Why Obasanjo Locked Me Up For 8 Years- Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi

The more than eight years incarceration of former Chief of Amry Staff (COAS) Lt. Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi (retd), was not just punishment for opposing the choice of former President Olusegun Obasanjo as successor to former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, but also to keep him away for fear he would overthrow the Obasanjo government.
This claim was contained in Gen. Bamayi’s book, “Vindication of A General” which was unveiled last weekend in Abuja.
He claimed that upon handing over power to Gen. Obasanjo in May 1999, Gen. Abubakar told the new civilian president that he must rein in General Bamaiyi, else he would overthrow the new government and that from that moment, General Aliyu Gusau, the then National Security Adviser and President Obasanjo made it a duty to imprison him (Bamayi) by all means.
Expectedly, Bamaiyi’s claims against former President Obasanjo and comments that Chief MKO Abiola, presumed winner of the annulled June 12, 1993, presidential election did not die of natural causes in government custody and challenged then Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, to tell Nigerians what killed Abiola. These and other issues he raised in his book are raising dust in the polity.
Former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida also reacted to Bamaiyi’s assertions yesterday through his spokesman, Prince Kassim Afegbua.
Former Political Adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Akin Osuntokun, said Bamaiyi was merely seeking relevance.
Writing in Chapter 10, page 128, Gen. Bamaiyi said: “As soon as Obasanjo took over, Gen. Abubakar and some of his people told Obasanjo that if I were left free, I would overthrow Gen. Obasanjo’s government.
“This did not surprise me because while we were in service, General Abubakar set up a secret investigation of certain people during the Abacha rule. I had not been told although some soldiers in the army, like Sgt Rogers, were invited for investigation.
“When I had to replace my security officer, I asked for Capt. Najaja to replace Capt Bature, who was assigned to the USA. Gen. Abubakar said Najaja was being investigated. He realized his mistake and kept quiet. I did not bother myself about the investigation because I knew I was not involved in any criminal act.
“Abubakar’s committee completed its assignment and gave clean bills to all those questioned. When Obasanjo took over, some PDP big shots decided that based on the report, I had control of the Army and should be arrested. The government looked for avenues to arrest me.
“They started by checking Army accounts to see if I had stolen money. They spoke to the Director of Army Finance and Accounts, DAFA, Maj. Gen. Omosebi who told them he had never worked with an officer who believed in accountability like I did. They felt disappointed.
“The government wanted to take my personal house in Asokoro. The NSA , Gen. Gusau talked to Mr. Daboul, a friend of mine who had built the house for me. He told General Gusau of our agreement that I would pay for the house over 10 years. This saved my house.
“When everything failed, Obasanjo and his government decided to revisit their investigation. Col. JB Yakubu and Capt. Najaja were forced to implicate me. This gave the government the opportunity to start looking for me. I was following everything that was happening.”
I refused to run away
Gen Bamaiyi said he was aware of the government’s desperation and was advised by some people to run away but he refused because he believed he had done nothing criminal.
He said that he traveled to the UK twice and the USA once and that on each occasion, he phoned to tell the NSA, Gusau, of his journey.
“I did that so no one would think I was running away. He did not know I was aware of what was happening. Many people who were aware of what was going on advised me to stay out of the country but I believed I had no cause to run away from a democracy where the rule of law would prevail. I also had to protect my family. What would I tell my children and grandchildren in future, if I ran away?”
How Gusau arrested me
General Bamaiyi also recounted how General Gusau arrested him after inviting him to his (Gusau’s) office in October 1999 and said he had been implicated by ex-CP Danbaba, whom Gusau claimed revealed that Gen. Bamaiyi issued the weapon used in attacking the late Mr. Alex Ibru.
He said: “In October 1999, General Gusau told my brother, Senator Danladi Bamaiyi that he wanted to see me. I suspected the call. I left Zuru for Abuja. When I got to Abuja, I went to see Gusau in his office. He told me an investigation was on and that CP Danbaba said I had authorized him to issue a weapon with which Mr. Alex Ibru was shot.
“I asked him, ‘As COAS, would I need any weapon from the police?’ I told him I did not know anything about it and did not believe Danbaba would have said that.
“He directed me to go and think about it and see him on 12 October 1999. I told him there was nothing to think about because what I had told him was the truth. On 13 October, I went to see him and he asked me if I had thought about what he had told me. I told him I had nothing to think about.
“General Gusau told me I was under arrest and directed Cmnd Brigade of Guards, Brig. Gen. Alex Mshelbwala, to take me to a place prepared to detain me, which turned out to be my guest house while I was COAS, inside Fort IBB. I believe it was arranged by the COAS to keep his former boss. That was how I was arrested and detained without a warrant. The Guest House was guarded by more than 40 soldiers and one officer daily. I was there for seven days without anybody saying anything to me.”
The retired general said that an investigation team led by one CP Udo Ubam was sent to interrogate him. He gave the names of the other team members as Mr. A. Gadzama, then a Director of SSS; Mr. S.B. Ibrahim, another Director of SSS; Lt. Col. U.M. Bobai (DMI); Mrs. A.A. Obileye, Director of NIA and Ms. I.A. Nworgu , then an Assistant Director of NIA.
Gen Bamaiyi claimed that the investors submitted a report to the IGP and the NSA. The IGP sent the report to the Federal Ministry of Justice for Legal Advice and that the ministry in a letter with reference: FJP/MISC/1000/106/53 dated 29 October, 1999, and signed by the Permanent Secretary, Mr. T. Osinuga, stated clearly that after reviewing the report and the statements of the witnesses, gave an opinion that there was no prima facie case against him (Bamaiyi) and, therefore, opined non-prosecution.
