■Inside details of how Obasanjo became president
From Murphy Ganagana, Jos
MAVERICK politician and businessman, Chief Kenny Martins, has revealed that the late Gen. Sani Abacha was actually the person who annulled the June 12, 1993 presidential election, which was widely believed to have been won by the late Basorun MKO Abiola, contrary to the general belief that it was annulled by the then president, Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. He also gave a rare insight into high-level conspiracies and political alignments that led to the emergence of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as civilian president in 1999. He said former military ruler, General Ibrahim Babangida, could have become president within three months of General Abdulsalami Abubakar’s transition, but was prevailed upon by a few persons including him, to shelve his ambition.
In an exclusive interview with Sunday Sun in Abuja, Martins, a close associate and in-law to Obasanjo revealed that after achieving the feat, he planned with Babangida to get the Ota farmer out of jail and eventually made him president.
He also spoke on how he escaped assassination by the late General Sani Abacha’s goons while Obasanjo was in detention, and how he lost a multi-million dollar shipping deal in 1992 due to the ex-president’s loquaciousness as he was hinted by the then secretary for petroleum resources, Chief Philip Asiodu.
“I left Chief Asiodu’s office and drove to Ota, both in anger and em…I don’t know the word to describe the mood I was that day; I drove straight to meet Obasanjo in his farm. He was standing in front of his house with Dr Onaolapo Soleye, his best friend then. I said sir, do you see what your mouth has caused us? He said what has my mouth done? I said you will not let anybody rest; you are always saying you are the one who knows how to govern. I said see what Chief Asiodu just told me now that our vessel that we went to launch, they have said it can’t come into this country, we are going to lose so much money and the finance and everything.”
You have been out of the socio-political radar for some time. Why your sudden disappearance from the scene?
No, there has never been any disappearance. The strength of my involvement in politics is also the silence and invincibility of it. I have always been a man behind the scene. Above all, I have been very, very active. I contribute in making things happen; I have participated in destiny changing involvements in Nigeria. That is my role and I still do that.
A lot of people feel that the EFCC probe of PEF (Police Equipment Fund) activities must have forced you to go underground. Is that impression correct?
No, no, no; there is nothing like that; that one is history. We have forgotten that and we have moved on.
Is the EFCC probe of PEF over?
(Cuts in)…Is that what we are here to discuss now? So we can move on to other issues. I think we have gone beyond that. I don’t know whether since you went to Amnesty Office on sabbatical, you don’t know that a lot of things had happened.
Presently, where do you stand politically?
Yes, I stand for Nigeria; I am for the progress of the country; that is what I stand for.
Which party do you belong, because I used to know you belonged to the PDP?
I have hardly been a party man in the sense of belonging to a particular political party. I have always had the liberty to operate across party border line, because I see myself more as a nationalist and a statesman than in a particular party. So, whether PDP or APC, whether ACN or APP, had never mattered to me. In any case, if you play it back, I was the architect of the formation of the two parties –the APC and PDP. So, I have never been in a particular political party.
Can you throw more light on that?
I remember very clearly when General (Sani) Abacha died; three days after he died, Justice Sarki –he is late now, and a friend of mine, Pearl Museni, he is a junior brother to Ami Museni, the man who has the AIM Consultant Group, invited me to meet with ex-president Babangida then. I met him and we discussed, and the discussion as hinted by Justice Sarki, who was president Babangida’s cousin but he is late now, was aimed at how we can get involved with what would happen since Abacha was dead.
I want to tell you that that was the day I and General Babangida decided on five major points within the three hours of our meeting. And that is why when you are talking of political heroes, you have to mention people like ex-president Babangida. He had the option during our discussion that day to have emerged the president in the three months reign of General Abdulsalami’s transition, but in the course of the discussions between the two of us, when I told him that those who were suggesting that to him and who had invited me to that meeting may have been wrong, and it would be the best that he steps aside. And he agreed. And I told him that without any hesitation he should step aside from such ambition. At that discussion, we agreed about the need to cancel the five political parties of Abacha of which I was the national secretary of the National Centre Party, which was the biggest party; the party that had just won 666 out of the 774 Local Government elections, but which the government robbed us of at least 500, left us with 166, and gave to UNCP, the then so-called government party.
