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WHY ABACHA REFUSED TO RELEASE MKO ABIOLA BEFORE HE DIED IN DETENTION - OBA DAPO TEJUOSO

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The Osile Oke-Ona, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Oba Adedapo Adewale Tejuoso, has explained why the late General Sani Abacha refused to release the late Chief MKO Abiola, the widely acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election from detention. The monarch was a member of the 1994/95 Constitutional Conference. He spoke at a media parley marking his 22 years on the throne at the weekend in Abeokuta. Excerpts:

Ogun State at 35
Many governors have come and gone in various disguises, but Ogun State is yet to fulfill her destiny. A godly giant that is being toyed with, making people feel like grasshoppers in their own sight. God Almighty will surely remove the blinkers covering our eyes sooner than later in Jesus Name. We allude to Nigeria's underdevelopment, but God spoke through an anointed man of God, Benny Hinn, USA, that Nigeria is the best kept secret of God. My son, Dr. Lanre Tejuoso, was present at the crusade and they prayed fervently for the fulfillment of the prophecy to come to pass.

By the same token, Ogun State is going to be great, no doubt. God has assured us that without peace in Egbaland, there can be no peace in Ogun State or in Yorubaland not to talk of Nigeria. Justice, love and peace must therefore, be promptly established. As we all wait to see what will become of Nigeria, we also wait to see what will become of Ogun State. It is not a mere coincidence that all the important church activities in Nigeria are centred in and around the state.

Why do we have the camp ground of The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Deeper Life Bible Church, Mountain of Fire & Miracle Ministries on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and the Shiloh of the Living Faith Church a.k.a. Winners Chapel in Ogun State? Obviously, God means business in Ogun State. God wants to take over Nigeria at the right time and I believe the time is almost at hand. The Messiah is probably just around the corner.

When God was sending His people (missionaries and evangelists) to Nigeria, it was Ogun State that opened its doors to accept Christianity into Nigeria in 1842. It is not a mere coincidence that it was in Abeokuta that Christianity first took root in Nigeria. It is not a mere coincidence either, that Ogun State (Abeokuta) has produced Presidents/Head of State for Nigeria about three or four times. Tell me any other state or town that can boast of this in Nigeria today.

Nigeria's birthday should be January 1, 1914
I was reading in one of the newspapers a few days ago that the real birthday of Nigeria should be January 1, 1914. That was the day Nigeria was created (amalgamation of the Northern and the Southern Protectorates) and was pronounced Nigeria for the first time. That means in another three years, Nigeria will be 100 years old.

God has something in mind for Nigeria. He gave us so much resources and wealth but because He has His own plan, He did not put the best of the people in Nigeria yet. He only wanted people who will hold forte temporarily until He is ready to showcase His plans. Maybe in our 100th year, which will be January 1, 2014, God will expose the greatness of Nigeria to the world.

How God used me to save Nigeria
I say all these because God had used me to keep Nigeria one. It was around January, 1994, that we were praying here at home. God gave me a very important message that day and I wrote it down. He told me that they were going to call me to do something for Nigeria soon, that I should heed the call. On June 23, 1994, the following day that MKO Abiola was arrested, after he declared himself as president of Nigeria, the call came that I had been nominated by the Federal Government as the traditional ruler to represent South-West region at the Abuja Constitutional Conference of 1994/95.

Just as predicted, when I was nominated, there were disagreements, uproar and objections, most of them ill-motivated. People came here as if they were going to war to convince me not to go to Abuja. They came to my house here chanting war songs and threatening fire and brimstones, asking me not to go to Abuja. I said to them that I have been called by God to go and see what I can over there. Just let me go and obey God's command.

I can now confidently tell you that if I did not go to that constitutional conference, as God commanded me, Nigeria will be in pieces today. One of our major objectives was to decentralise political power in Nigeria to the six newly proposed geopolitical zones. We wanted to empower the six geopolitical zones and weaken the Federal (central) Government to discourage corruption and make politics at the centre unattractive to people that have the love of money at heart.

