GEN BISALLA, THE MINISTER OF DEFENCE, PLANNED THE ASSASSINATION OF MURTALA MUHAMMED

 

Lt. Colonel Buka SukarDimka had successfully roped in General Yakubu Gowon in his statement to the police as published in the last edition of Flashback, and the government wanted Gowon extradited to Nigeria immediately. But Dimka had not stopped talking; he was explaining the role of the then Federal Commissioner for Defence, Major General IliyaBisalla.

The Commissioner was not happy, simply he was in the same intake with Murtala Muhammed and his course-mate at the Military Academy. And because when promotion was announced, Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, who had earlier been a junior and staff under Bisalla was catapulted above the Commissioner, his boss.

Bisalla was not prepared to take this matter lightly and grumbled loudly about it. Though the Head of State invited Bisalla and disabused his mind, saying he was still Danjuma’s boss, since he was the political head of the ministry under which the Chief of Army Staff worked, Bisalla could not see this as a reason for his mate to promote his staff above him. The matter was even discussed at the Supreme Military Council’s meeting, but Bisalla felt more humiliated.

ALABI ISAMA

 

But because Murtala and Bisalla had lived together as officer cadets for nearly three years, the confession continued, living in the same room and doing things together, the Head of State never believed any issue would be so damning that Bisalla would resolve to join a plot to kill him. But Bisalla did not think along the same line with Murtala, and he got deeply involved in the assassination plot.

On the day of the coup, it was Bisalla that rang Danjuma in his office, asking if the Chief of Army Staff had heard the news of what happened. Danjuma answered and said things would soon be put under control. Unknown to Danjuma, this assurance destabilised his boss, for immediately after their conversation, Bisalla went into hiding somewhere in Surulere, Lagos.

His office was just above that of Danjuma in the Ministry of Defence building, and he was actually waiting for Dimka to call him from the Radio House after all other officers, including Danjuma, might have been killed. Now, Danjuma was alive; in fact, he was rallying counter-forces from his office to quash the coup. And Bisalla had not heard from Dimka.

But the fact that Danjuma was alive in his office was a proof to Bisalla that the coup had failed, and he scampered out of his office. But he could not stay long there, once he heard there were casualties in the Radio House, his thought was that Dimka might have been killed. So, he came out of the meeting, where senior officers met to appraise the putsch and selected Olusegun Obasanjo as the new Head of State.

For three days after the coup, Bisalla was participating in all activities of the new government, and he was also in his office, believing Dimka had escaped for good. But soon, the fluid started to leak, and rumours of Bisalla’s involvement became loud among the officers and government. Seven days after the assassination of Murtala, Bisalla was arrested.  And he sang. The public did not know how much of his partaking in the coup until Dimka’s confession.

BISALLA WITH OBASANJO

 

Now, Dimka had told his interrogators how he went to Bisalla’s home and was briefed by the General. It was then he asked for another bottle of beer before going on. They gave him his beer, and he continued his confession:

Question: Take your beer.

Answer:  Thank you very much. (Later) Now, what else? You want to know more about it?

Question:        Yes

Answer:          He (Bisalla) said, and he elaborated, that the main difficult aspect of any change of government is the backing. You know, he brought in the political backing.

Question:        Support!

Answer:          Yes, political support and he thought this was not going to be our own issue. That we should forget about that completely. That he was in a position to handle that and that was not going to be our own headache. Apart from the Kolo thing I mentioned earlier on, he did not tell me who and who were really involved. But the only thing I can vividly say is that Brigadier Ikwue because he was with him upstairs before I arrived. So the thing about the financing, I mean the support I am talking about. The political and financial aspect of it, that we should not bother ourselves on this at all. He said why he warned us that I must have to be very careful so that people don’t follow and trace us; and that is why he warned that I should not be coming to his house, if I had anything, I should send somebody. So, I left.

BUKA SUKA DIMKA PRESENTED TO THE PRESS

 

Question:        Is that what he told you? You see, I don’t believe that a man would call you and talk to you about a change of government and say go and stick your neck and don’t bother about the aspect of financial and political support.

