Murtala Mohammed Backed Coup Against Gowon For Appointing Igbo Man NNPC GM ..Edwin Clark


Former Federal Commissioner for Information and South South leader, Chief Edwin Clark has said that one of the reasons the Government of former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon was overthrown was the appointment of of Engr. Odoh, a Kalabari man from Rivers State as the General Manager of Nigerian National Oil Corporation (NNOC), which became Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC).

Clark who noted this in his 688 page Brutally Frank, his autobiography, said that late former Head of State and Federal Commissioner for Communications in Gowon’s government and some others were not happy with the appointment of Odoh, whom they saw as a Igbo man and therefore a security risk to the country. He said that when Gowon announced Engr. Odoh as the new General Manager which was accepted by a majority of Council members, the then Brig. Gen. Muhammed immediately took his case and swagger stick and walked out without saying a word.


Clark wrote: “I have read several views on why General Yakubu Gowon’s government was overthrown on July 29, 1975. Dan Agbese in his book, Ibrahim Babangida: The Military, Politics and Power in Nigeria, gave some background when he rightly asserted that the General Yakubu Gowon’s government was doing extremely fine economically and had lots of money for the development of infrastructure across Nigeria.

The Head of State also used the available resources at his disposal to earn the respect and admiration of the working class people in the country when he appointed the Chief Udoji Commission to review salaries and allowances of government workers. That therefore made General Gowon a “Man of the Moment”.

“However, while the civil and public servants were basking in the euphoria of the salary review, some military officers – including those in Gowon’s cabinet – had their reservations about his administration. On page 109 of the book, Agbese narrated a discussion Col. Ibrahim Babangida and Col. Shehu Yar’Adua had in January 1975 on their disenchantment with Gowon’s administration.

Further in that discussion, Col. YarAdua was said to have announced to his colleague that he was planning to stage a coup against Gen. Yakubu Gowon. Several reasons were given for the proposed coup which included the belief that Gowon’s 3R policy of Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation was quite unnecessary, and that Gowon’s shift in the earlier proposed 1973 date of handing over power to a democratically elected civilian government was a plot for him to continue holding on to power, amongst several others.

“It was those two officers who brought in others to plan and execute the July 1975 coup. According to the author, the inner core of the coup plotters included Col. Yar’Adua, Col. Babangida, Col. Joe Garba, Col. Anthony Ochefu, Col. Ibrahim Taiwo and Col. Abdullahi Mohammed. While it was stated in the book that some senior officers like Brigadier Theophilus Danjuma, Brigadier Olusegun Obasanjo, Brigadier Martin Adamu, Brigadier Murtala Mohammed, Brigadier Olufemi Olutoye and some others were contacted and informed of the plot of the inner core.

Murtala Mohammed was reported to have told them to go ahead with the plan and that he would try to protect them if it failed; however, he would not be a part of it. A similar posture was taken by Danjuma when he was said to have informed the coup plotters of not joining them nor stopping them, but he warned them to avoid bloodshed.

“It seems the coup plot was already on when General Gowon, for reasons best known to him, decided to reshuffle his cabinet in late 1974 and I was pleasantly surprised that he brought me into his government in 1975. From my family background and experience in Col. Ogbemudias government in the Mid-West State as a two-time Commissioner and as Chairman of various boards and companies, loyalty to the government and country was paramount, but this was not so at my new duty post. In the Federal Government Cabinet where I became a member, I soon discovered that some members were very recalcitrant and rather disloyal to the government and the nation.

“It may be necessary to now give a personal view of why I think the 1975 coup was staged against a very humble, respectful and dignified Head of State, particularly by those close to him (military officers). As Federal Commissioner for Information, I worked very closely with Mr. M.D. Yusuf, a fine polished gentleman who was the Commissioner of Police Special Duties which is today known as the Director-General of Department of State Services (DSS). M.D. Yusuf later became the Inspector General of Police. We used to exchange notes once or twice in a week at my residence.

“It may be necessary to mention a few of the incidents that happened that exposed the resentment and disloyalty of some of the senior officers, particularly those occupying the rank of Colonel.

These aggrieved officers were headed by a fine military officer, the late Col. Shehu YarAdua whose father was the Minister of Lagos Affairs in the First Republic when Alhaji Tafawa Balewa was the Prime Minister and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was the Governor-General



Chris Kehinde Nwandu is the Editor In Chief of CKNNEWS || He is a Law graduate and an Alumnus of Lagos State University, Lead City University Ibadan and Nigerian Institute Of Journalism || With over 2 decades practice in Journalism, PR and Advertising, he is a member of several Professional bodies within and outside Nigeria || Member: Institute Of Chartered Arbitrators ( UK ) || Member : Institute of Chartered Mediators And Conciliation || Member : Nigerian Institute Of Public Relations || Member : Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria || Fellow : Institute of Personality Development And Customer Relationship Management || Member and Chairman Board Of Trustees: Guild Of Professional Bloggers of Nigeria

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