• Monday, June 24, 2024
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Carrington foretold my arrest, incarceration by Abacha in 1995 – Obasanjo

Olusegun Obasanjo

Nigeria’s former President Olusegun Obasanjo says the late Walter Carrington, United States Ambassador to Nigeria between 1993 and 1997, foretold his arrest and incarceration by late Sani Abacha, military head of state from 1993 to 1998.

The former president, however, said he failed to listen to Carrington’s prophesy and came back to Nigeria to be arrested.

Obasanjo said Carrington’s warning came at a time when he was on the way to Copenhagen where he was to attend World Social Summit as the Human Development Ambassador of the United Nations Development Programme in 1995. He said the late ambassador even offered him asylum to escape Abacha’s arrest but he refused and returned to Nigeria to the den of incarceration and torture under the Abacha military junta.

Speaking through a condolence letter that was personally signed and addressed the wife of late US Ambassador who died at 92, Obasanjo revealed that Carrington was very instrumental to the easing of the move to democratic rule in the country, saying his contributions in Africa and the world could never be over-emphasised.

“I write to convey, on behalf of my family and on my own behalf, our profound sympathy and solidarity with you over the death of your beloved husband and one of the most outstanding diplomats of our time in the world, Amb. Walter Carrington,” Obasanjo wrote in the letter addressed to Arese Carrington of 85 Devonshire Street, Suite 1000, Boston, MA, 02109, United States.

“I must say I received the news of the demise of this great brother and friend with mixed feelings of sadness and gratitude to God. I was sad because we will miss his contribution to the building of a new world of his dream and an Africa of our joint dream but I am grateful to God for his life well spent in the service of God and humanity,” he said.

Obasanjo said throughout his spectacular life, Amb. Carrington was devoted to something greater than he was and was committed to improving humankind through the fairness, kindness, optimism and intelligence he brought to bear on all his undertakings, and through the righteousness, humanness and harmony he promoted in the US as a human rights activist and indeed across the world.

“Walter wasn’t just a pride to America and Americans, he was also a pride to all the people of African descent. His involvement in the many causes in Africa cannot be over-emphasised. He was always looking out for his kinsfolk both at home and abroad,” Obasanjo said.

“Walter Carrington was the initiator of many wide-ranging diplomatic operations, particularly during his tenures as the US Ambassador to Senegal from 1980-1981and Nigeria from 1993 to 1997. He engendered policies that strengthened political and economic ties between these two countries and America.

“Indeed, Africa gained a friend who cared about its well-being. He was such a committed humanitarian who did not just talk about peace-building but lived his life building peace and trying to make the world more wholesome.

“Throughout his tenure as an American Ambassador to Nigeria, Amb. Carrington helped in easing the move to democratic rule in the country. He 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 all of which relegated our dear country, Nigeria, to the unenviable league of pariah states in the comity of nations.

“His was one of the responsible, mature and respected voices to take 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. As one of the few credible voices, several attempts were made to silence me. I was harassed and threatened.

“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. When I was in prison, he was one of the few foreign Ambassadors who regularly visited my wife to encourage her and to find out how I was doing in prison. I can proudly say he was a true friend and brother.

“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, 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 have always known Amb. Carrington to execute his duties with panache and grace as he addressed the most complicated international crises.

“He played a key role in the actualization of the objectives of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for which Nigeria enjoyed the support of Gates Foundation who made available funds that could be used to support its AIDS programme sometime in 2000. His works, values, and principles have had and will continue to have a great influence and impact in Africa and beyond,” he wrote.