The David Jemibewon Exclusive 6: “How I fell out with Obasanjo” + The Sunday Awoniyi connection

General David Medayese Jemibewon (CFR, mni)

In this sixth edition of our
exclusive encounter with General David
Medayese Jemibewon
(CFR, Mni), the General opened up for the very first
time in history, the story of his bitter feud with ex-Nigerian President General Olusegun Obasanjo who was his
boss between 1976 to 1978 and 1999 to 2000 with your Africa’s Number 1
Celebrity Encounter blog, Asabeafrika.
The Iyah-Gbedde, Kogi State (North
Central Nigeria) born elder statesman who was the chairman of the constitution
drafting committee of People’s democratic party which later led to the winning
of the 1999 election which brought Nigeria to the 4th Republic,  broke the story of his stunted support for the
late Chairman of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Chief Sunday Awoniyi who allegedly played eminent roles in the
formation of PDP and the ascendancy of General
Olusegun
Obasanjo’s candidacy to
power as PDP candidate.   
Jemibewon is a former Governor of Western State of Nigeria under late General Murthala Mohammed’s regime between August 1975 and March 1976. He
later became the first Governor of Oyo State after Oyo; Ogun & Ondo were
carved out of the old Western States. He ruled Oyo under Obasanjo’s military regime between March 1976 and July 1978 before
he was promoted as Adjutant General of the Nigerian Army towards the end of
1978.  He came back to limelight in 1999
when he was appointed Minister of Police Affairs under President Olusegun
Obasanjo’s
civilian regime, a position he held with transformative strides
till year 2000.
Enjoy the excerpts in this sixth part
of our encounter with the General.

You served under Chief Olusegun
Obasanjo during the military era as first Governor of Oyo state and equally as
Police Affairs Minister when he became civilian President in 1999. But there
were strong rumors that you later fell out with Chief Obasanjo when you pitched
your tent with the late Chief Sunday Awoniyi (Former Chairman of Arewa
Consultative Forum) who wanted to become the PDP Chairman against Obasanjo’s
candidate, Senator Barnabas Gemade? Can you kindly tell Asabeafrika the full
details of what transpired between you, Obasanjo & Awoniyi?

The Late Chief Sunday Awoniyi

(Laughs
sarcastically) You are asking too many questions, I don’t know. I don’t know
how best to answer your question. But I will try, maybe sometimes someday, like
it has been advised by many people, some of us will put few things on paper. Incidentally,
I have put few things on paper (In the past). I don’t know the reason why it
has not been too attractive for me to initiate another one. But having said
what you said, I have always had great respect for Obasanjo.

General Jemibewon to Asabeafrika…,’I will soon write a new book to explain this story i am telling you in details’

He is a very hard working officer. Give him 8 books as
voluminous as they come, within days, he would have consumed them. He is very
hardworking as well. But at times, he does certain things and it is difficult
to explain. I can’t sit here and criticize my boss because he was my boss. Once
a boss, always a boss; but when you touched on Chief Awoniyi, it would also be unlike me to just keep quite. Chief Awoniyi made great impact in the
formation of PDP (People’s Democratic
Party)
 and you can imagine in this
country of ours, where nothing really works by merit and people are always
conscious of who comes from what and where.

General Olusegun Obasanjo (GCFR)

Awoniyi
was the chairman of manifesto committee of PDP;
he is from Moppa in western
senatorial district of Kogi state. I
am from a place called Iyah-Gbedde,
it is just some 12 kilometers from Chief
Awoniyi’s
place. I happened to be the chairman of the constitution drafting
committee of the PDP. Bola Ige was to
be the chairman because it was decided by the elders that a Yoruba man should be chairman. And
unfortunately the mainstream of the Yorubas
were not there. But the day the main PDP
 (team) was chosen in Lagos, the instruction was that they
should leave the chair for the west. So the chair, where the leadership will
sit was left unoccupied and of course I was a member of the constitution
drafting committee. So, I went there to meet my chairman Bola Ige and of course he wasn’t there.

