Nigeria Matters

One Nigeria: To Be or Not To Be? (Part 6)

“The mystery surrounding the death in detention of the presumed winner of the 1993 general election, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, deepened yesterday with another startling submission by the former Chief Security Officer (CSO) to the late Gen. Sani Abacha, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha. Al-Mustapha, who is facing charges of attempted murder and arson before an Ikeja High Court, told the court that MKO Abiola was actually beaten to death. Official reports had claimed that Abiola died of natural causes.

Al-Mustapha, an intelligence officer with the Nigerian Army and a major player in the despotic regime of the late Abacha, made the declaration in a sworn affidavit dated May 20, 2008 and filed at the Ikeja High Court Registry before Commissioner for Oaths, Mr. E. O. Ajiboye. The 14-paragraph affidavit deposed to by the embattled Major said that Abiola died as a result of severe beatings he received from agents of the state after he was denied medical assistance by those in whose custody he was. Al-Mustapha further averred in his affidavit that arrangements were subsequently made to “settle some” National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) leaders to ensure that the fall-out from his death did not precipitate crisis in the South-West from where Abiola hailed. From that moment, he averred, “subtle inducement and recruitment of prosecution witnesses were lined up against him (Al-Mustapha)” due to what he called “Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s desire to destroy anything Abacha or to incriminate any person having anything to do with Abacha.” He further claimed to be in possession of audio/video tapes and other documents showing, among others, how Abiola was beaten to death. These tapes, he averred, “are part of the items contained in the eleven Ghana-must-go bags confiscated by the State Security Service” from the house of Brig.-Gen. I. Sabo (rtd), the former Director of Military Intelligence (DMI) in whose care he claimed to have left them.”

News report May, 2008.

“The Movement for New Nigeria, a civil society organisation, on Tuesday said it was challenging the validity of the 1999 Constitution in court, because it was a fraud contrived to rob Nigerians of their rights. MNN Secretary-General, Mr. Tony Nnadi, said this at a press conference organised to address the state of the Nigerian nation. Nnadi stated that there was never a time that the people of Nigeria came together, to agree upon the document, which today served as their constitution. He said, “The constitution, in its preamble, states that, we the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria: Having firmly and solemnly resolved to live in unity and harmony as one indissoluble sovereign nation under God + do hereby make, enact and give to ourselves the following constitution. This is not true. ‘There was never a time Nigerians came together to decide on such a sovereign document, under which they will be ruled.'”

News report, May 2008.

“We are entitled to know what is wrong with our President. You must insist that the President should publish his medical record. Have you ever imagined a situation whereby a husband has a wife who takes care of the home, prepares food very well, and behaves well. Then the husband goes to court and tells the judge, Please divorce us. Why? Because she is good. ‘That is how it was with a man who drove away 419 (advance fee fraud) from the length and breadth of the country. He brought more than $1billion that was looted away; arrested corrupt politicians and prosecuted them. A man who was able to arrest and put on trial his own boss, the Inspector General of Police. And you say that man must be removed. Then it tells something about you, the leader! ‘That is why I ask Mr. President, What is really wrong with you?’ Is it with the brain? The Constitution says you must go if you are incapacitated. So we want to know whether you are fit to continue. Let us know who really you are. Good health is life and wealth. Anyone with ill health cannot make a contribution to the economic development of his country.”

Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), excerpt of interview, May 2008.

“You have raised a very important point and we should have a reappraisal of the political history of this country, and then relate it, where possible, to the political history of other countries and find an answer to the critical question: ‘What is really wrong with Nigeria and why we are where we are now?’

We came from colonial Britain who ruled this country until we got our independence in 1960 and we then adopted the parliamentary system of government. After that, the military took over and we had the military system of government. Then, we said ‘oh, the military has failed, the parliamentary has failed’, then we adopted what I will call the American presidential system of government. In my opinion, all have failed, the colonial government failed us, the military failed us and I say boldly that the presidential system of government has failed us. The truth is that we are just copying people’s system without looking into why those systems were adopted and their peculiar circumstances. In other words, in any form of government, there is nothing objective about it, it’s always subjective. Take, for instance, when the Americans fought their war of independence and they broke up from Britain. America did not adopt the parliamentary system of government, they did not even adopt the French system, which helped them; but, for the first time in the history of the world, the Americans invented the presidential system of government and that is what they are using till today. They never changed their constitution. After the parliamentary failed in this country, we said let us adopt the American system of government. Of course, we did not adopt the American system. What we are doing is not the American system, it’s a bastardised version of the American system because, in the American system, the President is not elected by popular votes, the President is elected by Electoral College.

