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1983 Coup: What Buhari did to Bamidele, Why Babangida killed him in 1985

In October 1983, Major Daniel Idowu Bamidele heard of coup rumours against President Shehu Shagari and promptly reported to his General Officer Commanding (GOC), Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (who, unknown to Bamidele at that time, was in the thick of the plot).

A week later, Bamidele found himself on a plane to Lagos, detained by the Directorate of Military Intelligence at Tego Barracks and was accused of plotting a coup against Shagari.

Fake witnesses were paraded and a mock interrogation contrived, while reports were being made to the Nigerian Security Organisation (then under Umaru Shinkafi) to mislead the Shagari regime.

Meanwhile, the real plot continued underground with the full involvement of the same Military Intelligence group that was interrogating him.

Finally, on November 25, 1983, with no credible witness to nail him, and no legal basis to charge him for a one-man conspiracy, Bamidele was released. He returned to Jos, befuddled about what had actually transpired, until on January 1, 1984, his own GOC, Buhari, to whom he had reported the plot, emerged as the new Head of State!

Learning from his ordeal in 1983, Bamidele had kept quiet about any coups.

However, in 1985, the Major was arrested (for failing to report the alleged Vatsa coup conspiracy), tried by a special military tribunal, and executed by firing squad on March 5, 1986, along with others such as Major-General Mamman Vatsa.

Bamidele’s words to the tribunal were:

“I heard of the 1983 coup planning, told my GOC General Buhari who detained me for two weeks in Lagos. Instead of a pat on the back, I received a stab. How then do you expect me to report this one?

“This is not self-adulation but a sincere summary of the qualities inherent in me. It is an irony of fate that the president of the tribunal who, in 1964, felt that I was good enough to take training in the UK is now saddled with the duty of showing me the exit from the force and the world.”

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