General Jemibewon explaining the details of his fall out with General Obasanjo with the GDA

I left, since my chairman
was not there. But few minutes after I got to my house I had a telephone call
that Dr. (Alex) Ekweme wanted me to come back to the meeting and I got back there
and by virtue of the fact that I am a Yoruba
man, they made me chairman (Of the constitution drafting committee). We did our
best, a lot of people assisted me, I can remember (Senator) Okadigbo, he is one of them; he is not
the only one but because he is no more alive, let us mention his name. And we
did a lot of good work.

General Jemibewon to Asabeafrika….’There was no how i could have neglected Chief Awoniyi because Moppa is close to Iyah’

So, you can see the proximity of Moppa-Moro and Iyah-Gbedde.
In Nigeria, if something good should come to any part of this country or that
particular part of Kogi, there is no
way they will allow somebody from Moppa
to take the chair and somebody from where I come from, which is just 12
kilometers apart. But when it came to responsibility, they gave it to us and we
did our best.

So, why did Chief Awoniyi wanted to
be the chairman and why do you think OBJ was against his candidacy?

General Jemibewon to Asabeafrika…’Chief Awoniyi was the pillar used to coerce support for Obasanjo in the North in 1999′

 

Certainly we
know whatever God has ordained, nobody can change it. But I can assure you that
we had the support of Chief Awoniyi
and a lot us, or else, it would have become very difficult for Obasanjo to have become candidate of PDP which led ultimately to his becoming
president; because Awoniyi was a
pillar that was used to convince a lot of people who otherwise would not have
supported the candidate of PDP. I
know it, because our convention took place in Jos and I know what I am talking about. Maybe at another time, we
will make it a major subject to enlarge the discuss; that is exactly what
happened. And so, when Awoniyi wanted
to be chairman, he didn’t want to be chairman to enrich himself. No, he was
above that. And I want to strongly believe that if you have a good, non-corrupt
leadership in a party and the party has a good vision, a good program for the
country.

General Jemibewon to Asabeafrika….’Chief Awoniyi wanted to use PDP as a vehicle for the development of Nigeria’

If the party succeeds, the chances are, it will carry to reality the
objectives of the founding fathers and of the party and Chief Awoniyi wanted to do that. He wanted to use the party as a
vehicle for the development of the country. Chief
Awoniyi
was out for the good of this country and he was the instrument that
convinced a lot of northerners about the candidacy of General Obasanjo and to
give support. Apparently, things were not working too well and Obasanjo went to Abuja. He drove straight to Awoniyi’s
house, and Awoniyi had to call most
of his friends. I won’t mention their names today; and those friends were
strong party people and were strong northerners. And at least two of them
expressed their views that Obasanjo
was not their candidate.

General Jemibewon to Asabeafrika….’Chief Awoniyi literally pleaded with his friends to accept OBJ’

And Awoniyi
virtually pleaded with them that ‘look,
he is our man. We can’t turn him down’
. So when he (Obasanjo) came, he
(Awoniyi) had arranged this people to be there. And Obasanjo spoke for over one hour. So, at the end, what Awoniyi just said was ‘gentlemen, the summary is that we have
gotten to a point of no return’
and they said ‘yes sir’. He passionately
appealed to his friends by saying ‘Gentle
men, we
cannot abandon my friend at
this point’
. There were also some young men who later got involved and he
had to talk to them, to give them his best assurance on the Obasanjo candidacy. And they gave him
conditions. And one of the condition is that they wanted him to be chairman of
the party.

You mean Chief Sunday Awoniyi?

