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IBB, OBJ, Abacha and I -Marwa 標hat I told Abacha about self-succession

Posted by By ANSELM OKOLO, Abuja on 2005/06/18 | Views: 1179 |

IBB, OBJ, Abacha and I -Marwa 標hat I told Abacha about self-succession

Gen. Sani Abacha intended to stay in office for only two years, and he had given assurances to the United States of America that he would not stay a day longer.

Gen. Sani Abacha intended to stay in office for only two years, and he had given assurances to the United States of America that he would not stay a day longer. But he was in office for five years, and was even warming up for more before fate threw a spanner in the works. He died.

Former Lagos State military administrator, Brig. Gen. Mohammed Buba Marwa told a team of senior editors of The Sun newspapers that as Defence Attache in U.S in the early days of the Abacha regime, he had borne a message from the then head of state to the American government that Abacha would stay in power for only two years.

展hat I know deep in my own mind is that this matter of self succession and so on, was something that those in the periphery of the presidency at the time brought about, Marwa said, while fielding questions during a courtesy visit to The Sun newspapers on Monday.

When the crunch came, the former military administrator said he even met Abacha痴 family to share his own thinking with them, and subsequently met with the head of state himself. What did Marwa tell Abacha?
Details in the interview below:
When you were in Lagos, doing those wonderful things as military administrator, did you have politics in mind later?

As regards politics, I will say no. As a matter of fact, I was the last person you would think would join politics, if you look at my background, which is completely military.
My own father served longer than any other person in the history of the Nigerian Army. He served for 40 years, unblemished service. Then I served. My younger brother is a colonel, he is still serving. My son is a lieutenant, he is serving.

So what we did at the time we were serving as administrator in Lagos State was purely the assignment that we were given. And if you recall, there was a point in time Lagosians offered me the prospect of electing me to be their governor should I remove my uniform. But I declined gracefully because truly I did not look forward to a political career.
But as it is always said, your destiny is what you cannot run away from. And look at me today, I am neck deep in politics as a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. So, there was no such initial ambition.

Are you pro-June 12 or anti-June 12?
All right thinking Nigerians in my opinion are pro-June 12. It is a watershed and you will recall that it was during my tenure that the great MKO (Abiola) passed on. And that was one of my most trying periods, I must tell you, while I was a governor. Without question, June 12 was an event now valued by history. But the critical thing is that we must have learnt some lessons as it is, so as to allow the cards to fall as they need to in a democratic setting and in a just manner.

Were you almost a victim of June 12?
In an indirect sense. I remember that when it happened, of course, I was out of government, I was a registrar and did not participate in any way in connection with this matter. But of course, in due time, when I came to serve here in Lagos, some of the activities, most especially, the passing on of MKO (Abiola) had some aspects relating to me.

The day that he passed on, it was in the evening and I was in Abuja. And I was notified about 6p.m. or so. I immediately asked the head of state, who was (Gen.) Abubakar Abdulsalami for an aircraft to fly quickly to Lagos because I knew it would be on fire literally. And that was what happened.
I came to town I think about 10pm and I had to go round in a circumlocutous manner to get to my residence. I went through Mile 2 because Ikorodu road was burning. People were really up in arms and I was the one at that point to get involved. Of course that night, we held meetings and so on.

But it was more critical the following day. There was greater intensity and I felt that I should go out on the street myself, even though all the security agencies at my disposal, the police and the SSS all advised against it. But I also knew people were being killed. And I also knew that if the killings were to continue, there would be reprisal in the north and that would cause a big problem. So, I held the meeting and said I was going. I excused all those who were not comfortable with coming with me on that day.

But we went out there and addressed the situation. The fact was that at any point in time, I could also be attacked. The people said the military came to kill them and so on. I recall also during the burial, similar situation when I went to pay courtesy call on the family. It was also a dirty situation. But it was a risk one had to take.

Who really wanted to kill you while in office?
You know, I took that serious by the way. It is one thing to be threatened and it is another thing for the threat to be physically carried out. Through the investigations that were carried out, it became clear that there were elements of the Federal Government that planned the attack and executed it. But now, I only know part of the story, to tell the truth. I may not know all of it.
I think I know one or two people that were directly involved. But if you ask me to name them, I won稚 at this time. More importantly, the almighty God spared my life at the time.

