By Shola Oyeyipo and Ugo Aliogo
Former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday said having fought in the Nigerian civil war, he would never want to see Nigeria experience another war in its political history.
Obasanjo, who was a special guest yesterday at the Archbishop Vining Memorial Church in Ikeja during a programme, â€˜God in My Lifeâ€™ series organised by the Torchbearers Society where he recounted some of his life experiences, said the civil war was avoidable and that he was not prepared to see the country plunge into another war.
Speaking about the civil war at the event which presented the former two-times Nigerian leader the opportunity to recount how God helped him in his life, Obasanjo said: â€œThere are two things I want to say about the civil war that are important. From the coup and the counter-coup, we rolled into the civil war. It was a war we should never have been fought. My experience is that I have fought one war too many. My prayer is that I will never witness another war again.
â€œAfter the war, I came to Lagos and General Gowon had given the commitment Yakubu that the military will go in 1976 then he came up and said 1976 was unrealistic and that was rather unfortunate and that was the cause of the coup that unseated General Gowon. That brought late Gen. Murtala Muhammed and Obasanjo regime. We, though, were doing what we should do. I think we were naÃ¯ve. We forgot about security. Murtala was killed like a chicken. I would have been killed. Then I was persuaded to take over and at the end, we conducted an election and we handed over to the one who wonâ€
Earlier, Obasanjo had noted that save for providing specified security, the military should not be allowed to participate in electoral processes, stating: â€œThe military should not be directly involved in any election. They can provide security on the roads, they can do what they call showing the flag but they must not be involved in election.â€
Referring to his treason charge during the late General Sani Abachaâ€™s regime, Obasanjo recalled: â€œLater, I was arrested, tried and sentenced to 30 years in prison which Abacha commuted to 15 years. While in prison in Jos, Abachaâ€™s son died and I wrote a letter of condolence to Abacha. Also, while I was in Yola, when Abacha died,Â wrote a letter of condolence to his wife.â€
Also corroborating Obasanjoâ€™s experience back then, former Commonwealth of Nations Secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, who noted the frantic effort he made to get Obasanjo off the hook during the period, said the late Abacha was recalcitrant about releasing the former president until the intervention of two former African leaders.
â€œI am delighted to say a few words about our speaker (Obasanjo). I want to commend our speaker for showing what it meant to serve God and humanity. Also what it meant to be saved from the jaws of death. As he rightly said, he was saved by the grace of God. I was in a position where I was one of those very concerned at the time about his fate.
â€œI believe, your excellency that the first sentence that the Abacha military tribunal passed on you was death. It was death sentence and Abacha commuted it only when he was visited by two heads of state that I had joined in pleading with to come and see Abacha. They were presidents of Zimbabwe and president of Uganda. Before then, I had persuaded President Nelson Mandela to send his Deputy President, Thabo Mbeki, who subsequently became president.
â€œMbeki came, spent about three hours with Abacha, returned home and then Mandela called me to say that the mission had not succeeded but it was not until these two presidents came and spent three hours and 15 minutes with Abacha and when they left Nigeria, one of them telephoned me to say all Abacha showed them was a video alleging our very extinguished speaker was part of a phantom coup, but this president said there was no evidence, that all that they saw was one army officer leaving his room and that was all, there was no evidence of the coup,â€ Anyaoku said.
The former president aligned himself with the lawmakersâ€™ recently passed â€˜Not-Too-Young to-Runâ€™ bill which reduced the age limits of political officer seekers thereby allowing younger Nigerians to participate in future election.
According to Obasanjo, â€œIf we put minimum age, why shouldnâ€™t we put maximum age? There should not be age limit for presidents. Let the people decide whether the man or woman is matured enough.â€
Obasanjo, who recounted the ups and downs in his life; from his educational pursuit to his eventual venturing into the military and how he escaped many life threatening situations, said: â€œGod in my life is His goodness and special favours. It also means grace, mercy and compassion from conception till today. I have said in many occasions that God has been partial to me. Therefore, I will be submissive and serve God ad humanity.â€Â Â