From Magnus Eze, Abuja
Former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, has said he owed nobody any apology for weeding out politically exposed military officers at the inception of the current democratic dispensation in 1999.
This was as Acting President Yemi Osinbajo blamed successive poor leadership in the country on the abolition of the study of History in schools.
They both spoke at the public presentation of a book: “The First Regular Combatant: Brigadier Zakariya Maimalari, OFR”, in Abuja yesterday.
Obasanjo paid tribute to son of Maimalari, (a former military administrator, Lt. Col. Abubakar Maimalari), who was also retired in 1999, explaining that he retired military officers that had held political positions to engender fertile environment for the nascent democracy to survive.
“I have no apology, but I have explanations; it is because it is necessary to stop the sort of thing that took the life of your father prematurely that I had to take decision that all those that have tasted of power that they should never have tasted of political offices while they were soldiers; that we should ease them out of the army so that we can have an army that will be completely free from political aberration.
“And so far, since 1999, I think we seem to have got it right. Let us hope that we will continue to get it right and learn the right lessons that Nigeria has had enough sacrifices by those victims; that Nigeria deserves peace, unity and democracy. And may the sacrifices of the life of Brig. Zak Maimalari be sufficient to give this country peace, development, unity and progress,” he stated.
The former president condemned military incursion into the nation’s politics and bemoaned that Nigeria had witnessed enough bloodshed.
“The lesson we can learn is that we have had enough tragedy in this country; the Nigerian Army, particularly, has had the unfortunate situation where officers this country has spent a lot of money to train and who had been of great service to this country and to the Nigerian Army, had to be cut out in the prime of their life. Our lesson should be that this should never happen again,” Obasanjo stated.
Osinbajo, who was represented by Minister of Water Resources, Sulaiman Adamu said the Nigerian landscape had been disfigured by appalling examples of poor leadership and bad governance because the youths were misled into feeling that there was total absence of idealism and heroism in the country.
But with chronicles on exemplary Nigerians like Maimalari, who he said had forged a place for himself in history as if he lived for eternity, despite living for only 34 years, Osinbajo said history would be a useful tool in the propagation of good examples.
“Without a grounding in history, how do we know who we are, where we come from, and more importantly, as a people, where are we going?” he queried.
He said it was the reason the present administration recovered “History from where it has been ignored for far too long and placed it back firmly in the school curriculum.”
He therefore, urged more Nigerians, particularly those involved in managing public affairs to put their thoughts down in writing, as they would be contributing to the emergence of the national consensus and narrative that would situate the present and past and naturally, concretise the future.
Chairman of the occasion, Gen. Yakubu Gowon said the January 15, 1966 military coup d’tat sowed seed of disunity in the nation’s armed forces.
According to him, Maimalari would “perhaps have used his huge influence to re-establish civic order and governance,” if he had not been killed.
Sadly, elder statesman and Nigeria’s former Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Maitama Sule, who died on Monday, was slated to be one of the guest speakers at the event.