General Jemibewon to Asabeafrika….’Northern Politicians wanted Chief Sunday Awoniyi to get the role of Chairmanship but OBJ denied him’

Yes. I will
tell you something. When positions were being shared and they gave chairmanship
to north central, boys and young men from the north wanted Chief Awoniyi to be the
chairman of the party, and in fact, but for the magnanimity of Chief Awoniyi, it would have been
impossible for PDP to have been able to get out of the crisis if Chief Awoniyi had taken the position
everybody wanted him to take. Because when it was time for name of party
leaders to be adopted and so on, and they have gotten the news that it was not Chief Awoniyi that was going to be made
party chairman, some boys prevented him from going into the meeting.
You mean they wanted a showdown with
the party leadership because of Chief Awoniyi?

General Jemibewon to Asabeafrika…’The PDP schemed Chief Sunday Awoniyi out of his ambition just because of politics’

I am telling
you now, (had a blink of silence and continued) I will tell you something.  That day, I shed tears. Because I went to
tell Chief Awoniyi, I said ‘Oga, we should go in’. But I can
understand because these are boys that loved the man and they said he should
not go. And here was I saying ‘Oga, we
should go
in’, because he has
conceded the chairmanship position to Lar.
You mean Chief Solomon Lar?

General DM Jemibewon tell-it-all to the GDA

Yes. So, we
came from another meeting to a larger meeting where positions were being
allocated. And it was Chief Awoniyi
who now got up to say ‘Lar is our leader’. And that is what saved the
party even from day one of PDP. So, when at the later days, Awoniyi now wanted to be chairman and I
think this is something I have told a lot of people that we wanted and then….i
don’t know…I don’t know… you should know how to put it (Became sober and
disillusioned with his voice going low, stretching his body on the sofa,
dejectedly). It was then I knew what politics was all about.
You mean as a soldier?

General Jemibewon showing his displeasure to the GDA over Chief Sunday Awoniyi’s fate with OBJ & PDP

Yes, and
that is why I am always surprised. If people say we military contributed to
this (political) mess, they are correct. Because we were not honest, and
military does not admit dishonesty. I am telling you what I found out. So, like
I said, Awoniyi is from Moppa, I am from Iyah-Gbedde just twelve kilometers distance. Not only that, I am a
military man and Obasanjo too who
happens to be my boss is a military man. And I am sure these two young men
(referring to my colleagues on the cameras) don’t know much about what I am
saying. I went to Obasanjo, I said ‘Oga, this issue, if for any reason you don’t want him, call him and tell
him’
And what was his response to you?

General Olusegun Obasanjo, told General Jemibewon ‘You are an administrator not a politician’

He said ‘this is politics; I think you are not a
politician, you are an administrator’
. I was indeed disappointed. I
wouldn’t know why he did that. And that gave me another picture of politics. It
is just like when there was this misunderstanding between Obasanjo and Atiku. My
sympathy was for Atiku.
Why sir? Why would you be sympathetic
to Atiku? 
From my own
observation, if anybody had respect for Obasanjo,
it was Atiku.
You mean this same Atiku Abubakar
from Yola?

Atiku Abubakar, earns General Jemibewon’s sympathy

Yes, yes,
yes.
But it was a public knowledge that he
became suddenly antagonistic to his boss in 2003, clamoring for a Mandela
option and wanting to succeed Obasanjo at all cost?

The General to the GDA ‘Tell me what is wrong in Atiku’s ambition to become President, tell me?’

Tell me,
what is wrong in that? No, tell me, is anything wrong in that?
Nothing wrong really but you see, sir…

General Jemibewon to Asabeafrika….’I do not see anything wrong in Atiku Abubakar wanting to succeed Obasanjo’

(Cuts in) I
am not saying I believe what you said or there is evidence to support it. There
may be evidence but if he ever said that, what is wrong in that? If he doesn’t
do it in a way to harm anybody, what is wrong with that? Everybody has
ambition.  But your ambition should be
such that you don’t aim to eliminate anybody. 
You can be ambitious but don’t be over ambitious.

General David Jemibewon showing his displeasure to the whims and caprices game of politicians in Nigeria

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