Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has revealed how the late former US Ambassador to Nigeria Walter Carrington offered him political asylum in the United States in 1995 while General Sani Abacha was in power.
Obasanjo has revealed that he turned down the offer of asylum, despite his tempting and reassuring details.
He said that during Carrington’s tenure, the late envoy helped Nigeria ease the transition to democratic rule that had lasted for more than a decade.
The Owu-born leader said that at this time the country had gone through a culture of arbitrariness, gross human rights violations and disregard for the rule of law.
Obasanjo recounted this on Tuesday in a letter of condolence to the late Ambassador’s wife, Arese Carrington.
The former Nigerian leader said Carrington was one of the responsible, mature and respected voices who pulled Nigeria out of an “unhealthy situation”.
He listed them as permanent crises, threats of disintegration, a prolonged absence of democracy and a plundered economy.
Obasanjo recalled: “At one point in 1995, during one of my trips to Copenhagen to attend the World Social Summit as the Human Development Ambassador for the United Nations Development Program, I received the warnings , the most touching tips and offers from Amb. Carrington. He called me in Copenhagen and told me categorically that I was going to be arrested when I got home and therefore advised me not to go home.
“But he didn’t stop there, he offered me political asylum through his government in the United States. It was touching and reassuring at the same time, but I decided that, as tempting and reassuring as the offer was, I wouldn’t take it. I returned and was arrested and imprisoned by Abacha. No doubt his generous help 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 in prison.
“I can say with pride that he was a true friend and a true brother. He came to Nigeria with love, ate and drank Nigerian delicacies and drinks, showed a significant display of unity as he walked down the aisle to tie the nuptial knot outside of nationality limits with one of our illustrious daughters and that is you, and he was loved and appreciated by the people by giving her a Yoruba name “Omowale” and by giving his name to a street on Victoria Island, Lagos.
“I have always known Amb. Carrington to carry out his duties with panache and grace as he tackled the most complex international crises. He played a key role in updating the goals of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for which Nigeria has benefited from the support of the Gates Foundation which made funds available that could be used for support its AIDS program in 2000. Its work, values and principles have had and will continue to have tremendous influence and impact in Africa and beyond.
“It is right that people around the world at this time have generously praised your late husband. So I use this medium to add my voice to theirs by acknowledging his exceptional commitment and dedication 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 by contributing to the governance, security and sustainable development of the African continent. His legacy will live on and continue to touch many lives and generations to come.
“Indeed, it thrills my heart to know not only Nigeria and Africa, but many countries around the world had a friend in him. Life is not about how much time you spend but how you live to serve humanity, Amb. Carrington has lived well and successfully making unique contributions to making the world a better place than he has encountered. I pray that the Almighty will grant you and all members of his family the courage to endure this irreparable loss. May her sweet soul rest in perfect peace.