Former President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo said his decision to retire 93 top military officers on his assumption of office in 1999 had gone a long way in saving and stabilizing the nation’s democracy.
Obasanjo branded the move as a kind of engineering in politics, pointing out that the mass retirement was inevitable on account of the lavish life style of some top military men in the corridor of power.
He spoke at his 80th birthday celebration organized by the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) in Abuja at the weekend.
The former president also warned people from referring to him again as Matthew, a name he said he dropped a long time ago.
He said: “If anyone does not want to see my red eyes, don’t call me Matthew again.”
He said that moving people from one position to another could be a blessing in disguise, citing the examples of former Governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola and former national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Barnabas Gemade .
Oyinlola was military administrator of Lagos during the Abacha regime and was one of those affected by the Obasanjo purge while Gemade lost his position as PDP chairman in a move believed to have been sanctioned by the ex-president.
Obasanjo said the development has not affected his relationship with both men because to him, Nigeria comes first in everything.
He said: “Talking about engineering in politics, when I got into office as elected president, I got 93 officers of the armed forces out of the military because they were used to what is called the chummy chummy life in government house, and if I had left them in the military they would have been the ones that would have created more problems for us and our democratic dispensation would not have lasted as it has.
“Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola was one of the 93 officers, but in everything in life there may be a silver lining. If he hadn’t been out at the time he may never have been governor. If Senator Gemade had not been kicked out as chairman he would never have become a senator, but I’m happy that I was looking for perfection and what is best for Nigeria.
“Gemade is my friend and is still a friend and will remain a friend, but when it comes to Nigeria even with the best of my friends, Nigeria will come first. And for that I have no apology and I will have no apology for that.”