Tribute to the heroine of democracy, Mrs Kudirat Abiola, she died for democracy they are bastardizing today to triumph. Most of the people enjoying the dividends of democracy at the corridors of power today were backing General Sani Abacha to kill and maim innocent Nigerians. If Madam Kudirat knew some ingrates will take control of democracy she would not have gone further in the struggles to the extent that she would have to die in the struggles.
The news came like wildfire, that the wife of the acclaimed winner of June 12, 1993, presidential elections, Chief MKO Abiola, Mrs Kudirat Abiola was shot dead at Oregun, Ikeja in Lagos on her way to the Canadian Embassy.
It started as a rumour because who could have believed that someone could have been so cruel to assassinate such a woman activist in daylight? But alas! It was not a rumour, it was real, Mrs Kudirat Abiola was shot in the head by trigger happy killing squad of Sani Abacha “on the order from above.”
The trial of former Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Ishaya Bamaiyi (rtd), at an Ikeja High Court, Lagos, with the former driver to Alhaji Mohammed Abacha, son of late General Sani Abacha, gave graphic details of how he and other members of late Abacha’s Strike Force killed late Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, wife of late Chief M.K.O. Abiola in 1996 in Lagos.
Mohammed Abdul (a.k.a Katako), who was giving evidence as prosecution witness, also told the court how members of the killer squad failed in their attempt to assassinate the publisher of The Guardian Newspaper, Mr Alex Ibru, and Afenifere leader, Senator Abraham Adesanya
The two men alongside Kudirat were considered enemies of the state during Abacha’s regime.
The murder of Mrs. Kudirat Abiola sparked nationwide outrage. Following the incarceration of her husband for demanding his mandate as the winner of the 1993 election, which was annulled by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Kudirat had led the fight for Abiola release and the restoration of his mandate.
She had also joined forces with other pro-democracy activists to stoke the anti-military fire and to give the pro-democracy struggle a strong push.
The Lagos State Government took up the case, charging Abacha Chief Security Officer, Maj. Hamza Al-Mustapha; Lateef Shofolahan; a son of Abacha, Mohammed; and former head of Mobile Police Force Unit, Aso Rock, Rabo Lawal, with conspiracy and murder in the assassination of Kudirat.
The state Ministry of Justice arraigned the accused before a Magistrate Court in Lagos in December 1999 before taking the case to a Lagos High Court the following year.
The star prosecution witness, Sergeant Barnabas Jabila (aka Rogers), in his oral testimonies before the Justice Ade Alabi-led High Court, and later before the panel on Human Rights Abuses headed by Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, gave a vivid account and description of how he collected two Uzi guns from Al-Mustapha, on whose orders he said he assassinated Mrs Abiola.
Jabila, a member of Abacha Strike Force, also told the court that Shofolahan had given information on the movements of Kudirat and that Abacha’s son, Mohammed, had lent his Mercedes Benz car and allowed his driver, Mr Mohammed Abdul (aka Katako), to drive the killer gang to the scene of the crime.
Despite their presence at the Oputa Panel proceedings, the indicted individuals could not challenge the witness. Mohammed, in July 2002, was discharged and acquitted by a 4-1 judgment, much to the chagrin of the late Kudira devotees. Lawal’s acquittal followed in July 2011.
In August 2011, as the trial began to wind down, Shofolahan stunned many onlookers when he retracted the statement he gave after his arrest, which said he had worked for Kudirat. Like Al-Mustapha, he said the statement was made under duress and intense torture.
Despite the denial, judgment was delivered on January 30, 2012, 13 years after the trial started, which found Al-Mustapha and Shofolahan guilty. The two men were thereby sentenced to death by hanging.
Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola recalled the incidents that surrounded the killing of Kudirat Abiola, wife of late business mogul, MKO Abiola.
Oyinlola was in charge of Lagos State as a military governor when the incident happened. The former Osun State governor, in a chat with newsmen, said the murder was an unfortunate incident he had to grapple with. His words:
“I was opening the reconstructed Sura Market on Lagos Island that was on June 4, 1996, when I got a call from the current Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu when he was a Commissioner of Police somewhere in the country then.
He called me and said, your Excellency, have you heard that Kudirat Abiola has been shot? I quickly rounded off the market event and headed for Ikeja. I called Ogundimu, the Commissioner for Health and he confirmed it.
He said he was there at the hospital battling to see if they could save her life. It was Ogundimu who later gave me the news of her death. Then mischief makers took over.
The next thing they said was that she was coming from my office in Ikeja and that after she left, I sent assassins after her. But I thank God, when eventually the person who shot her, Sergeant Rogers, was arrested and in the course of the trial, he told the story of how he did it, Oyinlola’s name did not feature once.
Providence also made President Olusegun Obasanjo to institute the Oputa Panel and at the panel, nobody mentioned my name. You can imagine that kind of thing. I, who had never slapped my wife, so how would I have instigated people to take guns and pursue a woman? Those were the kinds of intrigues I faced in Lagos. It was something else.
On how he handled security challenges at the time, Oyinlola recalled that criminals took advantage of the socio-political turbulence that came with the agitation against June 12 election annulment.
Security of lives and property became a serious problem. My administration came up with the idea of floating an effective, well-knitted, mobile security outfit code-named Operation Sweep. That was in 1995. Operation Sweep was a joint task force of all the armed forces and the police.
It was an entirely new crime-fighting idea. The operatives were out on patrol 24 hours. I was also out on patrol every night. With that, criminals were effectively swept out of Lagos as it became a danger zone for them to operate.
Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, Professor Wole Soyinka fled Nigeria abroad to escape being killed by the Abacha killer-squad to form ‘Radio Democracy’ which was later changed to ‘Radio Kudirat’. The radio operated for one hour in the evening between 8-9pm to reveal every evil plan of the Abacha Regime. Those whom this writer can vividly remember among those who constituted the team are; Dr Kayode Fayemi, Senator Adeyeye, Professor Wole Soyinka, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and hosts of Human Right Activists.
These are the people who fought Abacha regime to a standstill, although there were lots of casualties on the side of activists and National Democratic Coalition, NADECO.
Few of those whose lives were terminated are; a reporter with Tempo and TheNews Magazines, Baguada Kaltho, Chima Ubani, Mrs Kudirat Abiola, Chief Alfred Rewane, Chief MKO Abiola the symbol of June 12, 1993 and hundreds of protesters whose lives were terminated on the streets of Lagos, Ibadan and other major cities across the country.
When Nigeria returned to democracy on October 1, 1999, only Asiwaju Bola Tinubu among those who fought for democracy benefitted from it, other activists led by Chief Gani Fawehinmi backed out because they could not trust the then, General Abdulsalam’s sincerity in handing over to a democratically elected civilian.
The rest is the story today of how people who were Abacha’s beneficiaries and supporters of military regimes took over the centre stages of our democracy they have never suffered for.
Adesoji OMOSEBI is the Editor-in-Chief of SOJ WORLDWIDE…an ONLINE NEWS with a difference