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General T.Y. Danjuma and the other generals with nine lives(2)


Text of Dimka’s broadcast was as follows:

 “Fellow Nigerians, This is Lt. Col. B.S. 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: a. Corruption b. Indecision 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(s).

Every honest Nigerian will agree with me that since the changeover of government there has not been any physical development in the whole country generally. All we have is 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. We are all together.”


He went off the radar and it was not until a week afterwards that he was apprehended on his way to Abakaliki in Eastern Nigeria.

Perhaps what the film sought to imply was that if Dimka’s coup d’état had succeeded, it would have led to the third attempt on the life of T.Y. Danjuma in one day!! Definitely a candidate for the Guinness Book of Records.

What is however more likely is that the film producer had placed a totally different occurrence, (when shortly after the junior officers – Major Lawan Gwadabe; Major John Madaki and  Abdulmumini Aminu had arrested the then Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari on 27th August 1985 were incensed when they found themselves marooned. The senior officers took over much to the chagrin of the junior officers who were plotting to stage another coup immediately. Fortunately, they were pacified.

Even more startling was the cameo roles allotted to both then Colonel Dotun Gbadebo (now the Alake of Egbaland) who was the Principal staff officer to Major-General Tunde Idiagbon and Chief Joe Obuseh who was the Director of the National Security Office (NSO). They both confirmed that Buhari had been warned that a coup d’état against him was in the offing and that the brain behind it was Major-General Ibrahim Babangida. Buhari was very cool and calm. He insisted that he would rather lose his position than arrest the coup plotters and risk the inevitable bloodshed that would follow.

Regardless, Professor Vera Halpin quoted her colleague Professor Flora Kaplan of Columbia University as having insisted that it was actually after the coup d’état of 31st December 1983 which toppled the civilian regime of Alhaji Shehu Shagari and installed Major-General Muhammadu Buhari as Head of State with Major-General Tunde Idiagbon as his number two (Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters) that the junior officers (led by Major Mustapha Jokolo) who along with Major Sambo Dasuki had crafted the coup d’état were left out in the cold and were cooling their heels in the corridors of Dodan Barracks (the powerhouse of the military government). They were so pissed off by being excluded from political positions that they were ready to strike again. It was the quick intervention of the new Chief of Army Staff, Major General Ibrahim Babangida that saved the day.

What was spellbinding was that each of the generals featured in the film would qualify as having nine lives – General Johnson T. Aguiyi-Ironsi escaped death in the Congo several times before he was assassinated on 29 July, 1966. General Yakubu Gowon would have been executed by the coup plotters on January 15th 1966 but for the fact that instead of sleeping in the room booked for him at Ikoyi Hotel, Lagos on his arrival from the course he had just completed in U.K., he spent the night with his girlfriend, Miss Edith Ike in her flat in Ikeja. He is still alive at the age of 84 years.

General Robert Adeyinka Adebayo also escaped death on 29th July, 1966 in the melee of the counter-coup because he chose to stay with his uncle, Architect Olumuyiwa in his private house on Awolowo Road, Ikoyi instead of the hotel room booked for him. He lived to the age of 89. General Olufemi Ogundipe would have been shot by mutinous soldiers in the turmoil following the assassination of General Aguiyi-Ironsi if he had insisted on becoming the Head of State rather than let the most senior northern officer, Colonel Yakubu Gowon take over. As for late General Murtala Muhammed he had several encounters with death at the war front (1967 to 1970) before he was assassinated on 13th February 1976.

All those who served at the war front – General Mohammed Shuwa; General Benjamin Adekunle (the “Black Scorpion”) and General Alani Akinrinade (according to General Alabi Isama, Akinrinade would have been shot by his own commander, General Adekunle! He must have had nine lives.); General Olusegun Obasanjo (the Ebora of Owu) has survived so many death threats that he must have lost count, including a death sentence by a military tribunal headed by Major-General Patrick Aziza during the regime of late General Sani Abacha can lay claim to having nine lives.

The film showed General Obasanjo in Yola prison wearing only Khaki shorts. He owes his life to the prison doctor who tipped him off and warned him that on no account should he allow anyone to administer any injection on him. Unfortunately, for Major-General Shehu Musa Yar’ Adua he did not have nine lives. He succumbed to death in prison in Enugu after being injected with poison by a military doctor.

This was followed by a very moving tribute by President Muhammadu Buhari: “General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua was my classmate (Katsina Provincial School now Government College, Katsina), my friend and my colleague in the military. We joined the army on the same day. We were in England at the same time. He was at Sandhurst Military Academy in Berkshire while I was at Mons Officer Cadet School in Aldershot, England.” The film faithfully records several encounters Danjuma had with death both on the battlefield and elsewhere (he still carries a war injury at the age of 81). What makes him stand out is that, according to the film, on at least three occasions the position of Head of State of Nigeria was his to grab – starting with the aftermath of the assassination of General Murtala Muhammed on 13th February 1976.


Bashorun J.K. Randle


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