As a kid, the name Muritala Mohammed when remembered is connected with times when Nigeria was filled with “milk and honey” but never lasted long due to his assassination by Colonel Dimka. Another name I came to hate as a child because he was the villain who ended Nigeria’s reign of bliss and progress. So was my thinking as a child but then I heard the same story in secondary school.
Then I gained admission into the University, then I was introduced to this hero of my childhood in foreign policy class which was my favorite class.
According to the lecturers and the book I read on Nigeria’s foreign policy, the era of Muritala Mohammed was regarded as the “Golden Era of Nigeria’s Foreign Policy” because this hero of my childhood was a force to reckon in international politics;
Muritala muhammed helped the south Africans(ANC) on the issue of apartheid, Fought against external intervention in Angola’s leadership crisis, and my favorite part of his reign in foreign politics was his speech at an OAU meeting on 3rd of January 1976 where he stated the need for Africa to stand as a force to be reckoned with not a periphery continent to stomped and dictated upon by the Core and so –called powerful state.
The speech by Muritala Mohammed “Mr Chairman, when I contemplate the evils of apartheid, my heart bleeds and I am sure the heart of every true blooded African bleeds. . . Rather than join hands with the forces fighting for self-determination and against racism and apartheid, the United States policy makers clearly decided that it was in the best interests of their country to maintain white supremacy and minority regimes in Africa. Africa has come of age. It’s no longer under the orbit of any extra continental power. It should no longer take orders from any country, however powerful. The fortunes of Africa are in our hands to make or to mar. For too long have we been kicked around; for too long have we been treated like adolescents who cannot discern their interests and act accordingly. For too long has it been presumed that the African needs outside ‘experts’ to tell him who are his friends and who are his enemies. The time has come when we should make it clear that we can decide for ourselves; that we know our own interests and how to protect those interests; that we are capable of resolving African problems without presumptuous lessons in ideological dangers which, more often than not, have no relevance for us, nor for the problem at hand. Muritala Ramat Muhammed was my Hero, and I always relished those day he ruled but then I read Chinua Achebe’s “there was a country”. Then the doubts started to creep in! During the civil war started which fully kicked off in 1967 , Muritala muhammed controlled one of the battalions and was responsible for various Massacres like Asaba, Onitsha massacre where kids and women were slaughtered without mercy. Achebe’s story painted this hero in a new light; he was a devil who tried to reform himself after the war. I let Achebe’s narrative get to me because the story was written in such a way that a lay man would write If given the chance, to narrate what happened from 1967-1970. Today marks 40 years since his assassination and doubts creep into my mind , whether to celebrate this man who as a soldier killed hundreds of kids who could have made this nation better, even better than his own golden reign or celebrate him for what he did within 9 months of his service. Is Muritala Ramat Muhammad worth celebrating?