By Eric Teniola
‘IT has neither been easy nor perfect, but there are improvements and evidence of learning among the political class. Any bad signs and misconduct would have to be carefully monitored. For those countries with similar experiences to Nigeria’s, there is a need to find an effective and relatively painless way of curbing the incidence of coups and corruption by the military,” President Obasanjo concluded.
In the book, entitled Vindication Of A General by Lt. Gen. Ishaya Rizi Bamaiyi (retd.), the name of Major General Magashi featured prominently. On page 23 of the book, General Bamaiyi declared: “I voluntarily retired when the military handed over power in 1999. As a result of the plan by security operators, everything I did was misunderstood. My first COAS Training Conference in Sokoto in November 1996 was used by these disgruntled officers as a test case. Sokoto was filled with security officers from DMI and SSS and some officers from the CDI’s office to monitor and confirm a coup d’etat I was alleged to be planning. I was aware of these maneouvres through my own security. I decided to play the fool, and a report was made of how General Magashi and I laughed when one of the lecturers amused us; it was alleged that it was because we were happy with the coup arrangement, but there was nothing to report to the commander-in-chief on the imagined coup plan by these officers.”
On page 56 of the book, General Bamaiyi wrote: “The three of us never went to see Diya, and General Alli never discussed the assassination of anybody with me. Diya and Alli seem to have acted in all that had happened while Alli was in the service. Alli appeared to have agreed to help set up Diya but later confessed to such a setup when both of them were trying to get Abacha overthrown. Interestingly, the story was subtitled: ‘Bashir Magashi and Lt. General Bamaiyi planned to kill General Babangida’. General Alli, the most senior officer directed by Diya to allegedly brief General Abacha, was left out. General Diya also claimed that General Alli admitted it was a setup. What did General Diya and Major General Alli do when they found out it was a setup? If we had tried to set up General Diya in 1996, why did he agree to deal with us again in 1997? Was Diya such a confused general?”
In conclusion, General Bamaiyi said on page 112 that: “General Abacha died in the early hours of June 8, 1998. His family decided he would not be given a military burial and had to be buried at night in Kano. Before leaving Abuja for Kano with the remains of General Abacha, I observed that some officers were not ready to go to Kano for the burial. They included Brigadier General Sabo (DMI), Brigadier General Muazu (Commander Guards Brigade), and Colonel Buba Marwa, Military Administrator, Lagos State.
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“At the airport, I had to order Marwa to go into the aircraft to proceed to Kano. At that time I had already given orders to Lt. Colonel Mana, CO, 81Bn Keffi to ensure no officer took any step against the government; he was not to take orders from anyone but me. He was ordered to deal with anyone who made any move to take over the government while we were in Kano. “We returned from Kano and went into the chambers to decide who would become the commander-in-chief. While in Kano, some senior officers had decided the COAS would take over the government. I had never been interested in any political office, had avoided them so far, and had no intention of taking up the position of commander-in-chief. I made this clear to the senior officers who insisted I should take over, including Generals SVL Malu, Magashi and Aziza. I was also aware of some junior officers who were against my taking over as commander-in-chief because they felt I would not tolerate them in service,” General Bamaiyi declared.
After his release from prison in 1998, the former principal staff officer to General Sani Abacha who was also the former governor of Niger State, Colonel Lawan Gwadabe (retd.) in an interview with a newspaper named General Magashi as a prominent member of General Abacha’s powerful caucus which he described as steering committee. According to Colonel Gwadabe, the members of the committee were General Sani Abacha – chairman; Lt.-Gen. Oladipo Diya – vice chairman; Major Gen. Chris Ali – member; Major Gen. I.D. Gume – member; Major Gen. Tajudeen Olanrewaju – member, Brig. Gen. A. Abdullahi – member; Major Gen. P. Aziza – member; Major Gen. B. S. Magashi – member; Col. Lawan Gwadabe – secretary. He added that: “Everybody seemed to be scheming against the other. I decided to maintain my neutrality.”
Colonel Gwadabe went further to state that: “I briefed Gen. Abdusalam Abubakar about the nonsense that I had to endure since I left Abuja and demanded to know whether I was the only officer left in the Army that worked with Babangida, because that was the crux of the matter. Gen. Abubakar calmed me down and promised to speak to the C-in- C. He swore he was not aware of the matter, but that he would do something about it. He directed that I should see him in the office. Gen. Abdusalam Abubakar called General Sani Abacha and took my matter up. Abacha then told him that Gumel, Abdullahi, and Magashi came to him to say that it was the consensus of the meeting that I should be retired.”
All these show that General Magashi was a key player in the hi-tech intrigue in the Villa during the General Abacha era and the attempt to perpetuate him in office. Another key player during that era is Colonel Muhammed Mustapha Abdallah from Hong in Adamawa State, who was formerly personal assistant to General Sani Abacha in the Villa but who is now chief executive officer of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency. He was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari on January 11, 2016.