Two chieftains of Afenifere, Wale Oshun and Senator Femi Okurounmu, on Wednesday responded to claims by Aremo Olusegun Osoba, former governor of Ogun State, that there were vicious characters who regarded him as inconsequential in the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) but did not suffer like him in the June 12 struggle.
Osoba, in an interview granted to mark the launch of his book, Battlelines: Adventures in Journalism and Politics, had said: “Some of our people who I would call vicious characters and I will give you examples, they are in my book but I will give you my piece of mind on it.
“People like Wale Oshun, who wrote a book titled Clapping With One Hand, created the impression as if I was nobody in the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) struggle, and Senator Femi Okurounmu, who for years, because he wanted to be governor of Ogun State, tagged me as the late Gen. Sani Abacha’s turncoat.
“I have had the occasion to challenge my detractors if any of them suffered as much as I did, if they did, then they have the right to insult me.
“Otherwise, they should keep their mouths shut forever. I want them to reply in detail the way I have put documentations in this book, the way I have put the names of witnesses.
“Five times I escaped attempted assassinations. So, when Oshun and Okurounmu were talking, I looked at them as small boys in the struggle. If they didn’t go through the kind of things I went through, they should remain silent.”
However, speaking in a chat with our correspondent, Oshun, who is the national chairman of Afenifere Renewal Group and a former Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, revealed how, during the struggle for the actualisation of June 12, Osoba donated the sum of 5,000 Pounds to Maryam Abacha’s project but gave NADECO a paltry 250 Pounds when they requested for his assistance to fund the activities of the organisation.
Oshun, who made the revelation in his book, The Open Grave: NADECO and the Struggle for Democracy, said Osoba gave the money to Chief John Oyegun, former governor of Edo State and immediate past national chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), who was sent by NADECO to meet Osoba for assistance.
He said NADECO chieftains were incensed by Osoba’s apparent disregard for them that they almost asked Oyegun to return his money to him.
He said: “It is doubtful if history could be complete without direct reference to an individual who displayed dexterity in maintaining an equivocation position regarding the membership of NADECO and participating in the dictatorship’s transition programme.
“Arising from Chief Olusegun Osoba’s high profile in the Abacha transition process, majority of the members of NADECO abroad subsequently shunned him on his many trips abroad.
“Chief John Oyegun and I, however, took the position that since he retained the courage to always contact us anytime he visited London, it should make sense to concede that his heart was with the struggle as many other wealthy Nigerians like him would hate to associate with known NADECO officials, whether in Nigeria or abroad.
“However, the issue came to a head at one of our meetings when it was widely reported in the Nigerian media that he (Osoba) donated the sum of N500,000 to Mrs. Maryam Abacha’s pet project, the Family Support Programme.
“That time coincided with a time NADECO abroad could hardly raise money to meet its office rent, telephone bills and electricity rates.
“On Osoba’s next visit, one of our members ran into him at the residence of Chief Longe, the advertising mogul, driven into exile for challenging the Nigeria Airways in a London court for breach of their business relationship.
“The member reported at our meeting that Chief Osoba lavishly hosted a party to mark the 50th birthday of his friend and that he had used the opportunity to ask him to assist NADECO that was then on the brinks.
“The member was certain he would not come to our aid, and in order to lay the matter to rest, I suggested that Chief John Oyegun (who was closest to him amongst us) should request him to assist the coalition.
“We imagined that with 5,000 Pounds, which was the then equivalent of his N500,000 donation to Maryam Abacha’s pet project, we should be able to run our office for four months. Chief Oyegun agreed to see him.
“Oyegun went. He returned with a cash donation of 250 Pounds from Osoba. And our next meeting was so polarised that I thought it would be difficult to meet again.
“The unanimous decision was that the donation was an insult and all but two members ruled that it be returned to the giver.
“The money quickly paled into insignificance when members spoke about the damage his romance with the Abacha transition programme was causing the struggle, and that his explanation that his involvement was to hold political fort for progressives lacked any social benefit to the struggle, but was for personal and selfish purposes.”
Also speaking with our correspondent on Wednesday, Okurounmu described Osoba as a traitor who betrayed the late MKO Abiola and wanted former dictator, General Sani Abacha, to transmute into a civilian president.
Okurounmu, who would be launching his memoirs titled, The Dream, today in commemoration of his 80th birthday, said Osoba lied when he claimed that he was not a military apologist.
Okurounmu, who also claimed that Osoba was an agent of the military and a close ally of former military president, Ibrahim Babangida, added that Osoba’s governorship campaign in Ogun State in 1992 was financed by Babangida.
He said: “Those who know Osoba know that he has always been a double-faced politician. On one face, he will want people to see him as a progressive, on the other face, he is working with the security forces. Osoba has always been an agent of the security forces.
“He has one leg in the military and the other leg in the progressives’ camp. If you have never been told that, I am telling you now.
“So, when he narrated what he went through in his book, of course, for anybody who is a double agent, such person will get into trouble.
“So, he got into trouble in the early stage of the annulment of June 12 because he has been a close collaborator with (Ibrahim) Babangida who annulled the election. It was Babangida that sponsored Osoba’s governorship in Ogun State in 1992.
“So, we all know that Osoba was a double agent. While being a close associate of Babangida, he was now pretending to be supporting MKO Abiola. That was what got him into trouble with the military.
“Initially, when Abiola’s election was annulled and everybody thought it will be a short struggle for Abiola to reclaim his mandate, Osoba pretended to be with us in that struggle so that he can also benefit if Abiola eventually becomes president.
“That pretense of being with us is what got him into trouble and he got detained. In fact, people like Gani Fawehinmi had to go and fight for him in court.
“But as soon as he realised that the struggle will not be a brief one and the military were not prepared to handover to Abiola, he abandoned the struggle.
“When the late Sani Abacha formed his five political parties, we in Afenifere decided that we will not participate in any of the five parties.
“Osoba was present when we took that decision but as soon as we left the place, he decamped and took his followers and they all went and joined Abacha’s transition.
“So, Osoba participated fully in Abacha’s transition in all the elections conducted from ward to local government level, Osoba’s men participated. So, he was not part of the NADECO struggle.
“Osoba is a liar and traitor. He tells lies and wants to distort history because he knows he has betrayed Nigerians, he has betrayed the progressives cause and the Yoruba people.”
“I believe that anybody who participated in Abacha’s transition betrayed Abiola.”
When our correspondent contacted Osoba, he promised to respond to the issues raised by Oshun and Okurounmu at the appropriate time.
“Don’t worry. I will give them my reply at the appropriate time,” he said.