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Abacha Betrayed Our Plot To Topplebabangida, Install Abiola — Col. Umar - Politics - Nairaland

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Abacha Betrayed Our Plot To Topplebabangida, Install Abiola — Col. Umar by Doctor20002(f): 1:22pm On Dec 01, 2013
In this interview, a former military governor of
Kaduna State, Col. Abubakar Umar, comments
on burning national issues and tells the
untold story of the June 12 election
annulment, in this interview with GODWIN
 What do you think is the cause of the Boko
Haram insurgency?
In discussing Boko Haram, I will talk of the
general insecurity in the country. Everything
is happening in other countries and Nigeria is
facing its security challenges; Boko Haram
insurgency, kidnapping, robbery, oil theft,
Niger Delta militancy, phenomenal piracy on
our seas and youth restiveness. And a new
development, which we are not paying
attention to is the Fulani herdsmen/farmers
clashes that are engulfing the northern part
of Nigeria. Cattle stealing has led to many
deaths in that part of the country. These are
the major security issues affecting the
country; they are responsible for the seeming
inability to deal decisively with the
challenges. It is difficult to know how to solve
a problem if one doesn’t know the cause.
In the case of Boko Haram, for example, it is
very difficult to understand the inspiration of
their dastardly acts. What could have made a
person approach some people to engage in
the killing of innocent school kids? Why are
innocent people being slaughtered? Where is
the religious justification for throwing bombs
at churches and mosques; killing and
maiming worshippers? Such acts are
senselessness and irrational. There are some
supporters of President Goodluck Jonathan
who believe that the Boko Haram insurgency
is the creation of some northern politicians,
claiming that they threatened to make the
country ungovernable for the President; that
it’s the punishment for his failure to abide by
the Peoples Democratic Party’s zoning
agreement, which denied the North the
presidency. There was war during his
(Jonathan) completion of late President Musa
Yar’Adua’s tenure and you’ll agree that this
war still persists, with the heavy impact of
the insurgency of the socio-economic life,
particularly in the north-eastern part of
Nigeria where there has been a state of
emergency in the past six months.
There are some northern politicians who
benefit from the insurgency that has taken
the live of a respected elder like Gen. Shuwa;
almost led to the assassination of Shehu of
Borno and the Emir of Kano. Also, there are
some northern politicians who claim that
Boko Haram is non-existent; that if anything,
the Jonathan administration can be using
security agents to tackle them so that he can
continue to rule beyond 2015. With all these
senseless killings, it is difficult to achieve a
unity of purpose in the fight against the
When you take the issue of the Niger Delta
militancy, the struggle started with the
agitation for clean environment and equitable
distribution of petroleum resources. But it
was hijacked by criminal elements, whose
major motive was personal enrichment; oil
bunkering, pipeline bursting, which led to
further degradation of the environment. The
Niger Delta youths also moved into piracy
and oil theft. One can generalise by saying
that our security challenges are as a result of
corruption at the centre. For example, most
of the Boko Haram members are youths that
could have been valuable to the country; they
have nothing to aspire to and nothing to
lose. As James Baldwin rightly observed, the
most dangerous person is he who has
nothing to lose. When we say there is so
much deprivation, anger, insecurity, and we
find them very strange, the Boko Haram
members are used to it. It is a way of life to
them, which they want to fight. When we look
at the Niger Delta militants, they were chaps
that were unemployed and they watched
helplessly how their oil resources were being
cornered by irresponsible, greedy, reckless
and immodest elites. When they (militants)
saw the kind of structures in Abuja, they
envied the elites who had such structures and
resorted to self help through militancy, oil
theft and so on. Of course, in our kind of
democracy, about 70 per cent of our oil
revenue is devoted to recurrent expenditure; it
is devoted to indolent public servants, 85 per
cent of which is for salaries and allowances
of members of the National Assembly. You
remember that (the Governor of the Central
Bank of Nigeria) Lamido Sanusi had to
confront the lawmakers.
What is the solution to all these?
The solution is good governance. Our
politicians should be more responsible and
bring down the level of corruption. No country
can survive with the prevailing rot in Nigeria.
