A man with whom Obasanjo shares a history dating back to 1976, Alamieyeseigha says “I am at peace with myself today”. This is just a snippet, the least interesting part of the interview but chronology takes precedence hence the need to present the interview in the order it was conducted.
The other parts would be run in following weeks and readers would be at liberty to make up their minds on how Nigeria was governed in the heady days of matthew Okikiolakan Aremu Olusegun Obasanjo.
You needed to have seen Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha, the former governor of Bayelsa State. In this very first tell-all interview with Sunday Vanguard, Alamieyeseigha discloses some disturbing truths about former President Olusegun Obasanjo and what actually led to his travails. Sober but not condescending, Alamieyeseigha admitted that mistakes may have been made but that they were made on the platform of expediency.
He admits that he may not have been a perfect person but was quick to add that persecution was merely his lot for speaking his mind. Some of his traducers, he maintains, have come to apologise to him. In this multi-part interview which started by 2:02 pm and ended at about 6:20 pm, last Wednesday, Alamieyeseigha made revelations.
What have you been doing in the last four years?
(He looks up, shakes his head and begins) It has been a journey of life; four years after leaving office
Frankly speaking, I’m at peace with my family. I now have all the time to stay with them and give moral backing.
Apart from the paraphernalia of office, sirens, clearing the road, I’ve not seen anything spectacular in governance than the life I’m living now. I even have more persons, coming to me for one advice and counseling than when I was a governor. I’m being seen in the Niger Delta region as a godfather and people from all walks of life come to me for one form of assistance or the other. Indeed, the masterminds of my travails in the 2005 episode, most of them have come to beg me publicly and privately to forgive them and I’ve since forgiven them. I’m not an arrogant person so I’m not losing anything. I am down to earth and still doing what I used to do. There is nothing new in life that I was enjoying then that I am not enjoying today.
So, directly answering your question, I’ve always been contented with what I have.
That people can see you now, could that not be a function of the absence of the protocols?
Not necessarily so. When I was a governor, my government was people oriented; I did things that directly impacted my people. My people had access to me and people were never really shut out. Go and interview people on the streets of Bayelsa and ask them: Who was Alamieyeseigha? From 1999 to 2005 when I left office, my administration embarked on a number of people_oriented projects.
What specifically do you do now?
Since I left office I have not done any serious form of business or contract but I am surviving.
Well Nigerians are surviving too but yours would be of a different kind?
Yes surviving, surviving with my family, having time for them, asking: What do we have today, how are we going to utilize it.
But I must confess, being alive today is to the glory of God Almighty and it is only me who can tell the story of my survival so when I say I am surviving, I know what it means. It was not envisaged that I would survive. It was a grand design but today we thank God almighty, more than any other thing, that I am alive.
What actually happened?
To be precise, on the 18th of August 2005, that day happened to be Council of State meeting and we were all in Abuja for the meeting. I got a call from Nuhu Ribadu, chairman of EFCC, that ‘sir, go and reconcile with Obasanjo, he has directed that you and James Ibori, by all means should be roped in for corruption and disgraced out of office; that he believed that James Ibori had gone to reconcile and that I should also go quickly that he was a public servant, he carried out orders. I told him that I had done nothing wrong, that we were on good working terms.
However, after the Council of State meeting, I went to him and told him that I wanted to see him and he even joked that “your friend, Stella”, was not in town – that was around 7:30/8:00 pm.
Solomon Lar and his wife were there; they had lost a son so the wife came from Holland and was about going back, so it was a farewell visit of sort.
When he came out he wanted to see me I said no, please see Chief Solomon Lar first, which he did and they left. He then called me into his inner office.
As we entered, he did not even allow me to sit down, he said ‘DSP, you and Atiku want to take my job, you and Atiku want to take my job’. I then asked him, ‘what job’?
He said Atiku had come to tell him that I was going to run with him as Vice Presidential candidate. And I told him to the best of my knowledge that Atiku had not told me that I was going to run with him. I asked him, what are you trying to imply? He charged back ‘I am not leaving in 2007, a military man like you, instead of you to work with me, you’re supporting a bloody civilian.
