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How Stella saved Obasanjo from Abacha's hangman

Posted by From Martins Oloja, Abuja Bureau Chief on 2005/10/31 | Views: 2123 |

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How Stella saved Obasanjo from Abacha's hangman


MORE facts have emerged on how the late First Lady, Stella, saved President Olusegun Obasanjo from death during the maximum reign of deceased former military ruler, Gen. Sani Abacha.

MORE facts have emerged on how the late First Lady, Stella, saved President Olusegun Obasanjo from death during the maximum reign of deceased former military ruler, Gen. Sani Abacha.

The saving grace was a vital and timely intelligence report obtained by the dutiful wife who had become an activist of sort when her husband was incarcerated by the then military government.

According to sources, the late Gen. Abacha had reached a decision to eliminate all the 40 persons implicated in the phantom coup into which Obasanjo had been roped in 1995.

An alarmed Stella immediately facilitated a high-powered diplomatic intervention that eventually saved the life of her husband.

But The Guardian learnt at the weekend that it was the late Stella who actually provided the piece of intelligence that was used to arm-twist Gen. Abacha.

The origin: Mrs Stella Obasanjo who was the only known arrow-head, the home-front in the spirited struggle to free Obasanjo then was said to have sneaked into Abuja around August 1995 to make inquiries on what the Abacha government wanted to do with those charged with treason, including her husband.

A source disclosed that Mrs. Obasanjo penetrated top government sources where she was told by a very reliable member of the then Provisional Ruling Council (PRC) that the then Head of State had made up his mind to kill all of them, including General Obasanjo.

Then in the absence of GSM facility and faced with the implication of using government telephone with International Direct Dialling (IDD) facility, she went underground to call a vital source in the United States: Ambassador Andrew Young, a long-time family friend of the incarcerated former Head of State.

Young, a former Mayor of Atlanta, was United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

Ambassador Young was said to have called the then United States President, Bill Clinton and broken the sad development from Nigeria to him.

The former Mayor was said to have solicited the support of the U.S. President for the release of his friend.

The Guardian learnt that Clinton, who was then facing a tough pre-election assessment on foreign policy, immediately picked his hot-line and told Abacha that he had heard about the development on Obasanjo, the late Shehu Musa Yar'Adua and 38 others, to be condemned to death.

Clinton, it was said, told Abacha point-blank that "relations would worsen if executions occurred."

A top source who disclosed part of the development in 1995 provided a book entitled: FOREIGN POLICY-(Winter 1995-1996) A Pre-Election Assessment, with a rider, on Clinton Report Card: 21st Century Economics A Leader without Followers? where part of the transaction was recorded on page 151 in an article contributed to the book by Adonis Hoffman.

In the article entitled: Nigeria: The Policy Conundrum, which begins from Page 146, the chronicler confirmed the development on Page 151 where he recorded: "Obasanjo, who received a life sentence, is highly recognised and respected and has garnered world citizenship through service on foundation boards in the United States and Europe and his extensive network of international supporters. As the only Nigerian president to have voluntarily relinquished power, Obasanjo remains something of a role model...In August, Clinton telephoned Abacha advising him that relations would worsen if executions occurred...In October, Abacha announced that the death sentences were commuted and Obasanjo's sentence was reduced to 15 years."

The Guardian confirmed that the alleged leakage from the PRC was part of the politics that shaped the strained relationship between Gen. Abacha and his deputy who was also jailed in another phantom coup story. Gen. Diya was suspected to have been a major source of information to the late Mrs. Stella Obasanjo.

Another source said that the top story was well-known to a publisher who was very close to the Abacha regime, Alhaji Abidina Coomassie who was publishing Abuja Mirror and Today. Alhaji Coomassie who died in 2001 was said to have been privy to the conversation between Clinton and Abacha. General Abacha's security operatives were said to have narrated to the late publisher how Gen. Abacha had felt very bad about the element of blackmail in the Clinton's call to Abacha.

He (Alhaji Coomassie) was said then to have told his friends the role Stella Obasanjo played in the politics and diplomacy that saved the life of her husband.

President Obasanjo referred to Stella's noble role during the funeral in Abeokuta last Friday but he did not give details. He only said: "When I was in prison, I couldn't thank her enough in this world and in the world to come...She did more than a wife could do to an incarcerated husband. And I would eternally be grateful to her...."

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