Answer:          Well, well, I know what you are thinking of. The promise is that all of us should not bother ourselves, that everybody who was going to be party to it would be rewarded. If it happens, we would be protected or sort of thing.

Question:        Just take it easy. I want you to relax, that is the financial aspect, give these details because it is very important.

Answer:          Well, let me go back to the first visit to General Bisalla, when I first came in the first day, there were so many people, so I did not even show up at all and I left. The following day, I came in, there were few cars, so I went in. I met a civilian and regrettably now I cannot in fact know who the civilian is. Well, before I went in, Ikwue was coming out. He told me that…

Question:        Let us get this point clear, did you actually go into the house, when you said you met people coming out?

Answer: I don’t know whether you know General Bisalla’s house?

Interrogator:  I have not been there,

Answer:          You know, by the entrance there is a sort of steps. As you are about to finish entering the porch getting to the door, Brigadier Ikwue was coming out. So we met. We greeted one another and he said that the General was up. He said how I was feeling, I said everything was O.K., trying to ask me generally. Anyway, the way he was speaking to me showed me that he was trying to find out from me. I was just telling him that everything was fine with me. So he left and I got in and that was when I saw the civilian sitting down.

Question:        The only one there?

Answer:          The only one there. And later on, Tense and Mrs. Din left and of course Felix Ibru arrived waiting for General Bisalla to come down. So, he came and saw Felix, they first chatted, what he said was that he got Felix, that he was sorry he was at the golf. Then Isyaku Ibrahim came in and they briefly spoke to one another. In fact, Ibrahim wouldn’t even sit down. After I have been served with beer, he wanted to talk to him.

Question:        I want you to repeat exactly what he said

Answer:          Having in mind that Dabang has spoken to me about that first… you have that in mind, a sort of (laughter) I said O.K., so he excused Felix and the other civilian woman. Tense then was just talking at the other end. So, we moved into the dining room. I wished you will be able to go to that house and see how this…

Question         OK. O.K

Answer:          Near the bar, he has a bar. You know from where we were in the sitting room you will not hear anything at all because there was even a curtain across it. He started by saying that he was told I was back and that I went home. I told him yes, I did. He said while in London was I able to see the General? I told him as a matter of fact. I started by saying I travelled with Kolo. This is one I want you to check.  Honestly, I think I left here on…when we went to Madrid I think on the 8th, if I can remember now, and that day Kolo anxiously wanted us to book and travel together.

DIMKA

 

Interrogator: Nigeria Airways.

Answer:          I told him that I travelled with Kolo. As a matter of fact, when we got to London, I think the way Kolo went out he had no problem. I think he had somebody waiting for him. Since his things were checked in I could not even see him. It was on the plane that Kolo actually said when we drop, he wanted to buy some presents for some people or so. It was there he asked me how long I was going to stay?

I told him that I had this chat with SuleKolo and he said oh yes! What did the General tell me? I said well, apart from the conversation we had generally about the situation in the country, what is happening to the cement probe and the rest, there was nothing he told me but that if I come, I should see you, that you were going to brief me. I think this is where you want to hear more details.

So, he said yes, first he wanted to ask me whether somebody has spoken to me about change of government? Then I told him yes. I mentioned this boy’s name, Dabang. Then he said well what he wants to tell me now is that the situation now is that he was told that there is a group which is going to take over the government. That the group is going to be prevented from taking over this change of government and I want you boys if you can take up this change and avoid which ever group is going to take over the change.

What do you think about it? I said well that’s O.K. He continued that the reason is that it came in about this promotion thing and general situation in the country. The General was sure that we were in a position to carry out the change on his own part and he said to me “…Well, on our own part we would give you the necessary backing and all we want is you carry out the operation without fear. The way you have to do it you have to be very careful so that you are not traced. All of you who will be concerned should have nothing to fear. Everything about your reward and backing, everything that will concern whatever you require we are prepared.” Well, when he said that in fact, you know I will come down to blame myself.