I said, ‘Mr. President, are you now saying that in 2007, you are not going to leave?’
He said ‘Yes’.
I asked, ‘how are you going to do it, the constitution is very clear, you are serving your second term and at the end of this tenure, you should gracefully leave for others.
He said no, I am going to continue, ‘am I the oldest president in Africa’?
I said ‘Mr. President, can I say something?
He said ‘Yes, go ahead’.
I said ‘you will leave’.
You told him that?
Yes, I told him and he asked how?
I said ‘I bet on my life, you will leave. My loyalty to you will end on May 29, 2007, whether Atiku becomes President or not. I reminded him if he had forgotten that we all agreed in 1998 that you were only to run for four years – two years to stabilize the nation and another two years to launder our image abroad while Atiku would understudy you and take over when you leave.
I reminded him that in 2003, you were almost gone you were kneeling down, begging people, including myself. I was the only governor that got you back to power. I even threatened my other colleagues of what I was capable of doing if you were not allowed to continue. There is something in leadership and style that the North recognizes that we from the South do not. Not that I love Obasanjo more than my colleagues, I told them, but that they must allow Obasanjo to complete his two terms.
What did your colleagues from the North say?
Not just the North, there were some of my colleagues from the south who were there at the meeting too. I even told them that if Obasanjo was not allowed to complete his two terms, there would be no war in this country that we would not draw blood, but that we would all sit down and agree on how to negotiate and go our separate ways. I went that far to protect your job, because of that patriotic feeling that this nation belongs to all of us, that anybody can aspire.
In that meeting, I even confronted the chairman of the party, Audu Ogbeh. I asked who nominated him to be chairman of the party – it was Obasanjo. Every governor was in support of Gemade but for the fact that it was Obasanjo that nominated Ogbeh, we then reasoned that if we did not support Ogbeh, at the end of the day, the President, as the leader of the party would not fund the party and this would not be good. Indeed, Atiku summoned us many times, to accept Audu Ogbeh and I, Alamieyeseigha was the chairman of the convention that brought Ogbeh to power. I even asked Ogbeh whether he did not come to my lodge to beg me for support and that today, he is saying that Obasanjo was not marketable, that if you Ogbeh were marketable, would you have come to beg me for support. I did all that for Obasanjo.
You reminded him that night?
Yes, I reminded him of all that. I said ‘Mr. President, I think some of us in this country have to tell you the truth. I don’t think you have any new ideas after eight years in power to generate to better the lives of Nigerians. You would have run out of ideas.
‘Two, Mr. President, you are one of the richest people we know in Africa and beyond.
‘Three, you have made a name for yourself both in Nigeria and beyond, so what else do you want?
‘Four, Mr. President, if nobody has told you, you are no longer a young man.
‘I said Mr. President, all your children are grown up and are educated so what else do you want? I will suggest to you that you should relinquish power based on the constitutional provisions.
What was his response to all these?
He shouted at me, that ‘I will throw you out of my house’.
I said Mr. President, with due respect, this is not your house; so many people have passed through this place; you did not construct the place and I’m sure you know our language “Soldier Go, Soldier Come, Barracks Remain”. I am from Bayelsa State, the core state of the Niger Delta, that this house was built with my money.
I reminded him that I am more educated.
As you said all these he kept quiet?
Of course, he was not comfortable but he had to listen. Nigerians do not know Obasanjo; Obasanjo is a coward but Nigerians do not know. When he’s in a corner, he is a coward. If you hear Obasanjo shouting, he has people around him but if he is alone, please forget it.
We heard that you and Obasanjo have a very long history in the military?
Yes! In 1976, when the Air Force was to become autonomous, I received the regimental colours from Obasanjo. In 1979, I commanded the Air Force parade
Would you then blame him for his expectation of total support from you?
I don’t blame him but this was about Nigeria and not Obasanjo;
you mean after eight years?
Was Nigeria made for him?
So, let’s go back to that night in the Villa?
