Strange Things Have Happened In Nigeria

      By Abiodun Ladepo,Uijeongbu, South Korea

    Yeah, yeah, yeahÔÇŽI know it is stale news but I am sure that many people missed the "blow-by-blow" account of how M.K.O. Abiola died in 1998. It has been a slow work week for me and I thought I should go down memory lane and jar my friends' memory with some of the astonishing things that have happened in Nigeria. Below is an excerpt of the testimony given at the Oputa panel that was set up in response to the petition filed by Kola Abiola (Abiola's first son) and Dr. Ore Falomo, Abiola's personal physician. You will find it an interesting reading, trust me.

    Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), Theodore Bethnel Zadok, for two years, was responsible for the security and safety of Abiola while in custody. He tasted every drink and every food before Abiola touched it, except the infamous tea that was Abiola's last drink. You will also read the damning testimony of Brigadier-General Ibrahim Sabo, head of the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) at the time, about the open discussion, at the very highest levels of government, of how to kill Abiola. Phew! Strange, mind-boggling things have happened in our country.

    You have to read the excerpt yourself. I should not spoil it for you. I have taken it, unedited, from The Vanguard of 20 July, 2001. It was written by Messrs. Kayode Matthew and Lemmy Ughegbe.

    Reading from a prepared text, the police officer, ASP Zadok said:

    [["I was posted to head the detention base of Chief M. K. O. Abiola with about thirteen (13) body guards under me. and since the day I took over the duties of the detention camp of Chief M. K. O. Abiola I was responsible for collecting the sum of N800,000 (Eight Hundred Thousand Naira) quarterly from Major Hamza Al-Mustapha to the commissioner of police FCT command Abuja for his feeding. That is three times a day subject to what the wanted to eat. I also took care of his health by seeing the Doctor any time he complained of any illness. In view of this he never ate any food or drink any thing without me tasting it first before giving it to him to eat or drink.

    "I always collected some money from the Chief Security Officer Major Hamza Al-Mustapha to buy toiletry fruit drinks, bedding and water.

    "The Chief Security Officer Major hamza Al-Mustapha ordered me to give Chief MKO Abiola Koran and Bible for reading and I used to collect some money from the Chief Security Officer to buy some newspapers and magazines for the chief to read, and also give the chief some plain sheets for anything he might wish to write. My lord, Chief MKO Abiola never believed that I was a Security man who came to guide him but a son who came to take care of his father. I will like to support this statement with a written note written to me by Chief MKO Abiola.

    "Before General Oladipo Diya's coup attempt, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, on the 10th of December, 1997 ordered me to take Chief MKO Abiola to any safe place, preferably the commissioner of police guest house at Wuse. And after the said failed coup attempt Major hamza Al-Mustapha ordered me to move Chief MKO Abiola from the commissioner's guest house to Kado Housing Estate popularly known as Jeremiah Useni Housing Estate Kado.

    "On the 8th day of June 1998 the day the Head of State General Sani Abacha died the chief Security Officer Major Hamza Al-Mustapha ordered me along with Lt. Ikilama to move Chief MKO Abiola from Kado Housing Estate to Gado Nasko Barracks and from there all the 13 body guards attached to me were withdrawn except the driver and leaving the soldiers of the Guards Brigade to take over the guard.

    "But I was still left behind to be bringing food to Chief MKO Abiola as usual from the police officers mess Wuse Zone 7. Chief MKO Abiola was informed of the death of General Sani Abacha and the appointment of General Abdulsalami Abubakar as the Head of State and Commander-in-Chief. He wrote letters to general Abdulsalami Abubakar and the service Chiefs gave them to me to Photostat them for him. He gave me some copies to give to Major Hamza Al-Mustapha and passed the rest to the rest to the respective owners. After the expiration of the second quarter allocation of N800,000 (Eight Hundred Thousand naira) I approached Major A. S. Aliyu Chief Security Officer to general Abdulsalami Abubakar to collect the money for the next quarter he only told me he had heard me.

    "On the day in question, the 7th Day of July 1998 at about 11.30hrs, the Chief Security Officer to general Abdulsalami Abubakar Major A. S. Aliyu called me on the radio set, asking me to see him his office. I then proceeded in his office and he instructed me to bring Chief MKO Abiola to Aguda House for an interview to be hold by 1300 hrs.

    "I then went back to the base and informed Chief MKO Abiola of the interview and he asked me whether Major Hamza Al- Mustapha was aware of the said interview, I told him didn't know because Major Hamza Al-Mustapha was busy handing and taking over but I would see if I could locate him to inform him.

    "He asked me to bring his dresses which he would wear and also asked me to give him 30 minutes to enable him get dressed. At about 1230hrs the Chief Security Officer to general Abdulsalami Abubakar Major A. S. Aliyu came to the base. To the best of my knowledge, that was the first time he knew that place, wanting to know if we were ready and I replied him almost ready. As we opened the door the Chief was already waiting for us. Together we went out and headed to Aguda House, venue of the Interview.

    "Before we all left the base, chief MKO Abiola was in sound and healthy condition. He did not complain to me of any illness. About 100 metres from the door stand of the Aguda House, the controller from the control room called me on the radio set and said, I quote, "30 BRAVO your LOG I answered ALFA GOLFF UNIFORM DELTA ALFA, HOTEL. And he said MAIG SERIA GOLFF from the OSCAR FOSTRO FOSTRO OF CHALIE OSCA GOLFF SERIA you should ROMEO PAPA TANGO to see the subject INDIA MIKE MIKE I answered RECEIVED."

    "Meaning 2i/c Prescort your present location. I answered Aguda House and he gave the message from the office of the Chief of General Staff and that you should see the Chief of general Staff Admiral Mike Akhigbhe immediately please and I answered noted please.