That was the beginning of the end of General Abacha’s transition. People have never cared to check how Abacha died? I heard Al-Mustapha raising that issue recently; one day somebody else, people like us will tell the country why Abacha died and how he died.
At that meeting, I told General Babangida about the need for him not to think of emerging as a president, for which if he had, there would have been no stop because every leading presidential candidate then, was a northerner. Abacha himself wanted to run. Again talking of democratic heroes, I just mentioned Babangida, and I will give you my reasons.
The second person who was standing then as a presidential candidate was the late Inspector General of police, M.D Yusuf, a man prompted by a few of us to stand and look Abacha in the face under the banner of GDM, and that was why four of the political parties calling ourselves the G4, were backing M.D Yusuf as the only alternative to Abacha. So when people accused the parties of being Abacha’s rubber -stamp that is wrong. They should check and see that at the GDM convention in Maiduguri, it took the powers of the security agencies to close down the stadium, put off the lights, and to defeat M.D Yusuf at the GDM convention. Otherwise, if they had allowed the convention to hold properly, M.D Yusuf would have emerged the candidate of GDM in which case, the four parties would have voted for Yusuf against Abacha.
And stopping M.D Yusuf was the last straw in Abacha’s transition because, once that was done, it was clear to the outside world and every stakeholder that that transition was warped; that Abacha was going to succeed himself. So, America, European Union and everybody knew at that time that something had to be done; this country had to be rescued.
Let me come back to our meeting. So Abacha died and on the third day we were discussing with General Babangida. And the decision we took was to cancel these five political parties and I told him sir, this transition, you have agreed you will not run as a presidential candidate because I have been able to convince you not to run; he said Kenny, you told me so; now you have told me and I have agreed, so what do we do? I told him, cancel the five parties of Abacha and then we start a brand new transition. He said, you want to kill General Abdusalami, politicians will kill him because you cannot cancel this transition; you cannot extend this transition further, people are in a hurry for the man to go.
And I said sir, if this transition is concluded within three months whoever becomes the president will be done in by these five parties because, this transition is geared for the succession of Abacha. So no president that emerges whether you or anybody can succeed because the democracy will fail, the country will fail; we need a brand new transition. So he said Kenny, if you say there should be a brand new transition, what time will it take? I said nine months and Banbangida exclaimed,” What? nine months?” I said yes. He said, you want to kill Abdusalami. I said no sir; it is because we will get the five parties cancelled. He said how? I said yes sir. I said tell General Abdusalami to call a meeting of the five political parties, the military leadership, that is the Supreme Military Council as it was then, and then the transition bosses, under Justice Mamman Nasir and others.
I said when we meet I will make UNCP which is the government party to agree to cancel the parties. He said Kenny, you are taking a responsibility that is huge. I said, “sir if you do this, I will deliver on my own.” He said ok, we have a deal, and I said, tell Abdusalami to call for the meeting. He then said if we do this, what then will happen. I said if we cancel the five parties, new parties will emerge. He asked what kind of parties will emerge, and I told him two parties will emerge. I said something happened that was twisted under Abacha’s regime, he refused to register Chief Awoniyi’s party alongside with Bamanga Tukur, Ciroma, and those elders, who are the leaders of this country, who are natural party founders. These are democratic leaders and leaving them out of the transition is a twist, is a vacuum, it is a lopsidedness that had made this transition itself not balanced. So I believe that these people should be made to form a party. And there was Abacha’s group who were young, dynamic men who have been in politics for the past three or four years and are spending money, we bring them together; and sir, to make it work, another group had been left out, that is the Afenifere group, convince the Afenifere group to join Abacha’s group; I am telling you the formation of APP, PDP today that you will never know. And for this, we have to thank God and thank men like Babangida. So when you are talking of democracy, the real heroes of democracy, I am writing my book, I will file all of these in there. It is beyond you and me; there is God’s hand in the affairs of this country.