After I said all these he piped down but made it clear that it was only over his dead body that Atiku would be president of Nigeria. I told him that he was not God and I reminded him that he was sentenced to death and it was converted to 25 years in prison, 15 years, and he served three and a half years, people cleaned you up and you became the president. I asked him if he would not fear that type of God. Out of over 140 million people, you were favoured by that God. From 1979, the nation waited for you and in 1999, you became president and you’re still not grateful to God. I quoted Jeremiah chapter 13 for him, what God said he would do to ungrateful people.
Then I said Mr. President, you have done so many things in this country that I know of and for which you should be reminded. And he shouted, ‘what are those things, what are those things’?
Okay, what are those things?
I said ‘if you want me to remind you I will remind you’. And he said ‘say it, say it’.
I said in ‘1966, Mr. President, what happened?
In 1969, when the command structure of the armed forces was to be changed, when Adekunle was to be removed as GOC Third Marine Commando, and you were commanding Rear Garrison in Ibadan and Colonel Alabi was persuaded to speak to you to accept, when finally you became the GOC, what did you do to Colonel Alabi? If not for the late General Hassan Katsina, Colonel Alabi would have been a dead man you know that. In 1976, Mr. President, what happened to Murtala Mohammed – can you tell me what you knew about what happened? Mr. President, when Murtala Mohammed was purging the Armed Forces and the civil service for corruption, what was your own case and what role did Allison Ayida play in saving your neck and what did you do when eventually you became the president – Ayida was your first casualty. In 1979, Mr. President, when you were about to hand over power, truly what happened during that election between Awolowo and Shagari. I’m cutting all these things because I don’t want to go into details.
I said Mr. President when your military regime was to be probed you went to Joseph Wayas in the night, what did you do to him and how was a letter issued to you that you would not be probed? I said Mr. President, what happened and what did MKO Abiola do to you (all the letters you wrote, I was Special Adviser to Chukwumerije then as Minister, I was privileged to read them); what did the man do to you that you hated him with so much passion – somebody from your own state. Mr. President, you even projected yourself to be interim president. I said, Mr. President, did Abacha put you in jail wrongly? I said Mr. President, with all what General Abdulsalam Abubakar did for you, when you took over office, me and you know what and what you’ve done to that man, this is very current. He asked and shouted ‘what have I done to him, what have I done to him’?
I told him to let me just cite one: I reminded him that we were in the Council of State meeting and message came that his house was burning in Abuja here. He had to obtain permission, by the time he got there, the house was burnt to the ground – as I’m speaking to you have you one day asked about that incident?
All these made him very quiet.
I said Mr. President, what happened to Bola Ige, what happened to Dikibo, what happened to Marshall Harry?
I promise you that I was going to take you to the International Court of Justice for the destruction of Odi and I will do it.
Wait a minute. Was this a case of you discovering that you had crossed the Rubicon and there was no need pretending or a spirit came over you because talking to your president like that, in all honesty was crossing the line?
Yes what? That you didn’t care any more or that you became possessed?
Yes I didn’t bother because he had threatened me that he would demonstrate to me that he wasn’t only Mr. President but that he would show me that he was also the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. That was his opening statement: ‘I will show you that I’m not only Mr. President but that I am also the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, by the time I finish with you, you will know who you are’.
That angered me and it was an opportunity for me to empty what was bothering me once and for all because the same security forces were used to burn my lodge in Yenegoa. You won’t believe that I travelled and by the time I came back, they had gained entry into my house and they repainted my house and planted plastic explosives. As I entered the bombs started exploding and the whole building came down. That was in 2001.
But that was before you and Obasanjo had your problems?
Yes! I even went to him because I know, I am an ex-military man and I can pin point where it was coming from. I called bomb disposal people who came and established that they were bombs. So I came to Abuja and went straight to Mr. President who claimed that ‘I don’t know anything about it’, that the IG, Tafa Balogun would set up a high powered investigation team to look into it and I told him I did not want any investigation. I just made it clear that such should never be repeated, that if it happened I would fight back and if I fought back I may not know when to stop. It’s on record.
But there’s this story that you kept having altercations with him during meetings and that you were always confrontational – was that one of the occasions?
We were always having altercations.
So, how did the meeting of that night end?
Ha! It got to a time when the Director General of the SSS, Colonel Are, got worried and he came in and said, ‘Mr. President, you and your son today, what is the problem?’
