World leaders who lived in Nigeria
By Emeka Obasi
President Emmanuel Macron is a home boy and cares less about protocol. The same Kalakuta Republic that was burnt down by our maximum dictators in 1977 came back as Fela’s Shrine and hosted the French President in June, 2018.
Macron may not be weird but he has a lot of Kalakuta blood in him. Wife, Brigitte Trogneux, is not just 24 years older, she was his school teacher. Monsieur president is younger than his step children.
When Macron got married in 2007, his Best Man was Henry Harmand, 83. The young man, a Roman Catholic, is a Marseille fan.
Macron spent a few years in Lagos as a diplomat with the French Embassy. One of his favourite fun spots was Fela’s Shrine. No Nigerian leader had visited Fela’s Republic, at least, officially until Macron dragged Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Lagos Land lord, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, to the place.
The Afro beat king was a free thinker who married about 27 wives in one day and could walk all around Lagos wearing just pants. Macron did not marry as many women. His own wife is old enough to be Mummy Macron.
John Roy Major, British Prime Minister [November 28, 1990-May 2, 1997], was a banker in Jos when the Civil War began in 1967. His days at the Standard Chartered Bank were cut short by an automobile accident.
Major could not do polygamy the Nigerian way. Lecherous, he was alleged to have been quite close to Edwina Currie before 1986. This revelation came in 2002.
President Nelson Mandela was said to have spent some time in Nigeria before living on Robben Island as a prisoner of the apartheid South African regime. He did not say this in his book.
However, Chief Mbazulike Amaechi, a First Republic politician said Madiba was his guest at Number 5, Okotie Eboh Street, Ikoyi-Lagos.
Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki, Mandela’s successor, found home in Nigeria with his wife, Zanele. During FESTAC ’77, the couple cheered as Mariam Makeba, Hugh Masekela and Ipithombi entertained the world with the best from Azania.
President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon was almost going to lose in his re-election bid when a female member of the Omar Bongo family questioned his paternity and date of birth.
It is open secret that the Alain Bernard Bongo who became Ali Bongo Ondimba was an Igbo boy adopted by then President Albert Bongo of Gabon during the Civil War.
Many Igbo believe the boy was originally from Amaraku in the Mbano area of Imo State and was one of the starving children flown to Libreville. In his own case, kwashiorkor turned out to be a huge blessing.
Gabon was one of the African countries that recognized Biafra during the crisis, thanks to Albert Bongo who joined Mwalimu Julius Nyerere’s Tanzania, Kenneth Kaunda’s Zambia and Felix Houphouet Boigny’s Cote D’Ivoire to pump diplomatic life into Biafra.
Bongo did not only build schools to accommodate the children from Biafra, he assisted with relief materials. One popular win-the –war meal available to many of them was called ‘garri Gabon.’
The Biafran Air Force enjoyed Bongo’s support. Some of the attacks on Nigerian target emanated from Nzomo Airport. August Okpe, Willy Murray Bruce, Ibi Allwell Brown and John Chukwu became popular taking risks in the air.
Many dictators also found home away from home in Nigeria. General Felix Malloum Ngakoutou Bey-Ndi of Chad ascended the throne from prison just like Mandela and Obasanjo.
In 1975 while Generals Murtala Mohammed and Obasanjo took control of our country through a bloodless coup, Chadian soldiers killed President Francois N’garta Tombalbaye.
Tombalbaye was as power drunk as he was fetish. The day he was toppled, the Chadian leader was so drunk that he refused to jump unto a truck as directed by his abductors.
‘Cest finis,’ Tombalbaye chanted as the plotters poured hot lead on him. Malloum became head of a nine–man Supreme Miliatry Council. Both leaders were from the Southern part of the country dominated by Christians. Muslims are majority in the North.
Malloum was sacked in 1979, and he found home in Nigeria during Obasanjo’s time as military ruler. The general was here with us when Gen. Muhammadu Buhari led Col. Chris Ugokwe and the 3rd Armoured Division in a victory march to the gates of Ndjamena. He died in Lagos on January 2, 1995.
General Siad Barre ruled Somalia for almost four decades from 1965 until he fled in 1991.The ex-police officer from the Ogaden Region reigned with iron fist and was a war veteran.
When the Mogadishu became too hot, Barre ran to Kenya and tried to fight back. He was not lucky. The man was welcomed by Nigeria and lived here until he died of heart failure in 1991.
Charles Mc Arthur Ghankay Taylor was so stupid that he could not realize that Obasanjo made sure nemesis did not fail. As leader of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia [NPFL], his troops slaughtered two Nigerian journalists in 1990.
Ezekiel Tayo Awotunsin of Champion and Krees Imodibie of the Guardian were abducted from the Nigerian Embassy in Monrovia and killed, some accounts say, by a female commando.
I worked with Awotunsin and remember his last telex message where he referred to Sergeant Samuel Doe as Kabiyesi.
In 2003, Taylor was deceived into exile in Nigeria as another war raged in Liberia. Obasanjo prepared a place for him in Calabar. On March 28, 2006, he was running away through the North-East when an eagle-eyed Customs officer did a great job.
Arrested and sent back to Liberia, Taylor was moved to Sierra Leone to face trial for war crimes. He was later sent to the International Criminal Court.
There are the ones that were not really presidents but were as powerful. Fode Saybana Sankoh of Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front [RUF] fled to Nigeria in 1997. The butcher was arrested and later imprisoned.
Prince Yormie Johnson, of Liberia’s National Patriotic Front [NPF]also lived in Nigeria and was a strong member of T.B. Joshua’s Synagogue. Reconciliation between him and Doe’s son was worked out there.