I didn’t succeed Abacha as head of state because of religious sentiments – Gen. Useni

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Senator Jeremiah Useni, has opened up on why he did not succeed the late Gen. Sani Abacha as head of state after his demised. The late military head of state whose regime was noted for human rights abuses died on June 8, 1998 at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. Featuring on an interview programme on Arise Tv on Sunday, Useni, a retired army general and former minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), under the Abacha regime, said as the most senior military officer next to the Abacha, he was supposed to the successor.
He however said that was not possible as people were opposed to him because he is a Christian.
According to him, Abacha’s wife and some people were opposed to him becoming head of state because of religious sentiments.
Useni also said he was opposed to the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa, the environmental rights activist who was sentenced to death by a special military tribunal for allegedly masterminding the gruesome murder of Ogoni chiefs.
“I was at the meeting to decide the successor to Abacha. I was the most senior in rank next to Abacha. Diya was retired because he was accused of involvement in coup so I became the next in rank to Gen. Abacha.
“They didn’t want me as head of state when Abacha died, many people thought I would be head of state, but the wife (of Abacha) and some other people didn’t want me.
“Some people brought religion because I am a Christian. So I was basically sidelined”, Useni said.
He described the late military dictator as his his “very good friend”, insisting that Abacha was a good man.
Recalling how Abacha died, Useni, who represented Plateau South Senatorial District in the senate, between 2015 to 2019, said he was against executing Saro-Wiwa.
“I disagreed with those who criticise Abacha human rights records, I disagree completely with them”, he said.
According to him, “There was a proper court set up to try the Saro -Wiwa, headed by a retired chief judge.
“That body found him guilty, he was supposed to be executed, I am one of those who at our security Council meeting said no to his execution.
“I said, Abacha, since you took over, you have never executed anybody unlike your colleagues, keep that record.”Speaking further Useni who was the PDP candidate for the Plateau state governorship election in 2019, said he advised Abacha to jail Saro-Wiwa for life so that another government that comes will free him.
Useni said, “I told Abacha to give him life sentence, may be another government may free him. But when you you seat down as a group, when there are 10 people, assuming if four said no and six say yes, what do you do?”
He disclosed that contrary to speculations about the cause of Abacha’s death, he died a natural death.
He said an autopsy was carried out in Germany to determine the cause of death adding that the results showed that he died a natural death.
Useni said, “Abacha’s wife did not believe in any autopsy report by Nigerian doctors, so she insisted that it must be done overseas.
“It was sent to Germany and the results showed that he died naturally. Before then he was sick. I have a copy of the (autopsy) report.”

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