UNHOLY FRIDAY: How The Man Who Killed Murtala Mohammed Was Arrested Under A Woman In A Hotel Room
The assassination of General Murtala Mohammed, the third military head of state of the country was a bloody coup popularly known as the Dimika Coup.
Lt. Colonel Buka Suka Dimka was a key player in the failed 1976 coup in which the then Nigeria’s Head of State, General Murtala Muhammed, was murdered. When Lt. Colonel Dimka realised that the coup was unsuccessful, he fled to Afikpo in the then Anambra State and sought refuge in the company of an old girlfriend.
Chief Jasper Okoro, a veteran journalist and native of Afikpo (now in Ebonyi State) recounts the events of that time and like other indigenes of the town, he would not disclose the present identity of Dimka’s former girlfriend, Ugo, who is allegedly now married.
What can you say about the Dimka’s coup?
“I was a teacher when the coup took place and when Dimka and his partners were declared wanted. At that time, the radio kept announcing that whoever finds him should report to the police as some benefits will be given to the person. So, every 15 minutes or thereabout the radio continued to flare the information.”
“Dimka had served as an officer here in Afikpo. We came back from Biafra and met Dimka as an officer here, so Dimka was popular here. He was not somebody that could hide in Afikpo; he had a lot of friends; unfortunately, when he was declared a fugitive, it was easy for him to be spotted especially in Afikpo.”
How was he spotted?
“There was a young man, a teacher about my age, his name is William Eweozor; he was one of those who could spot Dimka even if it was in the dark. As the boy was driving his father’s car, he spotted somebody (Dimka) who disguised himself wearing a turban; he was strolling near the Afikpo mosque, so, when he started strolling along the major road in the area along Eke market road, William Iweozor came to some people and announced that he had seen Dimka. Some people who were around were cautioning him to be mindful of his words and the consequences but he was persistent and he went to the police in Afikpo and reported.”
What must have brought Dimka to Afikpo?
“Now, Dimka stayed in Afikpo before and had a girlfriend; a permanent girlfriend. You know these army officers usually have girlfriends but Dimka had somebody, a beautiful girl that was very close to him who is from this our place. Not knowing that the same person (Dimka) William saw was the one that took accommodation at Friendship Hotel in Afikpo.”
“Dimka had lodged there with a fake name as an officer who came as a government official in charge of agriculture for official business. He checked into a room and then when they showed him the room, he later changed it, in fact, it was later we discovered that the room he checked in initially had burglary proof all through, so he said he didn’t like the room so they changed it to another room where the toilet hadn’t a burglary proof; so in the midnight following the alarm that William raised that he spotted Dimka, soldiers came and barricaded that hotel.”
How did they know that he was there?
“In the first instance, William traced him and they saw that he entered the hotel and alerted them. Secondly, the girlfriend of his who is an indigene was equally seen entering that hotel. When she was seen entering that place, an alarm was equally raised. It was seriously suspected or almost confirmed that he was in the hotel; then he came with a Renault car and when the booth was opened, there were so many plate numbers that were discovered.”
How did Dimka escape?
“After the alert was raised, soldiers barricaded the whole place. The soldiers only concentrated on the front of the hotel. The soldiers began checking each room in the hotel. When they tapped on a lodger’s door, Dimka and his girlfriend knew that trouble had come. When they tapped at Dimka’s door, he told his girlfriend to go and open the door for them while he escaped through the toilet window and ran away.”
How did his girlfriend come to the hotel despite the alarm about his presence in Afikpo?
“It was the manager of the hotel that he (Dimka) told to go to a particular location and call Ugo and that he had a message for her. That was how this person went and delivered the message. Remember there was no GSM at that time. When he escaped, it was alleged that he went through farmland and then entered a vehicle to Abakaliki.”
“Every 3 kilometres, there were checkpoints; but actually, the soldiers on the way never recognized Dimka despite the fact that they had his photographs with them. But he got to a particular checkpoint, after the usual routine of stop and search, as they were about to move, he told the driver not to move; he came out himself called the police sergeant (who was later promoted to a police inspector) and told him that he was Dimka.”
“In fact, before he disembarked from the vehicle he asked himself for how long he would be hiding. He saw that he was approaching the brigade headquarters where some of the officers would definitely identify him, so he beckoned on the police officer and said “I am Dimka” he said this hitting his chest, “I am the man you have been looking for”. So, he brought out his hand and he was handcuffed, then they took him away.”
On the 15th of May, 1976, Dimka and other six coup plotters were publicly executed by firing squad at the Maximum Security Prison in Lagos.
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