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FLASHBACK: “Why We Overthrew Gowon”- Murtala Mohammed


After spending nine years in office as Nigeria’s Head of State, the government of General Yakubu Gowon was overthrown on July 29, 1975. One of the reasons given was that the then Head of State failed to meet the expectations of Nigerian people. Below is the full text of the maiden speech read by General Murtala Ramat Mohammed on July 29, 1975.

“Fellow Nigerians,

Events of the past few years have indicated that despite our great human and material resources, the government has not been able to fulfil the legitimate expectations of our people. Nigeria has been left to drift. This situation, if not addressed would inevitably have resulted in chaos and even bloodshed

In the endeavour to build a strong, united and virile nation, Nigerians have shed much blood. The thought of further bloodshed for whatever reasons must, I am sure, be revolting to our people. The Armed Forces, having examined the situation, came to the conclusion that certain changes were inevitable.

After the civil war, the affairs of state, hitherto, a collective responsibility became characterised by lack of consultation, indecision, indiscipline and even neglect.  Indeed, the public at large became disillusioned and disappointed by these developments.

This trend was clearly incompatible with the philosophy and image of a corrective regime.

Unknown to the general public, the feeling of disillusionment was also evident among members of the armed forces whose administration was neglected but who, out of sheer loyalty to the nation and in the hope that there would be a change, continued to suffer in silence.

Things got to a stage where the head of the administration became virtually inaccessible, even to official advisers and when advice was tendered, it was often ignored

Responsible opinion, including advice by eminent Nigerians, traditional rulers, intellectual, et cetera was simply discarded. The leadership, either by design or default, had become too insensitive to the true feelings and yearnings of the people. The nation was thus plunged inexorably into chaos.

It was obvious that matters could not, and should not be allowed in this manner, and in order to give the nation a new lease of life and sense of direction, the following decisions were taken:

  1. The removal of General Yakubu Gowon as Head of the Federal Military Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
  2. The retirement of General Yakubu Gowon from the Armed Forces in his present rank of General with full benefits, in recognition of his past services to the nation.
  3. General Gowon will be free to return to the country as soon as conditions permit, he will be free to pursue any legitimate undertakings of his choice in any part of the country. His personal safety and freedom and those of his family will be guaranteed.
  4. The following members of the Armed Forces are retired with immediate effect:

Vice Admiral J.E.A Wey, – Chief of Staff, Supreme Headuarters

Major General Hassan Katsina, Deputy Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters

Major General David Ejoor  Chief of Staff  (Army).

Rear Admiral Nelson Soroh, Chief of Naval Staff.

Brigadier EE Ikwue, Chief of Air Staff and all officers of the rank of Major General (or equivalent and above).

Alhaji Kam Salem, Inspector General of Police

Chief TA Fagbola, Deputy Inspector General of Police.

  1. Also with immediate effect, all the present military Governors and the Administrator of East Central State have been relieved of their appointments and retired.
  2. As you are already aware, new appointments have been made as follows:

Brigadier T.Y Danjuma, Chief of Army Staff

Colonel John Yisa Doko, Chief of Air Staff.

Commodore Michael Adelanwa, Chief of Naval Staff.

Mr. MD Yusuf- Inspector General of Police

New Military Governors have also been appointed for the states as follow:

  1. Lt Col Muhammadu Buhari, North East
  2. Colonel George Innih, Mid West
  3. Lt. Col Sani Bello, Kano
  4. Captain Adekunle Lawal (Navy), Lagos
  5. Lt. Col Paul Omu, South East
  6. Colonel Ibrahim Taiwo, Kwara
  7. Captain Akin Aduwo (Navy), West
  8. Colonel Anthony Ochefu, East Central
  9. Lt. Col Usman Jibrin, North Central
  10. Colonel Abdullahi Mohammed, Benue-Plateau
  11. Lt. Col Umaru Mohammed, North West
  12. Lt. Col Zamani Lekwot, Rivers

The structure of the Government has been reorganised. There will now be three organs of government at the Federal level namely,

i)                    The Supreme Military Council

ii)                   The National Council of State

iii)                 The Federal Executive Council

There will of course continue to be Executive Councils at the state level. The reconstituted Supreme Military Council will comprise of the following:

The Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces,

Brigadier Olusegun Obasanjo, Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters,

Brigadier T.Y Danjuma, Chief of Army Staff

Commodore Michael Adelanwa, Chief of Naval Staff

Col. John Yisa Doko, Chief of Air Staff

Mr. MD Yusuf, Inspector General of Police,


1st Division, Brigadier Julius Akinrinade

2nd Division, Brigadier Martin Adamu,

3rd Division, Brigadier Emmanuel Abisoye,

L.G.O, Brigadier John Obada

Colonel Joseph Garba

Lt. Col Shehu Yar’Adua

Brigadier James Oluleye

Brigadier Iliya Bisalla

Colonel Ibrahim Babangida

Lt Col Mukhtar Mohammed

Colonel Dan Suleiman

Captain Olufemi Olumide (Navy)

Mr. Adamu Suleman, Commissioner of Police,

Lt Col Alfred Aduloju

Lt. Commander Godwin Kanu (Navy)

All the civil commissioners in the Federal Executive Council are relieved of the appointments with immediate effect. The composition of the new Executive Council will be announced shortly.

Political Programme

We will review the political programme and make an announcement in due course. In the meantime, a panel will be set up to advise on the question of new states. A panel will also be set up to advise on the question of the federal capital.

With due regard to the 1973 population census, it is now clear that whatever results are announced will not command general acceptance throughout the country. It has therefore decided to cancel the 1973 population census. Accordingly, for planning purposes, the 1963 census figures shall continue to be used.

A panel will be set up to advice on the future of the Interim Common Services Agency (ICSA)and the Eastern States Interim Assets and Liability Agency (ESIALA).

The second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture is postponed in view of the obvious difficulties in providing all the necessary facilities. Consultations will be held with other participating countries with a view to fixing a new date.

Finally, we reaffirm this country’s friendship with all countries. Foreign nationals living in Nigeria will be protected. Foreign investments will also be protected. The government will honour all obligations entered into by previous Governments of the Federation. We will also give continued support to the Organisation of African Unity, the United Nations Organisation and the Commonwealth.

Fellow countrymen, the task ahead of us calls for sacrifice and self discipline at all levels of our society. This government will not tolerate indiscipline. The Government will not condone abuse of office.

I appeal to you all to cooperate with the government in our endeavour to give this nation a new lease of life. This change of government has been accomplished without shedding any blood; and we intend to keep it so.

Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.


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