Stepping on toes

Tribute to General Diya

In life, there are certain inevitable events that must come to pass. For every purpose under the heavens, there exists a suitable moment. Just as there is a time for birth, there is also a time for death. Across the domain of existence, everything is bound by the laws of seasons.

Recently, the news went viral that Lieutenant General Donaldson Oladipo Diya has reached the end of his tenure on earth and with grace and dignity, he has bowed out. General Diya epitomizes the qualities of a true gentleman, having served his country as a valiant infantry officer during the Nigerian Civil War. His legacy will undoubtedly be remembered for years to come.

Lieutenant Donaldson Oladipo Diya was a remarkable individual, possessing a resilience that a few of his contemporaries could match. Time and time again, he stared death in the face during his military career and emerged victorious. He was a towering figure in Nigerian history, and his passing at the age of 78 on March 26, 2023 marked the end of an era.

General Diya was a man of great distinction, widely known for his signature patch of golden hair that graced his forehead. He was a force to be reckoned with in his prime, having held significant sway during Nigeria’s military government. Though he may no longer be with us, the legacy of Lieutenant General Donaldson Oladipo Diya lives on, serving as a shining example of strength, resilience, and unwavering commitment to service.

Amidst the harrowing violence of the Civil War, a young Lieutenant by the name of Oladipo Diya served as an infantry officer, bravely stepping forward to defend his nation. Together with his comrades aboard the frigate NNS Nigeria, he faced formidable foes with unyielding courage. As the Navy supported the Third Marine Commando’s efforts to secure Bonny Island, Diya and his fellow soldiers engaged in amphibious landing operations under the command of seasoned naval veteran, then Commander Akin Aduwo. With Naval Gunfire Support (NGFS) at their disposal, the Army fought tirelessly to defend their homeland from those seeking to tear it apart.

During his illustrious military career, General Diya served as the military governor of Ogun State, a position of great responsibility and authority

Like many young men driven by a desire to serve their country, Diya joined the Army with lofty aspirations. However, as he embarked upon his military journey, he quickly came to realize that the path ahead was fraught with danger. Despite this, he remained steadfast in his commitment to his country, even as he became more politically aware.

Throughout his life, General Diya never shied away from the political landscape, recognizing it as an integral part of the world in which we live. In fact, he was once quoted as saying: “Politics is something that touches every aspect of our lives, whether we acknowledge it or not. Even those who choose to stay on the sidelines and observe are still a part of the system, whether they realize it or not.” Such was the wisdom of this great man, whose legacy will long outlive him.

During his illustrious military career, General Diya served as the military governor of Ogun State, a position of great responsibility and authority. However, he was not immune to the influence of his partisan colleagues, who led him down a treacherous path. Yet, through divine intervention, he was saved from the clutches of evil, reminding him of the hymnal admonition: “Christian, seek not yet repose, hear thy gracious Savior say: Thou art in the midst of foes. Watch and pray.”

Despite his many accomplishments, General Diya was still only human, susceptible to the same weaknesses and flaws that afflicted all mortals. He believed he was among friends and peers, individuals who shared a common goal and cause. Yet, unbeknownst to him, hidden within the shadows were those with their own hidden agendas, plotting and scheming for their own gain. They bided their time, waiting for the General to let down his guard, to reveal a moment of vulnerability that they could exploit. And so it came to pass, that when least expected, their plan was set into motion, catching the General off guard.

The early years of Lieutenant General Donaldson Oladipo Diya were spent in both Lagos and his hometown of Odogbolu. He pursued his education with diligence, first at the elementary level and later at secondary school. Upon completing his studies, he joined the prestigious Nigerian Defence Academy in Kaduna, where he was commissioned as an infantry officer in 1966.

Even as he served on the front lines of the Nigerian Civil War, Diya continued to expand his knowledge and skills, studying law at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria and later attending the Nigerian Law School. He was called to the bar and became a lawyer.

To further his military education and expertise, Diya attended the United States Army School of Infantry and the Command and Staff College at Jaji, as well as the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies in Kuru, Jos. Throughout his distinguished career, Diya held several key positions of leadership and authority, including serving as the military governor of Ogun State from 1984 to 1985.

He was also posted to command the Nigerian Contingent in Lebanon, and went on to become Commander of the 31 Airborne Brigade, General Officer Commanding of the 82 Division in Enugu, and later GOC of 3 Armored Division in Jos.

General Diya’s career trajectory was nothing short of remarkable. A distinguished Member of the National Institute (mni), Gen Diya assumed the critical role of Chief of Defense Intelligence at the Defence Headquarters in Moloney Street, Lagos. From there, he proceeded to become the Commandant of the prestigious National War College in Abuja, before being appointed Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) under the interim government of Earnest Shonekan.

Read also: Remembering General Oladipo Diya

However, perhaps his most challenging role came in 1994 when he was tapped to become Vice Chairman of the Provisional Ruling Council of the Abacha-led government. This placed him in the second-most powerful position in the country, a fact that did not go unnoticed by his detractors. In a twist of fate, he was later found guilty and sentenced to death by a military tribunal for allegedly planning a coup to oust his own boss. Many feared that this would be the end of the road for the General…

Miraculously, he survived his death sentence, which was later commuted to a 25-year jail term by General Abdulsalami Abubakar. After 13 years of his release, former President Goodluck Jonathan granted General Diya a state pardon, a testament to his unwavering loyalty to his beloved country. General Diya was a philanthropist and a true patriot; he openly expressed his discontent with the country’s insecurity and called for the government to prioritize the welfare of its citizens.

During his 77th birthday, General Diya issued a compelling statement entitled “A Clarion Call for Peace in a Nation in Dire Need of Unity”. In this address, he took the opportunity to reflect on the state of our beloved country, Nigeria. He passionately urged all Nigerians to unite and confront our shared adversary: the devastating threat of war and its ruthless acolytes. General Diya believed that only by standing together as a united front could we rise up and overcome this immense challenge.

General Diya’s service to Nigeria was both distinguished and illustrious. Not only was he an accomplished infantry officer and veteran, but he also excelled in the fields of law and business following his retirement from military service.

As we bid farewell to this great man, we express our gratitude for his sacrifices and dedication to our nation. We share in the grief of his friends and family, and we pray that they may find strength and comfort during this difficult time. Thank you, General Diya, for your invaluable service to Nigeria. Thank you.