The democracy Nigeria enjoys today did not come on a silver platter; some Nigerians fought for it. With their lives, blood, tears and freedom, these Nigerians gave their all to earn the country democratic liberty. For pecuniary and other reasons, some other Nigerians pitched their tent with the tyrannical military regimes. As Nigerians celebrate democracy today, LEKE BAIYEWU examines the roles played by some Nigerians in the long road to freedom and the indelible footprints they have left behind in the chequered history of the country.THE HEROES Click To Tweet MKO Abiola Click To Tweet
Whenever and wherever the political history of Nigeria is to be written, the story of the late Chief Moshood Kasimawo Olawale Abiola will take a chunk of the narration. The Abeokuta, Ogun State-born billionaire businessman of the Social Democratic Party contested the June 12, 1993, presidential election – widely acclaimed to be the most credible election the country has ever had – and won.
Unfortunately for most Nigerians, who loved him, supported him and voted for him, the then maximum ruler of the country, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, annulled the election and dashed their hope in Abiola’s ‘Hope ’93.’
With Abiola’s wealth, popularity and influence, the masses, the civil society, activists and the international community were mobilised and rose up for him. Rather than restore his mandate by declaring him winner of the election and install him as president, more travails awaited the Yoruba high chief.
One year after protests, rallies, lobbyists, media campaigns and all other peaceful methods had failed to recover his mandate, Abiola, on June 11, 1994, declared himself president. The now defunct Social Democratic Party candidate, in his famous ‘Epetedo Declaration’ – declared himself president and proclaimed a new ‘Government of National Unity.’ The speech was what landed Abiola into trouble.
In the ‘Epetedo Declaration,’ Abiola noted that he garnered 58.4 per cent of the popular vote and a majority in 20 out of 30 states, plus the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, in the exercise, which enabled him to fulfill the constitutional requirement of winning one-third of the votes in two-thirds of the states.
Abiola was arrested and incarcerated shortly after. It was a journey of no return for him. Till date, his death on July 7, 1998 – after four years in detention and on the day he was to be released – is still shrouded in mystery. But, many Nigerians still strongly believe that Abiola’s death was not natural.Kudirat Abiola Click To Tweet
While Abiola was in military incarceration, his wife, Kudirat, continued with the fight for his release and the restoration of his mandate. She joined forces with other pro-democracy activists to stoke the anti-military fire and to give the pro-democracy struggle a strong push. Like the late HID Awolowo kept the flag flying when her husband – the late sage – was imprisoned, Kudirat continued the fight where her husband stopped till she was assassinated.
Allegedly on the orders of the state, Kudirat was trailed from her house in Ikeja and was shot dead on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway on Tuesday, June 4, 1996, at 44.
More revelations would later be made by a witness, Mr. Mohammed Abdul, aka Katako, in 2007, that Kudirat’s murder was state sponsored in a case filed against the former Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi.
Abdul said, “On the day of the attack, we followed Kudirat Abiola’s white Mercedez Benz from Ikeja to Allen Avenue and then to the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. When we got to the Toll Gate area, (Sgt. Barnabas) Rogers asked me to get close to the Benz and I did. Then, he (Rogers) leaned out of the window and started spraying the victim with bullets with the P90 rifle. After that, we immediately drove to Dodan Barracks.”Frank Kokori Click To Tweet
Chief Frank Kokori was the Secretary-General of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers during the June 12 saga. He will be remembered for the pivotal role he played in the protests against the annulment of the 1993 election by General Ibrahim Babangida.
The NUPENG leader singlehandedly paralysed the country’s economy by instigating workers in the petroleum sector to go on strike. Being a monolithic economy, with the military regime capitalising on oil which was then one of the most sought-after commodities by world economic powers, the mass action by the Kokori-led union had a significant impact on the military government’s coffers.
Kokori would later become the National Financial Secretary of the SDP under the chairmanship of Ambassador Babagana Kingibe; the party on which platform Abiola contested the presidential election, with Kingibe as his running mate.
Some political historians have likened how Kokori’s NUPENG and his compatriots in PENGASSAN tackled the military government to the late legendry Michael Imoudu and his comrades, who played a combative role in the anti-colonial struggle. Thus, this school of thought links the 1945 strike action to the 1993/1994 action.
