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. Lt. Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi (retd) and former President Olusegun Obasanjo 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 grand-children 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.”