The assassination of former Military Head of State, Gen. Murtala Muhammed, no doubt bequeathed a number of legacies to the nation. One of such is the official Mercedes Benz car the late General rode in the day he met his gruesome death.
The car has since been declared a national heritage and monument, which over the years is housed at the National Museum in Onikan under the management of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments. It is kept in a specially created section of the museum, which is tagged as ‘Nigeria government – yesterday and today.’
Given the high esteem in which the Nigerian government and its people held and revered the late General for his nationalism and forthright leadership within the short span of his reign, many had expected that the location of this car, which ought to be treated as eternal memorabilia should occupy a place of pride at the museum and also attract huge interest and following on a daily basis. But this appears not to be so as the section in which the car is kept is almost nondescript and uninspiring as well as unattractive just as the entire museum itself.
The long range black Mercedes Benz on display bears no comet nor the room, which is almost bare, but for the framed write-up on the walls of the room. As the name of the section suggests, these are mere historical documentations of the political and administrative history of Nigeria from its pre-colonial days to the present day.
They chronicle the various rulers -both military and democraticthat have at various times held the reins of powers in the country. For many, this is not an exciting, inspiring and colourful exhibit to spend valuable time with especially when you realise that the late head of state that ought to be the centre of focus is merely a footnote with no special attention paid in elevating and immortalising him above others.
Interestingly, the black Mercedes Benz still looks quite clean and neat and not decrepit and as explained by the lady on duty at the section on the day of visit, they occasionally clean up the car. The four tyres too are new and in good condition as one was made to understand that the old and original tyres that came with the car were recently removed and kept at the boot of the car.
The front windscreen is still the original windscreen and quite visible still is the shattered section from the hail of bullets while the three side glasses on the left hand side are no more but on the right hand side of the six-door car only two are left. The back screen is also off and at the back of the car is the coat of arm.
At the front are two flags, one of which is the national flag while the second should be the armed forces flag. Placed on top of the car is a plaque with the inscription: ‘The state car in which General Murtala Ramat Muhammed was assassinated.’
According to the lady attendant at the section, the room is opened to the public on both weekdays and weekends between the hours of 9am and 4pm. More of the visitors to this section are said to be school pupils on excursion to the museum.
There is no register of visitors at the section for one to know exactly the number of visitors to the section and perhaps feel the pulse and reactions of these visitors to the exhibit on display or even to the man, Murtala Muhammed, as there is no record of their comments.
Even a peep into the attendance register at the reception of the museum also fails to show any column or records of comments by visitors to the museum except their names, address and date of visit. Therefore, it is actually difficult to know the number of people who specifically visit the museum to reconnect with this heroic late head of state and ascertain their reactions to the poorly legacy of the fallen hero. But a general record of visitors to the museum last year shows that it recorded over 90, 000 visitors with the month of March said to be one of the highest for visitors.
Wait for this, the month of February recorded one of the least visitors with less than 5, 000 visitors calling, which perhaps is a pointer to the fact that not many people reckon with this national relic because if they do, the month of February where the late head of state is remembered and celebrated should receive more visitors. So much for how not to keep the legacies and memories of our departed heroes and heroines or those adjudged to be icons of the nation.