The Gen. Sani Abacha-led regime was said to have offered Kokori ‘juicy’ appointments and cash gifts – bribes in the real sense – which the labour leader rejected in the face of intimidation and military dictatorship. He stood firm on his pro-democracy principles.Wole Soyinka Click To Tweet
Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, was a major voice in the post-June 12 struggle. While some democrats were in charge of the campaign back home, Soyinka made use of all available international platforms and media to propagate the democratic agenda. The literary icon used his international appeal to draw the attention of the international community to events in his home-country.
Soyinka’s voice was notable on the guerilla Radio Kudirat, which was set up at a time when Babangida and Abacha were ‘dealing’ with media organisations and journalists. He was also a strong pillar of the National Democratic Coalition, made up of pro-democracy like-minds.Anthony Enahoro Click To Tweet
Like Soyinka, Chief Anthony Enahoro was also a leader of NADECO during the movement against military junta. He led the coalition in the Diaspora while on exile. The anti-colonial and pro-democracy activist was the Chairman of NADECO; the Chairman of the Movement for National Reformation and was the leader of Pro-National Conference Organisation.
The journalist, publisher and democrat, who was a hero of Nigerian independence, was one of the loudest voices that called for the recognition of the June 12, 1993, presidential election won by Abiola.
Enahoro, like Kudirat, was also a target of Abacha’s assassination squad, from which he narrowly escaped in 1996. His offer to help convene a dialogue between the democracy movement and the junta was said to have been found offensive by the military regime. He died on December 15, 2010, at 87.Gani Fawehinmi Click To Tweet
The late Abdul-Ganiyu Fawehinmi was one of the most popular lawyers Nigeria has ever produced. As a human rights activist, he had a strong mass appeal; his followership was huge. He spoke to power in defence of the people and their rights, regardless of what the consequence would be. Before he was recognised and awarded the coveted Senior Advocate of Nigeria, his followers had ‘honoured’ him with the ‘Senior Advocate of the Masses.’
Reports have it that the late Fawehinmi was arrested, detained and incarcerated a total of 32 times by successive military regimes, including those of Gen. Yakubu Gowon (six times), Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo (three times), Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (17 times) and Gen. Sani Abacha (six times). The lawyer suffered from the harassment and intimidation in the post-June 12 pro-democracy struggle.
So radical was Gani, as he was fondly called, that Babangida reportedly said, “If there is one man I respect, it is Gani. It sounds strange. I appreciate you that you have a strong conviction and fight for it consistently. This is the context in which I see Gani. I was a consistent ‘evil’ and he was … a dogged fighter and I respect him for this. In fact there are three of them I respect like that. They are Gani, late (Prof.) Awojobi and Dr. Yusuf Bala Usman. None of them says anything without doing his homework first.”
When asked by journalists why his regime kept arresting and detaining Gani, the dictator replied, “What kind of question is that? Every Nigerian president arrests Gani Fawehinmi. Why should my turn be different? It’s all in a day’s work. It’s just part of the job description.”Beko Ransome-Kuti Click To Tweet
Beko Ransome-Kuti was a mobiliser of the masses. He was at the forefront of the battle against military invasion of the presidential powerhouse.
Under Gen. Muhammadu Buhari’s regime, he was jailed and his medical association banned – just as his brother, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment by the military ruler – but was released by Babangida in 1985.
Beko formed what has been described as Nigeria’s first human rights organisation, the Campaign for Democracy, which was used to tackle Abacha’s dictatorship in the post-June 12 struggle. The CHDR is also Beko’s brainchild.
Under the regime, a military tribunal in 1995 sentenced Beko to life in prison for bringing the mock trial of Obasanjo to the attention of the world. He was eventually adopted as a Prisoner of Conscience by Amnesty International was and freed in 1998 following Abacha’s death.
Activism ran in Beko’s vein, a trait he inherited from his family – the Ransome-Kuti Family of Egba in Abeokuta; his parents and all his siblings fought for various human causes all their lives. He died on February 10, 2006, at approximately 11:20pm at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, Lagos.Ndubuisi Kanu Click To Tweet
Although Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu (retd.) started his journey as a military officer, he is now one of the surviving democrats who pushed away military dictatorship in Nigeria.
After his retirement, Kanu joined the pro-democracy movement and played a leading role in the agitation for the actualisation of the annulled June 12 election. He was one of the leaders of NADECO during the period; he later became chairman of the coalition in 2013.
Kanu also had his share of the bitter experiences like other pro-democracy activists like him. Narrating how he once escaped death narrowly in an interview in 2009.
