25 years after Abacha’s death sentence, Gen Diya dies 

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General Donaldson Oladipo Diya


President Muhammadu Buhari has mourned the passing of Lt. General Oladipo Diya, who served as Chief of General Staff from 1993 to 1997 and Vice Chairman of the Provisional Ruling Council in 1994.

General Diya, according to his son, Sinmi, passed on in the early hours of Sunday at the age of 79

He served as military governor of Ogun state where he hailed from and held several military positions before he became Chief of General Staff in 1993 as second in command to late Head of State, General Sani Abacha.

His travails

The deceased military officer was  arrested  21 December 1997 by the military regime of late Gen Sani Abacha, alongside some top officials including  Major General Tunji Olanrewaju, late Major General Abdulkarim Adisa, and eight others, for their alleged role in a plot to violently topple the Abacha government.

Others, including civilians,  were later to be arrested for their alleged role in the coup.   

About a week before his arrest,  Diya was alleged to have missed death by whisker following a  bomb explosion at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport Abuja while on his way to represent Abacha  at the funeral of the mother of Major-General Lawrence Onoja in Benue state.

At the end of  the two-month trial which began 14 February, 1998, the military tribunal, headed by Major- General Chris Abutu Garba, passed a death sentence on Diya, Olanrewaju, Adisa, and three others.

While others got sentences ranging from 2-14 years for their role many described as phantom, some 15 others were set free.

The death sentence of Diya and others, was later commuted to 25-year-jail term.

However, the icing on the cake was their release March 1999 by Head of  State Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar, who stepped in after Abacha’s demise, and granted them amnesty.  

The demise

And 25 years after, the former nation’s number two man passed on, with Buhari describing the late officer as bold and courageous.  

In a statement Sunday,  Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity Femi Adesina, said  the “President paid tribute to General Diya’s bold and courageous career in the Nigeria military and dedicated service to the country as General Officer Commanding, 82 Division, Commandant, National War College (1991–1993), Chief of Defence Staff and Military Governor of Ogun State from January 1984 to August 1985.”

Buhari recalled that “Diya was known for his brilliance, exceptional organizational skills and discipline, and he displayed these virtues in the important roles he held in office as a military officer.”

He “saluted the former Chief of General Staff for his love, belief and loyalty to the country he cherished so much and fought gallantly on the frontlines to defend her unity.

“On behalf of the Federal Government, the President extended heartfelt condolences to Diya’s family, friends and colleagues. He prayed that General Diya’s soul finds rest with his Creator, and may his contributions to the nation never be forgotten,” the statement added.

 Tnubu, FEC extol virtues

Also, President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and the Federal Executive Council (FEC) sent messages of condolence to the Diya’s family.

While expressing his sadness over the passing of the retired General, Tinubu in a statement by Tunde Rahman, also praised his contributions to national development and the military institution.

“The news of the death of General Oladipo Diya early this morning came to me as a shock. I send my heartfelt condolences and sympathy to his immediate family especially his wives and children.

“General Diya lived a remarkable life of a soldier and he made his mark in the military where he served our country diligently. As Military Governor of Ogun State, in the various military positions he held till he rose to the enviable position of Chief of General Staff and second in command to the Head of State, he served meritoriously.

“As much as he could, he played a stabilising role during one of the most turbulent periods in our nation’s life in the aftermath of June 12, 1993 presidential election. He will be remembered for his patriotism and service to the nation.

“My condolences to Governor Dapo Abiodun and the people of Ogun State. I pray that Almighty Allah comfort his family and all those he left behind. May God Almighty grant his soul eternal rest”, he stated.

Also, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha, on behalf of the FEC said he received with shock the death of Gen. Diya.

Director Information in the Office of the SGF, Willie Bassey in a statement said Mustapha described  Diya as a seasoned military officer with admirable administrative capabilities in his various functions as the Military Governor, Chief of Defence Staff and later, Chief of General Staff.

He said Diya was a notable statesman who made invaluable contributions to nation-building.

“FEC condoles with the government and people of Ogun State, his family and friends, and prays to God to grant the soul of the deceased eternal rest”, he stated.

Lawan, Gbajabiamila, Obasanjo too

In  a similar message Sunday, Senate President  Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan condoled with the Government and people of Ogun state over the loss of the one-time number two citizen.  

He described Diya as a fine officer who played his role dutifully during some of Nigeria’s most critical times.

 Lawan said Diya kept his dignity under the unfortunate circumstances that ended his military career and remained a respected member of his community until he breathed his last.

 He prayed for sweet repose of the soul of the departed General and for fortitude for his family, friends and associates to bear the  loss.

 Also, Speaker House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila expressed sadness over the passing of the retired military officer.

Gbajabiamila, in a statement Sunday by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Lanre Lasisi, recalled Diya’s commitment and service to Nigeria during his term in office as CGS and in other capacities.

The Speaker prayed for the repose of his  soul  and prayed God to give his family, the people and government of Ogun state the fortitude to bear the loss.

In his reaction, former President Olusegun Obasanjo described the life of the deceased nation’s number two man as a great success and accomplishments which would long be remembered after him.

In a statement Sunday by his Special Assistant on Media, Kehinde Akinyemi, the former president said,  with the demise, “there is no doubt, the ranks of the nation’s leadership have been depleted by the loss of a dedicated and resourceful patriot who served the nation in various capacities as an Army Officer, community leader and a legal practitioner.”

“It is noteworthy that in the course of his military service which straddled more than three decades, he acquitted himself as a dedicated officer and a real patriot. From the thick of the Nigerian Civil War to the post-war re-organisation of the Army, he distinguished himself as a seasoned soldier.

“The rare diligence, loyalty and resourcefulness with which he carried out his duties and responsibilities, culminated in his appointment as Commander 31, Airborne Brigade; Military Governor of Ogun State from January 1984 to August 1985; General Officer Commanding 82 Division, Nigeria Army in 1985; Commandant, National War College, 1991–1993; Chief of Defence Staff in 1993 and soon after, Chief of General Staff also in 1993; Vice Chairman of the Provisional Ruling Council in 1994 and later functioned as Nigeria’s number two man under the military administration of General Sani Abacha from 1994 to 1997,” Obasanjo said.

He further said:  “I recall as a Military Governor of Ogun State, he made tremendous mark through dedication to duty, loyalty to his fatherland and an impeccable example of incorruptible leadership. He was courageous and quite a disciplinarian and a no-nonsense officer.

“In retirement, Diya contributed to national development as a private businessman, legal practitioner and a provider of employment for many of our people.

“He is being mourned, therefore, beyond his immediate family and community. I believe the entire nation also shares the pain and grief for the irreparable loss of a distinguished son of Nigeria indeed.”

Obasanjo said his entire family joined in wishing the late Diya’s family the comfort and solace sorely needed during this period of bereavement and great trial.

“We, however, have cause to thank God that his life was 

a great success and many of his accomplishments will for long be remembered after him,” Obasanjo said.