On July 30, 1975, Brigadier (later General) Muhammed was made head of state, when General Gowon was overthrown while at an Organization of African Unity (OAU) summit in Kampala, Uganda
Muhammed was killed at the age of 37 alongside his Aide-De-Camp (ADC), Lieutenant Akintunde Akinsehinwa in his Black Mercedes Benz Saloon car in an abortive coup attempt led by Lt. Col Buka Suka Dimka, when his car was ambushed while en route his office at Dodan Barracks, Lagos.
The only visible sign of protection was a pistol carried by his orderly, therefore, made his assassination an easy task.
He was succeeded by the Chief of Staff, Supreme HQ Olusegun Obasanjo, who completed his plan of an orderly transfer to civilian rule by handing power to Shehu Shagari on October 1, 1979.
Murtala Muhammed is the face on the 20 Naira note and Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos was named in his honour.