February 13, 1976 Dimka’s Coup, effect on me – By Bonnie Iwuoha

Providence! Providence!! Providence, sets the paths but time and events play vital roles in determining the life of men on earth.
Every February 13-14 each year, remind me of the event that led me to script an amateur story which opened a chapter that eventually brought me into what has stock as my life identity, Journalism.
Early afternoon, Friday, February 13, 1976, at the Naval Base, Harbour Road, Apapa, Lagos, people had since settled down in their offices for the day’s duties. Some were setting out for prayer-grounds while non-moslems were looking forward to some ‘good-time’ activities later that afternoon following supplies of usual largesse of various types of hot drinks from boats that went in pursuit of sea smugglers/pirates, along the Lagos coast. Fridays were regarded as enjoyment days. Imported foreign drinks ceased from smugglers and pirates eased life for officers, ratings and other hands at the Base most weekends.
Suddenly, the intended enjoyments of that weekend was aborted when through the communication Pipe came the message, “Do you hear there, do you hear there, nagative liberty all officers and men, all gunners report on board.” “Do you hear there, do you hear there, negative liberty all officers and men, all gunners report on board.” The message was repeated intermittently. So, fear gripped everyone. People wondered what could have happened. Entrance and exit gates were locked. No one went out and no one came in. Every body stayed put in the offices and ships till the next day.
Later, gun shots were heard across the Lagoon at Lagos Island. Inquiries made from the signals department confirmed that there was insurrection around the seat of government. All was not well in Ikoyi around Dodan Barracks. The Head of State, General Muritala Ramat Mohammed had been killed.
From Radio Nigeria, announcements of overthrow of the government and a dawn to dusk curfew was repeatedly made by Lieutenant Colonel Buka Suka Dimka. Without delay, ever busy Lagos roads were deserted, all offices, markets, shops were closed. Soldiers took over major roads.
At the Naval Base, the Admiral ship which was the official boat of the Chief of Naval Staff, brought in Gen. T. Y. Danjuma, and the Chief of Naval Staff into the Base, after that, the sea passage was closed and Gunners were positioned. February 13 and 14,1976 were regarded as days when the country had no head no leader. The rests that happened are part of the history of Nigeria.
It was the little effort I made to document my experience of that event, that caught the interest of one man from then Bendel State popularly called Bosco, who collected the script and published it in a local paper he circulated in Ajegunle where we all lived at the time. It was the commendation I got from people who read my account of that day’s experience in that publication, that woke up my interest in writing. After Dimka’s Coup, my Father insisted I should have nothing to do with the military. I had thought I could do what I wanted. He recalled the experience of the Civil War and said it was enough, he didn’t want anyone from his family mingling with the military any longer. In obedience, I left the Navy.
When in September 1977 I was posted to teach at Girls High School, Ehime, Mbano, in Imo State, aside writing commentaries regularly for Imo Broadcasting Corporation as it was then called and covering sporting activities for the organization in Okigwe zone, because I was Games / Sports Master of my school, as well as Secretary of Games Masters Association in the Zone, I established a Press Club considered one of the most vibrant and effective of such clubs within and after that period. It trained and raised good and efficient writers, reporters, speakers and quality intelligentsia who have risen to high positions within and outside Nigeria. Within 2 years of existence of our Press Club, it took Government College Owerri to narrowly defeat our team in the finals of secondary schools quiz competition in the old Imo State. So, we came second in the State. In the whole of Okigwe Division, no school saw the back of Ehime Girls in quiz competitions within those years. We were on radio and television regularly. We had a dancing troupe which entertained guests during our outings. It often featured on NTA Aba, even on programme interludes. Students population of the School rose to 1200 girls annually as parents brought home their children from schools in other parts of the country to Ehime. Within that period, Girls High School, Ehime, Mbano made waves. Our School Principal, Mrs. Ogbonnaya Beauty Ikerionwu, very strong disciplinarian, became the toast of Education authorities in the Zone. She supported our efforts.
From that group of students, as at 3years ago, the School has produced 3 serving university Professors, many PhD holders, Comptrollers of Customs and other major establishments, Authors of books, top journalists and editors, lead politicians, medical doctors, good lawyers, successful business women and top technocrats etc. I was amazed on December 31, 2018 when the old students of now Mercy Girls High School, Ehime, had a home-coming to mark 50th anniversary of their alma-mater and they invited a few of us who had served there as teachers. I saw the girls of yesterday, now big ladies, mothers, grandmothers and very successful professionals. Honestly, I felt the real joy of a teacher for the first time. I felt and still do feel very proud of those beautiful, wonderful and hard-working women who organized that home-coming. May God strengthen them.
But for some of the events of February 13, 1976 Coup d’etat, which drove my Father into insisting I left anything military, I couldn’t have been a teacher and perhaps couldn’t have developed interest in writing which culminated into full journalism.
Of a truth, no one really knows the future. Is it possible that there is a blessing hidden in every disappointment?

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