•Says ex-Army chief, in his book, lied, betrayed Diya
•’I was tortured beyond human comprehension’
By Yinka Ajayi
Colonel Gabriel Ajayi (retd), a former Quarter Master General, Lagos Garrison Command is bitter about the account of a former Chief of Army Staff, General Ishaya Bamaiyi, of the 1995 coup for which he was convicted under the Abacha regime. Ajayi, in this interview, responds to the claims by Bamaiyi in his book, ‘The Vindication of a General’.
•Colonel Gabriel Ajayi
In the book written by General Bamaiyi, he tried to narrate what took place in 1995 and 1997 coups and your name happened to have been mentioned in the 1995 coup. How do you react to the account given by Bamaiyi in the book?
It is not in my character to violate the sanctity of superior rank. Seniority is sacrosanct in the military. But when a general descends into the sewage tank, he cannot expect to come out smelling nice. That is how I can describe him.
I expected General Bamaiyi to have come out with a book apologising to all Nigerians for the ills perpetrated under the regime of General Sani Abacha. It would have been better for him to have apologised and tell Nigerians that what happened under the the regime would not happen again, that it was era of madness.
I was a regular infantry officer. I fear nobody. There was no general I could not speak to, otherwise I wouldn’t have been a combatant soldier.
I have read the General Ishaya Bamaiyi book, but I have not read everything, all the papers he wrote. Meanwhile, the book could be best titled, “Comedy of Errors,” a fictional thriller. Even then, I believe thrillers are based on truth, but embellished, but his own that I have read so far is nothing but total falsehood. He sold himself by trying to exonerate Abacha from the misdeeds of their government by saying the former Head of State did not steal Nigerian money but helped us to put Nigerian money in his family account. I think the book is an act of cowardise to denigrate his colleagues who they handled badly, who they betrayed. Look at the way he betrayed Diya. I tend to believe everything said by Diya rather than what Bamaiyi has said because I know Bamaiyi in and out. He was my boss. I was like a de facto number two man to him. I was in charge of administration in the army.
I had the Director of Chaplain, Director of Finance under me. The civilian section was under me; medical, engineering, public relations, education were also under me and those who headed them were experts in their fields and I had a legal adviser. So, I never believed in coup making. As a strong Christian, I believe coup making is like witchcraft, iniquity and idolatry. So Bamaiyi was an evil man as a military officer. He should have been explaining the death in mysterious circumstances that took place in Lagos when he was Garrison Commander. He was Garrison Commander until Abacha made him the Chief of Army Staff. It was General Diya against all odds and good advice that made him the Chief of Army Staff, and he bite the finger that fed him.
But it is like Bamaiyi was trying to set the record straight in his book.
There was no record to be set straight, all he said was full of falsehood. He would have written his memoir, talk about his life, about his experience, not about incidents where you say somebody said this. For instance, concerning me, he said they were in a meeting with General Kashe, General Olanrewaju, the DMI and possibly other people and they decided that some officers should be arrested, including me. He said based on the decision taken at the meeting, he came to arrest me. But General Olanrewaju has come out to say that nothing of such happened. He claimed General Olanrewaju said at the meeting that we were about to strike and that unless we were quickly arrested, the coup would take place, but General Olanrewaju has come out to debunk it. General Olanrewaju didn’t even mention my name. He said he was asked to arrest Lawan Gwadabe who was based in Yola and one of his commanders. My name was not mentioned by General Olanrewaju-Bamaiyi put my name himself. I was just a victim of hatred for Yoruba. Bamaiyi said so many unprintable things about Yoruba which I cannot say because I don’t want to cause problems.
Some of his other colleagues from the North who did not say what he said were saying the same thing with their body language. If you know what some of these people think about us, you will run away from them. Some of them will say Nigeria is not Lagos and Ibadan, but nobody has said Nigeria is Lagos and Ibadan.
There were two armies in Nigeria during Bamaiyi’s time. The army of the North and army of the South. Lagos was full of intrigues, back biting, dog eat dog. In the North, we were one closely-nit family. Many officers, when they retired, they settled in Kaduna. Nigerian Defence Academy is there, some other army institutions are there. It was like one big family in Kaduna. It was in Lagos that I discovered that we belonged to a different army. I spent 95 per cent of my career in various posts in northern Nigeria from the time I served briefly in Ibadan in 1973, 1974 and 1975, when I was the Commander of the Government House Guards in Agodi. From there, I moved to the North. As a senior officer, a full colonel, I came to Lagos and got inside the intrigues. My coming to Lagos coincided with the aftermath of the annulment of June 12, 1993 election, and like most officers, I was actually unhappy with the annulment, not because it was Chief MKO Abiola that won the election but because injustice begets injustice, and what goes around comes around.
