This certainly is not nemesis for Sambo Dasuki, the retired Army Colonel who was the National Security Adviser, NSA to President Goodluck Jonathan. For Alhaji Mustapha Jokolo, former ADC to Major General Muhammadu Buhari, the current traumatic situation which Sambo Dasuki has found himself is an undeserved punishment. Jokolo, frank to a fault tells you the story of Sambo who, he said, helped Buhari into office in 1983 as Nigeria’s Head of State. “Just some years back somebody who was close to Shagari came and told me that one of the Brigadiers who was course mate to Buhari who we were holding meetings in his house…I will not mention his name because he is dead…because he is from here, went to Umar Dikko and told him that we were plotting coup, that they should appoint him Chief of Army Staff, that he would arrest all of us.
“You see the kind of nonsense these people did to us? And they call themselves senior officers? We did the donkeywork and they enjoyed the bloody thing. And look at where Sambo is now. Sambo did a lot for Buhari, I swear and Buhari knows it. Adamu Adamu knows it,” Jokolo lamented.
It is the inside story of the military politics that brought Buhari to power in 1983 and swept him away in 1985, barely two years after he took over. Jokolo who told the story to Saturday Sun in an exclusive interview while faulting the book written on his successor, Alhaji Muhammadu Ilyasu Bashar is today expressing regret, annoyance and disappointment at the continued confinement of Sambo Dasuki, an in-law to Alhaji Mamman Daura who is Buhari’s nephew. Trust Jokolo, the old fire has not gone out. It still burns in him as exemplified in this interview.
It’s like you are in doubt of the details given in the book?
Why do we have to start from 1985 when there was 1983 before it? 1983 led to 1985. So, it is better we start from beginning, then we approach 1985 which was the end of it. Now, 1983 coup was conceived in 1981 and it was through dream. My uncle, the elder brother of my father had a dream where he saw one tall, lanky, light complexion officer. That officer came and saw my father in a white horse and asked him how he was feeling about the situation in the country. My father told him things were not good. Then he told my father, okay we are going to change things. He went and came back and said okay, we have changed it. He said congratulations. So, when I heard that, I told them it was Buhari. They didn’t know who it was. At that time, I was in Nigeria Military Police School as Senior Instructor in Zaria. So I drove to Jos to meet General Buhari who was the GOC at that time to inform him of the dream. He asked me who was the person who dreamt?
Then you were not yet his ADC?
I was ADC to him in 1975 when he was Governor of North Eastern State. By that time, he was a Lieutenant Colonel and I was a Lieutenant. This time he was a Major General as GOC. So I asked him to please close his office and tell his P.A. to hold all calls; then I told him of the dream. He was surprised and he said somebody from Maiduguri also said the same thing and another one in Daura. So that was the beginning of
it. He said he was not going to involve himself. I said no, you will do that please because this is an inspiration from God, Almighty himself. When I finished with him I went to meet the M.A. to General Wushishi who was the Chief of Army Staff at that time; that is Major Sambo Dasuki at that time and informed him about what transpired between General Buhari and I. I told him to take note of it so that we can start something about it.
I didn’t inspire it. It was inspired by God because it was through a dream that we saw it coming. I only carried the message. But I told him because he didn’t want to get involved in that. But I told him he had no choice because this is from God. So, when I told Sambo Dasuki, I asked him we should go and meet Buhari too. So we flew to Jos to discuss this with Buhari and that reinforced the confidence in Buhari because Sambo, being the M.A to the Chief of Army Staff, coming to talk to him added more weight to the matter. So we got him committed. I then went back and we started planning it, recruiting officers like Gwadabe who was Adjutant of NDA and Aminu, C.O of 241 Recce Battalion here in Kaduna, Ahmed Abdullahi and a whole bunch of other officers. That’s how we started. It was started by us, I and Sambo Dasuki. But what brought Jega in? While we were planning it, I asked them whether Jega had been informed? They said no. I said why don’t we inform him? They said because if we tell him he will tell General Jallo who was very close to him. Jallo was his GOC in 2 Division. So, they became very close friends. Jallo was the Chief of Defence Staff at that time. So, I drove to the Army headquarters where he was the Director, Army Training (Operations). I told him the same thing I told Buhari that he should please close his office and that I do not want any interruption, I have something to discuss with him. So, I told him of the coup plans. Then he asked me who and who were involved? I said I was not going to tell him and asked him if he was going to join or not? He said he was not going to join. He said
I too should get out of it. I told him since this is confidential let’s swear we will not discuss this with anybody. He promised me he was not going to discuss it with anybody. I was staying in Zaria, but when I came into Lagos I was staying in Temple Road with Sambo Dasuki. I didn’t tell Sambo that I had discussed it with Jega. So in the evening, my intuition told me something was amiss. So I now asked to be accompanied to Jega’s place. We drove to his house, 6 Osborne Road in Ikoyi. He was not there. Then I asked one of his guards which direction he took. He stretched his hands in front of us. So I suspected he went to Alhaji Alhaji’s house, the Sardauna of Sokoto now who was Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance. So I asked Sambo we should go there. I didn’t tell Sambo I had discussed things with Jega.