Back to my story; So General Babangida said Kenny, how can you join Afenifere with these Abacha parties, it is not possible; I said sir, you leave that one to me, just do your bit. You call for a meeting and I will give you the formula of the two parties now. Awoniyi’s group will form a party; Afenifere and the five parties will form a party and then we have two parties. He said for how long, I said nine months. He said ok, we have a deal. It didn’t stop there; he said who will be the candidates of this two parties? I said sir, Ekwueme will emerge the candidate in the Awoniyi group and on the other side, we have to concede the presidency to Afenifere and in that case, it will be Bola Ige or Falae. Babangida then asked me, of the two who will be? I said well, I can’t speak for them but sir, if it is what I know about politics, Yorubas and the nation, gladiators are hardly emperors, Bola Ige is a gladiator who had fought so much for democracy and fought so much for the Yorubas; he is a gladiator who is bloody all over, always fighting, forever fighting and winning the fights; all gladiators are hardly crowned as emperors, so I see Falae being a man that is more nationally acceptable, I see Falae emerging there.
Then, Babangida said Kenny, if you are saying that Falae will emerge from this group and Ekwueme will emerge in the other group, do you realize that in that case, there is dichotomy of the east/west competition. When the East or West had won the election, the dichotomy of the two disagreeing on who wins could break the nation just as you said the other time that if I run, it could break the nation? I said yes sir; eventually what do you want us to do? He said we need to agree that from one section of the South must emerge the two candidates, so that whatever happens later doesn’t matter to the nation since you had argued earlier that a southerner must emerge the president. He took this position because I had earlier told him that in this transition, it was important that a southerner must emerge presidential candidate for the simple reason that himself (Babangida),was president, Shagari, Abdusalami, Abacha, are northerners; the only man who tried to come in as a southerner was Abiola, and he was already in detention. So the South deserves the presidency, because except you give the South the presidency next,( this is how Abacha died,) any election held is an election in futility because, this country will break. So Babangida said Kenny, if you say that if I run as a northerner ,or if any northerner runs it will break the country, then having two people from both sides of the South will also break the country.
So I said sir, in that situation, the West deserves the presidency the more because, Abiola is in jail, NADECO is in disarray, people have died, others are in exile. Then, he said how do we find a Yoruba man that is on the other side of the Awoniyi group that you are saying? I was scratching my head when Babangida said, what of my boss? I said who, he said General Obasanjo. I said but the man is in jail; he said yes, he will come out of jail; after all, what did he do? He will be granted pardon. That was how we settled for Obasanjo/Falae. It is in my book; the book is coming out. The book is titled, The Nigerian Project: My Testimony. That was how we got the two candidates for that transition.
When Babangida suggested his boss, General Obasanjo, why did you easily take in, was it because of your personal relationship with him?
Ah, then you want another part of my book. That meeting that day was my first full blown meeting with General Babangida in my life, one-on-one. But before then, I have had encounters with him, several encounters; I have a way of operating, you will never see me. Babangida didn’t know me. But there were many things he’s done with me and for me when he was in power, but it wasn’t me that he did it for. He did it at my request for people he didn’t know were coming from me. That is how I operate. Even now, President Buhari, I know there are a lot of things I said, that I suggested that are being done; are being listened to and treated by the man. Because I can’t come to you all the time, I don’t have to. One thing God has blessed me is the reach and the capacity to be able to talk things with you without being there.
As far back as 1992, I and my partners, Chief Odeinde, Otunba Fasawe, even ex-VP Atiku was at a point involved with us, we were involved in shipping and maritime. We were doing coastal shipping, helping NNPC to bring its products, refined products, wet cargo, from Port Harcourt refinery, Warri refinery to Lagos, to Mediterranean destinations, to the Caribbeans; we had 30,000 tonner vessels, 10,000 tonner vessels and tugboats. We were earning some money and doing our business. But for people like me who is ever restless, I said look, we’ve done this for 10, 15 years now, locally and internationally. Why don’t we look at doing the ultimate which frees us from the dire dynamics of Nigerian politics, why don’t we do crude oil shipping? People said where will you a find crude oil vessel. To do crude oil shipping, we need 100,000 to 120,000 tons category vessel. I said it is possible, that we can’t limit ourselves, and they gave me the go-ahead.
