Abdulsalami, IBB, Danjuma, Gusau made Obasanjo president in 1999 — Bamaiyi
Niyi Odebode and Tobi Aworinde
A former Chief of Army Staff , Lt . – Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi , has shed light on the strategy allegedly deployed by former generals to ensure the emergence of a former military Head of State , Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo , as the country’ s president in 1999 .
Bamaiyi ’ s new book , Vindication of a General , claimed that a former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar ( retd . ) , who was in power at the time ; former military dictator , Gen. Ibrahim Babangida ; ex – Minister of Defence , Gen. Theophilus Danjuma ( retd . ); and a former National Security Adviser, Gen. Aliyu Gusau, developed and executed the plan that helped Obasanjo to return to power as a civilian president in 1999 .
The former army chief , who was detained for years during the Abdulsalami regime, attributed his travails to his opposition to Obasanjo ’ s candidacy and his support for the Alliance for Democracy ’ s presidential candidate in 1999 , Chief Olu Falae .
He further revealed that the plot to return Obasanjo to power started shortly after Abdulsalami got into power . He alleged that Abdulsalami , on becoming the head of state , started holding secret meetings with Babangida and Gusau, on the future of the country.
He stated, “ Unknown to me , Gen. ( Abdulsalami ) Abubakar had already committed himself to Generals Babangida , T. Y . Danjuma and Aliyu Gusau on General Obasanjo ’ s coming in to take over from him . A proposal I totally objected to , which I told Generals Abubakar , TY Danjuma and Aliyu Gusau in very clear terms. My stand did not go ( down) well with the generals and General Abubakar started feeling unsafe . ”
He stated , “He ( Abdulsalami ) was supported by some northern generals , who believed one of them would take over from Obasanjo after one term of four years . It was alleged that Obasanjo had promised Gen. Babangida that he would succeed him . ”
To buttress his claim, the Bamaiyi said , “ General Abubakar prepared and handed over his ( handover ) report to Gen. Obasanjo ’ s team, dated June 1998 . This means that he prepared the report as soon as he was sworn in as the commander – in – chief in June 1998 . ”
Bamaiyi noted he insisted on Falae when he discovered that those who annulled June 12 , 1993 election wanted to ‘ arrange ’ a president for the South – West.
“ I decided to take Chief Olu Falae to Gen. Abubakar and only Abubakar and I discussed this issue. I do not regret that action because I was and I am convinced Falae would have done better as president of our great country. I am glad those behind Obasanjo knew (sic) better , ” he said on page 120 of the book.
Bamaiyi said the entire plot was mooted by Babangida who was desperate to return to power . Bamaiyi stated , “ This was not done because they liked Obasanjo , but because of the ambition of General Babangida to return as president after Obasanjo ’ s tenure .
“ I believe that they saw Obasanjo as a political novice they would manipulate . They never thought they would meet a different Obasanjo from the one they had known in 1979 . ”
He added that Gusau and Danjuma put pressure on him to support Obasanjo , but he told them that Nigerians were tired of military rule .
“ When I discovered that some people were pushing for a president from the South – West, I asked a friend , Dr . Frank Adejuwon, a minister in the Abacha cabinet , to contact Chief Falae and bring him to Abuja .
“ I took Falae to Gen. Abubakar and told him that Falae was a very good candidate , if the presidency had to go to the South – West. I believe Gen. Abubakar briefed Obasanjo , which led to an unforgiving Obasanjo developing actual hatred as far as I am concerned . ”
On page 125 , however , Bamaiyi also revealed that his support for Falae was a last resort . He pointed out that narrowing the search for the next president to the South- West did not make sense to him .
He stated , “ When Gen. Abukakar took over , he and I had a discussion about the military and how Nigerians hated it. We agreed we should make a clean break by ensuring the next president would be someone without a military background .
“ I was later told that for some reasons, others involved wanted someone from the South – West, which did not make any sense to me . I stood for an open election for Nigerians to decide who ruled them. ”
Meanwhile , a lawyer of former President Olusegun Obasanjo , Dr . Tunji Abayomi , said the ex – president had assured him that he had no hand in an alleged coup attempt against Abacha .
Abayomi , who spoke to SUNDAY PUNCH in a telephone interview , noted that Obasanjo had said this after he challenged the former president privately .
The lawyer said , “ In his room , it was only two of us and I confronted him . Then he told me that he didn ’ t know anything about it. ”
NADECO paid lip service to Abiola ’ s release
Also in his book , the former army chief berated the National Democratic Coalition, saying its members only paid lip service to Abiola ’ s release .
Bamaiyi stated , “If they were sincere and actually supported him , they would have accompanied him to where he declared himself president . I am glad Abiola ’ s son , Kola , knew this and in the Ovation Magazine of July 12 , 2003 , he explained (that ) the National Democratic Coalition piled pressure on his father to declare himself president , but would not rise to the occasion to defend him when it mattered . ”
He said NADECO members advised Abiola not to accept conditions for his release .
Bamaiyi added that he and the then Chief of Air Staff , AVM Nsikak , broke the news of the death of a former military dictator , Gen. Sani Abacha , to Abiola .
“ Abiola was brought to Aguda House, where we met him . After pleasantries , we informed Abiola of Abacha ’ s death . He was silent for some time , but stated praying for the repose of Abacha ’ s soul.
“ Chief Abiola served us tea . He said he would like me to hold the Army for him when he took his mandate . He later wrote Gen . Abubakar about me and his intentions for me. Gen. Abubakar did not tell me about these letters until they surfaced at the Oputa panel , ” he said .
Bamaiyi described Abiola ’ s death as a surprise , adding that he was healthy when he met him .
Abiola wrote me before his death
The former chief of army staff said after their meeting on June 29 , 1998 , Abiola wrote a letter to him .
Part of the letter read , “ Having talked to you last Monday , I can now understand why the Army has remained stable , despite the volatile happenings triggered off by the late General Abacha ’ s attempt to do a Rawlings in our great nation.
“ I hope and pray that you will be able to stay on top of the Army for at least the next four years , to continue your splendid professional career in the service of our fatherland . ”
Source: The Punch