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We Made A Mistake When We Rejected The Military’s Offer To Hand Over Power In 1999 – Shehu Sani

A former Nigerian lawmaker, Shehu Sani has said that those who fought for democracy in Nigeria made a mistake when they refused to heed the military’s call to take over power from them in 1999.

Sani explained that General Abdulsalami Abubakar, who took over from Sani Abacha, called them to hand over power to them but they refused to cooperate with the military, an action which he now feels was a fundamental error.

He disclosed this at ‘This Nigeria Lecture and Award’ in Abuja on Thursday.

The theme of the event was “25 Years of Unbroken Democracy – Challenges, Prospects and Possibilities.”

Speaking in a panel discussion at the event, Sani recalled how he and other democracy fighters were imprisoned for some years before the death of former military leader Sani Abacha which led to the release of many of them.

According to him, “Abdulsalami Abubakar invited all of us who fought for democracy; that I am going to hand over power to a democratic government and I want all of you the freedom fighters to come together and take over power. At that very time, Gani opposed it.

“Three times he was inviting us we even refused to answer his call. He invited the politicians, he didn’t even invite them; they were knocking at his door,” 

Sani stated that he regretted their inability to take the opportunity to take over power from the military as the African National Congress (ANC) did in South Africa, noting that by the time they decided to listen to the military, it was already late.

After we decided to listen to him, we came and sat down; what do we do? That is what the ANC in South Africa did, after the struggle, they took over political power, but after our struggle in 1998 and 1999, we made a fundamental mistake and said, we are not going to cooperate with the military.

“Mike Ozekhome is sitting here, he is one of those who opposed that we should not join. Gani opposed Falana, and Olisa Agbakoba all opposed. It was Tinubu who said if we don’t get in, who is going to be there?

“Then by the time we all agreed to join the politics, politicians had taken over all posts. Mike 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 his state he couldn’t, I tried to be governor of Kaduna State I couldn’t because the space were all taken over,” Sani added.

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