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Murtala Mohammed

Murtala Mohammed




Murtala Ramat Muhammed GCFR (8 November 1938 – 13 February 1976) was a prominent Nigerian general and political leader whose influence shaped a critical period in the nation's history. Renowned for his role in the 1966 Nigerian counter-coup, his leadership during the Nigerian Civil War, and his brief yet impactful tenure as Nigeria's Head of State from July 29, 1975, until his assassination in February 1976. His time in power is marked by significant reforms and controversies that have continued to define Nigerian politics and governance.

Born into a distinguished religious and ruling-class family in Kano, Murtala's lineage included prominent figures in Islamic jurisprudence. His father, Muhammed Riskuwa, hailed from the Fulani Genawa clan, while his mother, Uwani Rahamatu, belonged to the Kanuri and Fulani Jobawa clan. This rich heritage instilled in him a strong sense of duty and leadership from an early age. Murtala began his education at Cikin Gida Elementary School and later attended Gidan Makama primary school. He proceeded to Kano Middle School and then to Government College (now Barewa College) in Zaria, where he excelled academically and in extracurricular activities, including being a member of the Cadet Corps. In 1957, he graduated with a school certificate and soon joined the Nigerian Army.

Murtala’s military career began in 1958, and he quickly distinguished himself as a cadet at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. His early postings included service in Congo and various leadership roles in Nigeria. By 1971, at the age of 33, he had risen to the rank of brigadier general, becoming one of the youngest generals in Nigeria. His appointment as the Federal Commissioner for Communications in Lagos in 1974 marked his entry into significant political roles.

Murtala played a pivotal role in the 1966 counter-coup, which overthrew the regime of Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi. This event not only highlighted his military prowess but also his deep-seated commitment to northern interests and federalism. His leadership during the Nigerian Civil War further solidified his reputation, particularly for his command of the 2nd Infantry Division. His actions, however, were not without controversy, with allegations of severe misconduct and civilian massacres tarnishing his legacy.

Ascending to power in 1975, Murtala's tenure as Head of State was characterized by his charismatic authority and decisive leadership style. His administration undertook significant reforms, including a mass purge of the civil service, the creation of new states, and plans for a new federal capital in Abuja. His policies were aimed at reducing corruption and enhancing efficiency within the government, although his abrupt and often harsh methods attracted criticism.

Murtala's promising leadership was abruptly ended on 13 February 1976, when he was assassinated in a failed coup attempt led by Lt. Col. Buka Suka Dimka. His death at the age of 37 marked a significant turning point in Nigerian history. He was succeeded by General Olusegun Obasanjo, who continued his policies and eventually transitioned the country to civilian rule.

Murtala was married to Ajoke Muhammed, and they had six children. His posthumous recognition includes his portrait on the 20 Naira note and the naming of Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos in his honor. 


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Place of Birth: Kano



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Date of Birth: November 8, 1938

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