Ali’s book launch: 43 years after, Obasanjo reveals how Gowon tongue-lashed him over diplomatic issue with US

Ahmadu Ali

Former Military Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, alongside former President Olusegun Obasanjo, ex-Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Chairman, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, former Governors of Osun and Kogi states, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola and Idris Wada, were among notable Nigerians who paid tribute to former national Chairman of PDP, Senator Ahmadu Ali, on Thursday, during the public presentation of his biography in Abuja.

In his remarks, General Gowon, who was the father of the occasion, said the celebrant had done exceptionally well for Nigeria which has made the country better.

While describing him as a brilliant and versatile young man in early 50s, Gowon said, Senator Ali, who had served the nation well in various capacities, added that their lives have been intertwined with one another.

Speaking on how they fared in this country; the former military Head of State said: “I recall that sometimes; Obasanjo had used military personnel to eject American agency; I think it was USAID, near the Government Secretariat then at the Tafewa Balewa Square. 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, General David Ejoor and myself, we really dressed him down because he exactly started a very serious diplomatic incident.

“I can assure you because of the good work he was doing; the thought of him having to leave the army did not arise at that time. I never knew that Ahmadu Ali was involved.

“Ahmadu Ali and I knew each other from those days in the Barewa College; he was a year behind me. He was a very active sportsman; a very good boxer and also a very brilliant student. We related excellently well.” He explained.

In his welcome speech, Chief Obasanjo who was the chairman of the occasion said what the PDP achieved when the celebrant was party chairman was partly due to his loyalty to the party and Nigeria and not him as a person.

Obasanjo
Obasanjo and Gowon during a public event

Also corroborating Gowon’s statement on how they fared as military men, Obasanjo said: “Ahmadu Ali had been appointed Director of the National Youth Service Corps and he needed an office; one is 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 Corps Engineers and have 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 4:00 am; soldiers had surrounded the office and by the time the Americans were arriving for work, they were not allowed 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 were carpeted; tongue-lashed and thoroughly washed down.

“So, when we were talking about it this morning; General Gowon said, ‘oh Ahmadu Ali was part of it’; but indeed, Ahmadu Ali was the cause of it. But General Gowon then said, when you were being questioned, you didn’t say this; and I said, I have to protect a friend,” he added.

He said Ali’s path and him had crossed and crisscrossed from the military; the military government to politics.

Responding, Senator Ali urged Nigerian youths to try their best and should not focus much on politics.

According to him, “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. You don’t know a thing; at 32 he was a Battalion Commander of 1,000 men and 5,000 extra family members.

“I was going to the UK in 1965 to do post-graduate studies and I met him; he was in London attending the highest institution of administration in the whole world who come; military and civilians, from the 54 nations of Commonwealth to receive training on how to rule the world, not only their countries. It was from there he returned and became Head of State.

“Don’t just quote the age; do something; let us know where you are. We did our best and we are proud what we had done. We could have made mistakes, that’s normal but come and make your own mistakes let’s see.

“That’s the challenge I give to young people. You younger one, I wish you good luck in all your endeavours. Work hard for this nation and that’s we’ve been begging you to do, not just going on the street and being the instrument of people who are grabbing power and using you as cannon fodder. Don’t agree.” He advised.

Others on the row of personalities were former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ibrahim Mantu, Rt. Honourable Umar Ghali, Dr (Mrs.) Sarah Jubril, Chief Ugochukwu Onyeana, former Katsina State Governor, Shehu Shema, former Minister of Sports, Bala Kaoje, as well as Chief Sola Akinmode and the paramount ruler from Nasarawa State, Andoma of Doma, among others.

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