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Profile: The Late Lt. Gen. Oladipo Diya, deputy to Gen. Sani Abacha who allegedly planned to overthrow the regime of Sani Abacha



Nigeria’s former Chief of General Staff and deputy to the late dictator, Sani Abacha, Oladipo Diya, is dead. He was 78.

Mr Diya died around 1:05a.m on Sunday at a hospital in Lagos.

A terse statement by the late military general’s media adviser, Olawale Adekoya, and signed on behalf of the family by Oyesinmilola Diya, a lawyer and the deceased’s first son, announced the death.

The statement reads in part: “On behalf of the entire Diya family home and abroad; We announce the passing on to glory of our dear husband, father, grandfather, brother, Lt- General Donaldson Oladipo Oyeyinka Diya (Rtd) GCON, LLB, BL, PSC, FSS, mni.

“Our dear daddy passed onto glory in the early hours of 26th March 2023.

“Please keep us in your prayers as we mourn his demise in this period. Further announcements will be made public in due course.”

The late military general and lawyer was born on Monday, 3 April, 1944 in Odogbolu, Ogun State, South-west Nigeria.

Mr Diya attended Yaba Methodist School, Lagos from 1950–1956 and thereafter became a pioneer student of Odogbolu Grammar School, ehich he attended from 1957 to 1962.

The deceased served as the Chief of General Staff, the de facto Vice President of Nigeria under military head of state, Sani Abacha, from 1994 to 1997. He previously served as Chief of Defence Staff and was military governor of Ogun State from January 1984 to August 1985.

While serving as his deputy, a paranoid Mr Abacha accused Mr Diya of plotting a coup to oust him. Mr Diya was then arrested, tried and convicted by a military tribunal empanelled by the late dictator and kleptocrat.

The panel sentenced him to death but before the verdict would be implemented, Mr Abacha suddenly died. Mr Diya was later released by the General Abdusalami Abubakar regime which succeeded Abacha’s.

Military career:

Diya joined the Nigerian Defence AcademyKaduna and fought during the Nigerian Civil War.

He later attended the US Army School of Infantry, the Command and Staff College, Jaji (1980–1981) and the National Institute for Policy and Strategic StudiesKuru.

 While serving in the military, Diya studied law at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, where he obtained an LLB degree, and then at the Nigerian Law School, where he was called to bar as Solicitor and Advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

Oladipo Diya was Commander 31, Airborne Brigade. He was appointed Military Governor of Ogun State from January 1984 to August 1985. He became General Officer Commanding 82 Division, Nigeria Army in 1985. General Oladipo Diya was Commandant, National War College (1991–1993) and then was appointed Chief of Defence Staff.

Death sentence

After his arrest, a military tribunal sitting in the Nigerian town of Jos sentenced six people including Lieutenant General Oladipo Diya to death by firing squad in April 1998. The accused were brought to the main military barracks in Jos for the trial. Security was tight, and the men on trial were chained at their ankles during the proceedings. In a dramatic statement at the outset of the trial, General Diya asserted that he had been entrapped by another officer close to General Abacha, Gen. Musa Bamaiyi, who approached him with the idea of mounting a coup. Given the explosive nature of the charge, the government then closed the trial to the public.

The head of the military tribunal, General Victor Malu, the former commander of the West African regional peacekeeping force ECOMOG, responding to Lieutenant General Diya’s defence that people at the very top framed him, said it was not necessary to know who had initiated the conspiracy. He noted that all Lieutenant General Diya had to do was prove that he had not been part of the plot at any stage. General Malu assured the defendants that they would be given a fair trial and unlimited access to information they needed to defend themselves. “This tribunal will not conduct or tolerate a trial by ambush”, he said.

The South African government questioned the secrecy surrounding the trial and warned of the probability that there could be an unfavorable reaction, both in Nigeria and internationally, to a carrying out of the sentences. The sentence was later commuted by the head of state, Abdusalami Abubakar, who succeeded General Abacha.

Lieutenant General Diya, was not only released but also discharged from the army, stripped of his rank, and barred from using his military title.

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