By the time we got to Sardauna’s house, we saw him sitting on the ground and Jega was sitting on the chair. When the Sardauna saw me, he said yes, I was going to call you. Jega has just told me that you people were planning a coup. So, I said yes, let me see who will stop us. So he said well, if you do not, somebody else will do it because we are in red. I am the Permanent Secretary, Finance. So from there we went back home. I was supposed to fly to Sokoto in the morning by six o’clock to go and meet the Brigade Commander in Sokoto, late Ibrahim Bako. I parked my car there, entered an aircraft…Bako was supposed to meet me at the airport.
I will brief him on what was going on and he would tell me the arrangement he was making…because the arrangement was that once we carry out the coup, Shagari will be arrested and taken back to Sokoto. So, Bako, being the Brigade Commander will go to him in Abuja, sit down with him and tell him of what plans that were afoot. So I had to brief Bako what we were doing in Lagos. But by the time I got there Bako met me at the airport and told me there was a problem in Lagos. He told me that they have imposed electronic silence which means nobody should discuss anything anymore. All the same, I briefed him and he said if I get back to Lagos somebody will brief me. When I got back to Lagos I phoned Sambo who was in the office. He said I should wait for him to come back home. He told me that that night when Jega left the place, he went to General Vatsa’s house and told him what was happening and from Vatsa’s house to Wushishi’s house and told him, the Chief of Army Staff. Vatsa was the Quarter-Master General at that time in the Army.
And from Wushishi’s house, they went to General Jallo’s house and told him. So in the morning they sent for Babangida. But in the book he said something which was different. You will see what is different if you read the book.
At what point did Babangida come into the planning of the coup?
I told you it was Sambo I asked to liase with Babangida. So it was Sambo who was liasing with him at the initial stage. It was only later that we started talking about it. But for Babangida, he was Director, Staff Duties and Plans and Aliyu Gusau was a Colonel at that time. He was Director, Military Intelligence. From there again he went and told Shagari. That is Jega. So you can see how he exposed us. Only God saved us that Shagari was a bit carefree because Shagari at that time had some control over the Battalions. They were funding the Battalion Commanders that time. They were giving every Battalion Commander in Lagos at that time N10,000 monthly as welfare. And my salary as a Major at that time was N800 and even the Head of State at that time the salary was between N1,300 and N1,500 at that time. So if somebody was getting N10,000 monthly as welfare and you are coming to …later I will tell you what happened and how we almost got into trouble. And another thing he said was that when he got this…that is why they got him promoted Major General and to the position of GOC and posted him to Ibadan. And one of his Brigade Commanders was General Sani Abacha.
He said he got information that they wanted to remove Shagari. He didn’t mention that I was the one who told him.
So, Babangida was not the moving spirit of the coup?
How was he the moving spirit? He was just…look, when did you hear of Brigadiers plotting a coup in Nigeria? It has always been behind officers that always do it, Majors, Lieutenant Colonels, maybe some Captains. It has never happened that you have a Brigadier plotting a coup. Director, Army Training, what did he have to stop the coup? He was promoted Major General and given a good command position and he said he was promoted so that he wouldn’t stop the coup. As Director of Army Training Operations, what does he have to stop the coup? He has his back man who will wash his clothes, he has an orderly who will sit with him in the car and a driver. But as a GOC now of 2 Division, he now had a command and three Brigades under him, one in Ilorin, one in Benin and one in Lagos; that is 1 Brigade. And that is the one that we used to do the coup. The Brigade Commander that time was Brigadier Sani Abacha. So if Jega at that time had the skills of stopping the coup, this is where he could have stopped it as GOC because that was the Brigade that was used and Sani Abacha was the Brigade Commander.
