Nigeria lost momentum with Murtala's demise – Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday said the death of former Head of State, General Murtala Muhammed in a coup attempt 40 years ago made Nigeria lose momentum in its march to greatness.
Muhammed was assassinated when the late Colonel Buka Suka Dimka and his gang ambushed him at Ikoyi, Lagos, and shot him dead in a traffic jam.
Buhari, who had served under the late head of state as military governor of the old Borno State, said at the Murtala Muhammed 40th Memorial Lecture in Abuja, that the deceased was a loyal Nigerian.
He challenged Nigerians to imbibe the virtues of loyalty, honesty and determination like Muhammed rather than mourn his death.
Imbibing these virtues, he said, will make Nigeria better.
He said Nigerians mourned the death of Murtala because he was on his way to putting the country back on the path of order and discipline, after years of drift, corruption and near despair.
According to him, Murtala's motto was to get the job done as quickly as possible, stressing that no one could doubt his inspirational qualities or call into question his love and dedication in the service of Nigeria.
He said: ' His love for Nigeria and Nigerians, from wherever they came; his intense professionalism; his impatience with incompetence and lack of patriotism; his loyalty to friends and colleagues; his life, short though it proved to be, was marked by an extraordinary passion, energy and determination to do better, and to make Nigeria better.
'These are values that young and old alike should all remember and celebrate. On assuming the role of Head of State in 1975, Murtala set out with a single-minded determination seldom seen in Nigerian leadership. Decisions were on fast-track.'
Buhari said Nigerians would continue to remember Muhammed's legacies such as the naming of Abuja as Nigeria's new capital and the creation of seven new states.
On a personal note, he said Muhammed developed a great liking and respect for him on account of his professional excellence, competence, straight forwardness and genuine interest and concern for up-and coming officers like him.
But he said: 'Of course, no one is without flaws. He was a man in a hurry, and sometimes this could make him appear abrupt or even moody.
'What he could not tolerate was incompetence and idleness. By the time Murtala was given Command during the Civil War, the Federal side was on the defensive.
'The rebels had over-run the then Mid-West, and reached as far as Ore, just 100 miles from Lagos.
'By dint of sheer bravery, improvisation and resourcefulness, he mustered a rag-tag group of soldiers, integrated them into an entirely new division, knocked them into fighting shape, recovered Mid-West and ventured across the Niger.'
The Vice President of the Board of Trustees of the Murtala Muhammed Foundation, Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd.), expressed joy for being associated with the late Murtala Muhammed early in life.
Danjuma served as Chief of Army Staff under Muhammed and told the audience yesterday that Dimka and his group had slated him for elimination during the coup.
He said: 'That I live today is by the special grace of God. From that moment, 40 years till date, have been moments of emotion for me. In fact, I have considered them as divine.
He recalled that Dimka originally listed him (Danjuma) as number three on the list of those to be killed, and that when the list was shown to the then Minister of Defence and one of the coupists, the late Major General Ilya Bissala, he brought his name forward to number two, and he (Danjuma) would have been killed after Murtala.
Danjuma commended the Foundation for its efforts and advised it to embark on aggressive media campaign for the purpose of educating members of the public on its activities and achievements so far.
The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's representative and Head of the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA), Mohamed Ibn Chambas, who represented former President of Namibia, Mr. Lucas Pohamba, said that the death of Murtala Muhammed, left an indelible mark in African history.
He extolled the virtues of the former Nigerian Head of State, describing him as a natural leader.
The guest speaker at the event, Mr. David Richards, who spoke on the topic, 'Regional Security and State Building: Portents and prospects', said that inter-state and intra-states rivalries had continued to make the world unstable for mankind.
Richards, who is a former Chief of Staff and professional head of the British Armed Forces, therefore challenged leaders to find lasting solutions to socio-political crises across the world.
The Chief Executive officer of the Murtala Muhammed Foundation, Mrs. Aisha Muhammed-Oyebode, saluted President Buhari for embarking on the crusade against corruption in the country.
Muhammed-Oyebode also commended the efforts of the Buhari-led administration towards the fight against Boko Haram insurgency in the North East.
She was hopeful that the abducted Chibok schoolgirls would soon be rescued in view of the successes being recorded by the Nigeria Army and other security agencies in the country. The Nation