Former President Olusegun Obasanjo while speaking on Friday at the 20 year memorial of Nigeria’s former Ex-Chief of Staff of the Supreme Headquarters, late Gen. Shehu Musa Yar’adua, said that he rejected an opportunity to escape Yola Prison where he was serving jail term.
Obasanjo was jailed by the then military Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, in 1995 over alleged coup plot against the government of Abacha. The former President who spoke at the event held at the Shehu Musa Yar’adua Centre in Abuja described late Shehu Musa Yar’adua as a noble and selfless man.
Late Gen. Yar’adua, the elder brother to late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua, was a deputy to Gen. Obasanjo who was military Head of State from 1976 – 1979. “For those of us who knew Shehu very well, we would know the type of man he was, the type of life he lived, his commitment to work, his commitment to family, religion, friends and nation.
“And then when you ask the question what is life? I think Shehu ‘Yar’ adua’s life has defined the answer to that question. How he lived his life gave us an eloquent answer to what life is,” he said.
“When Shehu was first arrested, I was in South Africa and I rushed back home and I asked the man who arrested him and the man who arrested him said to me that he did not know that Shehu had been arrested. I said Mr. Head of State, say that to the marines. There is no way the number two man of a country at one time would be arrested without your knowledge.
“Soon after that, Shehu was released but he was released only for a short time. When he was arrested for the second time, I was arrested along with him and we were in separate locations after – our destiny. The verdict had been given of what will happen to us, we met in Kirikiri and I believed that was a mistake. That was the last time we actually stayed together. We had about three nights, we were able to speak and think and work together,” he said.
Former President Obasanjo also explained how international counterparts planned his escape from prison which he however rejected. “Even in prison, we strategised together, unfortunately our strategy did not work. But when Shehu died in prison, my international friends decided that they would use a ‘commando’ plan to get me out of prison and they actually did, they made the plan, they raised the money and their plan was to get an helicopter to take me out of Yola prison and take me into Cameroon.
“They sent a message to me, and I told them that if you do that I would not come out of prison and that was when they dropped the idea of using commando effort to get me out of prison because that would have defeated what we stood for. We stood to face whatever consequences standing for Nigeria would cost us,” he said.
“It cost Shehu Yar’Adua his life. Those of us who believed in what Shehu Yar’Adua believed in and that are still alive – I think the only thing we can do is to allow the struggle to continue and we are not at the end of the struggle, if anything we are at the middle of the struggle,” he added.
Also speaking at the event was the President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Kono, who described Shehu Yar’adua as a great African. “We have gathered here together in memory of a great African, General Shehu Musa ‘Yar’ adua who was greatly loved by so many people. But like all of us would, the late general came, played his part and transitioned and although we are greatly hurt by his passing but we are consoled and inspired by his exemplary life.
“He was a great patriot and from what we have hear so far this morning, we have been provided with enough evidence that he was a great soldier and a politician,” he said.