He said, “Once I had goose pimples because, then, I was driving myself even though I had a driver. I reached a point (somewhere) there at Onikan, as I was passing (by) the stadium, I saw a Peugeot 505. As I got to Awolowo Road (in Ikoyi), I still noticed the car but I just went on to where I was going. I didn’t know how and when the vehicle passed ahead of me. I was on one side of the road when the car came close to me and somebody in the car shouted to me, ‘Admiral Kanu, how are you?’ I just waved back to him but it was a very remarkable face…until I saw the face years later on television. I had goose pimples. What made him change his mind from shooting me, only God knows.”Alfred Rewane Click To Tweet
Alfred Rewane was a successful businessman, a close associate of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and a major financier of NADECO in the post-June 12 struggle.
In the 90s, Rewane’s residence in Ikeja area of Lagos was the venue of political meetings which led to the formation of NADECO. He used his means to support his compatriots in the opposition to the Abacha regime.
Rewane was eventually murdered on October 6, 1995, by suspected assassins who stormed his 100, Oduduwa Crescent, G.R.A Ikeja residence, Lagos and snuffed life out of the 78-year-old man.
The Nigerian Police arrested seven suspects in connection with his murder. Among those charged were Lucky Igbinovia, Effiong Elemi-Edu, Sylvester Iyasele, Saturday Egbeide, Ola Obanuso, Akeem Ali and Sunday Obanobi. While five of the suspects were said to have died in detention, the remaining two were freed based on weak evidence from the prosecution.Abubakar Umar Click To Tweet
Col. Abubakar Umar (retd.) lives a life similar to Kanu’s. By 1993, he was a colonel and Commander of the Armoured Corps Center and School. Despite serving under Babangida, Umar was opposed to the annulment of the 1993 election.
In what could be described as a deadly mission, the military officer had begun to mobilise officers with like minds to mastermind Abiola’s installation as president. However, his moves led to his arrest and detention for suspicion of conspiracy. He was lucky not to have been charged. After his release, he resigned his commission. And after his voluntary retirement from the Nigerian Amy in 1993, he became a social critic and founded a political party called the Movement for Unity and Progress.
Umar was a vocal critic of the Abacha-led regime and joined the G-18, a group of politicians who publicly opposed Abacha’s plan to become president.Ayo Opadokun Click To Tweet
Chief Ayo Opadokun is one of the political activists sent to jail under military dictatorship. Through the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere and NADECO, the vocal lawyer cum journalist spent a part of his life behind the bars in the battle to bring back democracy.
As the Convener of the Coalition of Democrats for Electoral Reforms, Opadokun has continued with his political activism. Till date, he is still asking for the restructuring of the country’s current federal system to allow true federalism.Alao Aka-Basorun Click To Tweet
The late Chief Alao Aka-Basorun, a former President of the Nigeria Bar Association, was one of the pioneers of legal activism. Fondly referred to as ‘The Lion of the Bar,’ he was said to be one of the earliest proponents of national conference and restructuring of Nigeria’s federation.
Aka-Bashorun was one of those who challenged successive military regimes in the country. He was one of the leading lawyers who defended Abiola during his “treason” trial, aftermath of his ‘Epetedo Declaration.’
There are reports that shortly after Kudirat Abiola’s assassination, Aka- Basorun suffered a memory failure and April 1997, his health degenerated to a point where he could not even remember the names of his junior partners who appeared with him in courts.
Opadokun had described how Kudirat was killed and how it allegedly led to Aka-Basorun’s death in an interview with SUNDAY PUNCH.
He said, “What the Abacha murderers had done; the way they terminated the life of that distinguished, beautiful lady, Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, was unimaginable. I tell you, one of our most important and credible leaders, when he saw her remains, never lived long thereafter.
“This elderly, senior colleague – my confidant – was totally out of himself when I saw him on his return from a medical trip abroad. He never survived it. I am talking of Chief Alao Aka-Basorun. He didn’t recover from it. When I came out of prison, because I was there when Kudirat was killed, he was already abroad receiving medication.”Abraham Adesanya Click To Tweet
Adesanya was the leader of the Afenifere, deputy leader of NADECO as well as a strong ally of other pro–democracy groups he mobilised against the plan by Abacha to install military governance in Nigeria. He was a politician, lawyer, activist, welfarist, aristocrat and liberal progressive.
At the peak of military persecution, many of the pro-democracy activists, including Enahoro, who was the leader of NADECO, fled the country on exile but Abraham Adesanya remained at home with the likes of the late Gani Fawehinmi, Femi Falana, Olisa Agbakoba and a host of others.
