Nigeria History: How Shehu Shagari Was Overthrown On 31 December, 1983

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If former President Shehu Shagari was in the habit of marking the day he was overthrown, then he would have been marking its 35th year today if he had not died just three days ago, which was on 28 December, 2018.

President Shehu shagari had so far enjoyed two months in his second tenure as the democratically elected president of Nigeria. And certainly, a lot of plan must have been made for the year ahead, but just a day into the new year, his presidency which was supposed to elapse in 1987 was abruptly brought to an end through a coup d’etat. AceGist Nigeria This Week In History takes a look at the 1983 coup d’etat.

The Build Up

This is one coup that was predictable! In the bid to do the right thing, then General Olusegun Obasanjo passed the leadership of Nigeria to a democratically elected president. This was not only applauded by the international community, but was also seen as the best that could happen to us as Nigerians.

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But all that was needed was just the first four years of Alhaji shagari for Nigerians to register their strong discontentment and displeased about how the country was being piloted.

As usual, the regime was accused of high level of corruption in different quarters. The foreign reserve saved from the oil boom of ’70s was said to have been depleted without record of it being put to good use.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was the alleged fraudulent election that brought in Alhaji Shehu Shagari as president for his second tenure.

Things got so bad that the return to military regime that Nigeria was just coming out from became eminent, not only to the citizens, but also to the people in government.

This was evidence in the unconfirmed report that during the October 1, 1983 swearing-in ceremony, many of them wore bullet proof and by the time the coup took place, many of them had already jetted to exile.

The Coup d’etat

With the dissatisfied way the country was governed, some Nigerian Army top echelon had met in Port Harcourt, River States, under the pretext of staging the Nigerian Army Officer’s Games, to plan the coup.

Report had it that Brigadier Ibrahim Bako who had been given the responsibility of arresting president Shehu Shagari arrived the presidential villa confidently, with the believe that the task given to colonel Tunde Ogbaha to negotiate peaceful surrender of Shagari’s Brigade of Guards army unit had been successfully done.

However, he met with resistant from the President’s Brigade of Guard and shoot out ensued.

The coup plotter’s army over-powered that of president Shagari and he was eventually arrested, but not until Brigadier Ibrahim Bako’s body had stopped some bullets which led to his death.

Report had it that as early as 5am on 31 December, 1983, the sharp voice of the then Brigadier Sani Abacha came up on radio announcing the taking over of government by the military as he enumerated some of the reasons why the military had to step in.

After the successful coup, the top military personnel, especially those involved in the coup, assembled to choose who would head the new government.

Major General Muhammadu Buhari who was the General Officer in charge of the 2nd Mechanized Brigade in Jos, Plateau State, was chosen to be the Head of State and Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon who was Military Secretary, Army, was chosen as vice.

President Shehu Shagari having a meeting with Heads of Service Chief shortly before being overthrown


The participants

The participants of the coup according to Wikipedia are: Major General Muhammudu Buhari, M.K.O. Abiola (whom Babangidi later said financed the coup), Major General Ibrahim Babangida, Brigadier Ibrahim Bako, Brigadier Sani Abacha, Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon, Lt Colonel Aliu Mohammed, Lt Colonel Halili Akilu, Lt Colonel David Mark, Lt Colonel Tunde Ogbeha, Major Sambo Dasuki, Major Abdulmumuni Aminu, Major Lawan Gwadabe, Major Mustapha Jokolo and Major Abubakar Umar.

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For more Nigeria This Week In History, kindly check the history column.

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