Daily Sun - Barely 48 hours after former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi, released a book in which he revealed what could pass for the secrets of the 1999 presidential election, those he said played big roles in the emergence of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, have opened up.
Reacting to the content of the book, former Head of State, General Abdulsalamni Abubakar; former military President, Ibrahim Babangida and ex-Minister of Communication, General Tajudeen Olanrewaju, have commented.
Bamaiyi had, in his book entitled: Vindication of a General, whose public presentation held in Abuja at the weekend, alleged that former military Generals, including Abdulsalami, who was Head of State at the time; former military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida; ex-National Security Adviser, Gen. Aliyu Gusau, and former Minister of Defence, Gen. Theophilus Danjuma, plotted the emergence of Obasanjo, who was released from prison then, as president.
He said owing to his opposition of the General’s plan to make Obasanjo president and his preference for Chief Olu Falae, who was a joint presidential candidate of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and the All Peoples Party (APP) in the 1999 election, he fell into trouble.
Bamaiyi told a story of how Abdulsalami allegedly held meetings with Babangida and Gusau, wherein they agreed on Obasanjo’s return to power.
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 (Abdulsalami). 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 well with the generals and General Abubakar started feeling unsafe.”
Speaking with Daily Sun last night, Abdulsalami said he had been inundated with telephone calls from people who had read Bamaiyi’s account.
The former head of state said he had not seen or read the book, as he was abroad, but said when he returned in two weeks, he would tell his own side of the story, if there is need for it.
General Abdulsalami said although it was against the military tradition for senior officers to comment on what their juniors have said, he could speak in details if situation demanded such, after he would have studied the book.
Said he: “I am currently out of the country. Since today (yesterday) I have been receiving calls from Nigeria and across the world, from people who read the news item on the book. I have not seen the book or read it. I hope to return in about two weeks.
“I must say, in any case, that it is against military tradition for senior officers to join issues with their juniors, but if it becomes imperative that I should make full comments on the content of the book, I will do so.” Also reacting to the allegation, former Edo State Commissioner for Information and General Babangida’s spokesman, Prince Kassim Afegbua, said Bamaiyi had not said anything new. He confirmed that Babangida was part of those who helped Obasanjo emerge as president.
Said Afegbua; “That’s not a new song. It is true that IBB was part of those who helped former President Obasanjo to stage a come back. That is no news at all. We had said it before; it is nothing new. But they did not impose him. They ensured that he scaled through the primaries of the PDP in Jos and was made to face Nigerian electorate at the election.
“Chief Olusegun Obasanjo is aware of this. What is General Bamaiyi trying to achieve? We have repeatedly said this. A lot of Nigerians are also aware. The reason for the support was altruistic because they felt Chief Obasanjo was in a better position to heal the wounds in the land at that time.”
Also speaking on Bamaiyi’s book, General Olanrewaju said the former Chief of Army Staff’s position was misplaced facts about what transpired in the 1995 and 1997 attempted coups.
General Olanrewaju, who was also a former General Officer Commanding (GOC) Third Armoured Division of the Nigerian Army, Jos, said, in a release he personally signed yesterday: “The point to note is that student of history must know what transpired in the 1995 and 1997 coup saga for posterity sake as against the misplacement of facts contained in the excerpts reported from the Bamaiyi’s new book.
“Ironically, the new book can open the eyes of all Nigerians to see the footprint of an ambitious soldier that Bamaiyi epitomises, as detailed in every account of power play, which appears unfavourable to him, but favourable to both General Abdulsalaam Abubakar as Abacha’s successor and General Olusegun Obasanjo as 1999 civilian president. He lost out in the power play.
“There are two main issues I want to correct, the first of which was the arrest of Gwadabe. In his book Bamaiyi stated that General Olanrewaju briefed the meeting called by the then Chief of Army Staff General Alwali Kazir (retd), which was factually incorrect. What is correct is that the only person who briefed the meeting was the DMI (Directorate of Military Intelligence), General Sarki Mukthar, whose duty it was to brief the meeting about security situation in the country. “Following this, I was instructed by the meeting to facilitate the arrest of Gwadabe, whose brigade in Yola was under my command, while other commanders were similarly instructed to effect the arrests of others under their own commands. The instruction to arrest Colonel Bello Fadile was also given in the meeting.
“Fortunately, General Kazir and General Mukthar are alive today to testify to the truth of this matter.”
Olanrewaju said the second issue to be cleared is on the 1997 Diya’s coup, where Bamaiyi said “other meetings took place at a guest house with Gen. Diya, Gen. Olanrewaju, CO 7 Gds Bn, Gen. Diya’s security officer, Major Fadipe and me. Of course, General Abacha was always briefed after the meetings.”
On this, Olanrewaju said he was not in the said meeting. According to him, “the said CO 7 Gds Bn and Major Fadipe, if called upon, will testify to the truth. I met Ishaya on two occasions; he met me in my house and I met him in his house, both times in Abuja.
“For avoidance of doubt and for students of history, the first time I heard about the Diya’s coup was when Bamaiyi told me and Aziza confirmed it.”
Bamaiyi had also claimed that members of the defunct National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) merely paid lip service to the late Chief Moshood Abiola’s travails in the hands of the General Sani Abacha regime. Bamaiyi also accused NADECO of misleading Abiola into rejecting a conditional release granted him by Abacha: “If they were sincere and actually supported him, they would have accompanied him to where he declared himself President.”
“It is also obvious that Abiola was abandoned after his death, which some people suspected that it had the support of some NADECO members. After Abiola’s death, one would have expected some reactions, at least, from Lagos, but there was no reaction anywhere.” Bamaiyi noted that following the failure of NADECO members to strongly make a case for the release of Abiola, he, former president of Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Pascal Bafyau, and Chief of Defence Intelligence (CDI) had to meet and resolved to take up the initiative of working for the release of the politician.
“There are some Nigerians who made efforts to get Abiola released. After Abiola’s arrest, the late General Ibrahim Gumel – then the Chief of Defence Intelligence (CDI), the late Mr. Pascal Bafyau, then the President of NLC and I met at Headquarters, Lagos Garrison Command on Kofo Abayomi Street. We discussed the implications of Abiola’s arrest.”