Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, former Head of State, said on Wednesday that the late Pa Abraham Adesanya was one of those on whom he relied on in piloting the transition to democracy in 1999.
Abubakar stated this in Lagos at the 10th Memorial Symposium of the late NADECO Chieftain, Chief Abraham Adesanya, where he was chairman.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that fate smiled on Abubakar in June 1998 when he had to take over the mantle of leadership in Nigeria following the sudden death of Gen. Sani Abacha.
He was military Head of State from June 9, 1998 until May 29, 1999, and oversaw the transition programme which saw the military return to the barracks, 16 years after it earlier truncated civilian rule in 1983.
Abubakar transferred power to president-elect, Olusegun Obasanjo on May 29, 1999, returning the country to civil rule.
The late Adesanya, on his part, was a leader of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), which was a thorn in the flesh of the military, constantly demanding a return to democracy.
Abubakar said at Adesanya’s memorial symposium that he had a good relationship with the late politician until his death.
“I had a good relationship with him when destiny brought me to be the Head of state of the country.
“I commend organisations that fought to bring democracy to Nigeria, and NADECO was the leading organisation.
“I relied on his advice and others to pilot the transition to democracy in Nigeria,” he said.
Also speaking at the event, former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku described late Adesanya as a symbol of authentic combination of loyalty to one’s ethnic group and country.
He said he promoted and protected the interest of the Yorubas, democracy and the interest of Nigeria as a whole.
“He was devoted to the fight for democracy in Nigeria and he incurred the wrath of Abacha with an attempted assassination on his life in 1996.
“He was a political activist, a patriot and the defender of the truth and public interest,” he said.
A panelist, Chief John Nwodo, President-General, Ohaneze Ndigbo, said leadership failure contributed to the current challenges experienced in the country.
Nwodo said Nigeria required non-tribal, patriotic and fearless leaders like late Adesanya to progress.
“Pa Adesanya saw himself as a Yoruba and a true Nigerian. He recognised the problems in the country and spoke to the problems without being tribalistic. We need such leaders today.
“I urge Nigerians to vote wisely in 2019. Do not vote anybody who does not recognise that we need a restructured nation to get out of our challenges,” Nwodo said.
In her address, Mrs Dupe Adelaja, daughter of Late Adesanya, said the symposium was to draw on the memory of her father and remind Nigerians of his legacies.
Adelaja said her father and others like him struggled for democracy in Nigeria at a time when the prospect seemed bleak.
She urged politicians to emulate the ideals and legacies of her father to help resolve the challenges of the country.
Dignitaries that graced the occasion include a former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar; Mrs Yetunde Onanuga, Deputy Governor of Ogun State; Mr Gbenga Daniel, former governor of Ogun State; and Mr Peter Obi, former governor of Anambra State.
Others include, APC chieftain, Chief Bisi Akande; KOWA Party chieftain, Prof. Remi Sonaiya, PDP chieftain, Chief Bode George, and former Deputy Governor of Osun State, Sen. Iyiola Omisore among others were also present.