By Peter Okutu
40 years ago, after the calamitous coup failed, Lt. Colonel Buka Dimka who played a leading role in the events of February 13, 1976 sought refuge in the arms of an old girlfriend in Afikpo in the then Anambra State. An indigene of the town, Chief Jasper Okoro, a native of Afikpo now in Ebonyi State, a former Editor-in-Chief of Ebonyi State owned newspapers, publishers of the Nigerian Patriot recounts the events of that time and he like many other indigenes of the town would not disclose the present identity of Ugo, the former Dimka flame who is now married.
What can you say about the Dimka’s coup?
I was a teacher when the coup took place and Dimka and his partners were declared wanted. At that time, the radio kept announcing that whoever finds him should report to the police as some benefits will be given to the person. So, every 15 minutes or thereabout the radio continued to flare the information. Dimka had served as an officer here, (Afikpo) we came back from Biafra and met Dimka as an officer here, so Dimka was popular here. He was not somebody that could hide in Afikpo; he had a lot of friends; unfortunately, when he was declared a fugitive, it was easy for him to be spotted especially in Afikpo.
How was he spotted?
There was a young man, a teacher about my age, his name is William Eweozor; he was one of those who could spot Dimka even if it was in the dark. As the boy was driving his father’s Mobilet, he spotted somebody (Dimka) who disguised himself wearing turban; he was strolling near the Afikpo mosque; so when he was strolling along the major road in the area along Eke market road; it is a very popular road William Iweozor came to some people and announced that he had seen Dimka.
Some people who were around were cautioning him to be mindful of his words and the consequences but he was persistent and he went to the police in Afikpo and reported.
What must have brought Dimka to Afikpo?
Now, Dimka stayed in Afikpo before and had a girl friend; a permanent girl friend; you know these army officers usually have girl friends but Dimka had somebody; a beautiful girl that was very close to him who is from this our place.
Now not knowing that the same person William saw took accommodation at Friendship Hotel in Afikpo; it was the most popular hotel in Afikpo; he lodged there with a fake name as an agric officer who came as a government official in charge of agriculture for official business.
When he checked him, he checked into a room and then when they showed him the room, he later changed it; in fact it was later we discovered that the room he checked in initially had burglary proof all through; so he said he didn’t like the room so they changed it to another room where the toilet hadn’t a burglary proof; so in the midnight following the alarm that William raised that he spotted Dimka, soldiers came and barricaded that hotel.
How did they know that he was there?
In the first instance, William traced him and they saw that he entered the hotel and alerted them. Secondly, the girl friend of his who is an indigene was equally seen entering that hotel.
When she was seen entering that place, alarm was equally raised. It was seriously suspected or almost confirmed that he was in the hotel; then he came with a Renault car and when the booth was opened they were so many plate numbers that were discovered.
How did he escape?
After the alert was raised there was now barricade of the whole place by the soldiers; the soldiers were only concentrating on the front of the hotel and then went to tap at the room where a lodger was; when they tapped Dimka and his girl friend knew that trouble had come; so when they tapped at his own room, he told his girlfriend to go and open the door for them while he escaped through the toilet window and ran away.
How did his girl friend come to the hotel despite the alarm about his being in Afikpo?
It was the manager of the hotel he (Dimka) told to go to a particular location and call Ugo and that he had a message for her; that was how this person went and delivered the message. Remember there was no GSM at that time.
When he escaped it was alleged that he went through farm land and then entered a vehicle to Abakaliki.
Every 3 kilometres there were checkpoints; but actually the soldiers on the way never recognized him despite the fact that they had his photographs with them; but he got to a particular check point after the usual routine of stop and search as they were about to move, he told the driver not to move; he came out himself called the police sergeant who was later promoted to a police inspector and told him that he was Dimka.
In fact, before he disembarked from the vehicle he said to himself, how long will he be hiding; he saw that he was approaching the brigade headquarters where some of the officers would identify him, so he beckoned on the police officer and said ‘I am Dimka;’ he said this hitting his chest; I am the man you have been looking for. So he brought out his hand and he was handcuffed; so they took him away.