Posted by Charles Kumolu, Deputy Sunday Editor | 6 July 2019 | 1,108 times
Fresh revelations have emerged indicating that the Head of defunct Interim National Government, ING, Chief Ernest Shonekan used his links with the British Government to discourage the presumed winner of June 12 presidential election, Chief M.K.O Abiola, from returning to Nigeria after the annulment for fear that the return might destabilise the ING. Shonekan, a kinsman of Abiola, was said to have specifically used Baroness Lynday Chalker, Minister of State for Overseas Development at the Foreign Office, to prosecute the job when Abiola travelled to Europe shortly after the annulment.
The revelations were made by a former governor of Ogun State, Chief Segun Osboba, in his autobiography, titled: “The Battlelines: Adventures in Journalism and Politics”, scheduled to be launched on July 8, 2019, in Lagos.
He said Chalker regularly encouraged then Prime Minister, John Major to discourage Abiola from returning. In the book which was described as not just a compendium of Osoba’s personal adventures, but a chronicle of plots, betrayal, high-mindedness and pettiness, Osoba said Abiola was however encouraged to come home by the late Head of State, Gen Sani Abacha. Inexplicable faith in Abacha.
The excerpts read: “In the post -annulment period, Abiola had developed an inexplicable faith in Abacha. It was obvious that Abacha had charmed Abiola into believing that he was on his side and that he would do everything to help Abiola regain his mandate.
Abiola’s faith in Abacha must have been bolstered by Abacha’s role when Abiola was in exile between July and September 1993.
“The Head of the ING, Chief Ernest Shonekan, who had strong links with the British government-based on his years as head of United African Company (UAC) had been using Baroness Lynda Chalker, the Tory Minister of State for Overseas Development at the Foreign Office under Prime Minister John Major to persuade Abiola to remain in the UK and not to return to Nigeria.
Chalker regularly kept tabs on Abiola and regularly encouraged Mr. Major to discourage Abiola from returning to Nigeria for fear that his return might destabilise the ING contraption. On his part, Abacha who had been posing as Abiola’s supporter encouraged Abiola to return home, assuring him of safety and security in Nigeria.
It was all a game plan. Negotiations with Abiola “It turned out that Abacha was merely pursuing his own interest. He needed the instability and tension that would arise from Abiola’s return as smokescreen to hijack power from Shonekan.
In the end, instead of keeping to his promise to arrange a meeting between us and his “boys,” Abacha seized power from Shonekan on November 17, 1993, less than two months after Abiola’s return to Nigeria.
The Abacha coup brought to the fore the intrigues and power play within the military hierarchy itself, featuring General Oladipo Diya and General Aliyu Gusau, then Chief of Army Staff. While Abacha had Diya behind him in the negotiations with Abiola and his group, they also hatched a secret plan to neutralise General Gusau, who was Diya’s contemporary at the Nigerian Defence Academy.
“Abacha subsequently took over power from Shonekan in Abuja and flew back to Lagos. At a meeting held at the Air Force Base, Victoria Island, in Lagos, the new men in power then decided to dissolve all political all political structures from the local to the federal level. That was how all of us elected to various offices lost our mandates.
Encouraged by Abacha “I knew this was coming. I was not sure of the pattern that the coming rupture would take, but I knew that something would have to give. I was analysing the scenario and I became apprehensive of what would be the aftermath of Babaginda’s exit.
“I tried to rationalise and predict what would happened when Babangida departed, retired all the service Chiefs and some other members of the military hierarchy but left Abacha in office as Minister of Defence.
“Abacha did not recognise Shonekan as his Commander-in-Chief. And Shonekan didn’t have the strength to assert his leadership by firing Abacha. If he did, perhaps he would have changed the course of history in Nigeria.
“Instead, he created a situation where Abacha was running a parallel government. It was a case of two captains in a ship. At some point, one of the two parallel governments would have to give way to the other. Either Shonekan would have the courage to retire Abacha or Abacha would terminate his ING.”
On swearing-in of Abiola, “The Abacha story is intertwined with the Abiola story. It is the story of guile, deception, manipulation, and Machiavellian power game. On September 24, 1993, Abiola returned home from a temporary exile.
“He returned to a hero’s welcome at the Ikeja Airport. While Abiola was away canvassing support in Europe and the United States for his mandate, we were holding fort on the home front in Nigeria for the same goal and purpose.
“We were making contacts around the country, pulling all the strings to ensure the termination of the Interim National Government and the swearing-in of Abiola. It was not an easy struggle.
“We met the retiring Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Salihu Ibrahim, and the Chief of Defence Staff, Lieutenant General Oladipo Diya. Abiola’s running mate Babagana Kingibe also did his bit, arranging a meeting between some SDP governors and a few others with then Minster of Defence, General Sani Abacha.
“The SDP governors included me, Governor Kolapo Ishola and Governor John Oyegun, We had a long discussion with General Abacha on the way forward. We discussed how to de-annul the elections and install Abiola as President. Abacha promised that he would arrange a meeting between us, the Abiola group, and his “boys” in the military so that we could agree on the way forward. Unknown to us, Abacha and his so-called boys had a different plan which would unfold later. ” (Vanguard)
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