So I incorporated a company and then went out on my own to look for it. To cut a long story short, we were able to acquire a vessel and named it MT Asaba Queen. It was a 120,000 ton vessel, which cost us about 13million USD in those days. At a ceremony to take over this vessel in New York, I invited General Obasanjo, who we made chairman of the company. We put the Nigerian flag on it. There was no CNN then, but we had Reuters and other reportage avenues, which reported that for the first time, an African company had bought a crude oil tanker and had put a Nigerian flag on it. Only Angola then, used to have crude oil tankers as a national joint venture. We still remain the only company that has done it till today. When I see them talking, I just laugh, because Nigeria has not been able to get it right till today; Nigeria has not been able to ship one barrel of crude oil under her own vessel till today.
So we came back from that trip; the vessel was steaming, it was coming to Nigeria to land here in two weeks. Babangida’s transition was on; General Yar’Adua and others had been harassed, detained and all that. And General Obasanjo as usual of him, gave very serious interview, saying that General Babangida’s transition was without human face or milk of kindness, something like that; which forced Babangida to quickly do a transition that brought out Abiola. Two weeks after Obasanjo’s interview, the minister for petroleum, he was then the secretary for petroleum because there was a hybrid Federal Executive, Chief Philip Asiodu, called me to his office at the Federal Secretariat. He said Kenny, you know I am your friend; your vessel will not be able to come into this country, I am just telling you this in confidence, they will stop it from coming, so don’t bother for it to come here. This was the biggest business. I thought after this I will retire from doing business. I was barely 37 years old and I was thinking of retiring from business at the age of 40. And then, Asiodu gave me that bombshell. I asked him why? He said the government of the day said your company is not giving them a long-term lease, and this is a long-term project, so when you have your own government, you can then go back to your business.
I said what have we done? He said don’t you know your chairman gave interview…he didn’t talk much about the interview, but he hinted about the fact that my chairman did…I now saw where it came from, that it was Obasanjo’s interview that has caused this problem. People in that government, not necessarily the president; that was when I learned that actions are taken in government where the president is not even responsible. So, those in government took the decision to cancel our vessel and frustrate our project.
I left Chief Asiodu’s office and drove to Ota, both in anger and em…I don’t know the word to describe the mood I was that day; I drove straight to meet Obasanjo in his farm. He was standing in front of his house with Dr Onaolapo Soleye, his best friend then. I said sir do you see what your mouth has caused us? He said what has my mouth done? I said you will not let anybody rest; you are always saying you are the one who knows how to govern. I said see what Chief Asiodu just told me now that our vessel that we went to launch, they have said it can’t come into this country, we are going to lose so much money and the finance and everything, and if I know the government, they will even cancel the other ones we are doing. So me, I am going to leave business, I am going to go into politics; I am going to make sure that you too must come along, since you know how to govern and you say it all the time and you are the one who can govern best, you come and be a civilian president. There is a transition running, and I said you will be the next civilian president so that I can be able to do my own mega business without interruption. So, come and do all these things you are saying is right. He said eh..I cannot do politics. His friend with him said snow will not melt in hell the day my friend becomes a politician. I said sir, he will become a politician; you can’t just be abusing government every day, putting all of us in trouble every time, come and run this country the way you want it, so you will be the next president. He laughed and said where do I have the money to do that? I said we will find the money. That was when the late Abiola had not emerged in Jos, when I told him this. So, you asked me this question, that’s why I am telling you this. You asked me when IBB suggested his boss (Obasanjo) as a candidate, why I conceded.
Few weeks later, Abiola emerged as a president on a Saturday. The following Thursday, a friend of mine came to me and said he wanted to be Abiola’s press secretary; Wale Sogbamu. I said Wale, you can’t be somebody’s press secretary and you want me to help you. The man has to owe you something; you have to have worked for it. He said ok, what can I do for Abiola? I said come back tomorrow. He came back the second day, Friday, and I said look, let’s go to the farm on Saturday morning. He said why? I said when we get there, I will tell you. When we got there (Obasanjo’s farm), I said sir, the ambition of your friend, MKO will be thwarted; he will win the presidency, but they will not give him the result. He ( Obasanjo) said Kenny, how can you come and say this? Ibrahim cannot do that to Kashi, that is, Babangida cannot do that to Abiola. And I said No sir, power superior to Ibrahim will do it to both Kashi and Ibrahim.
(Cuts in)…within that period, you had not met IBB?
