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Carrington offered me protection from Abacha, says Obasanjo

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Olusegun Obasanjo

Eulogises departed envoy for return of civil rule

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday, revealed that the late erstwhile American ambassador to Nigeria, Walter Carrington, offered him a political asylum in 1995 in the United States during the dark days of the military junta headed by General Sani Abacha.

He acknowledged that the departed envoy contributed immensely to the return of civil rule in Nigeria in 1999.

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Obasanjo regretted that democracy had been handled in a way by those in authority to breed “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.”

The Egba chief captured his eulogies in a condolence message addressed to the wife of the deceased American, Mrs. Arese Carrington, and made available to reporters yesterday in Abeokuta by his Special Assistant (Media), Kehinde Akinyemi.

To Obasanjo, Carrington 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.”

The Ogun State native, however, stated that he turned down the refuge despite its “tempting and assuring nature.”

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He said: “Indeed, I recall, sometime in 1995, that on one of my trips to Copenhagen to attend the 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 from Ambassador (Walter) 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 there, he offered me a political asylum by his government in the U.S. 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.”

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