One of Nigeria’s richest men, Femi Otedola has explained the role he played during the succession crisis that almost brought the country into a cul-de-sac in 2010.
In his forthcoming book scheduled for release in November 2021, the billionaire businessman, said he encouraged then Vice-President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to assume the presidency when his boss and former President, Late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua became incapacitated.
Explaining further, Otedola said that his action was predicated on the advice of former Military President, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (rtd), who had told him to advise Dr. Jonathan to occupy Yar’Adua’s empty seat in the next Federal Executive Council meeting.
Otedola said in the yet-to-be released book that with Yar’Adua failing to formally transfer power to Jonathan before he was flown abroad for medical treatment, there was tension across the nation as a result of the power vacuum, which led to series of public protests and unrest.
He said: “Worried by the tension and uncertainty, I decided to do something on my own. In the first week of February 2010, I went to Minna, Niger State, along with Hajia Bola Shagaya, to commiserate with General Ibrahim Babangida over the death of his wife, Maryam.
“At his Hilltop residence, we spoke on a wide range of issues, but I told him I needed to discuss an urgent and vital issue. He took me to his study, where the two of us were alone. I told him that the state of the nation had been agitating my mind.
“He replied, ‘Femi, advise your friend that when he gets to the Council Chambers next week for the Federal Executive Council meeting, he should go and sit on the President’s chair.’ I found that fascinating and assured him I would pass the message across.
“I travelled back to Abuja by road in the evening and went straight to have dinner with Dr Jonathan. I did not waste time in delivering the General’s message to him.
He nodded and asked me, ‘What do you think?
“I laughed and said, ‘Be a man, Your Excellency. Go and sit on that chair! He looked at me for some time and responded that he would think about it.
“A week later, on Tuesday, February 9, the National Assembly adopted the famous ‘Doctrine of Necessity’ to make Dr. Jonathan the Acting President pending the return of President Yar’Adua from his medical leave.
“Behind-the-scene moves by prominent Nigerians preceded this decision. The legislative resolution was unprecedented, but the nation had been tensed up. The fault lines were so stoked that an unusual solution was needed to address the unique situation.
“With Jonathan now legally empowered to act as President, there remained the critical optics: would he stand in for the President confidently and authoritatively? Or would he try to maintain a subdued outlook?
“The following day was the FEC meeting. As Dr. Jonathan entered the council chamber, he was made to sit on the chair of the Vice President, his usual seat.
“As the protocol officer pulled out the VP’s chair, Dr. Jonathan marched towards the seat reserved for the President. And he sat on it!
“That was the moment Dr. Goodluck Jonathan took control of power. By that act, he sent a strong signal to all Nigerians that he was now in charge. The same day, Jonathan even reshuffled the cabinet”.
Yar’Adua died on May 5, 2010, and Jonathan was sworn in as president to complete Yar’Adua’s term and later won the 2011 presidential election.