By Charles Kumolu, Deputy Sunday Editor
A former governor of Ogun State, Chief Segun Osoba, has revealed that but for his intervention, former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the late ex-governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, would have exchanged blows at the Presidential Villa in 2002.
He explained that the incident which happened at a meeting to discuss the plot to impeach Obasanjo by then leadership of the House of Representatives under Ghali Na’aba, saw the former President attempting to assault Alamieyesiegha until he was prevented from doing so.
The elder statesman, who made the revelations in his book titled, Battlelines: Adventures in Journalism and Politics, which would be launched on July 8, 2019, in Lagos, said governors elected on the platform of Alliance for Democracy, AD, had gone to prevail on Obasanjo on the need to have a dialogue with the House over the impeachment move when the incident happened.
Apart from his life, Osoba chronicled major phases in the history of print media in the book, and as well, provided insights into some key developments in Nigeria’s democratic journey.
Decision to save Obasanjo
In the 341-page book, the elder statesman, who would clock 80 on July 15, 2019, said the decision to save Obasanjo from impeachment was to forestall military intervention at the time.
He noted that it would not have augured well for Nigeria if the House was allowed to go ahead with the impeachment plot.
Excerpts from the book read: “Apart from the D’Rovan Presidential Electoral College fiasco of AD in Ibadan, one other factor that led to the implosion of Afenifere and the AD was the pact we had with President Olusegun Obasanjo over the 2003 presidential election. Contrary to the impression in some quarters that the AD governors were solely responsible for the support for Obasanjo in the 2003 election, the truth is that it was the collective decision of the Afenifere/AD hierarchy.
“Everyone knew that there was no love lost between governors of Afenifere/AD and President Obasanjo. Even though we did not want the relationship between the state and the federal government to be antagonistic, we were not Obasanjo’s friends in any way. I never had any one-on-one meeting with him throughout the four years he was in office. All the AD governors were not Obasanjo’s friends. The AD governors were committed strictly to implementing the programme of our party.
A meeting with Obasanjo
“However, it was the attempt by the House of Representatives under Right-Honourable Ghali Umar Na’Abba in August 2002 to impeach him that thawed the icy relationship between us and Obasanjo. That created an opportunity for Obasanjo to want to embrace us too. But we didn’t have a meeting with him on this crisis to support him. Out of our own volition, we decided that the democratic experiment in the country was too fragile for the kind of shock therapy that Na’Abba and the House of Representatives were planning to apply to it by impeaching Obasanjo.
“Our party caucus in the National Assembly and the leadership of the party decided to block the attempt at impeachment without any prompting from Obasanjo. Those of us who suffered under the military, unlike the likes of Na’Abba, were conscious of the implications of what they were doing if it led to a political crisis and military intervention. Therefore, we were more concerned about forestalling another military intervention in the polity. This is why the AD caucus in the National Assembly and the leadership of the AD opposed the impeachment plot.
“This was not about ethnic solidarity, as many people charged. We were the ones who fought for the restoration of democracy in Nigeria. Most of those who were causing the tension, including Obasanjo himself, were the ones standing in the way of democratic aspirations of Nigerians for so many years. The experiences of many of us in the AD, including our leader, Chief Adesanya who survived an assassination attempt, the Abiola family and the families who lost their loved ones on the streets of the Southwest during the protest, taught us not to allow the military to ever return to power.
Alamieyesiegha was nearly assaulted
“I led the team of state governors to meet the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Right Honourable Ghali Umar Na’Abba. We pleaded with him to shelve the impeachment plot. After meeting with Na’Abba, we met with Obasanjo at the Villa to discuss with him too. In the course of our interaction, then Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha was nearly assaulted physically when he said something that was misconstrued by Obasanjo.
“Oga (meaning Obasanjo), we (the governors) are in charge,” Alamieyeseigha said.
Obasanjo would not wait for Alamieyesiegha to finish his statement when he jumped up and queried:
“You, in charge; where? I am the President! In charge of what? I am fully in charge!”
“An incensed Obasanjo moved towards Governor Alamieyesiegha in a menacing manner. It was, for me, another terrible limitation of Obasanjo that day. What the governor of Bayelsa was going to say was that as governors we had strong leverage over most of our state’s representatives in the National Assembly and we could get them to thwart any attempt to impeach him, if only he worked with us and allowed us to do so. I had to douse the tension by intervening.
“I clarified Alamieyeseigha’s statement by adding that those of us who suffered for democracy and someone like him who had to go to jail for some other reasons, should understand why we needed to ensure the survival of democracy. I pleaded with him to show maturity as a statesman by stooping to conquer. I explained that he needed to let us take charge of the situation and douse the tension between him and the National Assembly.
“OK, I understand now. You want me to stoop to conquer,” Obasanjo said. That was how we managed to save an ugly situation that could have resulted in an exchange of blows between him and Alamieyeseigha.
- Keep a date with Vanguard tomorrow for more intriguing revelations from the book.