So when you read the book you will find that he doesn’t know what he is saying. What actually happened on the day of the coup was that Khaliel was away. He was the Commander of the Brigade of Guards; that is the one guarding Shagari. I was to go to the airport because Buhari was supposed to fly from Jos to Lagos, but something happened. Buhari rejected the appointment of Babangida as Chief of Army Staff. On Wednesday before the coup; the coup took place on Friday, 31st December. So on Thursday, we sent Ahmed Abdullahi who is still around and the owner of this hotel near NITEL, and Bako, we sent them to Lagos to coordinate the coup affairs and finalise it. But when he came back he told us that the ball was out of our court. We asked what he meant by that and he said Buhari said he was not going to appoint Babangida as Chief of Army Staff.
When Ahmed told me that I said who would dare do that? So we said there should be another meeting in General Bako’s house. Magoro was there, Paul Omu was there, Ahmed Abdullahi was there, Gwadabe and Abdulmumini Aminu were there and I was there. So we challenged Magoro. We asked him: are you one of the people influencing Buhari not to appoint Babangida as Chief of Army Staff? We said if Babangida is not appointed Chief of Army Staff, if Buhari goes to Lagos and announces another person…he was planning to appoint Domkat Bali who was the Commandant of Command and Staff College. We said if he did that we were going to subvert the coup from Kaduna and we would not go along with him. So if he wants that coup to continue… you Magoro, this night, you leave Kaduna and go to Jos…because Buhari was to take a flight, seven O’clock flight to Lagos. You go there and meet Buhari and tell him this is our term. If he doesn’t agree with it then let him know that we are going to sabotage him and we are going to fight him. But if he agrees he should send signal through the Airforce Military School in Zaria to the Airforce Base where Air Vice Marshall Hamza Abdullahi was the Commander. If they agreed then I should go to Lagos to inform them of this agreement.
I was to go to Abuja with Bako, late Bako, but I was told to wait. Magoro left at 3 a.m. He got to Jos and went straight to Buhari’s house and they later sent a coded signal that they had accepted our terms and that Buhari was coming to Kaduna. He came and stayed in Hamza Abdullahi’s Farm House. So I flew to Lagos and went to Babangida’s house. He was not around. I was told he went to meet Aliyu Gusau. I went to Aliyu Gusau’s house and he told me that Babangida just left, but that he phoned and said if I got there I should quickly come to his house. But Aliyu asked me to please tell him what was going on in Kaduna and I did. That was when I went to see Babangida and …before then we were asking him to allow me to take over my command, post me to where I was the HQ Provost Battalion Commander so that we could use my Military Police in Lagos to operate there. But they didn’t post me. Instead they left me …when I finished my staff college, they posted me to Minna. But they had a different thing and their own plans. In reality, I was the only person who was pro-Buhari, of all the coup plotters, except that I got Sambo Dasuki on our side. Sambo was the one who influenced them. And because of his position as M.A to the Chief of Army Staff he was respected by the group especially both Babangida and Aliyu Gusau. He was very close to them. But before then the coup plotters were thinking of Babangida being the Head of State, not Buhari.
Against the dream your uncle had?
No, the dream didn’t say Buhari was going to be the Head of State. It only said they were going to change the government. But I convinced Sambo because of our relationship. And what helped again was that Sambo’s younger sister is married, up till now, to Buhari’s nephew, Mamman Daura. So that kind of relationship…not that Sambo was close to Buhari. He was not. They were not close, but that relationship softened Sambo’s heart to agree with me. I swear to Almighty God if Sambo had not supported Buhari’s emergence, nobody could have made Buhari the Head of State because while we were planning it, they too were planning something within it because they gave us a book called Power Play. They were planning not to give Buhari. And he was lucky he didn’t go to Lagos because they could have arranged an accident for him. I swear.
But why were they anti-Buhari?
