By Simon Ebegbulem & Gabriel Enogholase
BENIN—FORMER Minister of Defence, Gen. Godwin Abbe (rtd), yesterday, justified his decision to withdraw the soldiers involved in the Joint Military Task Force in Edo State codenamed Operation Thunderstorm, during the House of Assembly re-run election in Etsako Central Local Government Area of Edo State, which took place on January 21, 2010.
He said there were security reports that military uniforms were being sown by politicians, hence he decided to with drew the soldiers, so as to avoid dragging the military into the politics of Edo State and possible bloodshed.
Gen. Abbe, who was Chairman of the Amnesty Committee of the Federal Government, which was set up by late President Musa Yar’Adua, said he was castigated by members of the Action Congress of Nigeria, CAN, and even his fellow members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, but insisted that he had no regrets for his decision.
It will be recalled that Governor Adams Oshiomhole led a strong protest, condemning the shocking withdrawal of the soldiers in the Joint Security Task Force set up by the state government, few days to the Etsako Central re-run election and accused Gen. Abbe of insensitivity to the security challenges faced by the people of the state.
However, Gen. Abbe who spoke during a chat with journalists in Benin City, said he personally called for the withdrawal of the soldiers because it was clear there were attempts to manipulate the election using the military.
According to him, “there were available information that soldiers uniform were being sewn, this means that some people in military uniform would have manipulated the process and there could have been bloodshed. The impression would have been that I used the military to kill my own people. As at that time, the Late President Yar’Adua was ill, the Vice President had not been empowered to act. At the end of the election which the ACN eventually won, nobody commended the Minister for being proactive. I got stones from the PDP, the ACN did not commend me neither”.
Commenting on the amnesty programme, Gen.Abbe described it as a huge success, “considering that I got 20, 000 militants to surrender arms. I experienced a lot both good and bad but I had to ensure that the job is done for the sake of the nation. I was even threatened while I was going to Okporoza to see Tompolo. They threatened that my helicopter will be blown up. But I took the risk and succeeded in going there for peace”.