So there were elements in the government who wanted to kill you?
I believe so, but I will first of all remove the head of that government out of it. In my opinion, (the late Gen.) Abacha was not part of it, but some of those in the corridors of power, who felt threatened. These were the days that efforts were being made to encourage him to stay on and so on and so forth. Some of these (elements) felt that I was doing remarkably well in a place as complicated as Lagos, and they were afraid that I might run for the presidency. And nothing of such was in my mind.
And then they made overtures to me to slow down. Because (according to them) these people are attacking us (Federal Government) every day, why are you diligently serving them and so on.
But I responded that you know I swore to an oath to serve to the best of my ability and there is no way I could not perform.

As a matter of fact up till this moment, it was a very tricky period because you are working diligently to the best of your ability and those who perhaps appointed you were not happy that you were serving diligently and at the same time you were looking at your back for the assassins sledge hammer and so on.
I know that when we moved to State House in Marina, I never went out to even take some fresh air. If I wanted to, I would go out completely because, a sniper could be on one of the high rise buildings nearby.

Did you complain to Abacha about threats to your life?
Yes, complaints were made. And he offered advice on how I should beef up my security and so on.

On self succession bid of Abacha
Of course, I believe I am on record as having said in the past that I gave my own opinion directly to him. In fact (it was) to his family first. I sat with the first lady (Maryam Abacha) and the older children and we did an exercise. As you know, I am a student of Public Administration. We sat with them and I gave them the papers. They read it. And the outcome, if I recall was out of five in order of priority. Should I say, his (Abacha痴) running (for presidency) came fourth. So, the first, second and third, completely did not support it (his ambition) They saw with me, there is no question about it.
Eventually, I met him (Abacha) also and gave him my opinion. I told him I wanted to tell him the truth about what I felt regarding the self succession at that time.

But I believe some state governors and some of those around him were doing one thing or the other in support of self-succession. And a young man, Kalu, came twice to see me here in Lagos. It was clear I was not doing some of the things that other administrators were doing.
In any case, even after telling him this directly and to the family, later, there was a meeting that was called of which I was a member. I think we were about 15 or so. We administrators were two, myself and another administrator and there were other people. And what was on the agenda was the self-succession. And to tell you the truth, I was surprised when these people were saying how Nigerians were applauding the idea and that he was being welcome and so on.

And when it was my turn to speak and I spoke against it, I could practically hear their brains working and thinking about who was the first man to burst out quickly after the meeting to go to the Head of State and tell him this is what the administrator of Lagos has said here. But I quickly told them they should not bother but take it easy, that this position, I have already told the Head of State. So he had already known where I stand. So, that was the issue.

But let me go on a little bit to tell you. When I was in the United States as Defence Attach to the Nigeria mission to the US, I played some roles in connections with the issues, some roles concerning coup de tat that happened or that didn稚 happen. I played a role in some points between the outsiders and the government when he (Abacha) was one year or so in the office.

You will recall that there was a special envoy that was appointed by President (Bill) Clinton to liaise. And the Americans wanted to know for sure something that would be genuine. You remember there was one Karibi Whyte Constituent Assembly and all that talk about the length of his rule and all that.
And Gen. Abacha had assured me at the time, which information I communicated back, that definitely he would not spend more than two years. It was very clear and I believed him and I communicated it back. And the Americans took it seriously and a special envoy was appointed to liaise and so on and so forth.
What I know deep in my own mind is that this matter of self-succession and so on, was something that those in the periphery of the presidency at the time brought about. I am telling you they are the very people that pushed and sold the idea to him. He was specific that he would not serve longer than two years and I know at that time that it was something that was agreeable. Something between one and a half to two years.

Even the Americans at that time found that it could be worked with. But to my surprise, this thing changed. In any case, it is history now.

There is this rumour that you have been anointed as Obasanjo痴 successor
Let me be quite clear that I have never sat with the President (Olusegun Obasanjo) to discuss politics of 2007, let alone the presidency. And I think you will agree with me that whatever my ambition, it would not be the smartest thing for me to do, to sit, with a sitting president who is focussing, and who has said in so many words that those looking for presidency and so on should give us a break first. Let us do what we are elected to do. At the appropriate time, we would open spaces for you. How could I then go and say, Baba I am running for your seat. It doesn稚 make much sense, let alone to say you go out there, saying you are the anointed. It never happened.
Let us even assume that it happened. Does anybody think I would go out there and communicate it to the public? In any case, it didn稚 happen.

