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Murtala Ramat Muhammed was both hailed but yet also condemned by people depending on what side of the divide.

By Taiye Olaniyi


” Whatever shall be, shall be”, in a nutshell, is the conclusion of a man about what in almost every human life is called, tagged, and concluded as “Destiny”.

Whether or not destiny exists is left to the conjectures, fictions, and convictions of the individual according to the dictates of the level of involvement in unraveling the mystery and mastery of life.

For me, I know that nothing happens by chance just as every human being has a role to play in fate, fortunes, and/or misfortunes that dovetail one’s story of life.

Such is my story in my encounters with the end story of the late General Murtala Ramat Mohammed, Nigeria’s former Head of State that ruled for barely 200 days of a power-packed and anti-corruption posture of tenure.

As a student then in the School of Basic Studies, Kwara Tech, I was particularly attracted to General Murtala’s radio broadcast message which most times I jokingly emulated in his Hausa intonation,

” Fellow Nigerians….. This government will not tolerate indiscipline, gross misconduct, abuse of office, bribery and corruption. “


This submission he made sure manifested at first, the purge of civil service, and only two of the then serving military governors were exonerated from corruption, brigadier Mobolaji Johnson and one other while others were relieved of their duties.


He was both hailed but yet also condemned by people depending on what side of the divide.


This reminds me that one Comrade Obarogie Ohonbamu sued him for one matter which I cannot remember now but even as Head of State he hazarded featuring appearance in court before such was nipped in the bud.

For many average homes “Eran Muritala”, imported meat, served as a means of appeasing many of us carnivorous human beings whose parents belonged not to the class of Nigerian nouveau riche and bald bourgeoisie who could afford to feed their children with all sorts of junk than as we have the Dasukites and beneficiaries of ill-gotten wealth today.

On that fateful day of February 13, 1976, my immediate elder sister and I left early in the morning, 19 Brown Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, the Federal Government official apartment of my late and amiable brother-in-law, Nathaniel Durojaiye Tolani for our hometown Offa, Kwara State after about two weeks holiday.

We got to Iddo motor park and left early in the morning, and it was while on Ibadan-Osogbo Road we got to know about the coup.

In the evening of that day, we later learned of the death of General Murtala Mohammed, Lieutenant Akinsehinwa his aide-de-camp, and one Major General Dumuje who was allegedly mistaken for General Olusegun Obasanjo who was later installed as the unwilling Head of State “Against my wish and desire”, in his first broadcast to the nation.

Similarly, our own State Governor, Colonel Ibrahim Taiwo was felled down at Eleyeoka along Ajasse-Offa Road by the bullets of Sergent Arege who during one of the military court-martials was reported to have said, “Na Oga Pata Pata say make I shoot, na im I shoot.”

Col Taiwo was later succeeded by Col Agbazika Innih of blessed memory in Kwara.

Mr Taiye Olaniyi addressing guests at the Murtala Muhammed Memorial Lecture


This writer had a direct encounter with Madam Ajoke Mohammed wife of the late General when in the late 90s I was privileged by an invite to give a guest talk on environment and conservation to a group of secondary school students at her botanical or flower garden along Lekki-Epe road Lagos.

That was an enriching opportunity for being privileged to be in the vast expanse of land repository of natural fauna and flora at their best and the interaction with students after my National Youth Service days, 1980-81.

Though I never expected any dime for such a voluntary service, due to her persistent reminders, I was given some money as an honorarium at her outpost office at Tafawa Balewa Square, Racecourse, Lagos. To my surprise I stumbled on the invitation letter a couple of weeks ago while my appreciation goes to a friend Ayo, I think, a promoter of D. O Fagunwa books at whose instance and Non-Governmental Organisation the exposure came about.

A visit to the National Museum on Tuesday 8t February provided an opportunity for me to know of an impending exhibition to mark the 40th Anniversary to commemorate this great hero, the Late General Murtala Mohammed, and the possibility of featuring the Post and Postage Stamps and Stationery at that exhibition.

This suggestion was promptly acceded to by the then vibrant curator of the Lagos Museum, Madam Ekuke, and this exhibition came into being, Friday 13 February 2016.

The exigency of government assignment before my retirement on 16th August that same year equally necessitated me to give honor to whom honor is due, Late General Murtala Mohammed, a former Head of State, the family, National Commission for Museums and Monuments, the Nigerian Postal Service and my beloved nation Nigeria.

All in all, mission accomplished, and as Peter Tosh once adorated God,

” May Jah be praised, Let Jah be praised”.

I conclude with a thanksgiving, ” We thank the Cosmic for the gift of life and the return of Consciousness”.

I also in supplication with hand outstretched pray, May Light Life and Love empower us to give our best to our beloved nation Nigeria and Fellow Nigerians. Amen.


Taiye Olaniyi, a retired Postman of the Nigeria Postal Service, is based in Lagos

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