For those who knew the late Aro of Mopa and former principal private secretary to the late Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Chief Sunday B. Awoniyi - while he was alive,was a journalist delight: every responsible and responsive journalist wanted to engage him. If you are a journalist working for a weekly or periodic magazine, who depends on anecdote leads to tell good stories, you would be luckier to engage Awoniyi in a discussion on any issue – be it politics, economy or religious.
Extremely intelligent with enormous knowledge about anything under the sun, the late former super permanent secretary would take you through stories about one amazing event or the other while his public service lasted. And trust a good magazine journalist: he would always find the content of Awoniyi’ stories very useful, especially in a kind of news story that requires a combination of explanatory and exploratory writings. And I was one of the benefactors of his wealth of experience.
By his conduct and action, the former chairman of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), detested dishonest politicians; he was very hostile to abuse of power by politicians especially by those who played God. From my experiences with him, Chief Awoniyi was not a friend to selfish politicians who derive joy in seeing the poor suffer. The good man died on November 28, 2007 as a result of injuries he sustained from an auto crash along the Abuja-Kaduna road while trying to negotiate many potholes along the expressway.
As a journalist with TheNews/Tempo magazines then, late Awoniyi was one of my reliable and trusted sources of information. He was ever ready to confide in me on many national issues, especially in those days of the numerous wicked and evil political and economic policies of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime which brought severe pains and hardship to longsuffering Nigerians.
In one of his many factual stories, which I eventually confirmed from other credible sources, Chief Awoniyi, a former super permanent secretary, told me how Obasanjo begged him in 1975 to help save his military career during the regime of a no-nonsense former head of state, late General Murtala Muhammed. What was Obasanjo’s problem? One of his many estranged wives had petitioned Gen. Muhammed, detailing how Obasanjo misused his power as the then military officer to the detriment of the army. The anti-corruption crusader general, Muhammed who later investigated the petition, found Obasanjo’s offence unpardonable and was ready to dismiss him from the military. An embattled Obasanjo was later advised to solicit the help of Muhammed’s senior prefect at Barewa College, Zaria, Chief Awoniyi, to save his career. He did quite that. A day after Obasanjo approached him for the help he (Awoniyi) was in Dodan Barracks, Lagos – the then seat of power as early as 7am. “At exactly 7:30am, General Muhammed walked into his office and met me waiting for him. He was shocked to see me that early morning; he knew something very important brought me there. And he (Muhammed) said senior, what are you doing in my office this morning? Before I could reply him he ushered me into his office”, Awoniyi had stated.
The then permanent secretary eventually told his boss, Gen. Muhammed, his mission. According to Awoniyi, the late head of state brought out from his drawer a petition written by Obasanjo’s wife, which he said had been investigated to be true and gave it to him to read. It was very dirty. But in spite of that, the late Aro of Mopa pleaded with Gen. Muhammed to give Obasanjo a second chance. To cut the long story short, the late head of state, after much plea, acceded to Awoniyi’s request and asked him to tell Obasanjo to sin no more.
Guess what happened? A few months later, General Muhammed was assassinated in a controversial violent military coup led by Col. Dimka and Obasanjo was persuaded “against his will” to succeed him. Sadly, the first person Obasanjo forced to retire from the federal civil service was the man who saved him from being dismissed from the military, Chief Awoniyi. Heartless man, you may say. Yes.
For those who don’t know, many cases abound - which point to the notorious fact that Obasanjo derives joy from destroying his friends. From the south-west geo-political zone, I am very sure the families of assassinated Chief Bola Ige, late Sunday Afolabi, an Owo high chief, Chief Fasawe, Chief Bode Geoge and others, have similar sad stories to tell about Obasanjo’s iniquity. Ask his former deputy, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who Obasanjo is and he will also surely advise you to kill Obasanjo first before a sapient if both mistakenly approach your room at the same time. It was an Atiku-led political structure, the PDM, which brought Obasanjo to power against the popular rejection by his Yoruba people; but no sooner than Obasanjo came to power in 1999 than he destroyed Atiku and his political structure. The sins of the Ogun State born former president are many. Obasanjo knew the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was suffering from a terminal ailment and may not be able to finish his tenure but he chose to impose him on the nation against the will of the entire north and Nigerians in general, eventually making way for President Goodluck Jonathan to come to power.
Today, we are also being told that the same Obasanjo wants Jonathan out of power by all means necessary for whatever reasons. We are being told he wants power to return to the North in 2015. Already, some naive politicians, especially some of the northern governors with presidential ambition are falling over one another for Obasanjo’s messianic toga. I pity them. It appears most of them have not learnt their lessons. Otherwise, they would have known that the greatest enemy of the north and south west today is Obasanjo. He has severally betrayed them in the past and there are no signs that he has turned a new leaf. The ongoing talk about Obasanjo wanting power to return to the north is all nonsense. In Nigeria today, whoever Obasanjo endorses is doomed politically. I have no problem with the north struggling for power at the federal level in 2015, but they will live to regret it if they rely on Obasanjo to help them achieve that political goal. I am persuaded by many people’s assertion that Obasanjo’s problems with Jonathan today have nothing to do with the perceived president’s inability to fix the insecurity and economic challenges in the country. No. It is all about selfish economic and political interests. The former president wanted to continue to be president emeritus, in spite of the fact that he is no longer in power while Jonathan and his team appear not to be ready for that.
From all indications, the 2015 general elections would shape and decide many things in our country; many right-thinking people would be involved in taking that decision but one person who would not be relevant is Emperor Obasanjo.