Adesanya was also arrested and detained by the military, and almost paid the supreme price for the struggle on January 14, 1997, when he was attacked by assassins from the government’s attack force, who rained a volley of bullets into his car near his Lagos office. How Adesanya escaped unhurt has remained a mystery.
It was during the trial of those suspected to have attacked him that revelations were made that he was marked for assassination for being a member of NADECO, a group already outlawed by the military regime.Tunji Braithwaite Click To Tweet
Dr. Tunji Braithwaite was a lawyer, activist and politician, was one of the brains behind the ‘June 12 Coalition of Democratic Formations,’ another pro-democracy advocacy group. Unlike some of his contemporaries, he rejected offers by successive military juntas to be part of their regimes.
Braithwaite rejected President Shehu Shagari’s Second Republic government in 1983, he did same to the offer by Babangida, who sent General Mohammed Gusau to Braithwaite in 1985 “to be prepared to join their junta, as the Prime Minister to President Babangida.”
The vocal revolutionary also had his share of military intimidation during the fight for democracy. During the turbulence caused by the Gideon Okar’s coup in the military hierarchy, Babangida had sent a platoon of armed troops to Braithwaite’s Lagos residence in April 1990 “to shoot at sight” any resistance to his troops and arrest Braithwaite.
The activist lawyer was arrested and locked up in the barracks for over 20 months, during which he was hospitalised. Babangida’s regime had claimed that Braithwaite’s public comments might have indirectly “inspired” the coup – perceived as a Christian coup – against the dictator.
Babangida would later send his Chief of Intelligence Staff to apologise to Braithwaite for the “mistake.”
Again, while several critics of the Abacha regime went on exile, Braithwaite and a former Inspector-General of Police, the late M. D. Yusuf, were the first Nigerians who stood up against Abacha.
Braithwaite’s case challenging the rigged primary, which Abacha purportedly won, was still pending at the Supreme Court by the time the tyrant died.Olusegun Osoba Click To Tweet
One of the finest journalists Nigeria has ever produced, Chief Olusegun Osoba, was the Editor and Managing Director of government-owned Daily Times Nigeria Ltd under Babagida’s regime. He had bitter experiences like his compatriots.
At a forum in 2012, the politician recalled that Babangida sacked him three times while Abacha made attempts on his life three times due to his alighment with NADECO.
Osoba said in parts, “I will call him by his name. Three times Babangida sacked me. Three times he re-instated me. At last, he converted my sack to resignation. Three times Abacha wanted to kill me. I was in hiding for one year,” he said.
Other notable activists in the June 12 struggle are Bolaji Akinyemi, Bola Ige, Femi Falana, Olisa Agbakoba, Yinka and Joe-Okei-Odumakin, Dele Momodu, Chima Ubani, Debo Adeniran, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, Omoyele Sowore, Segun Maiyegun, Segun Okeowo, Femi Aborisade, Joe Igbokwe, Solanke Onasanya, Kayode Fayemi, Shehu Sani, among several others.The Villains Click To Tweet Ibrahim Babangida Click To Tweet
Perhaps there is no greater thing Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (retd.) will be remembered for than his infamous annulment of Nigeria’s ‘freest and fairest’ election held on June 12, 1993.
Babangida, alias Evil Genius, had made several failed attempts to become a sit-tight military ruler until he ‘agreed’ to conduct a poll to usher in a democratically elected leadership for the country. The dictator, nicknamed ‘Maradona’ perhaps for his cunning ways, gave the impression that all would be well but it was never so.
MKO Abiola of the SDP defeated Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention but Babangida, in what was tantamount to a ‘dirty’ slap on the face of the majority Nigerians, on June 23, 1993, annulled the election and ensured that Abiola never become president till he ‘stepped aside’ from the presidential seat.
IBB has taken full responsibility of the annulment of the election but claims it was a collective decision.
Among other cancerous legacies left behind in Nigeria’s political system, Babangida’s regime is widely regarded as one that institutionalised corruption in the governance, a ‘disease’ the country has yet to recover from ever since. His regime is also tainted with mass clampdown on the media, including the unresolved murder of Mr. Dele Giwa, who was killed by a letter-bomb alleged to have been sent from the presidency.Sani Abacha Click To Tweet
IBB denied Abiola his widely-acclaimed victory by annulling his election; Gen. Sani Abacha made the denial so permanent that he got Abiola arrested and detained until his (Abacha’s) death. It was during Abacha’s regime that more close friends and allies of the president-elect were lured and lobbied by the military government, which made some of them to withdraw their loyalty to the philanthropist.