We discussed zoning and rotation of the Presidency. We agreed that only three representatives from each state should take part in the debate. The debate started on a Thursday. That weekend, the traditional rulers held their unofficial private meeting at Apo village. We concluded that by Monday morning, we would go and see the chairman of the conference, Justice Karibi Whyte. Fortunately for us, on getting there, the conference Vice Chairman, Justice Mamman Nasir, a former President of the Court of Appeal, was present.

When we were about to go, the Holy Spirit said to me that I should not let them go yet. I immediately requested all to sit back once again. I then said, Mr. Chairman, my prayer is that Nigeria will not break up through this conference as a result of our deeds or misdeeds. I said we had listened to 18 states debating whether they should release MKO Abiola or not. Those who spoke for the North did not want Abiola released. Those from the South wanted him released. I said I am sure that at the end of the debate today, Monday, the pattern will be the same.

By the prompting of the Holy Spirit, I then said if I were in your position, I would make a pronouncement after the debate that a committee be set up and immediately locked up in a room to discuss the subject matter thoroughly and dispassionately and come up with a reasonable compromise and recommendation. The chairman looked at his vice and they both smiled in agreement and said ok, thank you.

We continued the debate and at the end of it all, it was exactly the same pattern as I was divinely prompted to predict. The chairman and the deputy had obviously briefed Dr. Olusola Saraki who was the chairman of the Business Committee of the conference. At the end of the debate, it was Saraki who suggested exactly what I had earlier been divinely directed to tell them in the morning. He suggested that we should form a committee of 50 people. They called them the Committee of the 50 Wisemen of which I was a member. We were locked up. Saraki was made the chairman of the committee.

The debate started around 4.00 p.m. We southerners wanted the presidency zoned to the geopolitical zones and rotated among them. But the northerners neither wanted zoning nor rotation. Around 10.00 p.m., somebody from the North suddenly, got up and said ok, we accept that there will be zoning and rotation. But it would be between the North and the South and the six zones. We southerners then agreed we believed it was only a modified form of what we actually wanted. We, however, insisted that the rotation had to start from the South (the Yoruba in particular) in order to assuage frailed nerves and compensate the aggrieved zone. We all agreed. That was how we came about the rotation between the South and the North.

I got up to request that the decision should be inserted in the Constitution to avoid problems or misunderstanding in the future. It was Mr. Paul Unongo who said that the decision was not a constitutional matter but a political matter and that it would always be resolved politically. If we had inserted it in the Constitution then, this imbroglio we are having today, would not had arisen.

One president, two vice presidents with five-year one term tenure

One other important thing we decided which they also jettisoned was that we should have two Vice Presidents i.e. one President, with two Vice Presidents. This was because we envisaged what happened recently. Our view was that if we have two Vice Presidents, one from the South, the other from the North, it would mean that only a northern VP could succeed a northern President if anything happens to the northern President. We envisaged what happened recently.

They adopted about 75 percent of our 1994-95 Constitution to form the 1999 Constitution. The salient and the most relevant and very important points were left out. They only took what they thought suited them most. This is probably the payback period. President Goodluck Jonathan, however, rightly and justifiably said that he will only go for just one term of four years. Wise decision. This of course is what he is justifiably entitled to on this joint northern ticket he holds.

We also, concluded that we should have only one term of five years for the president and governors, no second term. The country was also expected to register only five political parties. See the very unwieldy situation we have today with scores of registered political parties leading to some disenfranchisements at voting. The government should please do something to correct this soonest

At what time were you booed at the constitutional conference?

That was at the initial stage. There is no crown without a cross. The booing was the cross I had to carry. Of course, the rotational presidency which finally brought General Olusegun Obasanjo to Aso-Rock on May 29, 1999, as our president was the befitting crown. Somehow, I became the leader of the Yoruba delegates at the conference. The Yoruba delegates were meeting in my house allocated to me at Apo Village, Abuja, every Monday night to plan and discuss our programme for the week.

We also had a prayer group praying for the conference every Tuesday night.

It was at that prayer conference that God revealed to us what later (two and a half years after) happened to General Oladipo Diya. This was about the then Abuja bomb explosion. Diya could have been blown up in the plane at the Abuja Airport if care was not taken. God sent me to him and I delivered the message. God told him what to do and I believe he obeyed God.

