Great” published by the Ministry of Information in 1967 after his official burial said he had offered to die rather than “abandon his guest”, those involved in his arrest and assassination insist that he was an even more critical target than Ironsi .
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Since history is not taught in Nigerian schools due its ban by the past military government, efforts are always made by The Republican News to bring some historical facts to its audience and readers from all levels of the society within Nigeria and outside.
Here is a very important piece of history that most Nigerians know vaguely about and it would be nice to brgin it to their knowledge and to educate the youths about the country’s past.
Here is excerpts from the 1976 coup, which is dubbed Dimka coup
February 13th, 1976 Coup
When Lt. Col. Bukar Dimka of the Nigeria Army Physical Training Corps stepped out of his official residence on Macpherson Road, Ikoyi, in the early hours of February 13, 1976, he had one agenda in mind; the killing of the then Head of State, Gen. Murtala Muhammed.
He achieved that criminal act by gunning down the Kano-born head of state a few minutes after the latter left the Dodan Barracks, Obalende, the official seat of the Federal Military Government at the time.
Muhammed’s official black Mercedes Benz was riddled with bullets near a petrol station on Bank Road, (now Murtala Muhammed Drive) opposite the Federal Secretariat, Ikoyi. Killed along with him were, his ADC, Lt. Akintunde Akinsehinwa and driver.
After the assassination, Dimka had made a broadcast at the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) studio in the following words;
‘’Good morning fellow Nigerians, This is Lt. Col. B. Dimka of the Nigerian Army calling.
I bring you good tidings. Murtala Muhammed’s deficiency has been detected. His government is now overthrown by the young revolutionaries. Any attempt to foil these plans from any quarters will be met with death.
Everyone should be calm. Please stay by your radio for further announcements. All borders, air and sea ports are closed until further notice. Curfew is imposed from 6 am to 6 pm. Thank you. We are all together.”
Two days after Muhammed was assassinated, Dimka was declared wanted for treason and murder by military authorities. He was eventually caught at a checkpoint at Abakaliki on March 5, 1976, and brought to Lagos the following day.
On March 6, 1976, the Federal Government promptly issued a statement on his arrest as follows: ‘’His arrest followed a massive manhunt operation mounted by a combined team of the Army and Police in the area.
‘’The previous day, Lt. Col Dimka had checked in at a local hotel in Afikpo under the name of Mr C. Godwin of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Enugu. Later, on his request, the hotel manager secured for him a girl, Miss. Beatrice Agboli, with whom to spend the night.
‘’A few hours later, the local Police security was alerted and they closed up on him. At about 10.30 pm, he bolted away through the window of the toilet of his hotel room into a nearby thick bush, abandoning his car with a dangling registration number ECC 6253.”
‘’The continuous joint manhunt operation by the Army and Police resulted in his subsequent arrest near Abakaliki.’’
Barely few hours after he was brought to Lagos, he was interrogated by the military Board of Inquiry led by Major Gen. E. O. Abisoye.
However while Dimka was being quizzed, 32 people including Major Gen. Illiya Bisalla, who had already been tried for their roles in the attempted coup were executed in Lagos on March 11, 1976.
The only civilian executed among them was Abdulkarim Zakari, a graduate of University of Ibadan, who was said to have led Dimka and others into the studios of the NBC on February 13, 1976. The broadcaster was also cited as the man who signed for martial music records from the NBC library the previous night.
Just as the first batch of coup plotters was executed, Dimka’s trial begun after he was presented to the press on March 11, 1976.
Handcuffed, Dimka who wore a kaftan dress watched journalists listen to a tape recording of his appearance before the board of inquiry for about five minutes. He confirmed that the voice on the tape was his own and that it was a recording made during his interrogation. He emphasised that the statement was not made under duress.
According to a Daily Times publication, ‘’13 Years of Military Rule 1966-79’’ the highlights of Dimka’s confessional statements included, ‘’Frankly speaking, I should say the beginning of the coup idea was around January this year (1976).’’
He said he had discussions with some persons including former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon in London and when he returned to the country, he decided to assign responsibilities to members of the young revolutionaries conscripted into the plan.
But Gowon, who was in exile at the time denied any prior knowledge of the coup attempt.
Dimka also claimed the coup plot was hatched by young officers who resolved not to involve any Lieutenant Colonel and above except himself in a bid to effect a change of government.