 

BRIEFING:

This is actually where you are trying to find out whether I wasn’t detailed enough to find out…to ask him who and who were involved. It is a pity that I automatically took so many things for granted. I saw Brigadier around him, so I probably might have concluded that these are the group and it was after he finished briefing me, that is why I went straight into it probably he should be able to know which of the groups. So, when he finished talking to me now and at this juncture, I would not know whether he has spoken to Dabang about this because I didn’t ask him whether he was the one who informed them. But definitely from the way Dabang spoke to me he did not connect anybody that spoke to me. He only said they approached me because they thought I was going to be useful. So, I didn’t ask the General whether he had spoken to these boys, you know I did not. But the point here is that when talking to Dabang, I said General Bisalla has known. He completely responded in an ignorant way. He said that is O.K.

EMMANUEL IKWUE

 

Interrogator:  He said it was OK?

Answer:          Yes, it was Ok so when I was told…and you see if you look through my own situation now, this thing started from Jos. Somebody hinted me at Jos. When I came to Lagos, I banged my head on these boys although they wanted to see me in Kaduna, they couldn’t see me and when I got to Lagos and again I came in, the General approached me with this. And so, I was in a position which I was already entangled with in this and I just wanted to go through and see exactly…So as I said, I left. I don’t know whether you want to know more on this?

Interrogator:Yes, Yes

Answer:          I left for Surulere at this particular period actually I was alone. I dropped my car. Then I was drinking, then I decided to go back when I went to my house and sat down, you know and thought over it.

I think, I better start from where I came in again. The first day I attempted going to see Bisalla. I got there and there were so many cars parked outside the house, so I did not go in. I went back. The following day, I called again. As I was going to the house, Brigadier Ikwue was coming out of the house. So, we met, greeted and said that the General was up and was just coming back from the golf and was trying to dress. So, we greeted ourselves and he was asking me how I feel and I told him I was okay. The impression given to me was that he was trying to get something out of me. But all the questions he asked like how are you and how is everything. And I said fine. He told me he was going and that the General would soon be coming up and I went in. And when I got in, I met the civilian sitting down. I sat down and a few minutes later. Felix the Ibru man. Felix came in and Mrs. Din and Tense came in. When the General finally came down, General Bisalla, the first person he spoke to was Ibru, which he said ‘am sorry’, he came in first and couldn’t meet him.

So, he offered me a beer. While I was probably drinking my beer, when Ishaku Ibrahim came briefly and they spoke briefly. Well, I wasn’t attentive, I did not bother to hear or know what they were trying to say. After I have taken a little bit of my drink, he invited me to the other end of the room…dining area. Then I sat down. He started by saying well he heard I came back and travelled home on leave and he wanted to know whether when I was in London I spoke to General Gowon and I said yes. And he asked whether he told me anything. I told him no. I told him how we travelled. At this juncture, I want to start to say in fact that it was in Kano, I didn’t know Kolo was actually there too, when I went out, he came in I was standing in fact alone, when he came in and met me and greeted me and that he had wanted to go to shopping to buy something, a gift or something.

MURTALA

 

So, I told him that I travelled with Sir SuleKolo and I was expecting to see him because he wanted to see me and that at Kano, I met him briefly in fact, he didn’t buy anything anyway because he said he was going to buy something for Kama, some gift which he didn’t buy at all. I accompanied him to the shop. I told the General that well, when I travelled with Kolo this is what he told me. He was expecting whether I was going to stay long, trying to find out how long I was going to be in London. I told him it was only few days. I told him how I went to see the General and said whether he told me anything. I said no. He told me that he was going to talk to me because I was expecting to see Kolo. Kama actually should know whether there was any message left by Kolo or not. But definitely, it was the General’s house, I thought I was expecting to see Kolo.

COMMENT:    You were telling General Bisalla this part of the thing?

