Dimka Coup: Obasanjo Set Me Up, Says Gowon
By Collins Edomaruse, 02.03.2008
Twenty-two years after he was mentioned in the February 13, 1976 coup that claimed the life of the then Head of State, General Murtala Ramat Mohammed, General Yakubu Gowon at the weekend denied his involvement and blamed former President Olusegun Obasanjo for masterminding his (Gowon) inclusion in the list of suspects.
Restating his innocence in the putsch that was led by Col Bukar Suka Dimka, who was then commander of the Army Corps of Physical Education, Gowon said his name was included in the list of suspects following a directive by then Head of State, General Obasanjo to the trio of Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, late Maj-Gen Shehu Musa Yar�Adua, Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen Theophilus Danjuma and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Allison Ayida. Gowon was subsequently declared wanted by the Obasanjo regime.
Gowon, who was reacting to a publication in THISDAY which stated that he was pardoned after being named in the Dimka coup took exception to being referred to as �pardoned�. He insisted that he committed no crime, was never tried nor convicted and therefore could not have been pardoned.
In a letter written by his lawyer, Mr Solomon Asemota (SAN), Gowon stated that: �For the records and for posterity, what happened in 1976 was that as, Head of State, Obasanjo called Yar’Adua who was then the Chief of Staff, Danjuma who was Chief of Army Staff and. Ayida, Secretary to Government and directed that Gowon be implicated in the coup.
�A statement was drafted which was subsequently released by Dodan Barracks, the then seat of Government.
“Pardon” is granted to persons “concerned with or convicted of any offence” and no where was Gowon concerned with or charged with any offence or convicted.
�It is also defined as an act of grace proceeding from the power intrusted with the execution of the laws, which exempt the individual on whom it is bestowed from the punishment the law inflicts for a crime he has committed “an act of grace from governing power which mitigates the punishment the law demands for the offence and restores the right or privileges forfeited on account of the offence. Gowon committed no offence. Rather, the Obasanjo regime required a scapegoat for fear of a backlash after the coup.
�Fortunately, three of the dramatis personae, General Obasanjo, General Danjuma and Allison Ayida are alive and the truth of the false implication of General Gowon in Dimka’s coup plot can be verified from them.
�When the then British High Commissioner, Sir Martin Le Quesne sought audience with the then Head of State, General Obasanjo for clarification in view of the fact that General Gowon was resident in Britain, he was politely denied access and informed that the Gowon matter was for internal “consumption” and not for “export”.
�It is necessary to give this information, in addition to the fact contained in Allison Ayida’s book Reflections on Nigerian Development (page 53) in a lecture he presented at St. Anthony’s College, Oxford, on November 6, 1980 headed Determinants of Stability in Nigeria part of which reads:
“We can take two examples of the dilemma one faces as an ex-public officer. When the Late General Murtala Mohammed was assassinated, it was necessary for the surviving members of his administration to find scapegoats quickly to avoid a backlash. So it was decided that General Gowon’s name should be linked with the abortive coup plan. Colonel Dimka, the main actor, was caught later and his published tape recorded statement had to be edited, Nixon style, to implicate General Gowon in exile and conveniently out of reach. The matter should be regarded as subjudice. The allusion is to illustrate the dilemma an insider faces in reviewing the background of the major events in this period. “
Attempts to get Danjuma to comment on Gowon�s claim failed. Danjuma�s associate and former editor of Daily Times, Mr. Innocent Oparadike, told THISDAY that the Lt-Gen could not be reached as he was away in Switzerland.
When contacted on telephone, Ayida confirmed the content of his book. �To the best of my knowledge, that was what happened,� he said.
When asked why the Obasanjo military administration would choose to implicate Gowon without any evidence, Ayida said: �You can ask Obasanjo. He is still around.�
Mr. Ojekunle who spoke on behalf of former president Obasanjo in a telephone conversation, said: �Obasanjo is not known to be a coup plotter. The whole world knows that he cannot be associated with coups or coup plots. If Gowon and Danjuma have anything against themselves, they should go and sort themselves out without involving Obasanjo,� he said.
Gowon ruled the country for nine years before he was overthrown while attending a summit of Heads of States and Government of the defunct Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia in 1975. He then fled to the United Kingdom where he sought and was granted permission to live in the UK status as former head of state on self exile.
He remained in the UK, where he enrolled into a university and obtained bachelor, master and doctorate degrees in political science before he returned to the country during the regime of former President Shehu Shagari, who restored his rank.