As an insider in that regime, how did Abacha really die?
I was perhaps, one of the last people to know about his death. That morning, nobody informed me. I was still receiving courtesy calls. It was about 10. 0団lock long after the occurrence, I was receiving the Managing Director of the Peoples Bank. I know the lady because she was my Permanent Secretary (Ministry of) Health in Borno State. Her name is Amrah Imam. She was a Permanent Secretary in my government in Borno State. And she was close to the Abachas too, incidentally. So, when I received the courtesy call and we finished, I went back to my office and I got a call from one or two people. They said something was happening in the Villa in Abuja. What was going on, they won稚 tell me. Until another called me to say he had an information that Gen. Abacha had passed on.

So, I called him immediately and the person that picked the call was the Imam, the Villa Imam. Immediately, I knew something was amiss because the Imam doesn稚 pick calls usually. He lives in his house far away. And when the man picked the call, I immediately knew what happened. And immediately, I set the ball rolling to go to Abuja.

I was surprised when I arrived the presidential wing in Ikeja, the place was bustling with activities. All AFRC members, GOCs, everybody was there waiting for a flight already arranged. So, I said, you people, nobody told me! Then I asked for a ride and they said it was tight, that they would give me one seat. I said no, I won稚 take one seat. We then made another arrangement.
By the time we got to Abuja, it was something like 3pm. So, I was one of the last people who arrived Abuja and the type of information I got was what everybody got.

Level playing field for 2007
I do know that the PDP itself is the largest party and certainly the party in government. People do not have confidence in the electoral process in terms of congresses, conventions, elections and so on.
But I believe some reforms are on-going to address it. You know basically the president is a fair man and he is somebody that wants a level playing field. I believe in him and the type of reforms that are on show that steps are being taken to ensure that there is level playing field. That is what all Nigerians are asking for and I believe this will be the situation.

In the past, the congresses where the executives and delegates were elected, it was just individuals that would sit and write their lists. We all know that, no election especially down at the grassroots. But I am confident that with these reforms, things will change.

How did you feel when Marwa Gardens was changed to MKO Gardens?
When they mentioned that it was no longer my name, I asked the question immediately, what name is it now? And when they mentioned MKO, clearly anybody would feel honoured with such a replacement. And more importantly though, is that the estate is standing and the people are also enjoying it.

Immortalising MKO Abiola
It is normal in the history of a nation that when some of the heroes pass on, and in some cases when they are still alive, they are recognised by naming certain monuments after them.
And certainly I will be in support of immortalisation. This is the case in some places. I believe some monuments have been named after him across the country and nothing would be too much for him.
You have a way of turning up in the right camp at the right time. You worked with Babangida, Abacha, and Abdulsalami. Even after Obasanjo retired you, he gave you job as chairman of DIC. Which camp do you really belong to?

I belong to the camp of performance. Performance, track record, dependability and reliability. I believe each of the former rulers that you have mentioned had confidence and trust in me. That giving responsibilities to General Marwa, he would perform creditably. That is the truth of the matter.
Through the grace of God, none of those past leaders was disappointed.

You share something like father-son relationship with IBB. And it is speculated that IBB wants to run in 2007. If that happens, would we have father and son running against each other?
I will put it differently. That if the father runs, would the son run against him? I will say the son will be running with his father. And Nigerians would make their choice. You yourself said father and son. Every father wants his son to grow and become bigger than him.

Certainly he (IBB) has been my teacher, I served him diligently in all capacities and I know he himself started newbreed. And newbreed and generational change, are they not the same, so to speak?
Where do you put the Igbos in the 2007 race?
As a matter of fact, I didn稚 say the race will be between Marwa, IBB, Atiku, and all that, you said it yourself.

I believe, in the PDP, I am aware as all of us, that we have some sort of agreement, but there are 29 other parties. I am speaking in wholistic sense. And speaking in wholistic sense means the best Nigerian is the one we should pray to emerge in 2007 for the betterment of the country. Somebody that is God fearing, somebody that will be sincere, somebody that has integrity, somebody that has proven track records, somebody that possesses the intellectual capacity through which the present and the future would be better and definitely somebody that would work hard to bring about changes. There are several Nigerians that fit in.

