Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Friday morning recounted how he was almost set free from Yola Prison commando-style by “international friends”.
Although he did not state the year, he was in prison from 1995 to 1998 on allegations of a coup plot against the military government of Sani Abacha.
He said when he was sent to prison, “some of my international friends sent a message that they were ready to storm the Yola Prison and rescue me in a helicopter and take me to safety in Cameroon, but I said no; if you do that I will not leave the prison”.
Obasanjo was speaking at the 20th anniversary of the death of Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, a retired major general and his deputy when he was military head of state from 1976-1979.
Both Obasanjo and Yar’Adua were arrested in 1995 over what many considered a phantom coup allegation by Abacha.
Obasanjo and Yar’Adua were given the death penalty but their sentences were committed to life imprisonment later.
While Yar’Adua died in Abakaliki — allegedly poisoned — Obasanjo was released by the government of Abdulsalami Abubakar in 1998 and he went on to get elected twice as president between 1999 and 2007.
Obasanjo recounted how both of them were framed over the coup.
“When I learned that Shehu was first arrested, I asked Abacha and he said he was not aware. I said it is not possible for a former No. 2 to be arrested without the knowledge of the current No 1. Thereafter, Shehu was released,” he said.
“Later, Shehu was arrested again, and I was also arrested. We were detained at different locations and we never got to see each other again until we were sentenced. We thereafter met at Kirikiri Maximum Prison.
”It was a mistake to allow us to be together again. There at Kirikiri, we discussed at length and strategized on Nigeria. Unfortunately, he died in prison and he could not fulfill his dreams for the country in his lifetime.”