Former President, Olusegun Obasanjo has revealed how the late former American Ambassador in Nigeria, Walter Carrington, offered him political asylum in the United States in 1995 while Gen. Sani Abacha was in power.
Obasanjo disclosed that he turned down the asylum offer, despite its tempting and assuring details.
He said during Carrington’s tenure, the late envoy helped Nigeria in easing the move to democratic rule which had run for over a decade.
The Owu born leader said that at that time, the country went through a culture of arbitrariness, flagrant abuse of human rights and disdain for the rule of law.
Obasanjo gave the account on Tuesday in a condolence letter to the late Ambassador’s wife, Mrs. Arese Carrington.
The former Nigerian leader said Carrington was one of the responsible, mature and respected voices that took Nigeria out of an “unwholesome situation”.
He listed these as permanent crises, threats of disintegration, prolonged devoid of democracy, and a plundered economy.
Obasanjo recalled: “Sometime in 1995, 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 to me from Amb. 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 it there, he offered me political asylum by his government in the US. 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. He came to Nigeria with love, ate and drank Nigerian delicacies and drinks, showed a significant demonstration of oneness by walking the aisle to tie the nuptial knot outside nationality bounds with one of our illustrious daughters and that is you, and he was loved and appreciated by the people through giving him a Yoruba name “Omowale” and naming a street after him in Victoria Island, Lagos.
“I have always known Amb. Carrington to execute his duties with panache and grace as he addressed the most complicated international crises. He played a key role in the actualization of the objectives of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for which Nigeria enjoyed the support of Gates Foundation who made available funds that could be used to support its AIDS programme sometime in 2000. His works, values, and principles have had and will continue to have a great influence and impact in Africa and beyond.
“It is right that people from around the world at this point in time have been generously pouring encomiums on your late husband. I am, therefore, using this medium to add my voice to theirs in recognizing his outstanding commitment and devotion to the advancement of humanity. We celebrate his life well spent in the service of humanity and we will continue to project his principles and values in contributing to governance, security and sustainable development of the African continent. His legacies will live on and continue to touch many lives and generations to come.
“Indeed, it gladdens my heart to know not only Nigeria and Africa, but many nations around the world had a friend in him. Life is not about how long you spend but how well you live to serve humanity, Amb. Carrington lived well and successfully by making unique contributions to make the world a better place than he met it. I pray that the Almighty will grant you and the entire members of his family the fortitude to bear this irreparable loss. May his gentle soul rest in perfect peace.”