“Accusing me of sleeping with my brother’s wife most painful.”—Gen. Bamayi (rtd), VANGUARD, April 8, 2017, p 23.
By Dele Sobowale
There must be something deeply wrong with General Ishaya Bamayi, former Chief of Army Staff, COAS, under Abacha. For that matter there must have been something terribly wrong with the Nigerian army or any other army which promoted such a man to the topmost office. Since publishing his own biography – THE VINDICATION OF A GENERAL – Bamayi had been called all sorts of things none of which is complimentary. US Congressman, John Brademas, once defined leadership in a way that addresses the Bamaiyi phenomenon.
“Leadership is always somewhat mysterious. Leadership can be summed up in two words: intelligence and integrity…” (VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ p 125). The total rejection of Bamaiyi’s book by everybody and the torrent of abuses heaped on him would suggest the man lacked both intelligence and integrity. Below is a short list of those who contributed to Bamaiyi’s unflattering profile.
Col. Jibrin Isa (rtd) told us that, “he was the type of person who usually surrounded himself with people from his ethnic nationality…he gave them preferential treatment. He is also somebody who doesn’t forgive”. Col. Olusegun Oloruntoba (rtd) added that “For Bamaiyi to come out and give such submission is very unfortunate, uncalled for and unbecoming of a senior military officer.” Navy Commander Lawrence Fabiyi (rtd) chipped in by saying “That man (Bamaiyi) is a callous human being. He’s a destroyer who doesn’t have a conscience…he has spoken evil about a lot of people…He is a wicked man.”
Bad as those descriptions are, the most common words used in connection with Bamaiyi are “lies” and “liar”. Virtually all the civilians and military contributors have called Bamaiyi a liar. Once upon a time, the terms “officer and a gentleman” were inextricably joined. An officers’ code of honor demanded that he should tell the truth at all times. Bamaiyi must have struck a lot of people as an incorrigible liar. Our own Richard Akinnola, in an article titled “Bamaiyi’s lies: In defence of Osinbajo and Justice Ade Alabi” made the comment that “The book titled “Vindication of a General” ought to have been aptly titled “Lies of a General”.
”He had lots of reasons. Bamaiyi and Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, had attempted to stall prosecution for their roles in Kudirat Abiola’s murder by accusing Justice Ade Alabi of Lagos of requesting for a bribe to grant them bail. The lies started with the amount allegedly demanded by the Justice. One rumour said N10 million was the amount; another false claim said it was $10 million. Even at exchange rate of N88/US$1 in those days, the difference is glaring. Bamaiyi’s counsel, Mr Mike Okoye, who had at first assisted in spreading the defamation later recanted and was forced to publicly apologise to the judge and to publish his confession in some Nigerian newspapers. Below is part of what Barrister Okoye said on March 8, 2002, when Okoye was himself charged to court for his role in Bamaiyi’s attempt at character assassination of a judge.
“I apologize to the Bench and the Hon. Justice Ade Alabi for any injury he may have suffered from his unwarranted and unnecessary publications. I am aware that the publication has the effect of bringing to disrepute, office, integrity and position of Justice Alabi but I would want to disabuse the minds of the public of this impression and state that these allegations of corruption are not true to the best of my knowledge.”
That admission of deliberate falsehood by Bamaiyi’s lawyer, who was deliberately misled by the accused to call a press conference during which he claimed he could prove that $10 million bribe was demanded by Justice Alabi occurred fifteen years ago. It also showed Bamaiyi in his true colours as an incorrigible liar who will tell any lie, however repugnant to decent human beings in order to implicate other people.
It was not only Akinnola who responded to the book calling the former COAS a liar. Others have sent in their testimonials about a man who once held the power of life and death over fellow Nigerians – at home and abroad. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Col. Gabriel Ajayi (rtd) both called him an evil liar and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who was the Attorney General in Lagos State remarked that the book contained “blatant lies from his imagination”, representing thousands of Nigerians, in and out of uniform, whose lives were painfully touched by Bamaiyi, Mustapha and Abacha.
It is noteworthy that since the book was launched, nobody has supported Bamaiyi; not even his co-accused persons. That should tell us something about the character of a man who rose so high in the army without a dependable friend to call his own. It is now easy to understand why he was a loan ranger. That made him the perfect tool for a diabolical leader like Abacha who disliked those with divided loyalties.
As a four time detainee during the Abacha regime, I recall coming across several individuals who were held indefinitely on the orders of this evil man for matters not even related to national security. Those close to him used his office to settle civil matters – disputes about land, inheritance, debts and even marital issues. Bamaiyi, Mustapha, Omenka, and their master – Abacha – were monsters. That has raised the question: How did the Nigerian Army allow such evil men to rise so high in the system as to end up ruling our country?
Bamaiyi provided some of the answer himself when he accused General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, IBB, of promoting indiscipline among soldiers. For once Bamaiyi had support from a former COAS under IBB. Lt-General Ibrahim Salihu, on retirement from the army had described the Nigerian army as one “where anything goes”. That indiscipline, gradually entrenched in the military in general was on display at Tafawa Balewa Complex when Abacha, unlike previous Chiefs of the Army, was not seated to receive IBB after they were both promoted to full General status. Instead, he rode in at the same time as the military President as a four-star General. That indiscipline continued when Abacha refused to relocate to Abuja from Lagos like other service Chiefs.
The climax of that defiance of the Head of State by Abacha, came on the day IBB announced that he was “stepping aside” with all the service Chiefs. I was with Dapo Onifade, the VANGUARD News Editor, in his office on that day and time. The first fax type-written message that was received by all the print media houses pointedly included Abacha’s name among those to go with IBB on that day. The change was made just before Babangida went on the air. It was handwritten. Abacha’s name had been removed from the list of those to retire with IBB. We learnt later that Abacha made it clear that he was going nowhere and IBB surrendered. It was a coup! That paved the way for Abacha to plan the second coup against the Interim National Government, ING, installed by IBB, and headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan.
It was that indiscipline now entrenched which brought Bamaiyi variously described above to the highest rank in any army. Bamaiyi was not the choice of the army; he was Abacha’s choice because Abacha loved evil people around him. Together, they proceeded to terrorize the army and to create it in their own image.
“It is quite impossible for those who want to gain power to avoid getting rid of those likely to form opposition” according to Critias, 404 BC, an Athenian Statesman (VBQ p 197). Abacha looked around; and he identified Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, late Dasuki, former Sultan of Sokoto, and MKO Abiola among those likely to oppose his bid for total power. He set about getting rid of them one by one. The phantom coups followed the script of a human monster aiming to achieve maximum power over the people – at all costs. Bamaiyi, Mustapha, Sgt Rogers, Carl Omenka, etc were his instruments of destruction….
SHORT AND SHARP
Alhaji Lai Mohammed, as the National Publicity Secretary of the APC was very entertaining. He was in the news virtually everyday saying things which were mostly half-truths and sometimes utter lies. But that was permitted. We understand that “You cannot adopt politics as a profession and be honest.” (Howe, 1871-1936, VBQ p 192). He started out as a lawyer – not the best profession for training truth tellers. But, he is now Minister of Information – a position requiring telling the truth. For Lai, it has been like “fish out of water”.
However, can somebody please tell Lai Mohammed to stop telling us that Buhari is “hale and hearty”? It does neither Buhari nor Lai no good to continue eroding their credibility by saying things like this….