By Eric Teniola
OF all the people arrested and found guilty of the General Oladipo Diya (N/671) coup plot in December 1997 under the late General Sani Abacha, only three have not been given Presidential pardon. They are Major-General Adeniyi Tajudeen Olanrewaju (rtd.) (N/817), Colonel Edwin Jando(N/3400) and the late Colonel O.O. Akinyode(N/5852) .
If granted, the pardon will close the final chapter of the 20-year-old saga and speed up the needed reconciliation.
On March 4, 1999, in an extraordinary gazette Number 33 of government Number 78, the then Head of State, General Abdusalami Alhaji Abubakar, GCFR, granted the following, grant of clemency.
They are Lt-Gen. D.O. Diya(N/617), Maj-Gen A.T. Olanrewaju (N/817), Maj-Gen A.K. Adisa (N/1367), Col. E. I. Jando (N/3400), Col. Y. Bako (N/5527), Lt. Col. O.O. Akinyode (N/5852)-Posthumously, Major A. A. Fadipe (N/7664), Major B.M. Mohammed (N/7962), L/Col.Galadima Tanko(79NA/35/1725).
Others are Mr. Niran Malaolu, former Editor of the Diet Newspaper, Mr. Ojeniyi Ademola, Mr. Isaiah Adebowale, Mr. Muktar Maidabino, Engineer A. A. Adebanjo and Mrs. Sola Soile.
In the same gazette, General Abubakar pardoned the following: Ex Major Akinloye Akinyemi, Col. Lawan Gwadabe(N/2665), Col. O.Oloruntoba, Col. R.S. B. Bello- Fadile(N/3137), Col. R.N. Emokpae (N/3139), Col. E. I. Ndubueze(N/2705), Col. G. A. Ajayi(N/3018), Lt. Col K.H. Bulus (N/3399), Lt.Col. S.E. Oyewole(N/5413), Lt.Col. M. A. M. A. Igwe(N/2879), Lt. Col M.A. Ajayi(Rtd.), Lt.Col. R.D. Obiki (N/3396), Cdr. L.M.O. Fabiyi (NN/430),Major E.O. Obalisa(N/6111), Capt. M.A. Ibrahim(N/8815), Lt. A. Olowookere(NN/1330), Second Lieutenant R. Emouvhe (N/9515), 63NA/196806 Sagt. Patrick Usikpeko and Mrs. Chris Anyanwu, who was later elected a Senator from Imo State.
General Abdusalam also pardoned the following: Lt. Col. O.E. Nyong(N/5454), Lt.Col. C.P. Izourgu (N/2935), Lt. Col. V.O. Bamgbose(N/5931), Lt. Col. S.B. Mepaiyeda(N/5840), Major I.O. Edeh(N/3406), Ex-Major N.U. Okoro (N/6906), Capt. A. A. Ogunsuyi, 63NA/313099 Cpl. Godspower Ogbionouvia, 79NA/22520 Lcpl Joseph Onwe and Miss Quienette Lewis Allagoa.
General Abubakar in addition ruled that charges leveled against the following be dropped and their names be removed from the Nigeria Police list of wanted persons. They are Col. Sambo Dasuki(rtd.), who later became National Security Adviser under President Goodluck Jonathan, GCFR, Lt.Col. G.A.A. Nyiam(rtd.), Chief Great Ogboru, Mr. Benson Ikpe and Mr. Anthony Awoluyi.
On April 29, 2015, in a government gazette No 33 of government notice 44, President GoodluckJonathan,GCFR, gave the following Presidential pardon: Ex Major Bello Muhammed Magaji(NN/6604), Muhammed Abba Liman Biu, Shettima Muhammed Bulama, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha(former Governor of Bayelsa State), Lt.General Oladipo Diya(rtd.), Major General Abdulkareem Adisa(Post Humous) and Major Segun Fadipe(rtd).
Omitted on the list of those pardoned were General Olanrewaju, Col. Jando and the late Col. Akinyode.
General Olarenwaju, who entered the Nigerian Army in 1967 had earlier served as 2nd Field Artillery Battery, Nigerian Army Corps of Artillery (during the Nigerian Civil War), Deputy Defence Adviser, Nigerian Embassy, Moscow, Commander, 3rd Division Artillery, Jos, Principal Staff Officer,HQ Corps of Artillery, Directing Staff, Army Command and Staff College, Kaduna, Commandant (Colonel), Nigerian Army School of Artillery, Kachia, Kaduna, Commandment (Brig-General), 35 Air Defence Artiller Brigade, Akure, Corps Commander, Nigerian Army Corps of Artillery, Bonny Camp and Kontagora and General Officer Commanding(GOC,3rd Armouured Division, Nigeria Army. He became a member of Nigeria’s highest Military Ruling Body, THE PROVISIONAL MILITARY COUNCIL.
In addition, he was the Chairman of States Asset Sharing Committee and also Chairman on the Review Committee of the report on Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.
I was with him at his Ikoyi residence last week during which he explained to me the difference between pardon and clemency. “There were two sets of amnesty granted, one amnesty is”pardon” while the other is “clemency” and yet both were allegedly committed under the same set of circumstances. This clearly runs against the then governments’ so called policy of national reconciliation.”
General Olanrewaju explained that only President Buhari has the power to grant him Presidential pardon.
He declared: “Throughout the trial, there were no charges relating to illegal acquisition to warrant any forfeiture of “ill-gotten wealth.” Throughout the period of the court arraignment, there was no trial within trial that could warrant any accused person to defend him or herself against corruption or misuse of government funds. Any forfeiture without a fair hearing or trial under a properly constituted legal body is ill motivated, illegal and therefore totally void.
“The coup trial, like that of 1995 was conceived in bad faith and executed with malice. The principles of fair hearing, fundamental human rights and choice of legal representatives were not given pride of place and respect. It was a secret trial with serious breaches of fundamental rights of the accused persons.
“I have served my country to the best of my ability and with all that I have got. I am lucky to have been given an opportunity to serve. The pardon which I am seeking will let me get over the nightmare. It will also enable me to be paid my entitlements for all the years I have served in the Nigerian Army.”
General Olanrewaju said his regret was not telling General Sani Abacha about the coup plot and that till today, he believed that it was a set up. “I have forgiven those involved including those who betrayed me. I don’t carry any hatred in my heart.”
In conclusion, he said it is important to state that the events that led to these circumstances are unfortunate and deeply regretted. There is this adage that talks about human error and forgiveness which states “to err is human and to forgive is divine.”