Former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, has revealed how his action, during military rule, against Americans over occupation of an office backfired.
This is coming at a time ex-National Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Ahmadu Ali, yesterday, admitted that his generated made some mistakes just as he said they did their best for the country.
Speaking in Abuja, yesterday, at the launch of a biography on Ali, Obasanjo said his consipracy with the former PDP chairman to retrieve an office from Americans led to his reprimand by the then Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon.
Gowon also confirmed that Obasanjo’s action caused diplomatic row between Nigeria and the United States of America.
Obasanjo told the audience of how he conspired with Ali to evict the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) from its office, around the Tafewa Balewa Square, Lagos. He also confessed that he and Ali kept what led to the incident away from Gowon for 43 years.
Said Obasanjo: “Ahmadu Ali had been appointed Director of the National Youth service Corps and he needed an office; one being occupied by the American Embassy had been identified.
“That office was too close to the Cabinet Office, it had been what we had talked about, complained about and even requested the Americans to vacate and be given an alternative office. So, Ahmadu Ali and I conspired that we will remove the Americans.
“Of course, I belonged to the Nigerian Army Corps of Engineers and had military men under my command, Ahmadu had no military men. I had to be used or should I say I had to concur by performing the task and I made it a military operation. By 4:00am, soldiers had surrounded the office and by the time the Americans were arriving for work, they were not allow to go inside. Of course, I didn’t realise the diplomatic implications. Then the Americans violently protested and it was reported to the Commander-in-Chief, General Gowon, and I was carpeted, tongue-lashed and thoroughly washed down.”
Gowon, who was Head of State in 1975 when the incident occurred corroborated the story but said he did not know of Ali’s involvement until yesterday.
Gowon described the dislodgment of the Americans by Obasanjo as a huge embarrassment to the nation, but that the latter could not be punished because of the good work he was doing for the country then.
He said: “Of course, the Minister of External Affairs came and reported to me what was happening; that it was done by Obasanjo. Then between the Chief of Staff; Gen. David Ejoor and myself; we really dressed him down because he exactly started a very serious diplomatic incident.”
Earlier, Ali, said his generation made some mistakes. He urged youths to be resourceful and not allow themselves; to be used as willing tools in the hands of desperate politicians.
He challenged the youths not to keep lamenting and pointed out that his generation did much for the country, at their youthful age.
Ali said: “We’ve tried our best. We expect you younger ones to try your best. Get up and do something; have a second address, politics is no job…
“When General Yakubu Gowon became the head of state of Nigeria, all the young people he kept quoting were 32.
“At 32, he was a Battalion Commander of 1,000 men and 5,000 extra family members. And, I was going to the United Kingdom in 1965 for post-graduate studies and I met him; he was in London, attending the highest institution of administration in the whole world; for military and civilians, from the 54 nations of the Commonwealth to receive training on how to rule the world; not only their countries.”