How Northern traitors kept me in prison for 9 years, by Bamaiyi

  • Wednesday, May 07, 2008 - By TERWASE TYOBAN, Birnin Kebbi
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Former Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi, has accused top retired military generals from the North of being the masterminds of his nine years’ incarceration.
Bamaiyi, who was recently released from prison after a Lagos High Court discharged and acquitted him of complicity in an attempted murder case, said the blame for his travails should not be placed at the doorstep of former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo alone, because it was a conspiracy between the former president and some members of the Northern elite who felt he should be punished for his refusal to cooperate with them to install an ex-military man as president of Nigeria when the decision to hand over power to a civilian government gathered momentum.

He said while other persons in the North, who were unaware of the real reasons he was thrown into jail, were praying for his safety in prison and were making efforts to secure his release, those behind his predicament were engaged in high level lobby to ensure that he never regained freedom.

In his words, "I have no problem with Obasanjo. Obasanjo was not the one who first arrested me. Before Obasanjo came to power, I didn't know him, neither did he know me. My brothers in the North, because of selfish personal interests, told lies about me to Obasanjo and advised him to arrest me. As a result of this, I have no problem with Obasanjo. It is a home matter. They know me and I know them. I suffered all that I went through because I refused to toe their line and opted for true democracy. This was not what they expected. So I had to be taken care of.

"While some of my people were praying for my welfare while in prison and even making efforts to secure my release, some of these, my brothers, were holding high level consultations with the government of the day to ensure that I never get out of there. But I have left them in the hands of God."
Bamaiyi spoke with Daily Sun on this and other issues in Zuru, Kebbi State, after a civic reception organized by his people to welcome him home.

My freedom ordained by God
I thank God. You know, for someone to leave his home for almost nine years, not knowing what would happen there, is a difficult situation. So I thank God for bringing me back home safely and I am happy with the reception I got. I thank God because, whatever happens is with the knowledge of God and in every difficulty, God brings succour especially if you stand on the path of justice.
Baka taba jin cewar, ance gaskiya mutum ta kare ba, sai dai kanyar mutum ta kare (you have never heard that this is the end of the road for a just man, but it is said, this is the end of the road for a liar). It simply means truth has no end. But a lie would one day come to an end. Today, the lie has ended and I am now back home.

Why I refused Danjuma, Gusau's pleas
I have said it, when it was uttered, that a military man would be made president, I said I did not agree and I would not support such a proposition. General Danjuma came to my house when I was Chief of Army Staff and talked to me about this issue. I told him, even if he is the person, I would not support him.
General Aliyu Gusau is still alive. He too did the same and I said the same thing, that I would not support the proposition. It is not that the government did not like the truth. When we wanted to hand over power, even Gusau asking me the question, he was tired. And indeed, we are tired of military rule. Was this not true? So, it was not proper at that time to impose a military man on Nigerians. Now, we have seen the result. This is what I stood up against and I was punished for almost nine years, for standing up for democracy.
What we have got in eight years of Obasanjo has taken us 20 years backward. The incumbent President is doing his best probing here and there. If they had heeded my advice, I am sure the difficulty we are passing through, even if we were meant to suffer, it would not have been of this magnitude. But I am glad that since I was put in detention, they were the ones that took the shame. They are now the same people abusing and castigating Obasanjo everywhere. I don't abuse Obasanjo. I have finished my part.

Interest in politics
Look, I want to first of all, take care of myself. I even have a medical appointment to keep. My priority right now is my health; I want to regain my health, know the condition of my family and take care of my aged mother. Every man is a political animal and I am not different. But right now, I am not considering partisan politics.

Persecution of my military associates
I am sure about this. If you look carefully at most of the young military officers retired, they were all at the peak of their career. I know many of them because we worked together. But because of me, a lie was even concocted that they were planning to gather people to take me out of prison.
Since I entered that prison, even if the walls had fallen, I would not have gone anywhere because I knew I was on the path of truth. I was sure that there would be a day that God would bring justice as long as there was a trial.
It was not proper the way the officers were retired from the army. There is nowhere in the world where people are retired at the rank of a colonel, at a time considered the peak of their career. When they were supposed to display professionalism, you did not allow them to work. Before you regain what you have lost by retiring these men, you have to take someone to the academy to spend five years. Before he reaches the rank of a colonel, it will take another 20 years. Now, you can see that you need 25 years before you replace someone with the rank of a colonel. This means that damage has been inflicted on the army by the retirements.

My advice for Yar'Adua
Well, I can see that the government has started doing what ought to be done. All I am saying is that let's go for justice. All these probes going on should be done with justice. You see, whoever takes power should know that a day will come when he will be called upon to give account of what he had done. I have seen that this government is on the right path but there should be no retreat to the old ways because I know some people are not going to be happy.

My prison memoirs
I am giving it a thought. I said it at the reception, let us come together in unity: What is worrying us in Zuruland is lack of unity. If we unite, elders should know that they as elders should give proper advice rather than be instigating authorities to arrest this or that person. This is not correct. This is my advice. If we are united in Zuruland and support the Emir, General Sani Sami, I am sure we will attain tremendous development.

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