On Bamaiyi’s account of the 1995 coup, he didn’t say anything other than that he was asked to arrest me. He can’t deny that we were in the church together, he can’t deny that we took holy communion together. He can’t deny that we joined the convention to pray for me while my name was in his pocket among the people already condemned to be killed. In fact, their intention was to kill us; they said we would resist arrest and that they were supposed to shoot us there and they would say we were shot while resisting arrest.
Were you surprised seeing this thing happen given your closeness to Bamaiyi as his second in command?
I was surprised because my mind was open to him. One thing that I would not do and did not do was to draw anybody to shoot my own people. I commanded in the North, I never shot anybody. How then would I wear the same uniform and come to Lagos and shoot people? No. I would not be part of it. What the military was doing that time did not go in line with the principle of keeping the peace and even what we are still doing today does not follow the principle of keeping the peace. The job the military is doing now is the job of the police and there was no time the police ever said they were overwhelmed and they needed military support.
Bamaiyi is just representing what is bad in all Nigeria as intrigues maker. Bamaiyi belongs to the group of coup manufacturers, imaginary coup bursters. And since Obasanjo in 1999 booted out this group of people, have you ever heard about rumour of coups again? Since Bamaiyi was sent out of service, there has been peace. Ninety- nine per cent of the Nigerian military has no business with coup; people wanted to do their job but many people lost their jobs because some people wanted to rise to the top.
Bamaiyi once told us in a conference that there is no God. He said Imams and chaplains were supposed to pray only for the dead. He said so many things about Yoruba which I don’t want to say because I don’t want to ruffle feathers. But in the second edition of my book, I will put a lot of things that would take the sail out of what he said.
Do you regret ever joining the military?
The title of one of the chapters of my book is “What a Career, What A Profession?” If you look at the way it went, I would say I regret it, but if you look at it from the other way, like my wife used to say, when I was a child, I wanted to be a soldier. If I could not be a soldier, I could have been a journalist, while my grandfather wanted me to be a pastor because he was the president of our church. The first job I got was to be a reporter at Nigerian Tribune immediately I left secondary school but my obsession with the military made me to search until I got admission to Nigerian Defence Academy and I made the best of it.
My regret is that I was unable to give what I wanted to give Nigeria. I wasn’t able to serve well. The military did not allow me to have a successful career because of the intrigues of some wicked people. But I thank God I was able, during my period of service, to help so many officers. I contributed to the careers of so many, especially as a teacher in the Armed Forces Command College and as instructor at the Army Depot in Zaria. And some of those I trained have become the Chief of Staff and foreign officers.
But on a personal note, I feel they made me an Abiku in the military. I thought I could bring innovation into the Army if I got to the top by building a force which first line of defence would be intelligence.
But I thank God because the life I am living today is a bonus from God. Abacha, Bamaiyi and co wanted me dead at all costs for no reason.
Justice Oputa ruled that the phantom coup was the greatest travesty he had ever seen in his judicial career and declared our conviction null and void. It is unfortunate that the Oputa Panel’s recommendations were not implemented. But we are still taking it up with government. We were given compulsory retirement for services not required which is still a punishment and we didn’t commit any crime.
They should hide their heads in shame for dealing with human beings the way they dealt with us. I was tortured beyond human comprehension. I lost my manhood in the torture. You met me in hospital. Since 1999 when I came out of prison, this has been the experience, today hospital, tomorrow hospital. If I show you the drugs I have in the house, you will think I have a pharmacy selling drugs because of the torture. I can’t hold tumbler with these hands, it will fall. At times, my hands will operate on their own because of the torture I had from Bamaiyi’s men. The legs too, I was hung like barbecue ram until I became unconscious before they will bring me down and start pouring water on me to wake me up.
The post Bamaiyi wanted me dead while eating holy communion with me in church – Colonel Ajayi (retd) appeared first on Vanguard News.
•Says ex-Army chief, in his book, lied, betrayed Diya