I have not.
So, how did you know that Abiola will win the election and they will annul the mandate?
I will now answer that question. So, Obasanjo said Kenny, where did you know this one from? I pointed to my friend, Wale Sogbamu, who was then the press secretary to the NEC boss in Lagos. But for me to be able to have an alibi, because I used to be modest and ashamed then to say God told me, but I am a prophet. It was in the evening when I slept after Wale had made his request that I saw Abiola run that election, I saw them stopping his election, I saw the pandemonium and the chaos that came, I saw it all, and I saw the solution that could avoid it. So when he (Obasanjo) asked how I got to know what I was saying, I told him that man (Wale) was a security man, but he wasn’t a security man. Wale was working in NEC, but I had to say something.
He said ok wait, picked up his phone and called Kashi. He said Bashorun where are you, and he answered, I am in my room. He told him wait, don’t go anywhere, I am coming. So he drove me straight to Abiola’s room. I wasn’t a politician, but here I was, going to Abiola’s room with Obasanjo. Then, he said Bashorun, let Kenny tell you what he told me. I told Abiola sir, your victory and your failure is our failure because I am a Yoruba man too. Sir, you will win this election but they won’t give you the result. He said what, Ibrahim cannot do that to me, and I said that’s what your friend, General had just said 30 minutes ago in Ota. I said it is not Ibrahim, powers superior to Ibrahim will do it to you sir. Both of you wouldn’t be in control. I am saying this today because people have not known what caused the annulment.
Abiola asked me so, what is the solution? I said sir, two weeks to the election the government will change all NEC chairmen (commissioners) in the South and take them to the North. They will bring the ones in the north here. I said sir, what you can do is that I will arrange for you to talk to all the NEC chairmen in the South to do one thing for you; not to rig for you, but just ensure that the right result emerge, come that election. So that when they also go to the North, they will ensure that the true result comes out.
At that point, Wale Sogbamu who triggered all of these, his role came in there. I said Wale, you are the press secretary to this man, call me the NEC chairman, Abiola would want to have a meeting with everybody here, and that meeting was arranged, and the NEC chairman and all others agreed to allow the results to emerge. And that was why when that election finally held, the right results emerged across the country because the country was boiling; the Federal Government was unable to stall it. But we are talking something now; I will leave the Abiola and his detention matter, because that is another long story. I will go back to the Obasanjo story.
So, Abiola won the election, it was annulled; then Shonekan emerged, and I told OBJ that this thing I am telling you.” I told you that you are going to be the next president?” He said. “ shut up, who told you I want to be president?” He said I told someone that what did he forget in the Villa; is it me now that wants to be president? And so, Shonekan came in, and then Abacha came.
Under Abacha, I told Obasanjo sir, what I told you has happened; the transition, they have annulled the election, I am not saying you should become the president, but come and help champion a democratic movement that will bring the west back into the mainstream. So, I went to General Diya and told him, I then used Justice Mamman Nasir to talk to Abacha. And Abacha gave us the go-ahead; I and General Obasanjo, to start what we called NUO, National Unity Organization of Nigeria; so, we started it. If you remember the movement, at a point, it went on so well. One day, I called OBJ; I said sir, this thing you are doing, it is going well, but some of your utterances, temper them oh, because this General Abacha will jail you; he said the man cannot jail him, nobody can jail him. He gave me so, so and so reasons why nobody can jail him – the United Nations, America, Eminent Peoples Group, his involvement with the Commonwealth, and other groups, as reasons why nobody can touch him. I said sir, let’s see if those reasons will deter when this man moves against you. But if you say you can’t go to jail since you can’t listen to me, when this man carries you and you go to jail, something will happen to you in jail. Right now, I told you to be president; you say you won’t be president; when you go to jail sir, something will happen to you that will descend on you like Awolowo; I said this to OBJ.
One month later, he was arrested. I was by his side, Atiku was by his side, I can’t remember who else was in the sitting room when he was arrested.
Cuts in…You were with him then?
Yes, I was with him.
How was he arrested?