What is the trouble of Nigeria as today?
People have said that it is leadership. That is not entirely wrong. But that is only part of the trouble.
When you talk of leadership you must talk in terms of leadership at various levels. If you have only the president out there that is committed, hardworking and sincere but supported by thieves, you have a problem.
So, it still comes back to a reform of electoral process and people electing right leaders at various levels. The second one is that the followership too has responsibilities. We must not run away from it. It depends on which divide you look at it. The followership themselves create situations. Now if you drive your car without particulars and with one of the head lamps gone in the night and police stop you, you find that even before the police asks for something you will quickly give something out.
But what is more important is that Nigeria has men and women of requisite capacity, skills and commitment, and it has the resources to back it up. Now, there is reform gradually and I have even given lectures on it. But it is very difficult for any leader who begins economic reforms, especially out of decay. It takes a while for things to manifest.

Your priority and agenda?
Now, the centrepiece in public administration and policies is the majority. The great good to the greatest number.
You can look at the youth, you can look at the poor masses, you can look at the women and every sector as a whole. The approach I will like to take is for instance to focus on the poor man. What are the areas that impinge on his livelihood. Is it food? Health? After food, what else? Is it hospitals?

And let me pause here and commend President Obasanjo on the health insurance scheme. It is almost free medical care till 2007. Is it transportation? What do the poor masses spend their hard earned incomes on? You look at it and simply break them down and know how you want to prioritise all these compartments.
For instance, I don稚 see it to be off the mark if you say power, health, education. You know we are developing an order here. Even if government pins down on these, it does not mean that agriculture would not be given the required impetus. Or housing would not be given impetus, or public transportation.

You can imagine the ripple effects of reliable stable electricity under this economy. I am sure the intention to get 10,000 megawatt is going to be achieved in 2007. That is something. You have benchmark. If you have that, you know how it will transform industries and capacity for manufacture and the end effect on the prices of goods.
You look at the health sector, a healthy nation is very important. You have to be very healthy before you can be able to do other things. Let痴 look at the education system. Quality, affordable and available. One can look at it in different perspectives and I like these three areas. Of course, security, I like it because it is part of my job.

Marwa; a media creation?
Those who make such remarks in fact are insulting the media rather than me. I have said it more than once that Nigerian media is robust, exceptionally so, and without question, at par with any media in the world.

And I am saying it matter of factly because I have spent nearly ten years of my life in the US either schooling in the military school or in the university and I believe I can say that I am one of Nigerians that have exposure, so to speak. And one has certainly had time to do comparison and so on. There is no question at all that you are at par with any media in the world.

Now, the important aspect of it is that what is it the media has said that was not the case. If you mention for instance that Marwa performed excellently in the area of crime prevention in Lagos, you can defend that with statistics. Every Monday we held a meeting to review the entire state on how many crimes were committed? How many cars were snatched, how many cars were taken from where they were parked in their homes?

Statistics and facts pointed out that we controlled crime in Lagos significantly.
When you talk of sanitation, you can pin it down. Talk of housing, you can pin it down. We had housing estates, some for the rich, some for the poor.
When you talk of tourism, you can look at Akodo. Even if you talk of health, we built College of Medicine and it is alive and well.

And when you go to Borno, 18 months of service, we built seven general hospitals. They are there today. On my way from Michika to Borno recently, people blocked the our road physically. We could not pass. They said I must come down to address them and I addressed the people in Borno State.
So, I will then say it is those people that are looking for short cut that are saying that Marwa is a media creation. But today in Nigeria, there is no short cut. You have to work for it and merit it.
In conclusion, we have to commend the media for their support. And I want to assure them that the same Marwa that was here in Lagos is the same person today and tomorrow by the grace of God.

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Comments (23)

emilia(Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria)says...

Wow,trying to get across to Ekene jnr he happens to be my old friend,lost his contact.any info would do me good

Valarie(Nairobi, Kenya)says...

What窶冱 your point?

robloxian(Bangor, Maine, US)says...

hahahaha u r a wierdo窶ヲhehehe

ur so boring(To, Northern Territory, Australia)says...

have u ever thought the garbage or the toilet might be jealous? Ur so full of shiz- white piece of shiz BET lol. That's where ppl like you belong (toilet garbage etc), ik the truth hurts but dont take it as an insult im just trying to describe you; ik im good at it ty-The truth hurts right. JSYK black ppl aren't nerds were just smarter than you oops Btw BLMM!!!

robloxian(Bangor, Maine, US)says...

wow so bad.


U r weird gus

yawning(On, Northern Territory, Australia)says...

Hmmm define weird plz