Col. Olusegun Oloruntoba (retd.)said he was tortured and asked to implicate Obasanjo but he refused
He said he was imprisoned because of his stance against the annulment of the 1993 election
He expressed disappointment that Obasanjo failed to provide the full benefits they deserved
Col. Olusegun Oloruntoba (retd.) has revealed that there was a plot to put former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in a plane with other just-released soldiers and blow it up in 1998.
In an interview with The Punch, Oloruntoba who was one of the military officers detained and tortured by the General Sani Abacha military government for an alleged coup plot said he, Obasanjo and some other detainees were scheduled to meet with then head of state, Abdulsalami Abubakar but the plan was cancelled after it was revealed that there was a plot to blow up their plane.
Oloruntoba said he was one of those against the annulment of the 1993 election as he felt Chief MKO Abiola was the clear winner but he insisted he didn’t plot to overthrow the government of Abacha as he was a military teacher at that period and could not have orchestrated a coup.
He said: “I was one of the officers in those days that questioned the military hierarchy concerning the annulment of the June 12 election. We wanted to know what led to the annulment of the election. I remember my then General Commanding Officer at Jos; he is still alive, Brig Gen. Ahmed Baku (retd.). He called all of us who were commanders and commanding officers and told us on a particular day that he wanted our views on the annulment; that he was going to attend the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council meeting. I was one of those who made an observation that the then Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, who annulled the election, should make a very clear broadcast to the nation if he had cogent reasons for annulling the election. And, if there were no reasons, he should call Prof. Humphrey Nwosu (Chiarman of the defunct National Electoral Commission) to announce the results of the election. That observation of mine was supported by most of the military officers present at the meeting – in 1993.
“I think from that period onward, it appeared I had been labelled as somebody who was not friendly with the military government. Therefore, when it was time to frame up people in 1995, it did not take them a second to add my name to the phantom coup plotters’ list. Back in 1993, I think shortly after the annulment, there were series of meetings. Then, towards the end of 1993, I was posted from Jos because they felt it was dangerous for me to remain a commander. They then posted me to Jaji to teach. It was while I was a teacher in Jaji that a gang-up occurred and my name was put on the list of alleged coup plotters trying to oust Abacha’s government.
“But all I had as a soldier was my marking pen and my students. Then, as an alleged coup plotter, I wonder how I would have organised troops and weapons to execute the coup by invading Aso Rock. I was accused of being the one to actually capture Abacha. As of that time, I had never set my foot in Abuja. How could a commander capture a city which he didn’t even know the direction (of)? You can see that it was a clear case of malice and blackmail.”
He said while in detention and undergoing torture, he was asked to implicate Obasanjo and the late Shehu Musa Yar’Adua but that he refused.
He said: “There was one Col. Omenka and others who tried to force me to implicate Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, Gen. Shehu Yar’Adua, and Gen. Kazir. They said that if I could implicate Obasanjo and others, they would turn me into a state witness. I said, ‘Jokers! If you don’t know me, Col. Oloruntoba, go and find out.’ I told them that I was not the one they would use to implicate anybody. They threatened to ‘waste’ me and I urged them to go ahead. I told them, ‘At my age (I was 40-something then), I could not be threatened with death.’ They are all alive. I long for a day, in a conference, where I can meet with all these jokers – all those Goebbels and mistakes of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
“After Gen. Abdulsalami had ordered for our release, can you believe that some of those devilish, so-called army generals were planning to gather all of us accused of the coup in Lagos, put us in an aircraft to take us to Abuja to meet with the then head of state. Their real plan was to blow us up in the aircraft and blame everything on Abdulsalami. But that plan leaked. I know them; I’ll just assist them by not mentioning their names.
“At the appropriate time, we will let Nigerians know them. So, Abdulsalami was informed about the plot. He was advised never to allow us to be brought to him in Abuja for any briefing. It is stupid for anyone to come out and be opening old wounds – we knew what we went through. Up till now, I am still nursing the injuries I sustained while being tortured in prison.”
Oloruntoba however expressed disappointment that after Obasanjo became president, he failed to implement the recommendation of the Oputa panel that would have provided them full benefits in spite of the fact that he was also a victim.
He said: “Former President Olusegun Obasanjo was twice our commander-in-chief; first as a military head of state and later as civilian president after our release from detention. It was unbelievable and beyond any reason whatsoever that the same Gen. Obasanjo that was detained along with us would become president and commander-in-chief and all the reliefs recommended by the Oputa Panel, he did not implement them. It was very sad and unfortunate. I am very sorry to say: if it were Gen. Yar’Adua that found himself to be president after our release, we won’t be begging anybody for compensations. Yar’Adua would have implemented everything (Oputa panel recommendations) in our favour.
“I shared the same ‘Death Cell’ with Gen. Yar’Adua. He told us, ‘Gentlemen, be assured that nobody can kill you but be ready to face torture for some time. No matter how long it takes, those of you who want to go back to the Army will be allowed to do so. And if anyone of you does not want to go back to the army, we’ll find better jobs for you.’
“If such a person were to be alive and was to become the nation’s president, there would have been no need for any panel in the first place. All the recommendations made in our favour were purely administrative. Gen. Obasanjo didn’t need any panel to compensate us adequately. He knew what we went through but for reasons best known to him (he never did that) for eight years that he was in power.
“There was a particular year that he invited us all for a dinner – that should be February 2006. He assured us that the government would take good care of us, urging us to be patient. He even promised that July 14, which happened to be the day we were all sentenced to death, the government would invite all of us and our family members for a state dinner and that after the dinner, the Federal Government would then unveil its plans for us. Well, for the dinner (and the plans), maybe that will happen tomorrow, I don’t know – nothing happened. It is unfortunate. I know though that if God says we’ll be duly compensated, no human can stop it.”