I discuss “issues” rather than personalities or events. This is because personalities are deceitful, events are temporary; they come and go, but issues are “substance”. They directly or indirectly affect the lives of the people in which they are involved.
The emotional funfair and mixed feelings generated by the sudden release of Major Al Mustapha by the Lagos State Appeal Court attracts my attention. I believe that a conscious effort must be made to put the record straight about this tool of extinction named Al-Mustapha for the benefit of those individuals who might be too young to remember the atrocities committed by him and his clouts, and for the advantage of those individuals who have lose memory of the treacherous activities of this arrogant al-monster called Al- Mustapha.
Let us not forget that Hamza Al-Mustapha was the Chief Security Officer of General Sani Abacha, military head of state of Nigeria from November 1993 to June 1998. He joined the army and was trained as an intelligence operative. He was involved in at least two investigations of coup attempts; and his conduct of interrogations brought him to the attention of Sani Abacha. When Abacha was the Chief of Army (August 1985 – August 1990) Al-Mustapha was appointed as his Aide-de-Camp, he continued to enjoy the confidence of his boss and eventually became his Chief Security Officer; when he (Abacha) “kicked aside” the interim government of Chief Earnest Shonekan.
Upon his appointment as the Chief Security Officer to the Head of State (CSOHS) with a Special Strike Force Unit, he established a number of small security outfits from the military and other security organizations. Outfits such as: The Office of the National Security Adviser under Ismaila Gwarzo, the Directorate of Military Intelligence, the State Security Service and the National Intelligence Agency were set up. Members of this squad were reportedly trained in Israel and Korea. The units engaged in extrajudicial killings of people seen and considered as threats to Sani Abacha’s regime. Major Hamza al-Mustapha was also given exceptional power, considerably greater than other officers who were nominally his superiors.
Several newspapers in Nigeria during the regime reported that Abacha’s National Security Adviser Ismaila Gwarzo and Al-Mustapha were said to be responsible for much of the “torture”, and killing during Abacha’s rule. As head of the State Security Service (SSS) Al-Mustapha was also said to be involved in drug trafficking, using diplomatic pouches to transport the drugs. His wife, an Arab descent, reportedly coordinated a ring of traffickers in the Gulf States – (but this is not the subject of this write up).
It was under Al-Mustapha’s reign of terror that Kudrat Abiola, the wife of the “pillar of democracy and the 1993 President elect” Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola was killed. Why ? because she was considered a threat to the regime of Sani Abacha as a result of her consistent advocacy for the redemption of her husband’s legitimate political mandate which was given to him during the 1992 general election by the Nigerian masses.
According to a popular dictum, “power is ephemeral”. Therefore, immediately after the death of Sani Abacha, Al Mustapha was arrested by the succeeding regime. He was charged and detained for murder and attempted murder at the Kirikiri maximum prison.
Twelve years later, precisely on 30 January 2012, a Lagos High Court convicted him over the murder of Kudirat Abiola, the wife of the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election, Chief Moshood Abiola. He was sentenced to death by hanging. With this sentence, justice was believed to have been done especially by those individuals and families of Al Mustapha’s victims.
It is important to say that Al-Mustapha has been detained since 1998 when he was arrested. As sudden as the death of his boss appeared, so also was the announcement of the ruling of his discharge and acquittance. The judge ruled that “there was not enough evidence to incriminate him in the murder of the late Kudirat Abiola”.
This verdict (July 12, 2013) overturned the Lagos High Court which sentenced him to death by hanging. The presiding judge, Justice Rita Pemu, accused the lower court judge, Justice Mojisola Dada, of being ‘‘stroked to secure a conviction by all means”. This pronouncement consequently removed the dagger of death which has been dangling hitherto on Al-Mustapha’s neck, and suddenly made him a free man.
As said earlier, my goal in this article is not to discuss the personality of Al- Mustapha and his role during the satanic Abacha’s regime, I will leave that for history and posterity to judge. What I like to discus are the inherent contradictions in the case, the circumstances and time of his release, his holier posture and the lessons for the nation.
It is ironic that two great nations – “the Sheriff of the world” (United States of America) and “the Giant of Africa” (Nigeria) were simultaneously engulfed in criminal prosecution of one of their citizens for murder. The judicial proclamation (verdict) thereafter attracted responses and reactions from different people throughout the two nations, the supporters and the opponents, literates and the illiterates. Each exercised their right to freedom of speech.
In the United States, after jury’s verdict, it is not uncommon for the lawyers from both sides of the bar (prosecutors and defenders) to edify the United States law and the court system. Statement such as “though our law is not perfect, but we are proud of having the best legal system in the whole world” has been repeatedly echoed. It is then followed by ‘we accept the verdict’ or’ we’ll appeal the verdict’. This shows that court cases are war of the law not of man, and neither the prosecutor nor the defender hold each other hostage. The law rules, and it is supreme. Legal battles are fought in the court room, not on the street; and it is not for the highest bidder.
Conversely, in Nigeria, a developing democracy, legal conflicts are not always resolved in the court. The people involved, especially the powerful, takes laws into their hands, they exercise and engaged in jungle justice. When they are forced through the judicial process, court orders or verdicts are flouted with impunity. Law defends the rich, neglects the poor and condones human rights abuse. It is not uncommon to have a person arrested and jailed without trial, or have the outcome of the legal adjudication predetermined by the ‘powerful’ and ‘the rich’ who through their wealth “buy” or influence justice and its process. The judiciary which was once held in high esteem is now equally corrupt like its legislative and executive counterparts.