DIMKA:Yes, because he wanted to hear whether the General told me anything. Then I said No, he has not briefed me. That he was going to brief me (Gen. Bisalla himself). When he came in, he said whether any of the officers, Major Dabang has spoken to me. I told him yes. Then he said well, what he wants now from me is to tell me that:

(1)        He heard that there is a group that is going to change the government, that we do not want this group to do it. This is the way he puts it: “We want you boys to carry it out and as far as we are concerned, you should have nothing to worry about. All the administrative part of it is with us. You can go ahead. We will be prepared to back it and all of you who will be a party to it, nothing to fear.” And he also warned us to avoid any sort of obnoxious, just be secretive about the whole thing. That we should not bother, that whatever will come out of it, protection will be provided for us

As I said, the point here is how Major Dabang knew this connection which is the one that actually puzzles me, because in Jos, I was faced with this chap and with identical sort of scene, when he told me I said okay. I should have asked him about their own part of it, but I took it upon myself. After I finished, I have one or two things to say which probably would have helped me. He was very brief about it because I think he was very anxious to attend to strangers or so. His last word was that he wanted us to be very careful and not to let anybody know about it, and we should not entertain fear at all. And if for any reason, we need any clearance, we should come back and meet him.

When I left him, I went to Surulere. At this juncture, personally within myself, I said I do not exactly know what everything was coming to. My only reason why I thought I should go in into the part is because of the welfare matter. That was the only reason. I have no other reason apart from it at all. The following morning, I went up to Ikeja to see Dabang. I was speaking to him and he was trying to ask me the ‘link’ external contact’ outside Lagos.

When I went to Dabang, he came in, only two of us and he was emphasizing that they are ready to carry out this thing when he told me that they do not want anybody above the rank of Lt.-Colonel to come in. In fact, I came in, in the middle, probably because I was able to go round because of my connection with the people around. Then he told me that they did not want me in the show, that what they wanted was for me to go round and do the political aspect of it. I told him that General Bisalla has been told. He said did I tell him? Is it? I said yes, He said okay it was alright. When they were mentioning people’s names, he wanted to know the stand of Damcida. The mistake I made was that when I asked of Damcida’s house, I could have gone to see him.

SULE KOLO

 

Probably, if I did see Damcida, but I was not able to, I would have come with something. Two days interval, I came back to General Bisalla’s house and I told him that I have met some of these Majors and it seemed to me that a lot of them are ready. He told me that what he wanted us to do is to take it gently until such a time that the timing will agree. At this particular point, which I will still admit was probably I took a lot of things for ‘granted.’ I did not go into details of the link between Bisalla’s party, minus me only.

When I finished, Col. Tense who was there when I was going came out and asked whether I had spoken to the General. I told him yes. He wanted to find out what we discussed. But then I told him I was coming to meet him in his office the following day. Anyway, I did not meet him in the office. In the evening of the following day, I met him in the house, I told him that this is what went between General Bisalla and myself. I want you to take a particular note of this point. Then he said was it so? Just then he said that the problem now is that Colonel Wya and himself are being watched. The story came in about when Col. Babangida came to him one early morning and asked about Wya’s activities, that Wya was trying to be funny. Since he was a friend, he would be able to speak to him.

COMMENT:    This Ibru man, the other civilian, Col. Tense and Mrs. Din. You left them in the house?

DIMKA:           Yes, I went to Surulere.

COMMENT:    Who did you meet at Surulere?

DIMKA:           No. I went to a beer parlour. I did not go to see anybody. I told you I went to his house and told him what went between General Bisalla and myself. He cut in and I think the way he did it was trying to convince me that this topic is not an unpopular matter. He brought in the case of Babangida and said he is a traitor. He brought in the connection of Babangida with Wya and Shuwa. In any case, he knew about the Majors and the tensions. Probably, when he has spoken to me, all he wanted to do is to let me know that it is not all well with the Supreme Military Council and that he was in the know of what was happening. In fact, he was saying he came to tell me that the Chief of Staff (SHQ) was about to be made the adviser to the Head of State and it was not a popular decision and people were not going to be happy about it. My problem here was that when this thing was going on, I tended to assume that my role, that connection which I thought I was going to be responsible; I was merely trying to confirm as a chap who is a party to it.

