Excerpts from Osoba’s autobiography presented to mark his 80th birthday at Eko Hotel VI:
On July 7, 1993, a Council of States meeting was called in Abuja to assess the political tension. I was returning with the Governor of Oyo State, Kolapo Ishola from the meeting where there was no consensus on the way forward, when I got a message from Gen Olusegun Obasanjo. He asked me to see him urgently at his Farm House in Ota. At the Abuja meeting, the military had presented us with what they called “security report” and “some official briefing” which, according to them, led to the anullment. I decided to go with Governor Ishola to Obasanjo’s Ota Farm. There, he presented us with conclusions of a meeting he had in Abuja with some military officers and some eminent Nigerians where it was decided that an interim government would be put in place after the exit of the military in August.
How financial demands made Abiola allow associates serve Abacha — Osoba
A former governor of Ogun State, Aremo Segun Osoba, has provided insights into why some associates of the late presumed winner of June 12 presidential election, Chief M.K.O Abiola, served in the regime of Gen. Sani Abacha, saying Abiola complained that highly-placed members of his party (Social Democratic Party, SDP) were making heavy financial demands to further his cause.
Osoba explained that when the debate whether to allow some SDP chieftains accept appointments from Abacha was ongoing, some key party leaders depended on Abiola to fund their private and political lives. He further said if Abiola had insisted that no one should take a political appointment from Abacha, financing the personal needs of the key party leaders would have become a burden to him.
The elder statesman, who would clock 80 on July 15, 2019, revealed these in his autobiography titled: Battlelines: Adventures in Journalism and Politics, which would be launched on July 8, 2019, in Lagos. The event, which would hold at the Eko Hotel and Suites is expected to be a melting point for Nigerians across various fields.
In the book, which among other subjects, detailed clandestine roles played by some highly-placed persons in the June 12 saga, Osoba, said Abiola was caught between his associates who wanted to serve under Abacha and those opposed to it. Till date, there is a controversy over who authorised the participation of key associates of Abiola in the Abacha regime.
The SPD bigwigs, who accepted ministerial appointments from the maximum ruler, had claimed they did so in the interest of the June 12 mandate, but most Nigerians felt they betrayed Abiola. However, Osoba, who was not just a witness to that historical event, but a key player, revealed that Abiola told him the struggle for the actualisation of June 12 mandate was already placing a heavy financial burden on him.
“With Abacha now in the saddle, the next challenge among the Abiola loyalists and the party faithful, those who were not part of the Interim National Government (ING) was how to relate with the regime. We held an emergency meeting in Abiola’s house to discuss our next move, but we couldn’t reach an accord.
While some wanted Abiola’s supporters to accept appointments under the new regime, others strongly opposed to it. “Abiola was caught between the two contending forces. Apart from that, Abiola was also influenced by the heavy financial demands that the struggle was making on him. Even in the post-election period, some of the key SDP leaders still depended on him to fund their political and private lives.
If he insisted that no one should take political appointment from the new regime, then he must be ready to finance the needs of those leaders, who would ask him for money. The best way to free himself from such moral and financial burden was to say they could take up appointments if they so wished. “I recall the case of one key Abiola supporter who came asking for a lot of money and spinning a tall story what he wanted to do with the money to advance Abiola’s cause. Abiola obliged him.
About thirty minutes later, he returned to Abiola’s house at Ikeja, shedding crocodile tears and claiming robbers had taken all the money from him at gunpoint. Abiola knew the man was lying because there was no report of any robbery around Ikeja that day, but he still gave the man another fat sum of money.
“What do I do?” Abiola told me resignedly shortly after, a sarcastic smile playing across his lips. “Politics in Nigeria is a big money game. Everybody wants your money. Even the highly-placed members of this party all want to bleed you to death financially. It can’t continue like this.
That is why I am asking those who want to work under Abacha to go ahead. I need to free myself from this heavy moral and financial burden of providing for everybody.”