It is a major cause for concern. Unfortunately,
all our efforts at confronting the security
challenges are breeding more insecurity in
the sense that if we deploy security forces,
especially at the roadblocks, they demand
and accept bribes and let you go. When you
look at the number of security operatives
doing this, you see that it is going to be very
difficult to address the security challenges.
For the northern part of the country, some
people believe that building more Almajiri
schools will stamp out insurgency. Do you
Of course, no. It is not just enough to go to
school; when you go to school, you also need
to find employment. They say idle mind is the
devil’s workshop – it is good to send them to
school, they will be enlightened and
understand the message of government. But
if they cannot be gainfully employed, then
what you would have succeeded in educating
them in is the tricks being deployed by public
servants to enrich themselves. I don’t believe
that establishing Almajiri schools is the
solution to our problems per se. It is a
misconception of the situation in the country.
Poverty is in all sections and parts of this
country. While you find the Almajiris in the
North, you’ll find kidnappers in the South.
There are areas where there is prevalence of
prostitution and other anti-social behaviours.
Let us first look at poverty holistically; it is
only in the North. Northern leaders keep
crying (poverty) because they want more
resources to accrue to the North. When you
look at the Fulani herdsmen/farmers clash, I
expect the northern governors to sit and look
at ways of creating game reserves for the
Fulani. As long as you allow them to
continue to walk about indiscriminately, there
will be conflicts.
Northern states governors should do what
has been done before; they should provide
more graving lands for herdsmen. Also, I was
listening to a commissioner in Plateau State
who was expressing his helplessness in
providing security for the Fulani because,
according to him, it was very difficult for
security forces to access the places the
herdsmen were. That is a very weird thinking.
Security personnel should be able to
penetrate all the nooks and crannies of the
country. When you look at kidnappings,
robberies and oil thefts, they’re all about this
culture of get-rich-quick-by-all-mean, which
was created by the political leaders.
Recently, the United States of America
designated Boko Haram and Ansaru as
terrorist groups and Federal Government
welcomed it. Would it solve the problem?
I don’t know what America planned to do
with that declaration. If it means supporting
the Federal Government in the fight against
the insurgency, of course, I will welcome the
development. I know that the US has the
resources and means to engage in war
against insurgency. If that is the idea, then, it
is a welcome development.
Many people believe that a national
conference is the solution to our problems,
including insecurity. What is your take on
With all the noise for and against the
convocation of a national conference or
whatever name it is called, there is a need to
hold one, to satisfy the yearning of its
proponents and to disabuse the minds of
those that believe that the conference would
lead to disintegration. I have never been a
proponent of the national conference for the
fact that past conferences have done nothing
to ensure good governance. I have yet to see
a better mode of representation than the
elected members of the National Assembly.
All the federating units are represented at the
Assembly. If these representatives cannot do
what the conference would do – to sit and
discuss pressing issues like resource control,
power sharing, that will amount to a
constitution amendment. The constitution has
a provision for how it is to be amended. This
is to be done by the National Assembly that
has the representatives of all the federating
The problem in Nigeria is that our leaders
have refused to apply the good provisions of
the constitution and they will turn around to
blame it all on the constitution. They want to
create a new constitution but unless they
have the right attitude to implement the new
constitution, the constitution will still fail.
I think there is the need for the general public
to ensure we elect the right leadership to
ensure oversight functions. We should hold
our leaders to account. People stand against
white elephant projects like the international
airport being constructed in Kebbi State.
What’s your attitude to the agitation for
power shift to the North?
When you talk of power shift, I don’t believe
in it because there has been no evidence that
it benefits the people. If you take the North,
for instance, there is no sign that power has
ever been in the region. When people talk of
poverty, the people in the North are the most
wretched; when people talk of education, the
North is the most disadvantaged, yet the
region held power for years. So, if this power
does any good to a region, the North won’t
suffer any deprivation today. I think what
power shift does is that it is dangerously
dividing Nigeria along ethnic lines. The
politicians are pursing power shift as long as
it satisfies their personal interest, it has
nothing to do with the well-being of the
What then should be the right approach?
