CIA Declassified Document: 1976 Coup, Obasanjo’s promises and Nigeria-US Relations


United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) declassified President’s Daily Brief document, dated February 16, 1976 reported that the new head of state Olusegun Obasanjo promised to keep the policies of his predecessor, Murtala Ramat Muhammed. Murtala Muhammed was military ruler from 1975 until he was assassinated in an abortive coup on a Friday, February 13, 1976. According to the CIA declassified document, Obasanjo was “reportedly named head of state by unanimous vote of the ruling Supreme Military Council, Obasanjo was the number two man and armed forces chief of staff in the previous hierarchy.”

The CIA document also notes that Obasanjo was “strongly anti-South African and can be counted on to continue a hard line on South African issues.” The document also shed light on the mood of the country following the coup. “In the wake of the attempted coup, Lagos and the rest of the country are reported to be generally quiet. Borders and airports are closed, and a curfew was limited to a few rebel units in Lagos and in two of Nigeria’s 19 states; one military governor was also assassinated.”

Also hinted in the document was Nigeria-US relations at the time and the role the latter purportedly played in the political situation in Nigeria. “Rumors are circulating in Lagos and elsewhere alleging US complicity in the plot arising from US-Nigeria differences over Angola. University students demonstrated briefly yesterday against the US consulate in Ibadan.”