Buhari Overthrown in Palace Coup

30 YEARS AGO – As early as 6am, the voice of Brigadier Joshua Dogonyaro was on the airwaves to announce that a coup had taken place. The plot started much earlier, and the execution actually started late on the previous day.

Army majors Dangiwa Umar, Lawan Gwadabe, Abdulmumuni Aminu and Sambo Dasuki visited the head of state, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, quietly in his home on the night of August 26 and told him that they had effected a change of government. They were all armed. From then, Buhari was put under house arrest.

His second-in-command, Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon, had travelled for the hajj in Saudi Arabia along with Major Gen. Mamman Vatsa. When he heard about the coup, he left Saudi Arabia and returned. He too was arrested and kept under house arrest.
The palace coup was led by chief of army staff Major General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. He gave no cogent reason for the coup. Nor did Brigadier Dogonyaro who announced the change of government on the radio. The only excuse they gave was that Buhari and Idiagbon arrogated power to themselves “to the detriment of our national aspirations”.

Dogonyaro’s coup speech was repeated over and over again after sessions of martial music. About 3: 30pm, a more familiar voice came on air: Major Gen. Sani Abacha, who had announced the coup that brought Buhari to power on December 31, 1983. He said the “president” would address the nation. Until then, it was not heard that a soldier or a thug in military uniform was addressed as “president”.

Later that day, the new “president” and commander-in-chief of the armed forces of Nigeria, Major Gen. Babangida, made an inaugural speech. In the address he rattled off – paying little attention to commas and full-stops – Babangida stated that Buhari “was too rigid and uncompromising in his attitudes to issues of national significance” and Idiagbon “was similarly inclined in that respect”.

From that day, Nigeria’s decline became unstoppable. Eight years later, IBB “stepped aside” and handed over to an “interim national government” led by Chief Ernest Shonekan, after annulling the presidential election of that year won by Moshood Abiola.

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