In his confessional statement, he said, Gen. Bisalla had complained to him and expressed his frustration that despite being a member of the Supreme Military Council (SMC), each time there was a decision to be taken, he was either sent to one place or the other.
Dimka said ‘’ Bisalla told me that whatever will happen he want us to go ahead, and work out the details.’’
Explaining how responsibilities were distributed, the leader of the coup plot said ‘’ When I met Major Rabo, he said that he had finally distributed responsibilities. Major Rabo was for target one- Head of State, Lt. Dauda was for target two- Lt. Gen. Obasanjo, Lawrence Garba was for target three- Lt. Gen. Danjuma.
‘’Major Gagara was for Ilorin and Sokoto, Jos had nobody. The main centres of operations were Kaduna, Ibadan, Benin where there are Radio stations’’.
He also listed the targets of attack, that is, those to be eliminated as the Head of State, the four GOCs, Col. Babangida, Col. Bajowa, Col. Mohammed of Sokoto, Col. Ibrahim Taiwo of Kwara, Col. Abdullahi of Jos and Col. Jemibewon of Ibadan.’’
Dimka also confessed before the military board of inquiry how Zakari showed him the NBC broadcasting section on February 12, a day before the coup attempt.
On how the ex-Head of State was killed, he said ‘’ I stood at George Street with Major Rabo to wait until such a time when the Head of State’s car was coming out. There, one Capt. Malaki who was to give the warning order. Capt. Malaki was to be on the watch to signal Major Rabo and Lt. William Seri on the approach of the vehicle. So I came up and I was at the petrol station waiting.
‘’I was behind while we were talking when the Commander –in-Chief’s car passed. In fact, I did not even see it until when Malaki said the car has passed. So, we rushed in and then followed and the car was held somewhere just opposite the petrol station.
‘’Lt. Seri was approaching the car when we stopped and Major Rabo rushed to him, then the firing started. ‘’
Dimka confessed that after the Head of State was assassinated, he went to the NBC and made his broadcast that the young revolutionaries had taken over the government.
At the end of his trial, coup leader and a number of others were found guilty of treason and murder. Their death sentences were confirmed by the Supreme Military Council.
Dimka and seven others were eventually executed by firing squad at Kirikiri Prisons on May 15, 1976, for their part in the abortive coup. Also executed by the squad was the former Governor of the then Benue Plateau State, Joseph Gomwalk.
However, two NCOs, Sgt. Clement Yildar and Corporal Dauda Usman escaped and were never found. They were declared wanted by the authorities.
The situation led to the promulgation by Olusegun Obasanjo regime of certain retrospective decrees and new military laws justifying mass executions for coup participation.
This is Lt. Col. BS Dimka. I now explain why we the Young Revolutionaries of the Armed Forces have found it necessary to overthrow the six-month-old government of Murtala. On the 29th July 1975, the Government of General Gowon was overthrown. Some of the reasons given for the change were:
c. Arrest and detention without trial
d. Weakness on the part of the Head of State
e. Maladministration in general and a host of other malpractice.
Every honest Nigerian will agree with me that since the change over of government there has not been any physical development in the whole country generally.
All we have is an arbitrary dismissal of innocent Nigerians who have contributed in no less amount to the building of this great nation.
A Professor was arrested, detained, dismissed and later taken to court on an article which every honest Nigerian will agree that all the points contained in that article were 100% truth.
The sad point about it all is that those who initiated the retirement or dismissal exercise are the worst offenders.
You will be informed about the ill-gotten wealth in my next announcement.
The acting General Manager of the Nigerian Airways was invited to the Dodan Barracks and detained without trial.
The people of this country have been living in a state of fear.
The Armed Forces promotion exercise is still fresh in your minds.
Whatever reasons they have for the promotion one can only say that they are ambitious.
They, in fact, took over power to enrich themselves.
We are convinced that some of the programmes announced for a return to civilian rule are made to favour a particular group.
To mention only one. Maitama Sule is a politician. But has been appointed Chief of Commissioners for Complaints.
This is to prepare him for the next political head at all cost.
How many of you know that Maitama Sule is on a salary of N17,000 p.a.?
In view of what I have just said and a lot more which time will not permit me to mention, we the Young Revolutionaries have once again taken over the Government to save Murtala from total disgrace and prevent him from committing further blunders and totally collapsing the country before he runs away in the name of retirement to enjoy the huge fortune he got through bribe which he has now stored outside this country.
I believe that charity should begin at home.
Please stay by your radio for further announcements.