Whether I was booed or not, when we resumed after a two-week break, they gave delegates the opportunity to make their maiden speeches. I wrote, by divine prompting, that I would speak on Tuesday, July 12, 1994. That was the day they said I was booed not knowing that God had His own plan and purpose for that day. I got up at the conference to make factual but brutally frank speech.

What did I say that really offended them? I said 'what has MKO Abiola done that all or almost of us here present has not done before? Why can he not be forgiven?' I said that even some of us here had done worse things than MKO. Of course, Dr. Umaru Dikko was also present as a nominated delegate. The human crating episode in London was still very topical and very fresh in our memories. That was my maiden speech that caused the uproar. They assumed, rightly or wrongly, that I was addressing Dikko and they not did like that at all. God actually used the incidenct to establish us Yoruba.

When they started the noise, all the Yoruba delegates decided to walkout of the conference in protest. I have never before seen Yoruba so united. I also got up and wanted to walkout with them. They kept on pleading that I should not leave. The other traditional rulers, the Hausa, the Igbo and even the Yoruba said that I should not join them to walk out. Almost all the other Yoruba delegates left the conference hall. It was a divine strategy. I remained in the conference hall.

All the Hausa and Igbo in the hall were pleading with me to do everything possible to pacify them and make them come back to the conference. The Yoruba delegates later came and called me. They told me it was a strategy for all the delegates at the conference to henceforth see me as the leader of the Yoruba delegates at the conference and always respect, not only myself, as a traditional ruler but all the other Yoruba delegates and the Yoruba as a race. The Igbo kept coming to us and pleading that we should neither break the conference nor break Nigeria in the process.

We went back to the conference hall on the condition that I am allowed to conclude my speech. They agreed. Unfortunately for them, Justice Karibe White the chairman of the conference, a southerner, was not presiding that day. It was his deputy, Justice Nasir, a northerner, who presided. So it was seen as a clearcut case of the North versus the South. Justice Nasir kept pleading with me. What had infuriated me was the fact that a day or two before that day, Obasanjo had gathered some traditional rulers to visit Abacha. Obasanjo invited me to join them as the leader and a Yoruba traditional ruler present at the conference. We all went to see Abacha who, having listened to all our pleas, said he wanted to listen to the personal views of each of us traditional rulers one after the other.

There were 15 of us present. I was the only conference insider at that meeting. All of us spoke one after the other. We were discussing whether they should release MKO Abiola or not. All the northern traditional rulers, eight of them, present, said they should not release him. All the seven southern traditional rulers said they should release him. The northerners outnumbered the southerners by one. It was the following day that I delivered my speech at the conference. I therefore, understandably, spoke vehemently against the set-up, and they were infuriated.

When I came up again to speak for the second time, that day at the conference, they already started seeing us, the Yoruba delegates, as the real first team of the Yoruba and not the second team that they hitherto thought we were. I told them that, even if we all wanted one united Nigeria, it would certainly not be just at any cost to us. It would certainly have to be with mutual respect. Everybody deserves his due respect. That there is a limit to human endurance. That we will certainly not allow anyone or indeed any tribe to enslave us Yoruba anymore. That we are all free born of Nigeria. Everybody has the right to be here at the conference and every Nigerian has, or ought to have, a right to be President.

I told them I was with Abacha the previous day along with Obasanjo and about 15 traditional rulers among others. I said the eight northerners did not want MKO released while the seven southerners wanted him released. The same pattern seemed to be taking shape here and now and this will certainly not be tolerated. The whole place was calm. They all listened to me with rapt attention.

By the time I finished, it was Dr. Tunji Otegbeye, now of blessed memory, who first came to congratulate me and said 'you are indeed a fire brand'. That my second coming was even more pungent and more powerful than the first. It is obvious that if God did not send me to that conference, with His wisdom, there will be no Nigeria today. I thank God most sincerely for using me as a vessel unto honour. I am eternally grateful to God Almighty and I am still readily available to Him for His use at anytime. May His Holy name be praised both now and forever more in Jesus Name. (Amen)