What I think is that power should reside with
good people and good people abound in all
parts of this country. I want to appeal to our
politicians to desist from pursuing their
narrow personal interest by agitating for
power shift, thereby heating up the polity.
They need to remember that many lives were
lost to preserve the unity of this great
How would you score the Federal Government
in terms of tackling insecurity in the land?
President Goodluck Jonathan should be
treated as a war-time President. He needs
the support and cooperation of all well-
meaning Nigerians. This is no time for
destructive political campaigns. Stakeholders
should take cognisance of the fact that
conflicts have dire consequences on the
country. Then the President should show
maturity and magnanimity in dealing with
people and issues. Whatever the situation, it
will be nice to see the President, in his next
trip abroad, go with governors like Rotimi
Amaechi and other persons in the opposition.
Talking about scoring, I’ll score the Jonathan
government high up in its effort at tackling
security challenges. Tackling security
challenges can drown a whole government.
He has done so well. If not for the security
forces, the whole of Nigeria today would have
been overrun by the Boko Haram insurgency.
So, it is no mean achievement that this is not
And on the war against corruption…
I think the Economic and Financial Crimes
Commission must act decisively. When they
arrested Sule Lamido’s children on account
of money laundering, this kind of thing should
go round the children of other governors. The
agency should not create the impression Sule
Lamido is being targeted because he is a
member of the opposition.
Some Nigerians see Gen. Muhammadu Buhari
as the messiah that will liberate Nigeria from
all her woes. How do you perceive him?
No doubt, Gen. Buhari has a pedigree. There
is no doubt also that he has the requisite for
leadership. For example, he vigorously fought
against corruption. This is one reason why he
has remained a favourite to many Nigerians.
But it will be unfair to a country of over 150
million people to think that only one person
has a monopoly of such trait.
I will stress that being a successful president
will take more than the ability to prosecute
and send offenders to jail; it requires both
character and intellectual capacity. What
Nigeria requires is zero tolerance for
corruption as well as the intellectual capacity
to understand very complex issues and be
able to make the right decisions and follow
up with implementation. To lead a complex,
heterogeneous country like Nigeria, we need a
consensus builder.
Your reactions so far stand you out as a
highly detribalised Nigerian. What informs
your broad-mindedness?
First, I thank God for the kind of family I
come from. It taught me to see humanity
rather than dissect human being into tribes or
religions. I was brought to see common
humanity that we share. What I wish for an
Hausa man I wish for a Yoruba and an Igbo
Of course, there is also the military training. I
doubt if any military officer, a regular
combatant officer, will want to discriminate
on the basis of religion or tribe. A true soldier
does not discriminate.
Now to military matters. Politicians easily
blame Nigeria’s woes on military rules in the
country.Would you agree with them?
You should ask Nigerians if they are better
off under politicians or under the military in
the level of corruption, insecurity and other
aspects of governance. It is Nigerians that
should answer that question. Nigerians
should judge, not politicians.
As a former governor of Kaduna State (August
1985 – June 1988), can you boast of any
legacy you left behind?
When you talk of legacy, what readily comes
to mind is structures, infrastructure but
enduring legacy is far more than that. What
Nelson Mandela is being celebrated for today
are not the roads or airports he built in South
Africa, he is remembered for liberating South
Africa from apartheid. During my
administration, I was able to win the minds of
the Southern Kaduna indigenes and I made
sure we removed discrimination in whatever
form. That was exactly my achievement.
Peace prevailed.
You were opposed to the annulment of the
June 12 election; what informed your
When I was appointed a military governor in
1985 by the Ibrahim Babangida
administration, he told me that if I found
anything wrong, I should not hesitate to let
him know. So, when he announced the
transition-to-civil rule programme, I
counselled that he should ensure that the
date he fixed was sacrosanct, the date should
not be changed under any circumstance.
Soon after the announcement in January
1986, things started unfolding. To cut the
long story short, by 1992, the primaries were
about to be annulled, I wrote a letter to IBB
that the election was losing credibility, that
there was the need to hurry up and handover.
