May 15th, 2011
On this date in 1976, Nigeria executed the leading spirit of an abortive Nigerian coup was shot for the “abortive” part of that coup.
That February 13, Bukar Dimka had taken to the airwaves to announce the assassination of Nigeria’s incumbent military strongman, Murtala Mohammed.*
Good morning fellow Nigerians.
This is Lt. Colonel 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. All the 19 military governors have no powers over the states they now govern. The states affairs will be run by military brigade commanders until further notice.
Any acts of looting or raids will be death. Everyone should be calm. Please stay by your radio for further announcements. All borders, air and sea ports are closed until futher notice. Curfew is imposed from 6am to 6pm. Thank you. We are all together.
-From Romancing the Gun: The Press as Promoter of Military Rule
They were not all together.
Mohammed’s second-in-command, Olusegun Obasanjo, instantly quashed the putsch and served notice that assassinating the head of state would not be welcome on his watch.**
A large body of coup conspirators were publicly executed within a month; the Nigerian Defense Minister was among them.
Dimka himself managed to remain at large for most of that month, so he wasn’t among that crop. Instead, Obasanjo had the pleasure of announcing Dimka’s execution separately, along with that of
a former state governor, Joseph Gomwalk … “two of the principal actors” in the coup.
-New York Times, May 16, 1976
The coup was thought to have aimed at restoring the guy Mohammed deposed, Yakubu Gowon, who was luckily in exile in England and therefore escaped a similarly grim fate.
Years later, he received an official pardon; Gowon is still alive, one of Nigeria’s elder political statesmen.
* When next in Lagos to transfer several million in oil wealth from a secret bank account, be sure to visit Mohammed’s bullet-ridden Mercedes.
** Obasanjo handed power to a democratic government in 1979; that government was itself later toppled by the military, but Obasanjo eventually served as Nigeria’s elected president from 1999 to 2007.
Also on this date
Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Mass Executions,Murder,Nigeria,Notable for their Victims,Power,Revolutionaries,Shot,Soldiers
Tags: 1970s, 1976, bukar dimka, coup d'etat, joseph gomwalk, lagos, may 15, murtala mohammed, olusegun obasanjo, yakubu gowon
April 22nd, 2010
Portugal has not carried out a civil (non-military, non-wartime) execution since hanging two murderers on this date in 1846.*
Despite some impressively sanguinary exercises of capital punishment in its history, the Iberian nation has been in the European vanguard of death penalty abolition.
Writing on what turned out to be the eve of Portugal’s landmark 1867 renunciation of the death penalty for criminal offenses, the 1866 report of Britain’s capital punishment commission observed:
The last execution which took place was at Lagos, on the 22nd of April 1846. And it is right to state also, that ever since the definitive re-establishment of a liberal government in this country, capital punishments have never been very numerous. Thus during the 13 years which elapsed between 1833 and 1846, inclusive, out of 99 culprits condemned to death there were only 32 executed, and the sentences of the remaining 67 were commuted.
[Portugal] is, then, the only [country] in Europe in which the punishment of death has been for the last 18 years de facto suppressed. Public opinion has gone before the law: and the law, in effacing this punishment from its provisions, far from being in anticipation of society, will not do more than give its sanction to a fact which has long been accepted by general feeling, and which at the present day it would be difficult to contravene. Even if the punishment of death were to remain inserted in the text of our penal legislation, I think I may with safety affirm it would be impossible to meet with a Minister of Justice who would venture to recommend the King to withhold the exercise of the Royal prerogative of pardon, and who would have the heart to order the timbers of a new scaffold to be again erected on the soil of Portugal.
Despite an abortive feint at backsliding during World War I, the popular sense of the issue does not seem to have changed much in the interim.
The tragedy of man, ‘a postponed dead body’ as Fernando Pessoa said, does not need an untimely exit from the stage. It is tense enough without an end that is artificial and planned by butchers, megalomaniacs, potentates, racisms, and orthodoxies. Therefore, being human, we demand unequivocally that all peoples should have a code of humanity. A code that for all citizens guarantees the right to die their own death.
-Portuguese writer Miguel Torga, at a 1967 colloquy marking the centennial of Portugal’s formal abolition of the death penalty for ordinary crimes.
* There are some scantily documented World War II treason executions; the death penalty was officially abolished for treason (the last capital crime on the books) in 1977.
Also on this date
Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,History,Milestones,Murder,Portugal,Public Executions
Tags: 1840s, 1846, abolition, april 22, fernando pessoa, lagos, miguel torga