Not anti-Buhari. They knew each other. They knew it was easier to have access to Babangida. And it showed so. When we took over, none of the coup plotters was given political appointment. The only two people who were given appointment were David Mark who was posted to Niger State as Governor, who I believe was influenced by Babangida because it was his home state and Ahmed Abdullahi whose house we were doing a lot of things, that was made a Minister. He was made Minister of Communicatons. Apart from those two, all other coup plotters, none of them was given political appointments. And that set the stage for the coup of 1985. What happened was that when we came to Dodan Barracks with Buhari he was holding meeting with some senior military officers and all the coup plotters were outside and they came to meet me in the office of the ADC.
Shagaya, Akilu, Sabo Aliyu, Zaki, Tanko Ayuba, all of them who were in Lagos at that time. They told me ‘Mustapha what the bloody hell is going on? Why are we outside and these people are inside, not holding meeting with us? We have just finished this coup and honestly we are going to stage another one now. They said that to me. They are alive.’ So I went to Buhari and told him we have a problem; that these officers are outside threatening to overthrow us again. Then he said I should call them. I called them and left the place. So I did not know what happened. But that was the beginning of 1985 coup.
So it was not the import license scandal of Aliyu Gusau that set the stage for the 1985 coup?
No. Look, the import license scandal was the ultimate one, but this was the beginning because none of them was…look, when Yar’Adua led the coup of 1975 against Gowon, the leader of the coup was Yar’Adua even though there were officers who were senior to him like Colonel Abdullahi who was Chief of Staff to Obasanjo, Colonel Ochefu, Joe Garba were senior to Yar’Adua…
(Cuts in) I was just trying to establish some points raised in the book that it was the Gusau’s import license money that spurred the coup of 1985
No, I will come to that…
You are now saying it was not like that
It was the ultimate one. It was the final push for the coup, but the stage was set by the non inclusion of the coup plotters I told you about. None of them; neither Gwadabe nor Aminu, Sambo nor anyone of them was given positions, all the coup plotters, wherever they were.
And they threatened a day after the coup that they were going to stage another one in that Dodan Barracks. Like I told you they were pro-Babangida officers who wanted Babangida as Head of State, except for Sambo who worked on Babangida. We had a lot of problems even after that. Now where Jega was saying he would have stopped us…even on that day, I was the one who arrested all the officers in Lagos. Jakande, I arrested him as Governor. I arrested Ekwueme and the Speaker at that time was not Umeh Ezeoke. It was Orchia Suma, one Tiv man. He was there as Speaker for only three months. So I arrested and brought them to Dodan Barracks. Now see the difference. There were only two coup d’e tats in Nigeria; that of Nzeogwu and ours. The rest were palace changes. And like I told you when these people overthrew Gowon, Yar’Adua…they were the ones who sat down, Murtala and everybody. They told them what appointments they were going to give them. And when they told Murtala his position he said he would not accept that and that they cannot tie him down. They told him to go out and that they were going to discuss it. He walked out. But we did not do that. We just trusted them, not because we could stop them from doing anything because on that day we told Magoro to start going to Lagos.
Nobody was afraid of anybody. But we respected them and allowed them to take over and they became overbearing. They only thought of themselves and their friends. That’s all. And this was part of the problem. So for Jega to say that he could have stopped us as Director,
Army Training…Okay, funny enough when we were planning the coup we had this young officer, Major Akinyemi, younger brother of Bolaji Akniyemi who was a very good signals officer, he went and installed communication equipment in all Divisional Headquarters. That time there was no mobile communication. We were using NITEL. So we went and blocked the lines. So we could communicate with only our lines, but then every Radio station was supposed to tune to Lagos, except Ibadan.
So when I heard them playing normal music I went to Babangida and told him we had a problem because Jega wasn’t playing ball. He told Akilu and I to proceed there. On the same day of the coup we drove to Ibadan. When we went he was not in the office. We went to his house. And he mentioned that his wife started crying that we were there to kill him. Now, here was somebody who said he could have stopped us but yet only two of us went, Akilu and I with Akilu’s driver and his orderly. He was jittery. He was shaking. We told him you come and meet us tomorrow in Lagos, impose curfew, play martial music and no more radio programmes. So we left.
Was it possible for a Major then to be dishing orders to a Major General, a GOC in the manner you have just demonstrated? You have just spoken of the example of Jega and Murtala.
