1976: Lt. Col. Bukar Dimka and six coup confederates

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.

On this day..

5 thoughts on “1976: Lt. Col. Bukar Dimka and six coup confederates

  1. Even now, 47 years later, the accepted record states that Dimka was executed along with his co-conspirators. It hurts my soul. Dimka, knowing that he was to be executed, was asked to name his co-conspirators. In a final attempt to leave some deviation, he named innocent men whom he wished to die alongside him in a final act of wickedness. Major General Bisalla was a good and noble man. A skilled diplomat, he made strong friends in Britain while he was at Sandhurst. He loved Nigeria and it would be a better place today, had he been allowed to live. He despised Dimka’s narcissism. His only fault was to fail to anticipate how dangerous Dimka was. I cannot wish that he rests in peace, as the circumstances of his death mean that he will not. These moments that erase generations define the world that we pass on. In this case, I am sure that it was not for the better.

  2. Was there when it all went down. Now trying to find out for sure why Dimka did it. If it was not to reinstall Gowon,then why?

Comments are closed.