By December 1992, at the Chief of Army Staff
Conference, I raised the issue under other
matters that since we were being
embarrassed, there was the need to conclude
the transition programme. Gen. Sani Abacha
asked me to see him in his house. I went to
Abacha’s house in company of the current
National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki.
What General Abacha told me then was that
they were all eager to see that power was
handed over to civilian administration but it
looked like IBB was dilly-dallying, that he
didn’t want to go. But what I discovered later
was that that was not correct. Anyway, we
moved to the June 12 election. When the
primaries of the two parties(National
Republican Convention and Social Democratic
Party) that was created by IBB held, and
Moshood Abiola and Bashir Tofa emerged
candidates, I kept putting pressure on IBB to
conclude the transition and hand over but
Abacha kept telling me that IBB was not
committed to the election and that we should
keep putting pressure on him. I kept going to
IBB and he kept assuring me he was on
About two weeks to the election, IBB called to
say that some military boys were putting
pressure on him not to hand over because
the Structural Adjustment Programme had
not achieved results and Nigeria was in a
precarious situation.
In the meantime, Abacha was saying if IBB
did not hand over after the June 12 election,
we should move against him, topple him and
hand over to whoever wins the election.
The election was held, we realised Abiola was
going to win, I dashed to Abuja, met with the
chairman of the electoral commission. He
told me he had received 22 states and it
looked like Abiola was coasting home to
victory. I pleaded with him to ensure that he
announced the results. Abacha invited me.
He told me that IBB would not allow the
results to be announced. He said we should
go ahead, topple him and hand over to the
winner. He sent me on a wild goose chase;
he said I should get the army boys ready for
any eventuality. Of course, I went round the
country, we got our boys ready. What was
agreed was that the person that would
announce the overthrow of Babangida would
announce the result of the elections and hand
over to the winner. We got all the boys in all
the regional headquarters ready. Abacha said
he was going to call the GOCs to let them
know that the military had decided to let the
winner of the June 12 to take over.
On the eve of the coup, we went for a
coordinating conference, all the boys were
alerted. The conference had current NSA, Col
Dasuki, Col Gwadabe among other officers to
coordinate the last minute of the take-over.
Gen. Abacha was to join us later but he failed
to appear. An officer asked me which
appointment I would like to take in the new
government. I replied, ‘Which government? I
was told that Abacha had decided to take
over power for six months before handing
over to Abiola. I told them that was a very
dangerous development and that I would not
partake in such a plan. We reached a
deadlock and I decided to go and confront
Gen. Abacha. Around nine in the night, I went
to Abacha’s house and I met him alone. I
asked him why he changed the plan. I told
him that the only reason I joined in the plot
was to hand over to Abiola immediately. I
told him that I knew that any coup against
Babangida was like a suicide mission but I
decided to join even at the cost of my life
because I wanted Nigerians to know I was not
part of the annulment that would plunge the
country into crisis. I told him we should
continue with our earlier plan. He said the
problem was that Abiola could not control
the country with all the problems. I told him
that whatever happened I would not partake
in a coup that would bring him to power.
While I was talking with him, Gen. Ahmed
Abdulahi appeared. I told him that I was out
of the plan. I left and radioed all those we
put on the standby and told them that the
coup plan had been terminated, that we were
not going to continue. I told senior officers
that Abacha was only trying to hoodwink us.
When that plot failed, Abacha and some other
officers convinced IBB to step aside but that
he should leave some trusted officers, to work
with an interim government to stabilise the
polity. That way, the coast was left free for
Abacha to have his way.
Re: Abacha Betrayed Our Plot To Topplebabangida, Install Abiola — Col. Umar by Nobody: 3:15pm On Dec 01, 2013
Conscience is an open wound healed by truth.

Thank you sir for speaking the truth. The former great Gen. Buhari, unlike u, has become a proponent of sharia, religion, ethnicity and divisive politics. His dichotomy and parochial tendencies has not allowed him to see beyond his nose. We doubt if he is still corrupt - free, judging by the friends he keeps these days.

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