The way Tense came into the show and when I approached him, he did not actually appear to me that he was surprised or expressed any intention of trying to question me about who was who from the way he brought in Babangida and General Shuwa’s case, I thought he was trying to confirm to me that trend of event, they seemed to be in the picture of what was happening. Even none of these Majors spoke to any of these two officers. I was surprised that they did not express any surprise at this. But the link was a bit difficult trying to connect.  They were not telling me what their plans were. But whenever I spoke to them, they were telling me what was happening within SHQ and that everything was not fine so that completely I was convinced that they must have their part in all these things.

When I called back at General Bisalla the second time in his house, I came and he opened the door. They said the General was up. I could remember there were two cars outside. One of them was a Mercedes. I cannot remember the number. One was a Citreon. I think the boy went up. He came down and met me. I told him that I have seen and discussed some of these things with the Majors. I told him exactly what they told me that they did not want anybody above the rank of Major to be involved. Then he said well, it does not matter. He would want me to get in touch with him always, to be able to advise more. It does not mean that I should go in to disturb their plans. This was towards the end of January. But I could tell them whatever I have to tell them.

I also told him that the problem now is that these boys I do not want to interrupt directly but because they have now said that they want me to be the sampling officer at all levels and it will involve travelling. I told him I will have to go to Kaduna, have to go to Benin, Ibadan because of the Sports that was coming up. Then he said I should go round and see what I will find out from the Commanders. Remember there was naming ceremony of Colonel Remawa.

1 came to Col. Tense’s house where I met two white men who were lodging in Wya’s house. His Range Rover was attached to them permanently and they were discussing the party. It was two. The women’s group was at Ikeja, the men’s group was at Myohuang Barrack. Col. Wya was saying that Colonel Mohammed Bukar (Sokoto) and others were uneasy, not comfortable. They did not stay long and they had to leave. So I told Col. Wya I was travelling, I was going to Kaduna. He asked me how long I was going to stay.

So, I took off for Kaduna, already these boys have told me that they had briefed T.K. Adamu. In fact, the only chap they wanted to put was T.K. Adamu. When I got to Kaduna, I contacted him and he told me that he has been having some discussions. I spoke to him and he expressed to me that they have discussed this thing with Major Dabang. I think they had a full discussion during Conversion Board (meeting) or so. He even told me that it was not so easy because there were a lot of SIBs around. Anyway, I told him that I am here to hear from him how he is going. Then he told me that he has been having some discussions, that he has mentioned it to Lt. Col. A.B. Umaru. He said even General Hassan is in full picture. He said I should realise now that the Northern set up is not as it used to be that everybody is himself now. So that General Hassan is going to disown the North. That as far as he is concerned it is his own personal affair, so it does not matter. He was for it.

He even told me a story, that one day A.B. Umaru met General Hassan at Polo and he (Hassan) was asking. A.B. Umaru how he felt about the government and from the way A.B. expressed his opinion, he remarked that what were they waiting for. From the briefing, then I found that as a matter of fact, this thing must have started long even before I knew about it. It was too quick for me to realise that these things have gone to such extent. It was then that A.B. told me that Colonel Dada told him that Col. Babangida was doubting his own loyalty. And when Dada told him, he thought of talking to Babangida personally but he thought it was not a good idea because it was going to block his source of his information if anything is to come from Col. Babangida, Col. Dada would not let him know whatever was happening. So, that was how the conversation went and I came back.

When I got back, I went to Maj or Dabang and said that I was just from Kaduna and I met Col. T.K. Adamu. He wanted to know what T.K. Adamu told me. I told him General Hassan is in the picture. So he said it was OK, fine. That he was going to meet Major Afolabi. Then I told him that I would be going to Ibadan probably after some few days.

 

  • This was how far the confession could go, and Dimka was given another bottle of beer, so that his statement should be as free as possible.Watch out for the continuation

 

 

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