no remorse

Nigeria: The story of Murtala Muhammed who ruled ‘with immediate effect’

in depth

This article is part of the dossier:

‘We killed the President!’

By Dele Yusuf

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Posted on November 8, 2021 09:34

With the trial of the alleged killers of Burkina Faso’s Thomas Sankara’s under since October, we take a look at the destinies of eight African presidents who were assassinated. In this first part of our series, we revisit abrupt death of Nigeria’s former head of state, General Murtala Muhammed.

This is part 3 of an 8-part series

Muhammed, one of the military rulers who led Nigeria through years of dictatorship, has his name engraved on some of Nigeria’s most important infrastructure, including the international airport in Lagos. He was in his early 20s when he joined the Nigerian army and exited, as a slain military head of state, at the age of 37.

One of his significant moments as a military officer was after the January 1966 coup that ousted and led to the death of then-prime minister Tafawa Balewa. Murtala was posted to the army headquarters in Lagos as a lieutenant colonel and appointed inspector of signals. The coup was seen as targeting the north, while Aguiyi Ironsi, an Igbo military officer who emerged as the head of state, was accused of favouring the Igbo ethnic group of the southeast and parts of the south-south.

A counter-coup was eventually carried out, this time

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