Abacha also continued from where Babangida stopped in the clampdown on pro-democracy groups and the media, leading to deaths, injuries and incarcerations.Humphrey Nwosu Click To Tweet
At the helm of affairs of the National Electoral Commission was Prof. Humphrey Nwosu. He oversaw the conduct of what is still referred to as the most credible poll in the country till date but failed to declare the results of the exercise.
Much later – in 2008, Nwosu, while launching his book in Abuja, said Abiola scored over eight million votes to win the election but he failed to say who voided the election, while the belated comment attracted widespread criticisms.
Although Abubakar Umar said rather than vilify Nwosu, he and the commission he headed deserved the commendation of all Nigerians for conducting the freest election in Nigeria. According to him, rather than blaming the Prof. Humphrey Nwosu-led National Electoral Commission for the annulment of the election, the military authorities at that time actually committed the heinous act.
Many Nigerians believe Nwosu would have written his name in gold if he had dared the consequence of protecting the will of the masses against the interest of the maximum ruler. Several pro-democracy activists were killed, incarcerated or exiled in the aftermath of Nwosu’s inaction.
Babagana Kingibe Click To Tweet
Babagana Kingibe was Abiola’s running mate in the 1993 contest. When the going got tough, Kingibe and the likes of Tony Anenih allegedly traded off SDP/Abiola’s mandate, which was seen as one of the greatest betrayals in the June 12 saga.Uche Chukwumerije Click To Tweet
The late Sen. Uche Chukwumerije, was a ‘chief propagandist’ of the military regime that annulled Abiola’s election in 1993. In defence of the junta as the Minister of Information and Culture of Babangida’s regime and Shonekan’s ING, the late politician threw hard tackles at opponents of the annulment.
He would later participate in the democratic process by contesting the Abia-North Senatorial District seat at the National Assembly on the platform of the PDP, a seat he occupied from 2003 to 2015.
Later on in an interview in July 2008, Chukwumerije said in parts, “In the circumstances of the time, given the security reports the regime had at that time, it (the annulment) could be said to some extent to be proper. But given the political implications, grave political implications for democracy, it is not proper.”
Nevertheless, after Chukwumerije’s death on April 19, 2015, the Afenifere Renewal Group criticised the late lawmaker for his role in the annulment. It stated that anti-June 12 forces denied Nigeria a 20-year worth of democratic progress and Chukwumerije was partly responsible for the retrogression.Daniel Kanu Click To Tweet
Daniel Kanu was known for his support for Abacha’s regime and its anti-democratic activities. The self-acclaimed leader of the youths dined and wined with the autocratic government.
Abacha had ruled Nigeria for five years and wanted to elongate his hold to power. Then came Kanu in 1997/1998 who led different political groups such as the ‘Youth Earnestly Ask for Abacha’ and the ‘Two Million Man March for Abacha,’ in an infamous attempt to give the dictator a democratic face.
Kanu was reported as saying, “The destiny of this nation and the transition to democracy under the present dispensation can only achieve its viable potential if handled by prudent, purposeful, and transparent leadership of General Abacha.”
He later contested the PDP’s ticket for the House of Representatives in AMAC/Bwari Federal Constituency in 2002 and won but his election was ‘annulled.’ The party disqualified him over “unverifiable certificates” and “unclear antecedents.”Arthur Nzeribe Click To Tweet
Babangida’s regime wanted to remain in power and the Association for Better Nigeria led by Arthur Nzeribe was formed to achieve the goal.
By that time, the regime had scrapped all political parties in the country and created a two-party system made up of the NRC and the SDP in 1991.
Although the ABN appeared to be progressive in the long run its pro-government campaigns indicated that the military regime was behind the activities of the association. For instance, the association started its campaign by putting up billboards in Abuja, with the message, ‘Four More Years.’
As a result, pro-democracy groups and most of Nigerian media treated the ABN with contempt.
The ABN had made taken a major step to ensure the junta remained in power by approaching a court to prevent the conduct of the June 1993 presidential election. Its argument: leader of the NRC and the SDP were corrupt politicians.
The Beko Ransome-Kuti-led Campaign for Democracy had challenged the ABN with the argument that canvassing for the continuation of the military government in Nigeria was unconstitutional. The ABN lost the case and the CD won.
Nzeribe’s association, again, went to court after the poll to prevent the release of the election results. It was when the military government annulled the election that political crisis began.
