Apart from the immeasurable national impact he made within just 198 days (less than seven months) in office, what is decidedly affirmed to be the late General Murtala Muhammed’s most famous speech set the stage for Africa’s epochal confrontation with colonial, racist and settler regimes in Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Rhodesia (renamed Zimbabwe), and South Africa.

Apart from the immeasurable national impact he made within just 198 days (less than seven months) in office, what is decidedly affirmed to be the late General Murtala Muhammed’s most famous speech set the stage for Africa’s epochal confrontation with colonial, racist and settler regimes in Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Rhodesia (renamed Zimbabwe), and South Africa. At the Extra-Ordinary Summit of African Heads of States under the Organisation of African Unity, held in Addis Ababa, the political capital of Africa, on January 11th, 1976, Africa’s martyr General Murtala Muhammed, put the world on notice. The speech aptly titled “Africa has come of age” declared that our countries, and by extension all their social and political organizations, “would not take orders from any extra-continental power, however, powerful.”

He, General Murtala Muhammed of blessed memory, further stated that “Africa is capable of resolving her own problems without any presumptuous lessons in ideological dangers, which more often than not, have no relevance to the problems at hand…”. 41 years after General Murtala expressed this bold vision, we must ask ourselves, is it that Africa has now retrogressed below the threshold of positive consciousness bequeathed to us to this moment when “extra-continental powers” like ISIS or Al-Qaeda are directing Boko Haram to turn its lethal weapons on social progress, with poor people as the undeniable victims of their insurgency?

For a succession of Nigerian leaders going back to the first republic under Prime Minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, through General Yakubu Gowon and General Olusegun Obasanjo who succeeded General Murtala Muhammed, the willingness to deploy resources to secure the basic rights to life and happiness, not just in Nigeria but all over Africa, was deeply rooted in the psyche of the true leaders of our people. For again, in that his famous speech, General Murtala Muhammed, minced no words in stating why it was necessary to fight evil wherever it occurred in Africa: quote, “when I contemplate the evils of apartheid, my heart bleeds and I am sure the heart of every true-blooded African bleeds.” End of quote.

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