…Story as Told by His Orderly, Sergeant Michael Otuwu, the only survivor
Exactly 42 years ago, Nigeria’s military head of state, general Murtala Mohammed was assassinated in his official car, Mercedes-Benz 600, now preserved in a Lagos Museum.
Eye-witness story about the traffic, motoring, last-minute error and security lapses surrounding the assassination was told by his Orderly, Sergeant Michael Otuwu, who sat on the front passenger’s seat.
He survived by rubbing his head on the blood of the dead driver and lay still as if he was dead. He acted dead so much that he was taken to mortuary with the dead. He lives to tell the story of the simple error that sniffed life out of the general.
Today, being 42nd anniversary of the assassination of the late head of state, we are again serving you the account of that last moment, when the late General Mohammed was murdered in a Lagos traffic, as narrated by Orderly, Sergeant Michael Otuwu:
“On the morning of that February 13, we were going to the office. Sergeant Adamu Michika was the driver; Sergeant Akintunde Akinterinwa, his ADC, sat behind the driver.
As an Orderly, I was in front with the driver.While the Head of State sat behind me – I was the one who opens the door for him. That fateful day, I came up in the morning to carry him to the office in Dodan Barracks. We got to the former Secretariat, now at Ikoyi, which was under construction.
“Before the place they call Alagbon junction, near the labour office. The official car was a Mercedes Benz 600. It is still at the National Museum. There were about four or five vehicles in front of us. You know at that junction there was traffic. We didn’t go with sirens. During his time we didn’t go with escorts with the accompanying out-riders, road-closed signs and all that.
“So when we got to the Alagbon junction, the traffic warden stopped the vehicle and we were in the queue. We were the fifth or sixth vehicle behind the forward vehicles that were stopped. That secretariat was under construction.
“They put zincs around the compound behind that secretariat. Then some soldiers came in Agbada carrying AK-47 rifles. They wore uniforms but covered them with Agbada. They had their Kalashnikovs with Agbada cover-up in form of camouflage. We never knew they were even waiting for us. Then one soldier from Golf Road shot and got our driver, Sergeant Michika. Our motor was neutralized.
“Between me and the driver was an arm-rest. On that arm-rest was Oga’s brief case. In this brief case he puts civil dress he could use as needed. When he wants to go to Mosque, he does not like going back to Ikoyi to change. Then some other soldiers converged on us. I can’t recall their number. They began to spray us from the back. All of us took cover. I fell on top of the driver; the blood of the driver covered my head. They thought the bullet got my head.
“After the first shooting and without return of fire they must have assumed that we were all dead. The shooting was actually in two phases. They ran to the NBC to announce the assassination. They shared themselves into three.
“There was a group waiting for Obasanjo when he was about to go to the office. Also another group was waiting for TY Danjuma at Bourdillon – our own was at Ikoyi Road. It happened we were the first target that moved early from the house to the office. Late General Murtala Muhammed”Before Obasanjo and TY Danjuma moved to their offices they have already heard the radio announcement.
By the time of the first shooting, we being the target and their running to NBC to go and announce that they have already finished their assignment, the ADC who was still alive, thinking they were gone, opened the door of the Benz.
“In the first spraying of the car, except the driver who was killed, the three of us were injured but not dead. On observing the car door opening, one of the attackers, still within range, a Major, called to the others: “he never die, he never die.
“He was calling his group to return. This time around when they came back they finished their entire magazines. That was what happened. They carried everybody to the mortuary at Igbosere Hospital, not far from Kam Salem Police Headquarters. Because of the extreme cold of the mortuary, my left hand started shaking and one of the attendants saw it and called the nurses or doctors and said somebody was still alive.
“From there they checked and confirmed I was still breathing. So they had to look for a vehicle to carry me to Dodan Barracks. From Dodan Barracks they looked for an ambulance and carried me to a hospital, Awolowo Road hospital, a military hospital,”