Obasanjo told him that ‘this DSP na bad pickin, I will deal with him’.
It was so bad at a point that his children told him to leave DSP alone. His children Gboyega and Olu told him.
To cut everything short, he said he was going to let me be if I left Atiku; that ‘when I’m convinced that you are no longer with Atiku, I will leave you’
All these happened on August 18?
Yes and at that point, I left.
Some days later I was travelling to Germany for an operation. I wanted to follow British Airways, BA, I had BA ticket, I got to the airport, I changed my mind. Instead of going by BA, I bought Emirates and went to Dubai. It was later I got to know that there was something else awaiting me if I had flown BA. I got to know this through cross examination that why did I not fly BA which I had always flown for the past 30 years.
Lord Michaels of the British House of Lords came to my house in London and revealed to me the plans they had.
In fact, they’d gone further to America, that as long as I remained governor of Bayelsa State, the free flow of oil could not be guaranteed. America had said that by the year 2015, 25% of its energy requirement would come from the Gulf of Guinea and if there was such a powerful man who would disrupt this, according to the story they sold to them, he should be contained. So there were combined forces against me. My brother, my neighbour, in the Niger Delta was a local coordinator to assassinate me.
So how did your flying Emirate lead to your arrest?
From Dubai, I went to London, spent two days and went to Germany for my operations.
(Take a look at this: He flips his buba up and shows the denture of his protuberance, cut at an angle of almost 90% inwards some three inches before his navel) This is what people say that I went for tummy tuck, can you see the mark? Is this tummy tuck?
What was actually the problem then?
I had so many complications, respiratory and all that.
When I came out of the hospital, when I gained consciousness from the anesthesia, the first person I called was Obasanjo; that was my undoing. I told him I’ve just come out of operation and this was September 15. Immediately after, I started receiving funny texts.
Why did you call him?
I called him to tell him that the operation was successful and that I just regained consciousness and that once the stitches were removed I would come home. He even wished me quick recovery. He even told me his wife had just had eye surgery too and had just returned, that he was traveling to Spain, that he was going to tell his wife to call me – because I was relatively close to the wife.
When the texts and calls were coming in, I did not read the signs. I was alone in Germany and I just sent for my two children who were studying in London to come and keep me company. They came and we were there for three four days and on the day they removed the stitches, I said let me go back to London with these children because they had to go back to school. I flew business my children flew economy, but once the plane took off and became stabilized, they upgraded my children to business – how did they know that those were my children, I don’t know; this was BA.
Immediately the aircraft landed and the doors were opened, the Metropolitan Police came in and asked for Alamieyeseigha and his children. I stood up and said I am Alamieyeseigha and these are my two children they said ‘you are under arrest’. Under arrest for what I asked and they said it was for money laundering.
How, I asked.
I asked them if they were aware that I was a serving governor from Nigeria, a sovereign country. They said they knew all that and they said they had to handcuff me and I was handcuffed in the aircraft and brought out but as we came out of the aircraft, I saw Nuhu Ribadu standing at a corner – he was there to identify me.
I asked them a question whether they could arrest any serving governor from the United States if he had committed an offence within their jurisdiction, they said no but that ‘your president said we should arrest you. I asked: ‘My President? They said wait.
Constable Peter Clark, a private police detective, put the phone on speaker and called my President, he answered.
He said, ‘Mr. President Sir, the subject is with us’.
You could hear my President shouting, ‘DSP, hold him, hold him, hold him’.
And Ribadu was there?
Ribadu was just a few metres away. He was on another phone calling the Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun, to send mobile policemen from Port Harcourt and Delta to Bayelsa State in case the people would react. It was very convincing so I stopped and I said okay, I am satisfied, but I started bleeding because that was the morning the stitches were removed. They searched us and took us through immigration. They searched me and my children, our luggage, nothing was found. They asked my children to go home.
Then they took me in their black maria to a police station close to the airport and transferred me to another vehicle and drove me close to my flat in London, 247 Water Gardens in Edge well road. I could see the building. We were inside the vehicle for about 45 minutes without coming down and then they took off and drove me outside London.
Continues next week
By Jide Ajani, Deputy Editor – Culled from VANGUARD