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I Prevented Kirikiri Inmates From Assaulting Obasanjo In 1995 - Shehu Sani Says

Posted by Samuel on Fri 28th Jun, 2024 - tori.ng

Obasanjo was Nigeria’s head of state from 1976 to 1979. He returned as civilian president in 1999 and handed over the reins of power in 2007.

Shehu Sani

Shehu Sani, a former Nigerian senator who represented Kaduna central, has made a new claim.

Sani claims that he saved former President Olusegun Obasanjo from being assaulted by inmates of the Kirikiri Maximum Security prison in 1995.

The former senator spoke during a lecture in Abuja on Thursday.

Obasanjo was Nigeria’s head of state from 1976 to 1979. He returned as civilian president in 1999 and handed over the reins of power in 2007.

Sani was among pro-democracy activists and dissidents who were rounded up and jailed by the military junta led by Sani Abacha, who was president from 1993 to 1998.

Obasanjo was arrested in 1995 for allegedly plotting a coup and was jailed.

Recounting events from the era, Sani said himself, Shehu Musa Yar’Adua and Obasanjo were moved to Kirikiri prison after their arrests.

He said “armed robbers” in prison began “shouting and insulting” the former president when they saw him.

Sani added that he “talked to the inmates to calm down, that no matter their grievances with Obasanjo, he was now an inmate”.

“In 1995, a team of soldiers, policemen and DSS visited my house in Kaduna. It was a journey that began and lasted for four years,” he said.

“I was picked up from Kaduna and brought to Lagos with the late General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua. From the airport, we were led to the DSS headquarters, where we met President Olusegun Obasanjo.


“Unfairly from the soldiers, they handcuffed me but did not do so for Obasanjo or Yar’Adua. Obasanjo looked at me and asked me who I was and if I had stolen something for them to have handcuffed me. I told him I was an activist.

“I was then the deputy chairman of the Campaign for Democracy. We were taken to Kirikiri Maximum Prison. We stayed there without anybody saying anything to us. When we arrived at Kirikiri, we were given a blanket and a plate of food.

“We were then allocated our cells. When the armed robbers there saw Obasanjo, they started shouting and insulting him.

“Naturally, for those of us who were human rights activists, we were popular with inmates. I told him, ‘You are a commander outside, but this is where I command’. I then I talked to the inmates to calm down, that no matter their grievances with Obasanjo, he was now an inmate.


“I got 15 years, Obasanjo got 15 years, Yar’Adua got life imprisonment. Those of us from the north were sent to southern prisons and those from the south were sent to northern prisons. That was how I found myself in Port Harcourt prison.

“I was in Port Harcourt prison when Ken Saro-Wiwa was brought in and hanged. I could see them from the window.”


Sani added that pro-democracy activists of the era made a mistake by not putting themselves forward for political leadership as the military prepared to hand over power to civilians after Abacha’s death.

“Abdulsalami Abubakar, military head of state, invited all of us who fought for democracy, that he was going to hand over power to a democratically elected government and that he wanted all of us — the freedom fighters — to come together and take over power,” he said.

“At that very time, Gani Fawehinmi opposed it. Three times, Abubakar invited us. We even refused to answer his calls. Meanwhile, the politicians who were not invited were knocking on his door.

“After we decided to listen to him, we came and sat down. What do we do? After the struggle, the ANC in South Africa took over political power. But after our struggle, in 1998/1999 we made a fundamental mistake and said we were not going to cooperate with the military.

“Mike Ozekhome was one of those who said we should not join politics. Gani opposed as well, Falana opposed, Olisa Agbakoba… all opposed.

“It was Bola Tinubu who said ‘if we don’t get in, who is going to be there?’ By the time we all agreed to join politics, politicians had taken over all positions.

“Ozekhome tried to be governor of Edo state, he couldn’t; Olisa tried to be president, he couldn’t; Gani tried to be president, he couldn’t; Falana tried to be governor of Ekiti, he couldn’t; I tried to be governor of Kaduna — but the spaces had all been taken over.”



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