“This report got to the NSA and Obasanjo. Both of them insisted I must be prosecuted to keep me away for many years. This decision kept me in prison for more than eight years without conviction,” he said.
How we were chained in aircraft.
General Bamaiyi also recounted how he and other accused persons such as JB Yakubu and CP Danbaba were chained to their seats in a military aircraft, a Dornier 228, as the Obasanjo government was taking them from Abuja to Lagos for prosecution over the Ibru attack.
His words: “On 22 November 1999, the police investigating officer from the panel came to the guest house at 12 Fort IBB and moved me to the headquarters of the SSS, where I spent the night. Early on 23 November 1999, I was moved from SSS HQ to the Police HQ. I got to the Police HQ at 3.00 am.
“There, I met CP Danbaba and Col. JB Yakubu and we were all taken to the Presidential Wing of Abuja airport, where a military aircraft, Dornier 228, was waiting for us. We were taken into the aircraft and each of us was chained to a seat with leg chains.
“We left Abuja Airport at 4.00 a.m. and arrived at the Presidential Wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport by 5.30 am where we were transferred to the waiting hands of policemen with a Black Maria. From there, we were taken to the Airport Police Station.
“The officers there were very cautious, possibly because former Lagos CP, James Danbaba, was with us. From there, we were taken to a Magistrate’s Court in Ikeja. The female magistrate directed that we be taken to the Maximum Prisons, Kirikiri, for detention.”
IBB reacts
Former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida also reacted to Bamaiyi’s assertions yesterday through his spokesman, Prince Kassim Afegbua.
“The military has discipline, and you don’t expect General Babangida to join issues with Bamaiyi.We can sympathize with him for the trauma and deprivations all these while but General IBB cannot join issues with someone looking for relevance to relaunch himself to national reckoning. You know the usual practice — drag IBB’s name into any discourse to gain recognition and attention — but we won’t grant Bamaiyi that generosity.”
He’s seeking relevance – Osuntokun
Reacting to Bamaiyi’s claims, Chief Obasanjo’ former political adviser, Akin Osuntokun, said Bamaiyi was merely seeking relevance.
His words: “I think Bamaiyi is seeking relevance. It is not enough to level allegations, let him provide the proof. In public memory of those tragic days, he is remembered more as a villain. On the contrary, the history of Nigeria is likely to be kind to Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar, a true officer and gentleman.
“With respect to Obasanjo, the principal suspect, who was subsequently convicted, Bello Fadile categorically exonerated Obasanjo upon release from prison. He privately and publicly apologised to Obasanjo, claiming he was tortured to frame him. With respect to Diya, there was verifiable evidence as to his culpability. What Bamaiyi did not say is that he was also part of the plot but turned around to set Diya up in return for being spared by Abacha. At any rate, a coup against Abacha was nothing to be ashamed of. I do not like to say so but Abacha’s exit, whether by death or coup, was a relief to Nigerians and would have been quite popular as the public response to the news of his death amply demonstrated it.”
We need more information on Abiola’s death – Adebanjo
On Bamaiyi’s comments that Abiola did not die of natural causes and need for General Abdulsami Abubakar to speak up on the issue, elder statesman, Chief Ayo Adebanjo said: ‘’I agree with him that MKO Abiola did not die a natural death. The authorities at that time should tell Nigerians what happened. They tell us more.’’
FG should raise a truth panel on Abiola’s death – Okorie
National Chairman of the United Progressives Party, UPP, Chief Chekwas Okorie, described the Bamaiyi disclosure as a bombshell and asked the government to set up a truth commission to get General Abubakar to disclose what really killed Abiola.
His words: “Bamaiyi’s comment on Abiola’s death is a bombshell. Many discerning Nigerians have always had doubts about MKO Abiola’s death, that it was not natural. Major Hamza Al-Mustapha alluded to it at the Oputa panel. Nothing was done about it by the President Olusegun Obasanjo government, maybe because he succeeded Abdulsalami Abubakar.
“Now, several years after, Bamaiyi is coming out with a greater emphasis on MKO Abiola’s death. The government of the day must get to the root of the matter. We need to clear it for the purpose of justice and future of the country.
“I am in support of getting Abdulsalami Abubakar to tell us everything he knows, even if not in a court, a truth/open panel like was done in South Africa can be used to unravel what happened.’’
We demand a commission of Inquiry into Abiola’s death – Afenifere
On its part, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, said based on Bamaiyi’s disclosure, a Commission of Inquiry should be set up to unmask Abiola’s killers.
Its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin said: “For Afenifere, we insist on a probe of Abiola’s death; we suspected foul play all along. For an inner member of the military cabal to come out and say this, we insist that the Federal Government must set up a Commission of Inquiry into the death of Abiola. Abiola may be dead and buried but his ghost will continue to haunt those involved in his death. This country will not know peace until Abiola’s killers are unmasked.”
The story is belated – Shettima, President AYCF
National President of the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum, AYCF, Alhaji Yerima Shetima opined that Bamaiyi’s revelation was belated.
Shetima said: “Bamaiyi’s story is coming late. If you remember well, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha had come out to make some statements and there were plans to silence him. What Bamaiyi said is little compared to what Al-Mustapha had said. To me, you cannot continue to celebrate people like Obasanjo who killed this country and put us in our present state. Abdulsalami and Obasanjo should be brought to book, they have long overstayed their freedom.”
Security report must be declassified —Ajulo
A legal practitioner, Mr Kayode Ajulo said: “To get a leeway to these claims and counter-claims, it is imperative that the security report of what transpired should be declassified and made known to the public. Declassification is the process of documents that used to be classified as secret ceasing to be so restricted, often under the principle of freedom of information. Regarding Bamaiyi’s allegation against Obasanjo, legally, nothing can be done. They have been pardoned and, therefore, there is no criminal liability against them.” With Vanguard