by Dolapo Adelana
A former Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi, has said former military Head of State, Gem. Ibrahim Babangida was amongst those who ensure that another former military Head of State, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, emerged as the country’s president in 1999.
Bamaiyi who said this in his new book Vindication of a General claimed that Babangida, former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd.), who was in power at the time; 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.
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The former Army Chief said he got into trouble with Abdusalami for opposing Obasanjo’s candidacy. He said he opted for Chief Olu Falae as he believed Nigerians were tired of having the military in power.
He revealed that the plot to make Obasanjo president began 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 (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.”
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 said he insited 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.
“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, “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.”
Bamaiyi said he opted for Falae as a last resort. He stated that he saw no reason why the position should be narrowed down to the South-West.
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.”
Dolapo is a writer and journalist who works with YNaija. He has interests in Christianity, politics and sports.