I didn’t like Dimka ini­tially, says for­mer coup leader’s driver

Sunday Trust - - INTERVIEW -

From Ahmed Tahir Ajobe, Minna

Why are you called Adamu Dimka?

My name is Audu Garba. How­ever, many peo­ple, es­pe­cially within the mil­i­tary, called me Audu Dimka be­cause of my close­ness with the late Col. Bukar Sukar Dimka.

Could you tell us how you joined the mil­i­tary?

I joined the mil­i­tary at the age of 15 at the be­gin­ning of the Nige­rian civil war. Some of my friends and I were sit­ting and ad­mir­ing the then Emir of Bauchi’s car when he came on a visit to Kon­tagora and a man ap­proached us to ask if there were vol­un­teers to join the Nige­rian Army to sal­vage the coun­try. I in­di­cated in­ter­est. So we en­listed in Kon­tagora and moved to Minna for screen­ing and train­ing.

We were moved from Minna to Kaduna for fur­ther train­ing and then de­ployed. I was posted to the 22 In­fantry Bat­tal­ion un­der the com­mand of Ab­dul­lahi Shel­leng.

Tell us your ex­pe­ri­ence in the war.

I was posted to Enugu, and that time Lt. Col. Bukar Sukar Dimka was de­ployed to re­place Shel­leng. We were on pa­trol from Iy­i­nachi to Achigwe one day, when we came across a truck which blocked the way. The ve­hi­cle was aban­doned by the Bi­afran sol­diers with the key in the ig­ni­tion. Be­fore our com­man­der could give the or­der, I jumped into the truck and drove it out of the way. Dimka was im­pressed.

Was that the rea­son he picked you as his driver?

One day while we were do­ing some fa­tigue in the field around Ofuma, I felt a hand on my back and when I looked up it was a Bi­faran sol­der. They were four. They tied our hands and took us to their bat­tal­ion, where some Euro­pean mer­ce­nar­ies ques­tioned us. They then led us to their com­man­der who Dimka then told me of the plan to over­throw Mur­tala Mo­hammed. I was shocked and he no­ticed my un­ease. He asked why I was ner­vous and I had to tell him the truth, that the man he was plan­ning to over­throw was his close friend and con­fi­dant or­dered that we should be killed. As fate would have it, an of­fi­cer from the head­quar­ters ar­rived. He or­dered that we should be taken to the head­quar­ters where we were handed over to a com­man­der, sim­ply re­ferred to as Ge­orge. We later learnt that Ge­orge was Dimka’s course mate at the NDA (Nige­ria De­fence Acad­emy). He asked me, “Small boy, what are you do­ing on the war­front?” I an­swered, “I am a sol­dier.” He then or­dered that we should be taken to the guard­room, an un­der­ground bunker.

We met five other Nige­rian sol­diers who were also cap­tured at dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions. Few days later, there was a change of guard. We dis­cov­ered that the new guard al­ways came with ogogoro, (lo­cal spirit) and also smoked hemp. One night, he drank and smoked heav­ily and soon fell asleep. One Cor­po­ral Sa­muel and I went and shook him to be sure he was not awake.

We crawled into the bush. We went through the bushes for days un­til we got to a Nige­rian camp in Oji River. The late Dimka was de­lighted about our es­cape, and since then he made sure I stayed close to him.

How long did you fight in the war?

For about two years.

How did you feel driv­ing an of­fi­cer of the late Dimka’s cal­i­bre?

I never liked the idea but I had no choice. The as­sign­ment brought us closer, so much so that peo­ple thought we were re­lated. I was pop­u­larly known as Audu Dimka be­cause of our close­ness.

You said Mur­tala liked Dimka, how close where they?

Very close, so much so that when Mur­tala was mov­ing to La­gos, he took Dimka along as the Com­man­der of the Phys­i­cal Train­ing Corps. We were al­ways in the State House to see Mur­tala.

Did Dimka take you along to La­gos?

He took me along and even put me in charge of the M.T.O. I com­plained pri­vately to him that the of­fice was be­yond me. But he said I could han­dle it.

As head of the M.T.O, I had to rec­om­mend an­other of­fi­cer, Olayi­wola, to Dimka as driver, but still he in­sisted I drove him when­ever he was trav­el­ling out­side La­gos and also be re­spon­si­ble for tak­ing his chil­dren to school.

What can you tell us about the events of Fe­bru­ary 13, 1976?

I went to Dimka’s house as usual that morn­ing to take the chil­dren to school but the chil­dren were not where I used to pick them. I asked the cook to check their room but he said he wasn’t sup­posed to go to the main house at that time of the day. So I went into the chil­dren’s room but they were not there.

I then knocked at Dimka’s wife, Has­sana’s door. I asked where the kids were and she told me to check their room. When I told her that I had al­ready checked, she pan­icked. She checked her hus­band’s room but nei­ther he nor the kids were there.

As I was go­ing out of the house, I saw car­tons of al­co­hol, I went back to ask madam if there was a party last night. She said there was noth­ing like that and she fol­lowed me to the liv­ing room. When she saw the con­di­tion of the liv­ing room she was shocked. “I hope this man is not court­ing trou­ble,” she re­marked.

As I was driv­ing back to the bar­racks, I ran into some of­fi­cers in mufti, point­ing guns and or­der­ing me to stop. The boarded the car. One Lt. Peter Chi­gari or­dered one of them to ex­plain what was hap­pen­ing to me. They or­dered me to drive to the Ikeja bar­racks and as­sured me that they would not harm me. When we got to the bar­racks and met Col. Dimka. Dimka then told me of the plan to over­throw Mur­tala Mo­hammed. I was shocked and he no­ticed my un­ease. He asked why I was ner­vous and I had to tell him the truth, that the man he was plan­ning to over­throw was his close friend and con­fi­dant.

Then I told him I needed to go and set­tle my brother who came in from Sagamu so that he could re­turn to his base. He agreed but or­dered one Staff Sergeant Cle­ment to mon­i­tor me.

Later that day the news of the coup came. I was shocked de­spite my ear­lier en­counter with Dimka.

What hap­pened af­ter that?

I was at home for about a week. Then I was in the mosque one day when some peo­ple came to alert me to run, that some mil­i­tary of­fi­cers where in my house to ar­rest me. I

Ex-Sergeant Audu Dimka

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