That is another story. In fairness to OBJ, the current president, General Buhari, I went to him at that time and said sir, call your friend, they said they are going to jail him when he comes back. General Buhari put a call to him; he said he must come back. I told him, he said he must come back. Yar’Adua was in detention then; Obasanjo said they are accusing him so, he shouldn’t come back, that he can’t do that, he must come back. He was abroad in Norway or Sweden or one of these Scandinavian countries.
So, he came back. When he came back, usually they would send his passport to him, but it wasn’t sent; it was detained by the people. We were already scheduled to meet Ooni of Ife by 7.am at his house in Ikeja. And Obasanjo said Kabiyesi they have taken my passport. Ooni picked up his phone and called General Diya and said, I am here with Obasanjo; he said you took his passport. Diya said he doesn’t know anything about it but he would look into it. So, we discussed generally and then we left for his farm. We had barely seated for 10 minutes when the assistant commissioner of police of that state (Lagos) came with some people and said he was being invited. We all knew they were coming. From there they took him to GRA Ikeja and from there to prison.
So I went to visit him in Jos prison. He said Kenny see the wahala that I am in, I just want to get out of here; I said sir, you will still be president. He said Kenny you are mad, you are still talking of this president issue. I said remember I told you that when you come back, they will send you to prison, you are there now, something will happen.
Going by my earlier discussion with Babangida, he now said Kenny, you now go and do your bit, we will do our bit. And when Obasanjo comes out, you go and tell him everything we have said. So, I went. We conveyed a meeting of the five parties and we made Barnabas Gemade chairman of the G4 against UNCP. At that meeting, we concertedly gave it to UNCP because we had to adjourn three times until the third day when the chairman of UNCP conceded to cancelling the transition. The military service chiefs who had all along been at the meeting watching us quietly, immediately took their pens and started taking notes and then adjourned the meeting at that very point. Eight hours later, announcement came: transition cancelled. New transition to take nine months, parties to be formed.
At that point, my assignment started. I went to Chief Awoniyi and said sir, this is what we have; look, form a party. I went to Chief Bola Ige; I went to Chief Falae’s house at 1am on the third day after the cancellation of the transition. I went to Adesanya’s house by 7am, to convey a meeting of the three Afenifere leaders. And that is why you find that for the first time, Afenifere as an organization moved into Abuja politically. It was Biodun Olujimi who at our instance, bought a Chachangi ticket for Bola Ige to come and represent Afenifere at a meeting with Shinkafi who was leading the APP group because it was to him and Saraki that I went to arrange the meeting. That was the first meeting with Afenifere; Shinkafi seated, Bola Ige seated, Saraki seated, that led to APP.
After that, I went to Obasanjo and said sir, this is what has happened; you are being touted as the presidential candidate against Falae. He said Kenny you are mad, how many presidents do you want to make out of me? I was a president once; they released me as a prisoner, now you want to make me president, who sent you this one? Both you, Ibrahim, Abdusalami, let nobody talk to me about it. I said sir, it is not so, the nation wants you; and if you remember sir, you said you are born again in prison and you read the Bible back to back. In that Bible you read, remember the story of Joseph. So when God is saying that you go to prison then come out and save Nigeria, don’t reject it. Remember what I told you before that you will go to prison, you said no. I said you will become president, you said no, you will see what will happen. I said sir, you can go back to Yola (prison), he said ah, stop saying that kind of a thing.
You said when Abiola emerged in Jos and you told OBJ what will happen to him, he picked his phone and called Abiola. But a lot of people believe OBJ betrayed Abiola.
Cuts in…Again, these are the misnomers; it is part of my book. The real story of the annulment is this. Election happened and the military hierarchy said they can’t take Abiola; that was beyond Babangida, he was just the president. In every country the president is never the most powerful man, even in America. I told Abiola this, and remember the day Abacha took over power, NTA was beaming Abacha and Abiola holding each other smiling and endorsing the man for taking over from Shonekan. I will tell you later, because this interview cannot take it, how Abacha took over from Shonekan.
