Isn’t it interesting how quickly people can change in status and relevance? One wakes up one day, after several years in obscurity, and suddenly does one thing and as a result, has everyone singing his/her name and heaping praises on him/her or has everyone wanting his/her head for one ‘sin’ or another. The path between being a hero and being considered a villain is so short that sometimes you will move from one end to the other before you realize you have even started to make such a journey. This is why public opinion or public sentiment is quite a riveting phenomenon to observe. The major difference between bestsellers and ordinary novels is public acceptance or lack of thereof. Public opinion changes the prospects of a movie from a potential box office flop to a box office hit. It determines which musician and song or album is what platinum and so on.
Nigeria’s outgoing president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo is one man who has traveled up and down the ladder of fortune in public opinion over the last eight years. From the very first time the gates of freedom were thrown open for him in 1998 after the demise of the late General Sani Abacha, Obasanjo has gone uphill and downhill severally on the public opinion mill. So also has the outgoing Nigerian Inspector General of Police, Mr. Sunday Ehindero, in his three-year reign as the number one policeman in Nigeria. Both men have, in the last two years in particular, hugged the headlines for a mixture of the wrong and right, but mostly, the wrong reasons. Even in their final days in their respective public offices, they have still managed to attract the less palatable side of public sentiments to themselves once again.
At the beginning of last week, President Obasanjo hinted that there had been a dramatic twist in the quest to unravel the motive for and the killers of Nigeria’s former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Chief Bola Ige. Not a few people sighed with discomfort at the theory being postulated by the police hierarchy as reported by the president. According to the president, fresh police investigation had revealed that Ige, who was gunned down at his Bodija, Ibadan home two days before Christmas in 2001 may have been murdered by a drug baron whose case the slain Cicero of Esa-Oke was personally handling at the time. The police finally paraded the drug baron and four other suspects at the end of the week. The baron, Alhaji Moshood Enafeni, together with the other suspects, has vehemently denied the accusation leveled against them and even engaged the police inspector general in a war of words right in the presence of the media. Alhaji Enafeni has denied even knowing the masked man whom the police presented as the informant who supplied the information that prompted the police to reopen the Ige murder case file, and consequently, to the unraveling of the motive and murderers of the late elder statesman. The family of the late political giant has dismissed this ‘discovery’ as a mere “charade” and a last-minute attempt to save face by the Obasanjo administration. And this is where it gets really interesting. Why would a family that should breathe with relief at the news of the discovery of the murderers of one of its own be so pessimistic and cynical about such an important development?
Like many other people, including Prof. Wole Soyinka and Chief Gani Fawehinmi, have done since the president first gave hint of the drug baron theory, I also share in the cynicism of the family of Chief Bola Ige. My suspicion of the theory as implausible is not informed by the fact that I have superior investigative knowledge than the IG or any other person involved in the investigation of the case. I simply consider the swift transformation from a closed and forgotten case of over five years to a resolved puzzle in just a matter of weeks or months too creative for reality. There simply seems to be too much art to the whole scenario. The sort of artistic genius that was at play in Edo State during the last general elections where the winner of a senatorial contest (a one third geographical division of the state) won with a higher number of votes than the winner of the gubernatorial election in that state while the total number of votes supposedly cast in that election was less than ten thousand fewer than the total for the gubernatorial race in the same state. Never mind the fact that there were more voters at the gubernatorial polls than the senatorial polls. How that comic tragedy in April makes me cry and laugh at the same time.
Back to the ‘who killed Bola Ige’ drama. The entire picture seems like a scene right out of a movie. The sort of story-telling technique in which the not-so-good good guy finally delivers an act of true heroism right in the end, to the admiration of the leading lady, who having finally felt some connection with him, prompts him back as he makes to walk away, and then there is a little hmmmn hmmmn between them just before the curtains fall on the movie. However, the only problem here is that the leading lady in this blockbuster – Ige’s family and many other Nigerians – has refused to be mesmerized by such act of heroism. The whole picture smacks of an understanding between the police IG and the president, to put up a last minute show in an attempt to gloss over the abject failure to unmask the perpetrators of the act of the gruesome murder of the late Ige – one of many unresolved cases of high profile assassination in Nigeria during their times in their respective offices – and allow both men leave office ‘with a bang’.
The tenacious disbelief of the result of the investigation into the killing of Ige brings with it yet another poignant and ironic pointer to where we are and where we are heading as a people. How did we arrive at the juncture in our national life where the people no longer have faith in the sincerity and impartiality of those who should protect and lead them? A situation where the people are ready to doubt their leaders and security agents even when they swear to be telling the truth or at least a replica of the truth, speaks volumes of the orientation of the people we have in public positions of in this country. It highlights for all to see, the sort of relationship we have built between the people and their leaders in this country.
And whilst we are debating whether or not to accept the drug baron theory, some of the questions that will continue to plague us are, Who killed Chief Ajibola Ige? What was or were the motives for the killing? Is there ever going to be an acceptable theory on this case? What about other cases of similar nature? When again shall we be able to trust our leaders Questions, questions, questions.