The Life and Career of Oladipo Diya: Former Chief of General Staff to General Sani Abacha

Learn about the life, career, and controversies of Lieutenant General Oladipo Diya, a prominent Nigerian Army General.

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Oladipo Donaldson Diya
Oladipo Donaldson Diya

Lieutenant General Oladipo Donaldson Diya (3 April 1944 – 20 March 2023) was a Nigerian military officer who served as Chief of General Staff to the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha.

Early Life and Education Oladipo Diya was born in Odogbolu, Ogun State, Nigeria, on April 3, 1944. He joined the Nigerian Defence Academy at a youthful age and was part of the active soldiers who fought during the Nigerian Civil War between July 6, 1967, and January 15, 1970. Diya studied Law at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, where he obtained an LLB degree and was called to bar as Solicitor and Advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

Career Diya began his career in the Nigerian Army and served in various capacities, including Chief of Defence Staff and Military Governor of Ogun State from January 1984 to August 1985. In 1993, he was appointed Chief of General Staff and later Vice Chairman of the Provisional Ruling Council in 1994, becoming the second in command to General Sani Abacha.

Arrest and Trial On December 21, 1997, the regime arrested top army officials including General Diya, Major General Tunji Olanrewaju, Major General Abdulkarim Adisa, and eight others for allegedly plotting to “violently” overthrow Abacha. Just one week before his arrest, Diya had allegedly narrowly missed becoming the victim of a bomb explosion at the Abuja airport when he was on his way to represent Abacha at the funeral of the mother of Major-General Lawrence Onoja in Benue State.

Diya was tried in a military tribunal and was given the death penalty. Fortunately, upon the sudden death of Abacha in 1998, Diya was pardoned by the late Head of State’s successor, Abdulsalami Abubakar. However, he was discharged from the army, stripped of his rank, and barred from using his military title.

Demands from Abacha Diya in collaboration with Bamaiyi and other notable officers had demanded four things from Abacha when they noticed that he was beginning to nurture the plan to transmute as president for life, which were:

  1. That the original draft of the 1995 constitution should be promulgated without the mutilation to which Abacha was subjecting the document.
  2. That the June 12 crisis be resolved and along with it, the release of political prisoners which included the winner of the 12 June 1993 presidential elections, Bashorun MKO Abiola.
  3. That Abacha should make an unambiguous public pronouncement that he had no intention of succeeding himself.
  4. That an attempt to eliminate Yoruba military officers should be terminated.

Personal Life Lt. Gen. Diya was married to Alhaja Adebisi Rashidat Diya, and they had children together.

Death Diya died on 20 March 2023. His death came as a shock to many Nigerians.

Legacy The late Lieutenant General Oladipo Diya was a respected military officer who played key roles in Nigeria’s military and political history. His death is a loss to the country, and his legacy will not be forgotten.

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