Former president Olusegun Obasanjo says the Nigerian army would have been better off, had it been led by Zakariya Maimalari, a late military officer.
Obasanjo made this known on Tuesday while speaking at the presentation of a book, ‘The First Regular Combatant: Brigadier Zakariya Maimalari,’ in Abuja.
Maimalari, who was killed during the January 15, 1966 military coup, was the first Nigerian regular combatant to be enlisted into the officer corps of the Nigerian Army.
Obsasanjo poured encomiums on the late military officer whom he said had officers’ welfare as one of his priorities.
He said that as a junior military officer, he had a first-hand experience of Maimalari’s “sterling professional and leadership qualities”.
“He was a particularly good officer, who cared greatly about the welfare of his officers and men,” Obasanjo said.
“The Nigerian army would have been the better for it if he (Maimalari) had led the army.”
Obasanjo also warned against the recurrence of a coup in the country.
“Nigeria has had enough bloodshed and enough sacrifices by those victims (of the coups and violence)… Nigeria deserves peace, unity and progress,” he said.
“Many military officers who had been highly trained at enormous cost to the nation were cut off in the prime of their lives.”
He said this was why, on resuming office as Nigeria’s president, he retired all military officers that had participated in politics during military rule.
According to him, “it is because it was necessary to stop this sort of thing that took the life of Maimalari prematurely that we had to take the decision that all those who had tasted political power that they should never have tasted, should be eased out of the army so that we can have an army that is free from political aberration.
“So far, since 1999, it seems that we have got it right. Let us hope that we continue to get it right and learn that Nigeria has had enough bloodshed, enough sacrifices by those victims; that Nigeria deserve peace, unity and progress.”