I tried to get Nkomo and Mugabe to kill each other, says Obasanjo

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Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo tried to get Zimbabwe’s nationalist leaders Robert Mugabe and the late Joshua Nkomo into a gun fight during the liberation struggle.

Obasanjo revealed this during a panel discussion with President Emmerson Mnangagwa in Cote d’Ivoire early this week. The two were attending the just ended African CEOs Forum in Abidjan.

Obasanjo said Mugabe and Nkomo had abused military arsenal supplied to their guerrilla movements to “kill each other”.

“At some stage, Nkomo and Mugabe began using the guns we were supplying them to kill each other.

“I tried to bring them to Nigeria for talks but they avoided each other and came at different times. However they were to later meet and I had them sitting beside me. I had two pistols loaded so I said to them, ‘I will give you each a gun so you can fight. The one who dies we will bury him here while the one who wins will go and fight the struggle,” said Obasanjo.

He added, “They were surprised and argued it was too drastic a way to resolve their differences. I must say it seemed to have worked because just after that they went and formed the Patriotic Front and won independence for Zimbabwe”.

Mnangagwa, in his opening remarks, told the African CEOs Forum that he knew Obasanjo during the liberation struggle.

“President Obasanjo supported our struggle. I accompanied President Mugabe to Nigeria. I was a young man then I don’t know if he remembers but he asked me about a red book I was holding on Mao Tse Tung’s thoughts,” said Mnangagwa.

Obasanjo, in response, then narrated his hair raising solution to the power struggles between Zanu and Zapu’s military wings Zanla and Zipra during the bush war against racist Rhodesia.

“I don’t know if the President (Mnangagwa) is aware of this story that is part of the decolonisation of Zimbabwe. We supported the struggle not based on any ideological standpoint but on the conviction that blacks are equal to any people anywhere in the world,” the former military leader said.

“For me as a leader then, it did not matter who I was if a black man anywhere in the world was regarded a second class citizen because of the colour of his skin. It diminished me as a human being”.

Obasanjo took power through a coup in 1979 but was later to hand over to a civilian government. He returned to power in the late 80s as a civilian President of Nigeria.