Thursday, May 29, 2008
Abiola was beaten to death, says Al-Mustapha
By Blessing Eghagha and Yetunde Oyebami
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.
Al-Mustapha also claimed to have kept letters written by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo while he was in detention at the Kirikiri Maximum Prisons. He said that the letters which were entitled “Abacha has murdered sleep and shall sleep no more” were intercepted by intelligence officers from the warders who were later taken to the Directorate of Military Intelligence, Apapa and disciplined. These letters, he said, were in the Ghana-must-go bags, which were in contention before the court.
Al-Mustapha had contended that in order to clear himself of the charges preferred against him by the state, the contents in the alleged bags must be made available to him. But the State Security Service (SSS) in their counter-affidavit claimed that the bags were handed over to officials of the DMI. Whereupon the trial judge, Justice Muftau Olokoba, granted Al-Mustapha’s application to join the DMI in the suit.
But yesterday, counsel to Al-Mustapha, Mr. Olalekan Ojo, told the court that the DMI refused to acknowledge the order when it was served on it last Monday, citing procedural defects as the court bailiffs did not observe the 48-hour rule pending service of a court order.
Justice Olokoba, however, observed that the DMI was now a party in the suit even though they had not been served. He consequently extended the date of service to the DMI while adjourning to next Tuesday when the court is expected to issue directives as to the filing of written addresses by the parties for adoption.
This is not the first time Al-Mustapha would be alleging that the late Abiola was actually killed. During the Oputa panel sitting in November 2000, he insisted that the official report that Abiola died of natural causes was false.
The late Abiola was arrested by the Abacha government in 1994 but died on July 8, 1998 during the regime of Abacha’s successor, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar.
The death came exactly a month after Gen. Abacha’s. The then government said he died of natural causes, a claim corroborated by a team of world physicians who carried out a post-mortem on his body.
But at the Oputa panel on human rights violation set up by the Obasanjo government, Al-Mustapha on Thursday, November 23, 2000, pooh-poohed the official claim declaring that Abiola was killed. But then he declined to name the culprits, saying that they would be revealed in due course.
It was also claimed that Abiola died after taking tea served him by the then United States Under-Secretary for Africa, Susan Rice. This piece of evidence was given by Major Abdulsaheed Mohammed Aliyu, the then Chief Security Officer to Gen. Abubakar.
According to Aliyu, when Abiola was attending the meeting with the United States officials led by Mr. Thomas Pickering, Abiola initially declined the offer to take tea but upon suggestion by Susan Rice, the Chief took the tea to soothe his cough.
But this account has always drawn the ire of the late Abiola’s personal physician, Dr. Ore Falomo. On June 5, 2003, in an interview with reporters, Falomo had said: “I believe there was a conspiracy on the part of the then Federal Military Government and all the top hierarchy. I am not even absolving Abdulsalami Abubakar. Whether he was actively involved or innocently kept behind does not matter. None of the members of the hierarchy wanted him to come out of detention.”
Dismissing the “tea theory,” Falomo went further to say that “there are indications that Abiola’s heart was thrice the size of a normal human heart at the time he died.”
The United States government was also frantic in its denial of any complicity in the death of Abiola.
In a faxed statement dated December 20, 2000 and sent to media houses from the U.S. Consulate office in Lagos, Nicole Theriott said any suggestions that the United States government officials had anything to do with Abiola’s death “are ridiculous and lack substance.”