The alleged phantom coup of 1997 is inarguably the most surreptitious coup plot allegation ever made by any government in Nigeria.
The motive behind the arrest of the accused persons was regarded as a witchaunt. Even as of today, there is no comprehensive record that indicate whether the accused persons have anything to do with the alleged plot. It’s widely believed that Abacha instigated the phantom coup himself, in other to acquire support and backing from the public. It was also seen as a rendezvous attempt by Abacha’s inner clique to sideline any possible threat amids his transition agenda.
People that were arrested in connection with the phantom coup II comprised of Military and Civilians. The most well known figures among the accused plotters were, The Chief of General Staff, Lieutenant General Oladipo Diya, The Minister of Works and Housing, Major General Abdulkareem Adisa, and the General Officer Commanding 3rd armour division, Major General Tajudeen Olanrewanjo.
The Special Military Tribunal that was setup for the trial was headed by Major General Victor Malu. The trial began in the middle of February 1998 and ended up exactly two months after its commencement. But even before the flag-up, many people have dashed hopes of seeing any fair hairing.
The Tribunal’s final verdict found Diya, Adisa and Olanrewanju of treason, and sentenced them to death, while the rest were commuted to various jail terms.
The death of General Sani Abacha in June 1998, and the assumption of Major General Abdulsalami Abubakar as Head of States came as a relief to these three people, who were already waiting for execution order. On 3, March 1998, the Provisional Ruling Council offered them unconditional amnesty.
On 12, March 2013, Premium Times, Daily Trust Newspaper and hosts of other national dailies reported that President Goodluck Jonathan had granted State pardon to General Oladipo Diya (rtd), General Abdulkareem Adisa (late) and three other people. It was quite a suprise that the name of General Olanrewanju was missed out from the gesture.
In his interview with The Guardian newspaper in 2017, Maj. General Olanrewanju (rtd) gave a contrast between pardon and clemency. He however stressed that only President Buhari has the power to grant him Presidential pardon, the same manner Jonathan did to General Diya and Co.