Nigeria is like a marriage which nobody wants but the marriage nobody dares dissolve.”

Chief Richard Osuolale Akinjide. Former Attorney General of the Federation under Shagari. Excerpt of long interview given in January 2008.

“Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Saburi Bankole may have secretly commenced an intensive campaign towards becoming the governor of Ogun State in 2011. He plans to take over the government of the state after incumbent, Gbenga Daniel, might have had his constitutionally endorsed two-term of four years each and is therefore, reportedly, working round the clock to frustrate the petition of Senator Ibikunle Amosun of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) from ousting Daniel. Bankole, 38, is banking on the contacts and goodwill of his father, Alani Bankole, who is presently coordinating the campaign effort. According to a source close to the Speaker, four committees have been set up towards actualising the dream. The committee, according to the source, includes those of contact, mobilisation, finance and strategy. As a prelude to the plot, the Speaker of giving away a collection of assorted cars to those identified as key to his aspiration. His father, a Second Republic chieftain of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) is directing the distribution of these vehicles on behalf of his son…”

News report. May 17, 2008.

“He is far too insignificant, and so anonymous, that he cannot stop the legitimate rights of the people of the state. He is a ‘political upstart,’ whose election is proving to be a ‘political mistake’ in the light of his missteps. The AC considers the remarks Bankole made on Sunday in Lagos as ‘the unfortunate outbursts of a peevish schoolboy politician, an overwhelmed mediocre who is clearly carried away by the office he is occupying that he has lost himself in a blaze of assumed self-importance. The outburst is the price Nigerians have to pay for elevating a mediocre that has no known historical antecedent, no sense of history, no role in the evolution of the present dispensation, but who climbed to the present position he is abusing by such wild statements as he was quoted as making through dint of the opportunistic chance-taking that is well known in the PDP where Bankole plies his weary trade. It therefore warns that he is too insignificant and too powerless to leave a minor dent on the progressive politics of Lagos when such people as (Obasanjo), with all state power machinery and all intimidating forces of terror, failed woefully to make any remarkable impression in diluting the politics of Lagos with his odious nuisance; a feat Bankole is now trying to re-enact. Our initial reaction to the thoughtless and infantile (talk) of Bankole, who cannot raise any finger when he was recently ordered out of a PDP meeting, was to dismiss his as yet another strange hallucination of a peevish schoolboy whose only history in politics is being selected to represent his constituency in the House of Representatives through such sham parodies as the one that happened in Nigeria in April 2007. But when we considered his veiled threat to use force to stop the recognition of commensurate Local Government Councils for Lagos, we have good cause to warn this peevish political upstart that Lagosians are known to suffer gladly such reckless appeal to a force that may be too weighty for him to handle. If Obasanjo could not succeed with all the enormous resources he willfully diverted for that purpose in his disastrous eight years, how can a moonlighting small fry like Bankole think he can leave a minuscule dent on Lagos when he cannot win any free and fair state constituency in his native Ogun State? Nigerians know very well the capacity of the AC government in Lagos to fight for what belongs to Lagosians, and know that after exhausting all their threats, antics, pranks, and tricks, the PDP is existing in Lagos only as a loose coalition of disoriented, dispirited and frustrated opportunists who have been roundly trounced in their desire to shackle the democratic rights of Lagosians. That a certain political upstart who is maintaining a tenuous hold on the Speakership of the country’s Lower House is now dreaming of employing the failed tactics of tyrannical threats to take over Lagos is a mid-day dream that amounts to nothing more than the saliva spent on delivering that sterile threat. Lagos AC serves good notice to Bankole that we are very ready for him, and assures him that he would end up more frustrated than the very grandfathers who hobbled the system to throw people like him up to mock and taunt Nigerians.”

Joe Igbokwe, Lagos AC Spokesman, excerpt of speech in reaction to Dimeji Bankole’s threat to ensure that election into the 57 councils are fiercely opposed, because the Constitution recognises only 20 in Lagos. May 2008.