But we did that. He even reflected that in his book. We brought him a letter also from Babangida. We did that. That was when Akilu asked me to go and take a platoon from a Battalion in Ikeja to go and secure the airport and that an aircraft was going to bring in Buhari. I went and took him and we went to Dodan Barracks. We went to Victoria Island, the Military Secretary’s office where we were to do ceremony of swearing in. They brought a judge, Supreme Court Justice who was not CJ. He said he had no authority to do that. So we said okay who wants you anyway, get away. So Buhari was never sworn in. So we went to Dodan Barracks.
And that was when Aliyu Gusau came out of their meeting. I was outside. He came and called Dangiwa, Abubakar Umar, Lieutenant Colonel Abubakar Umar who was Governor of Kaduna State. He said Dangiwa, you and Mustapha come here. He said Mustapha because of you we are going to allow Jega to remain in the military. Aliyu Gusau is alive, Dangiwa is alive and I am alive. Ask anyone of them. And he said, we are going to post him to Gongola State. Now imagine he was Governor of Gongola State in 1976 and in 1984, eight years later while his course mate was Head of State he was taken to the same state as Governor. Isn’t that relegation? Somebody who was GOC, a General and now his subordinate, Abacha became the GOC 2 Division and member, Supreme Military Council while Jega was just a Governor because he didn’t take part in the coup.
From 1981 we were the ones going up and down. And mark you it was Sambo Dasuki who was facilitating it because when some of these officers have problem…for example Abdulmumini Aminu was Commander of 241 Recce Battalion. When I approached him, he told me that he had a problem, that his Battalion had no ammunition. Even the belt they brought was wrong. So I went back to Sambo and told him. Then Sambo discussed it with Babangida. You know you mount belt on the machine gun and ammunition for the main gun. So that night they sent an order to the Defence Attache to arrange to buy rounds and belts for the fox, scout car. Honestly speaking, that’s why sometimes my heart bleeds because what is happening to Sambo Dasuki now I worry a lot. It is an irony. If I had not brought him in, this thing could not have happened with Buhari being Head of State. It was Sambo Dasuki who facilitated it not me. I only suggested it. He was the one who convinced these people. I swear to God, Almighty. He was the one. He did a lot, honestly speaking. Not only that, even in 2011, Sambo Dasuki was involved in trying to make Buhari president. I connected him with some of Buhari’s men like Adamu Adamu, the present Minister of Education.
And like this Muslim group, Supreme Council for Sharia in Nigeria, Datti Ahmed and Nafiu Baba-Ahmed and one Dr. Umar Ardo who was Special Assistant to President Obasanjo and the Emir of Kano who was Governor of Central Bank. I was the one who influenced his appointment as Governor of Central Bank. I talked to Umar Musa Yar’Adua; the same thing with former Chief of Army Staff, Dambazzu, now the Minister of Internal Affairs. I was the one who influenced Umar Musa Yar’Adua who was my friend and we worked together. So I connected them with Sambo Dasuki and wallahi Sambo…even when we were planning the coup that saw Buhari as Head of State, Sambo Dasuki was the one who was getting money for us from Aliyu Gusau and Chief of Army Staff votes to help the coup plot because not a single Kobo did we get from Buhari. Not only that, he used his father’s money to sponsor some Mallams to go to Saudi Arabia to help pray for the success of the coup.
And if at that time Jega reported the plan to Shagari, if Shagari had been decisive…but the funny thing, this is the interesting thing. Just some years back somebody who was close to Shagari came and told me that one of the Brigadiers who was course mate to Buhari who we were holding meetings in his house…I will not mention his name because he is dead…because he is from here went to Umar Dikko and told him that we were plotting coup, that they should appoint him Chief of Army Staff, that he would arrest all of us. You see the kind of nonsense these people did to us? And they call themselves senior officers? We did the donkey work and they enjoyed the bloody thing. And look at where Sambo is now. Sambo did a lot for Buhari, I swear and Buhari knows it. Adamu Adamu knows it. Ask Dr. Datti Ahmed. Ask Nafiu Baba-Ahmed.