Later in an interview in November 2014, Nzeribe expressed his pride in being one of the brains behind Abiola’s election’s annulment.
He said in part, “For us, I got what we wanted. We said ‘cancel the election’ and, eventually, they cancelled the election. We said ‘don’t count the votes’ but they counted the votes. I am proud that we cancelled the election. I wanted the election cancelled and it was cancelled.”Abdul-Azeez Arisekola-Alao Click To Tweet
The late Ibadan-based billionaire businessman and Yoruba Islamic leader, Alhaji Abdul-Azeez Arisekola-Alao, was mutual friends with Babangida and Abiola but he chose to pitch his tent with the former against the latter. While the majority of Yoruba leaders were for the June 12 mandate, the Ibadan chief and a few others were against it.
Over 17 years after the annulment of Abiola’s election, Arisekola-Alao, in August 2010 at a press conference in Ibadan, absolved the maximum ruler of guilt over the action.
He said, “Wallahi tallahi billahillazi la’ila ha illahuwa – and we are in the month of Ramadan; that is what happened at that time. It was after the election that members of the Armed Forces Ruling Council threatened to kill both MKO Abiola and IBB, if he insisted on releasing the result of the election. They threatened to kill both IBB and Abiola.”Lamidi Adedibu Click To Tweet
The late strongman of Ibadan politics, Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu, was said to have ‘arranged’ the infamous conditional bail to be granted to Abiola while in incarceration, a move that would have denied Abiola his mandate if he accepted the offer.
IBB was later quoted as saying that Adedibu supported the June 12 annulment.Jerry Gana Click To Tweet
Prof. Jerry Gana was one of the civilians co-opted into Abacha’s transition and being the Minister of Information, he was one of earliest people to sing the dirge of June 12.
Gana had in May 1994, almost the first year anniversary of June 12, reportedly said, “The military administration (Abacha’s regime) did not actualise the June 12 election, in spite of its opposition to the annulment, for fear that certain sections of the country could rise against it. If they actualised June 12 when they came in, another section would rise.
“The annulment is a painful one but we cannot because of it allow the people of Nigeria to be destroyed. Somebody has made a mistake like somebody made in 1966, like somebody made in 1984, like somebody made a mistake by stopping Jerry Gana from becoming a president by annulling my own primaries.”Tony Anenih Click To Tweet
Chief Tony Anenih was the National Chairman of the SDP, on which platform Abiola contested the 1993 election. Anenih, alias ‘Mr. Fix It,’ together with some leaders of the winning party, had allegedly become sell-outs in the battle for Abiola’s mandate. Anenih, who later became the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the PDP, will be remembered for the role he played in ‘fixing’ the people’s mandate.Al-Mustapha, Sofolahan, others Click To Tweet
Abacha’s former Chief Security Officer, Maj. Hamza Al-Mustapha; Kudirat’s former Personal Assistant, Alhaji Lateef Shofolahan; a son of late military Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, Mohammed Abacha; and Rabo Lawal were in December 1999 charged with conspiracy and murder over their alleged involvement in the assassination of Kudirat Abiola.
After 13 years of instituting the case, which was presided over by five successive judges and during which the accused persons were in prison custody, Al-Mustapha and Shofolahan were sentenced to death by a Lagos High Court on January 30, 2012.
Lawal Pedro, who led the prosecution, had accused Al-Mustapha of ordering Barnabas Rogers, (alias Sgt. Rogers), a member of Abacha’s Strike Force, to kill Kudirat. However, the Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos on Friday, July 12, 2013, discharged and acquitted al-Mustapha and Shofolahan, saying there was not enough evidence to incriminate him in the murder of Kudirat. The verdict overturned the death sentence passed on al-Mustapha by the Lagos High Court.
Similarly, the likes of Bashir Tofa, the candidate of the NRC, who has yet to openly admit that Abiola won the election; Chief Earnest Sonekan, Abiola’s kinsman in Abeokuta, Ogun State, who accepted Babangida’s offer to make him the Head of the ‘Interim National Government’ put together by the regime; Brig.-Gen. David Mark (retd.), who was a key player in the Babangida-led regime but would later serve as a member of the Senate for 16 years – from 1999 to date – within which he was the President of the Senate for eight years; and Abimbola Davies, who was one of the directors of the Nzeribe-led pro-Abacha ABN, among several others, have been criticised for their links with the anti-democratic forces.
This publication is by Leke Baiyewu of PUNCH Newspaper. @LBaiyewuPUNCH