In case of Al-Mustapha, the paraphernalia of his legal problem is full of contradictions. He was arrested and kept in jail for fourteen years, twelve of those years are without trial. He was neither tried nor found guilty during the time. Is this not an abuse of power and aberration of the due process of the rule of law?
In a civilized country where rule of law is respected, a person cannot be held or arrested for more than twenty-four hours without charge or appearance before a judge in a court of competent jurisdiction. Until then, such a person is deemed innocent unless otherwise proved guilty beyond all reasonable doubt in a court of law.
I am not insinuating anything with the release of Al-Mustapha, I am not bothered whether his body rots in a prison wall or he walks out a free man, I neither condemn nor abhor him from the allegations which were levied against him, what I am saying is that the process of law and its fair applications were broken. A case of conspiracy could
be argued. Al Mustapha was dumped in jail by the people who felt humiliated by his roles and activities while he was the Chief Security officer to General Sani Abacha. He was forced to swallow the bitter pills with which he has treated other people including his superiors while in office. With this show and tussle of power, the law of the land and the court process were compromised and violated.
For instance, the appellate court judge – Justice Rita Pemu, accused the lower court judge, Justice Mojisola Dada, of been ‘‘stroked to secure a conviction by all means”. It is therefore important not to underscored or unwittingly conclude that her statement is that of dog eat dog. Justice Rita is a member of the bench just as Justice Mojisola who convicted Al Mustapha. She is familiar with and understands the politics of the bench; therefore her submission is a confirmation of the age long rumor that the judiciary is not independent. It is constantly influenced by the executive arm of government and the wealthy in the society.
Nigerians need to be mindful of the timing of Al Mustapha’s release, a season when President Jonathan Goodluck is determined and clandestinely manifesting his schemes to remain the land lord of the Aso-Rock beyond 2015.
In a time when most of the ‘who-is-who’ in Northern politics appear to be working against his desire to renew his tenancy of Aso-Rock. The need to let lose a seemingly powerful ‘one of them’ to penetrate and divide their blocks is no less a realistic strategy for JGL to actualize his dream.
I will not be surprised if he is eventually drafted to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and arranged to contest the 2015 election. Remember Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu in 1983 when he was pardoned and drafted to National Party of Nigeria (NPN) by President Shehu Shagari ?
On the other hand, since he was convicted and later acquitted by the Lagos State court, it is not impossible that the appellate court has been remotely controlled by the power that be, who are equally desperate for northern votes to boost the APC political alliance. To them Al Mustapha’s release could be a necessary move to steer and sustain political coalition against the ruling PDP.
Repetition of ice-dividing political strategy becomes inevitable as a sustainable political device. President Shehu Shagari “pardoned” Odumegwu Ojukwu so as to brake the political domination of the Eastern part of Nigeria by Dr. Nnamidi Azikwe and his Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP), in1983. In 1988, General Babangida “pardoned” Dr. Joseph Wayas, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, and Governor Bola Ige among others as a legitimacy game, General AbduKarimu Abubakir “pardoned” Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as a stay-over strategy. Therefore, when a regime pardons a citizen in exile or an ex- convict, it is not a show of love or in the spirit of true forgiveness. It is usually an attempt or scheme to score a political goal.
When the names of the individuals who visited him in the prison is considered, it was obvious that the master killer was deliberately kept till the time when his skills and expertise would be required and needed to continue from where he stopped. Upon his release from jail, Al Mustapha remarked that his incarceration was the brain work of his foes, but he quickly concluded that he has “forgiven” them. What an irony!
If Al-Mustapha is speaking “forgiveness”, the question is to whom? Is it to the family of late Kuburat Abiola or the numerous innocent Nigerians such as Pa Rilwanu, Chief Mrs. Suliat Adedeji, whose lives he was instrumental to termination? Or his superior in the Army who he harassed, intimidated or humiliated?
I think it should be the other way round. It is Nigerians who should forgive this “seemingly repentant killer” – Al Mustapha.
Again whether justice is served or seen to be done is not my contention here. Al Mustapha has paid the price for his behavior in office. Whether it is commensurate to the crime he committed is a different question; but the fact of the matter remains that he was humiliated and humbled. This is a lesson to all public office holders about the ephemeral and transient nature of power.
Secondly, for the benefit of doubt, I think the time is ripe for Nigerians to listen to Al Mustapha’s side of the story. He said during his trial at Lagos High Court that he has video evidence on the murder of General Sani Abacha and Bashorun Abiola. Watching the video might be neccessary, perhaps it will open a new facts, provide new information, clarify some unanswered questions or possibly begin a healing process for the nation.
May be Nigerians can also ask him if he has any “evidence tape” on who instructed Sergeant Barnabas Jabila Msheila (alias Sgt Rogers) to kill Alhaja Kudirat Abiola.; or
Maybe he can provide yet another video evidence that details how the then Head of State (allegedly) ordered that various sums of money be withdrawn from the Central Bank of Nigeria- $200 million, £75 million and N500 million to appease South West leaders and douse tension that arose after the death of Chief Abiola.
May be he can tell us the beneficiaries of the largesse, or the account (s) where the money finally “rested”.
While Al Mustapha is working on his “evidence tape”, we can ask president Jonathan Goodluck as the Commander-in-Chief to clarify the raising imbroglio about Al Mustapha’s status in the Nigeria Army ,or if he is or will be a co-opted, or card carrying member of the Peoples Democratic Party. Either way, it is obvious that Al Mustapha has been released to orchestrate something, and it is only a matter of time for such purpose to manifest. Till then Nigeria will forgive Al Mustapha but Nigerians will not forget his dark days .