They held meetings with Bola Tinubu in Lagos to bring together the team that was to work for Buhari. Sambo was there. He did a lot for Buhari in 2011. And Aliyu Gusau too; inspite of the fact that there is no love lost between me and Aliyu Gusau, he helped us because he financed the coup. Okay like the import license he talked about in the book which was sold to one German through Maidaribe the money was used to facilitate the coup. It is not even that one that is important. What was important was that Aliyu Gusau as Director of Military Intelligence was the one who protected us from the NSO led at that time by Umaru Shinkafi. We would have all been arrested. He had good connection with Shinkafi and any time some of the coup plotters got drunk, they spoke rubbish and threatened people. The NSO agents were picking up reports and were making it.
So that was what Aliyu Gusau did. In any case what brought the problem was that Buhari was not comfortable with Aliyu Gusau. I asked Buhari why we didn’t make Aliyu Gusau the Director General of NSO. He said he would not give two security positions to Babangida’s people. One, Haliru Akilu and not Hallilu Akilu as you people have been writing. It is Haliru Akilu. He was the one appointed Director, Military Intelligence. So Buhari was not comfortable giving the NSO office to Aliyu Gusau who also was Babangida’s boy because he had some…I don’t know what went wrong with two of them but there were some misgivings between the two of them, Babangida and Buhari. But he didn’t play any role. So, it was funny. But this person who helped us…What happened was that Rafindadi who was an Ambassador in Germany who was brought by Shinkafi to take over from him was retained by Buhari. So for that reason, Rafindadi became a problem to us because he didn’t know anyone of us and we didn’t know him. And he was loyal to Buhari only as it showed.
There was a time we held a meeting, we the coup plotters; we called ourselves the caucus, in Idiagbon’s guest house in Lagos. Idiagbon was the chairman of the caucus. He was there, Babangida was there, Akilu was there…Aliyu Gusau was on course at the time at Royal College of Defense Studies and other coup plotters. I was the one who moved the motion that we had enough problems within ourselves; that please…because Rafindadi had been writing inciting reports, saying that some officers were plotting coup against Buhari. He mentioned Major Gwadabe, Major Abdulmumini Aminu and one other name was blotted with white paint. I saw the report on Buhari’s desk. When I put it on the light, I saw Major Jokolo. I said why will I plot any coup? I could have handed over Buhari to them easily. Why will I plot a coup against Buhari when I was the ADC? In the meeting I moved the motion that we should remove Rafindadi because he is the only alien among us.
Babangida seconded the motion, so did Akilu. Then Idiagbon said Magoro you write a memo, because Rafindadi was a member of the Supreme Military Council, to the Supreme Military Council. You can’t remove him by a stroke of the pen. It has to be debated at the Supreme Military Council. So, Sabo Aliyu who was the Commander, Brigade of Guards and I went to General Gado Nasko who was Commander of Artillery and Murtala Nyako who was a Naval officer. They were both members of the Supreme Military Council, But they were not in the caucus. We pleaded with them to support the move to remove Rafindadi. Magoro never wrote the memo. Instead they went and told Buhari that I was instigating a move to remove his NSO. They almost created a problem for me. The Military Intelligence continued with their plans; we didn’t know. Something happened too which was surprising. After the 53 suitcases issue I was disturbed. I wanted to leave the Army and so I wrote a petition to Babangida that I don’t want to serve in the Army anymore because I was being castigated as a criminal. Babangida didn’t get the memo because he left at 3:30pm. He always left at 3:30. The memo got to his office after 3:30. So from his house the next day, he went to Dodan Barracks and he was told because I copied General Idiagbon.
So he came to my office and said ‘Mustapha I learnt that you wrote a petition to me’ I said yes sir. ‘Do you have a copy of it?’ I said yes sir and I showed him. He said withdraw it. I said okay sir. In the evening, it was fasting time, I wrote another letter of resignation.
It was no more a petition. I was now resigning and it was my right to do so. So Sabo Aliyu saw it and went and told Babangida because we were doing tafsir. Babangida said I should see him in his house. When I met him he said if Abacha and I decide that you should remain will you remain? I said how can I remain sir, my mind is not there. He said we don’t want you to leave. I said okay sir I will not leave the Army but please get me posted out. I don’t want this work of ADC. He said you are not leaving either. But when the coup of 1985 was to take place, I was not around. I had problem, I was in Germany for medical check-up. So I arrived in Nigeria on Thursday morning.