Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Tuesday revealed how, in 1995, the late former American Ambassador to Nigeria, Walter Carrington, warned him of plans by the regime of late Gen. Sani Abacha, to arrest him (Obasanjo) and offered him political asylum in the US.
Obasanjo remarked that during his tenure as ambassador, Carrington helped in easing the move to democratic rule in the country, having met Nigeria under the military rule, which had run consecutively for over a decade and bred a culture of arbitrariness, flagrant abuse of human rights and disdain for the rule of law.
He recalled that the era relegated Nigeria “to the unenviable league of pariah states in the comity of nations”.
These encomiums were contained in a condolence letter he wrote to the widow of the late ambassador, Mrs. Arese Carrington, a copy which was made available to THISDAY by his Special Assistant (Media), Mr. Kehinde Akinyemi, in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
According to Obasanjo, Carrington was one of the responsible, mature and respected voices that took Nigeria out of “the unwholesome situation it had found itself – permanently in crisis, regularly threatened with disintegration, prolongingly devoid of democracy, and economically plundered and mismanaged”.
The former President stated that he, however, turned down the asylum offer, despite its tempting and assuring nature.
“Indeed, I recall, sometime in 1995, that on one of my trips to Copenhagen to attend World Social Summit as Human Development Ambassador of the United Nations Development Programme, I received the most touching of the warnings, pieces of advice and offers to me from Amb. Carrington.
“He called me in Copenhagen and told me categorically that I was going to be arrested on returning home and, therefore, advised me not to return home.
“But he did not stop it there; he offered me political asylum by his government in the US. That was both touching and assuring, but I decided that, tempting and assuring as the offer was, I would not take it.
“I came back and was arrested and imprisoned by Abacha. No doubt, his generous assistance to my family while I was a political prisoner makes me forever indebted to him,” Obasanjo recalled.
He added that when he was in prison, the late US envoy was one of the few foreign ambassadors that regularly visited his wife to encourage her and find out how he was faring in prison.
“He came to Nigeria with love, ate and drank Nigerian delicacies and drinks, showed a significant demonstration of oneness by walking the aisle to tie the nuptial knot outside nationality bounds with one of our illustrious daughters and that is you (Arese), and he was loved and appreciated by the people through giving him a Yoruba name “Omowale” and naming a street after him in Victoria Island, Lagos.
“I can proudly say he was a true friend and brother,” Obasanjo eulogised.