Two days after that event, I, Chief Abiola and Gani Fawehinmi were on the same flight to UK. He was in the first class while we were in the business class. As usual, he came out and greeted everybody and Chief Fawehinmi would not respond to him. He said Kenny, you see, Chief Gani will not answer me; I said if I were the one too, I won’t answer you sir, because what you have caused us is serious. He said what have I caused? I said ah, you are the one who went to bring in this man; you were holding him and hugging him saying he has taken over and you are happy. Do you know the consequences to the country? He said Kenny, this is not where to talk about that one, come to my house in the morning and we will talk about it. I said ok sir; we landed by 4.am and I thought I would go there by 10.am. By 7am, he had called me and I went to meet him. I said sir, you have called that man into power. You made a mistake, sir. That man is the one who annulled this election with his clique.
And on that final day of the cancellation of the election, you see, Obasanjo has his good and other side. Phones weren’t that sophisticated then and he was using an Ericson set of mobile phone. We were always charging it because he was on the phone with President Babangida in the last two hours to the pronouncement of the annulment, almost at the point of shedding tears and telling General Babangida why the annulment should not happen. And Babangida was on the other side of the phone telling him why he is helpless, why it is beyond him, and there was nothing he could do about it.
Recently, Major Al-Mustapha addressed a press conference in Lagos and the impression he created was that people did not know what happened to his boss. Do you know why Abacha died?
A couple of people know why Abacha died; some people know why Abacha died.
Then, was Al-Mustapha not saying the truth?
I wouldn’t want to join issues with Al Mustapha; but I heard what he said, I heard a lot of the things he said. I know Al-Mustapha very well, and Al- Mustapha knows me very well. So, there are a lot of things he said there, but I wouldn’t want to react to his interview. He said he is writing his book; I am writing mine. Mine also will say a lot of things about that Abacha’s government as I saw it. I was both a victim and a villain of that government; I also emerged as a hero in that government.
So the impression created by Al- Mustapha that he had a monopoly of knowledge of what transpired during Abacha’s regime is not true?
It is not possible; he couldn’t have had a monopoly of what transpired then. He could understand what he was doing inside the Villa, but we could see more. Now let me cite an example. When Obasanjo was arrested and went to prison, media people came to me and said I was to be assassinated, and I said it doesn’t matter because nothing scares me. However, I went to Justice Mamman Nasir, President of the Appeal Court at his home in Malumfashi. I said sir they said Abacha’s government wants to kill me. He said what have you done? I told him they said because I am Obasanjo’s man. He said is that why they must kill you? I said I don’t understand. He said ok, I will do what I can do, but don’t let anything to worry you. Hope you know General’s place in Daura? I said yes sir. He told me go there now. So I went to General Buhari and said sir, I am told this Abacha’s government wants to kill me; he said what have you done? He said ok, I will definitely have a dinner with him (Abacha) on Sunday, and I will call you from there.
By 12 midnight on Sunday, General Buhari called my house in Lagos. There was no mobile phone then. He said Kenny, tomorrow, the NSA, Ismaila Gwarzo will call you. I have talked to the Head of State; I said ok sir. The following morning, Gwarzo called my office seeking audience with me. I went to him at the Villa in Abuja and was well-received. He asked me who told me the government wants to kill me; he said the Abacha government was not a killer government. After all said and done, I was saved from the bullets of that government by that singular move of both Justice Nasir and Buhari.
But was it real?
It was real. Because my only political ally then, who was my right and left hand, was Alhaja Suliat Adedeji. Two weeks later, she was killed in her house in Ibadan. That remains the saddest day of my life till today. If I had known that she was on the hit list alongside with me, I would have mentioned her name in those my moves.
In Lagos State, the PDP had been battling unsuccessfully to take over government from the then opposition party, ACN, before the emergence of APC. What is your take?
PDP in Lagos will never succeed because it is a house divided against itself. So you don’t have to waste your time about the PDP in Lagos. It is a scenario where one person will say if I don’t have it, let me scatter it.
What is your assessment of the Buhari Administration? There is this thick air of frustration and despair across the country.
A couple of things have not worked for Buhari. The Buhari that I know is a Buhari that would have done everything, and I am sure he said it. But usually, the best don’t always get supported by the ideal in terms of circumstances and situations and the environment. So even if you are the best and the circumstances, situations and the environment conspire against you, things will not work well for you. But that is not to say that hopes are lost, because I don’t want to start blaming the past government; I believe there is time for this government to find its feet a year after and for the ministers to do certain things right. We need to feel that there are certain gains having voted for change. So, this government has to work harder.