Bar possibly the entertaining but tragic spectacle that has been running for a while now in Rivers State in the apparent face-off between the presidency and the state’s governorship, no story has grabbed media and public attention this month like the acquittal and discharge two Fridays ago of Major Hamza al-Mustapha, the chief security officer of the late head of state, General Sani Abacha, following his nearly 15-year prosecution for complicity in the murder on June 4 1996 of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, wife of Chief M.K.O. Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 1993 presidential elections.
Certainly even more than the tragi-comedy playing out in Rivers, al-Mustapha’s acquittal and discharge has generated more emotion than any other story in recent times. The 53 odd texts and a few emails I received in reaction to my column last week on the subject captured the varied sentiments expressed about the judgment. The reader will find the sample of those reactions published below interesting and certainly, in the case of the longest one I received by email, quite thought provoking, not least because the writer gave himself the answer, perhaps inadvertently, to his charge that al-Mustapha’s prosecution was selective – far from being a mere “pawn in a complicated national chess game for which IBB and OBJ are the major players” al-Mustapha was the only CSO (or ADC) of a head of state in this country’s history that chose to make himself its “de facto head of state,” to use the author’s own words.
It is trite to say that one can be viewed as a hero in some quarters and villain by others at the same time, because that is the nature of human behaviour. Al-Mustapha cannot be different – he is only human. The question is no longer that of culpability or otherwise of Mustapha in the heinous crime for which he was charged, since he has been exculpated by a court of competent jurisdiction, unless, of course, a superior court of law rules otherwise.
What rankles is the barely concealed verdict of guilt that permeates the articles of virtually all those who have written on the subject. Whatever happened to the time-worn dictum of being innocent until proved otherwise?
Agreed, Mustapha’s swashbuckling and devil-may-care persona, combined with a tendency for loquaciousness, can rub people the wrong way. But, does that make him a criminal? Like they say, the cloak does not make the monk, or put it more appropriately, a broken tooth does not make a thug!
Let truth be told. Mustapha is a victim of circumstances. As de facto head of state during the Abacha regime, almost every top ranking official, whether in government or out of it, and top echelons of the private sector, kow-towed to him in order to get to Abacha. In our kind of economy where fortunes are made or lost purely from how close you are to the seat of power, one could easily understand the desperation with which some of the richest (I will not use respected) men groveled before this young major for favours.
Therefore, by the time Abacha died it was payback time. They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Well, that is only true when you have not faced the wrath of a man forced to swallow his manhood in the pursuit of economic gains. They swarmed Mustapha, each with a dagger as sharp as a dragon’s tail and a cudgel fitted with spikes, demanding to cut their pound of flesh. They did not quite get their pound of flesh (death), but they got something close to it – a fifteen year detention in a maximum prison that will surely leave some psychological and physical scars.
We must all engage in some serious soul searching before making judgment. This is why.
Some high profile murders were committed during Babangida’s regime, with Dele Giwa’s murder as the most touching. In addition to this, he set us on the path to perdition by annulling an election won fair and square. And yet Babangida, his ADC, and CSO are all free men.
Obasanjo’s case is worse. Political heavy weights were killed as if they were cockroaches, culminating in the murder of irrepressible Bola Ige. Not done with us yet, he imposed an invalid with a terminal illness on us, knowing full well the political repercussion. Then the coup de grace – he manoeuvred a starry-eyed, bare feet school teacher, into a position of power. Today, Obasanjo struts the political landscape like the conceited peacock that he is, insulting our sensibilities with what he calls ‘successful mistakes’. Neither his ADC nor his CSO were ever charged.
OBJ and IBB are two peas in a pod, each trying to occupy a larger space in the pod, at the expense of the Nigerian state.
If anyone should take the blame for Abiola’s murder, IBB should be liable for setting in motion events that culminated in Abiola’s death, even though he never physically murdered or caused Abiola’s murder. OBJ on the other hand should be held responsible for imposing political brigandage and economic profligacy, the type never seen before.
These Siamese twins are the two gentlemen that need some investigating. Mustapha is just a pawn in a complicated national chess game for which IBB and OBJ are the major players.
Manjadda Iman, Sokoto.
Your article today is a radical departure from your usual harsh tone against the major. I do not begrudge your loyalty to Gen. Abdulsalami, but you should be objective enough. Maybe you never imagined the poor major would be released in your lifetime. Now you are writing like the coward and hypocrite that you really are. Now we know those who are really afraid of freedom for the major.
Joseph Kolo, Minna.
Your write-up on al-Mustapha was good and unbiased. It is heartening to know you can engage the nation in such a serious discourse without ethnic or religious colouring. Your prediction on Mustapha throwing his hat into the ring sooner than later is equally apt. But will he have the space to operate as his billionaire traducers are still the ones dictating de pace of Nigeria and Africa?
Dr Sam Madugba, Owerri
Your dislike and hatred for al-Mustapha is clear. Remember your mentor Abdulsalam cannot do any favour to you on the day of judgement.
The piece on Al-Mustapha is thought-provoking. Nigeria is still a neo-colonial state and Al-Mustapha represents a neo-colonial army. What, I think, should bother social scientists is the future of Nigeria under moribund capitalism which is based on self-interest.
Amos Ejimonye, Kaduna
The canary has suffered enough from your boss and from your pen. To you and your boss he is a villain but to us it is otherwise.
I am a frequent reader of your Wednesday column. But I’ve never agreed more with you on any issue as I did on al-Mustapha’s release. Even if he was innocent, I hope through his imprisonment Allah has touched his heart and rid him of his widely believed heartlessness and ruthlessness.
That was a good piece – balanced, reportorial and advisory. Al-Mustapha might have got justice courtesy the prosecution’s fumbling and bumbling. However some questions remain: will Kudirat ever get justice? Will the question of who killed Kudirat ever be answered like similar ones in the past; those of Dele Giwa, Uncle Bola Ige, Harry Marshall, et al?
Muyiwa Makinwa, ILE-IFE.
How about Jonathan/Al-Mustapha ticket, come 2015?
Zakaria Ismail, Kano.
From the evidences made public right from the start linking al-Mustapha to Kudirat’s murder, not a few Nigerians had expected that he was going to be convicted at the end of which a presidential pardon or amnesty could be expediently considered. That way, anybody who is or will be in the position al-Mustapha was with Abacha regime and did what he was said to have done can be certain a day of reckoning must surely come. But to be so discharged and acquitted with impunity even with so many evidences that implicated him in the murder is no less an encouragement to his likes that may still be found in our government any day. This portents a very bad omen for the country.
Celebrating such a character is wrong. He should not be a worthy role model to any youth in the north.
By Al-Mustapha’s acquittal, it is not yet uhuru as God’s judgement will surely come.
DSP Omololu Joshua, Akwa-Ibom.
Anybody who is not ethnically motivated knows who killed Kudirat. With our conscience we see him every passing second. The one that pulled trigger is different from the one that directed the act that drips of infamy.
Barr Chris Arukwe, Awka.
Alhamdullilah, Haruna your master Abdulsalami yaji kunya’. Allah is great. Please help me tell him.
A worldly Judge may deliver a verdict the way he likes BUT, the evil that men do will forever live after them.
Oni Olayinka, Ogba.