“Mark my words, Nigeria is at the verge of constitutional crisis. Currently, President Yar’Adua’s health is not in good shape. If we are not prayerful and God does not intervene, if the unthinkable happens, there will be crisis because the forces around power will not let the vice president step into his shoes. Quote me. If they inaugurate him in the morning, he will be out in the evening. It will be that quick. That’s the challenge we are facing now. I pray God restores Yar’Adua’s health.The reckless and ridiculous election conducted by Obasanjo produced a more or less incapacitated president whose hands are tied because of what looks like a stolen mandate. Both the man who steals and who receives are guilty under the law. I don’t overlook all the excesses. I pray God restores his health.”

Pastor Tunde Bakare, The Overseer of the Latter Rain Assembly (LRA), excerpt of speech, May 2008.

“The secret trial is a useless trial. I was pursuing that case before I got sick. We wanted to embark on “free Henry Okah campaign” but we will still do that. Meanwhile, they cannot try him secretly and come out with a result that he has been jailed. The government will only make mockery of itself. You cannot try a civilian in camera in a civilised democracy after accusing him of planning to overthrow your government. Even under the military, my leaders, Femi Falana and Gani Fawehinmi were tried in the open. So, Nigerians know that whatever the verdict of the trial was arranged. The court would find Okah guilty based on government arrangements. That was why Angola could not try him. If they had evidence against him, Angolan authorities could have tried him and if found guilty, he would be sent to Nigeria to serve the sentence. That is the normal thing in the civilised world. But because they knew that the Nigerian government planted all those things against Okah, they asked them to come and take him. If you want to kill him, go and kill him in your country. Don’t kill him in our country and ridicule our judicial system. That was what happened. Now, we are insisting that Okah must be part of the Niger Delta Summit that is coming up. If Okah is not part of the summit it is useless because they cannot keep him in detention and say they want peace in Niger Delta.”

Prof. Kimse Okoko, President of Ijaw National Congress (INC).Excerpt of interview given in May, 2008.

“Electoral reform is just an aspect of the whole gamut of reforms that we require. Electoral reforms are good . They may or may not engender transparent and free and fair election. But to assume that Nigeria‘s problems are limited to faulty elections is to stand logic on its head. We have had series of elections in Nigeria, but have we had good government? Election reforms can hopefully lead us to establish a template upon which we can begin to address all other fundamental problems. If you reform the electoral laws, are you going to reform the police? Or who are those behind the rigging of elections? Should it not bother you and I that we have acknowledged that we need to reform our electoral laws, we need to restructure the NNPC. They have invited the British police to come and restructure the Nigerian police. IMF and World Bank have been trying to reform our economy for us. We have a foreign coach to take care of our football. What do all these tell you? That Nigeria requires urgent reforms, if need be, hand over the governance of Nigeria to expatriates that have been invited to man other areas.”

Chief Bisi Adegbuyi, Chieftain of the Pro-national Conference Organisation, and a senatorial candidate of the Action Congress in the April 2007 elections, excerpt of interview given in December 2007

“Time flies, you see. On the face of it, 60 years might look like a lifetime. But if we remember that the PDP has been the dominant party in the last eight years and is currently in its ninth, aiming at 12, then you will understand that we’re looking at a much shorter period, probably 51. The ruling party in Cuba, the Communist Party, with its modest gains under Fidel Castro, has been in power for 49 years; while Gabon Democratic Party, under Omar Bongo, has done 40, to the collective ruin of the vast majority of Gabonese. Never say never.”

Vincent Ogbulafor. PDP newly elected chairman.

excerpt of interview in April 2008.

“No. I can’t feel fulfilled at all. I’m absolutely feeling inadequate, because I worked for this country since I came back in 1967 till my retirement in 1993. I don’t expect to see Nigeria at this hour without light, without water, without employment for qualified graduates, with our streets swarming with armed robbers and area boys. The fulfillment I would have felt happy about is to see that all those are no longer in existence. We are talking about stupid workers doing no work, getting too much money. We have seen a National Assembly spending N20m monthly on each other when in their own villages there are hundreds of people who are hungry. They collect constituency allowance that end up in their pockets. I’m inadequate; I m not fulfilled, because all these should not happen after so many years that I left government.”

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