Former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has revealed how the late former American Ambassador in Nigeria, Amb. Walter Carrington offered him political asylum in the United States during the dark days of the late junta, Gen. Sani Abacha in 1995.
Obasanjo remarked that during his tenure as Ambassador, Carrington, helped in easing the move to democratic rule in the country, having met Nigeria under the military rule, which had run consecutively for over a decade and bred a culture of arbitrariness, flagrant abuse of human rights and disdain for the rule of law all of which relegated our dear country, Nigeria, to the unenviable league of pariah states in the comity of nations.
These attributes were contained in a condolence letter to the wife of the late Ambassador, Mrs Arese Carrington, copy which was made available to newsmen, by Special Assistant (Media) to the former President, Kehinde Akinyemi, in Abeokuta on Tuesday.
According to Obasanjo, Carrington was one of the responsible, mature and respected voices to take Nigeria out of the unwholesome situation it had found itself – permanently in crisis, regularly threatened with disintegration, prolongingly devoid of democracy, and economically plundered and mismanaged.
The former President stated that he, however, turned down the asylum offer, despite its tempting and assuring nature.
“Indeed, I recall, sometime in 1995, that on one of my trips to Copenhagen to attend World Social Summit as Human Development Ambassador of the United Nations Development Programme, I received the most touching of the warnings, pieces of advice and offers to me from Amb. Carrington. He called me in Copenhagen and told me categorically that I was going to be arrested on returning home and, therefore, advised me not to return home.
“But he did not stop it there, he offered me political asylum by his government in the US. That was both touching and assuring, but I decided that tempting and assuring as the offer was, I would not take it. I came back and was arrested and imprisoned by Abacha. No doubt, his generous assistance to my family, while I was a political prisoner, makes me forever indebted to him.
“When I was in prison, he was one of the few foreign Ambassadors who regularly visited my wife to encourage her and to find out how I was doing in prison. I can proudly say he was a true friend and brother.