Tomorrow would make it 40 years since Lt. Col. Buka Dimka and his gang of military adventurers instigated an aborted rebellion against a popular military administration that had quaked political powers not only in Nigeria but globally
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Those who had the booming sound of the gun shot that early Friday morning on February 13, 1976 knew it was trouble.
But those who subsequently heard the incoherent words of the principal assailant, Lt. Col. Buka Suka Dimka on the air waves as he imposed a dawn to dusk curfew rightly upgraded the trouble sign to an unmitigated disaster.
Dimka had in the mind of many right thinking Nigerians aborted what was seen as the Nigerian renaissance as captured by the 198 eventful days of the Murtala Mohammed administration.
Following the killing of the head of state, Gen. Murtala Mohammed and his aide-de-camp, Lieutenant Akintunde Akinsehinwa, who has the record of being the youngest and lowest ranking officer to have held the position of ADC to a head of state, Dimka moved over from the death scene near the Federal Secretariat, Ikoyi, Lagos to the nearby studios of the then National Broadcasting Corporation, NBC to proclaim his infamy to the world.
A tape of martial music earlier procured through a staff of the station, Abdulkarim Zakari was inserted while Dimka made his now infamous broadcast.
Imposition of curfew
Zakari, the broadcaster, became the only civilian among the 38 persons executed for the coup.
While Dimka’s imposition of curfew from morning to night bewildered many, it was a sign of his desperation and lack of comport to other officials and men of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
Others claimed that Dimka who was known to have spent much of the preceding night on a drinking spree may have been intoxicated.
Senior officers like the junta’s number two man, Lt. Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, the army chief, Lt. Gen. Theophillus Danjuma and a number of army commanders in Ibadan, Kaduna, Benin and Enugu, escaped the dragnet of the insurgents.
The targets had been chosen primarily because of their senior positions or because they were in states with radio stations.
The only other target felled was Col. Ibrahim Taiwo, the military governor of Kwara State. The killing of Taiwo was to later feed currency that the coup was a response by the Plateau officers to the removal of General Yakubu Gowon as head of state the year before.
Taiwo played a frontline role in the coup that removed Gowon and had allegedly served as the national coordinator for the execution of the coup.
Within seven hours of the first broadcast, as the loyal troops regained their composure, strategies were laid out on how to nap Dimka who had by that time fortified himself with among fellow rebels in the premises of the broadcasting station in Ikoyi.
The duty of rooting out Dimka was given to Col. Ibrahim Babangida, a senior officer of the armoured corps who had been specifically delegated by Danjuma who had relocated his headquarters from the Defence Headquarters to the nearby Bonny Camp.
Following the order, Babangida proceeded to the Ikeja Cantonment where he took some armoured tanks to confront Dimka at the NBC in Ikoyi.
Meanwhile, besides Ilorin and for a little while in Benin, the coup was of no significance in the rest of the country. In Benin, the brigade commander initially gave the order to the radio station to link up with the broadcast from Dimka’s broadcast which was being repeatedly broadcast.
The action from Benin, however, provoked other commanders in other brigade headquarters notably Calabar and Kaduna to take over local radio stations to affirm their loyalty to the military junta.
Even worse for Dimka, the grassroots support he envisaged was not just missing but in Lagos was even hostile. Students of the University of Lagos took to the streets to denounce the action.
Martial musicAs the morning wore on, Dimka was practically on his own, only holding on to the radio station from where he continued to broadcast martial music and his announcement overthrowing Mohammed to the great displeasure of Danjuma.
By 2 p.m. Babangida had arrived Ikoyi with his armoured column. Why Danjuma chose Babangida for the role of ousting Dimka has remained a matter of much speculation especially given insinuations that the two men were friendly. However, Babangida proceeded with military alacrity in his task.
In a move that has won him much accolade, Babangida reportedly approached Dimka without arms supposedly to persuade him. Whatever he told Dimka may have made the coup leader to realise that the end was there for him and it was not too long that day that armoured tanks moved to force him out.
However, Dimka controversially slipped out of the building and escaped reportedly first to Jos before heading South towards the Southeast State, particularly to Afikpo where he had a popular girlfriend called Ugo.
THE COUP SPEECH
“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 6am to 6pm. Thank you. We are all together.”