    "As we arrived at the Aguda House door step, I led Chief MKO Abiola inside the house and I took permission from the Chief Security Officer to General Abdulsalami Abubakar, Major A. S. Aliyu in whose custody I left Chief MKO Abiola.

    "He asked me to use his vehicle, leaving my vehicle at the door step where it was packed. I then took his vehicle as entrusted and left to see the Chief of General Staff Admiral Mike Akhigbe at about 1310hrs and I came back from seeing Admiral Mike Akhigbe at about 1350hrs, only to discover that my vehicle was not there at the packing spot. On arrival, I saw one of my Body Guards Sunday Pada standing by the side of the door. I asked him where they had gone. He replied me they were inside and that the Chief Security Office only sent my vehicle to Aso-Clinic and as I was about to enter the room, I met with the Chief Security Officer, Major A. S. Aliyu who told me that Chief MKO Abiola was not feeling fine and after taking a cup of tea he coughed and feel down.

    "I quickly went inside and I saw Chief MKO Abiola lying on the floor facing down. I called him. for the first time he answered, and I lifted him up and turned him upside and called him again for the second time he did not answer. At that time doctor Sadiq Sani Wali from Aso Clinic arrived and about examining the chief. I told him we should rush the Chief to the clinic for proper treatment. I, the Chief Security Officer, Major A. S. Aliyu, Doctor Sadiq Sani Wali and the two white men standing lifted Chief MKO Abiola into my vehicle outside for onward movement to Aso-clinic.

    "Before getting to Aso-Clinic I saw Dr. Sadiq Sani Wali pressing his (Abiola's) stomach up and down a kind of resuscitating him. As we arrived the clinic, Chief M.K.O. Abiola was rushed to the Emergency Room where I stood by with the doctors including the two white men and the Chief Security Officer Major Aliyu until when Dr. Sadiq Sani Wali later confirmed to us that Chief M.K.O Abiola was dead.

    "We came out of the Emergency Room and the Chief Security Officer Major A. S. Aliyu phoned the villa, I heard him saying to the ADC please, connect me to the Head of State I have an important message for him. For about three minutes they continued the discussion with the Head of State while he was moving towards his vehicle outside. So I didn't hear what he was discussing with the Head of State after the phone we both left for villa,

    "The questions to ask are:

    • Who gave Chief M.K.O. Abiola tea in my absence?
    • Who tasted the tea before giving it to him?
    • And in whose presence was the tea tested?

    "The questions are for the Chief Security Officer to General Abdulsalam Abubakar; Major Aliyu to answer. And I want to testify before this Honourable Commission that on the 6th day of July 1998 at about 2200hrs Kola Abiola the son to late Chief M.K.O. Abiola his step mother; and about three of his sisters were with their father at Aguda House until 0130hrs of 7th July, 1998. I want to say categorically here that his father Chief M.K.O. Abiola was in a sound and healthy condition.

    "Based on the statement made to the Commission by Femi Falana on the 5th day of July 2001 that Chief M.K.O Abiola was driven from Kano State to Abuja where he said that the Chief fell inside the Black Maria four times before arriving Abuja is totally false, because to the best of my knowledge Chief M.K.O Abiola was never detained out of Abuja.

    "On the 28th day of July 1998, I collected from the Commander Brigade of Guard Gado Nasko Barracks the late Chief M.K.O Abiola's property and handed them over to Alhaji Babagana Kingibe on the 31st day of July, 1998 who ordered his orderly Sergeant Mustapha Gana to check, sign and collect the property from me and he Babagana Kingibe made a contact call to the family of Chief M.K.O. Abiola to come forward and collect the said property.

    After his evidence-in-chief, he was then cross examined by Mr. Femi Falana.

    Falana: You said you were not retired, you were not posted and yet you have been on salaries. Since when have you been receiving salary without rendering services to this station?

    Zadok: Since August 1 1998 on the day the personal assistant the former Inspector General of Police Superintendent Udi informed me in the villa that two officers from force CID Lagos were in the villa and that I should submit their names at the gate for them to see my OC. I submitted their names. When they entered, they told us they were taking over from us, without any written letter. I did not know that Major Aliu was aware of it. We were moved out of the villa without any document. Since August 1 1998 I have not worked in any police formation.

    Falana: Were you close to Abiola in detention?

    Zadok: Yes I was close to him.

    Falana: What ailment did Abiola complained to your about?

    Zadok: He complained of his high blood pressure.

    Falana: You said on June 8 1998 your bodyguards were withdrawn and soldiers took over the protection of Abiola.

    Zadok: Yes.

    Falana: Did he write letters that you knew of while in detention?

    Zadok: Yes, he wrote condolence letters to Mrs. Yar'Adua when General Yar'Adua died. Also when General Abacha died, he wrote condolence letter to Mrs. Abacha to be forwarded to General Abdulsalami Abubakar for vetting as he said two heads are better than one.

    Falana: Do you know the contents of the letter?

    Zadok: No, the letters were always sealed.

    Falana: Is Major A.S. Aliu still in the army?

    Zadok: Yes.

    Falana: Were you with him when Commonwealth Sec. Gen. Emeka Anyaoku held a meeting with him?

    Zadok: Yes I was there. They all took photograph together.

    Falana: Had this ever happened before?

    Zadok: No, it never happened before during his detention.

    Falana: the photograph was to let everybody know that he was hale and hearty.

    Zadok: Yes.

    Zadok: To the best of my knowledge no foreigner had ever done this.

    It was my duty to taste any food or drink before giving it to Abiola.

    Falana: When Abiola was given tea to drink was the first time you never tasted anything given to Abiola to take?

    Zadok: Yes it was the first time.

    Falana: You normally tasted food or drink before you gave it to Abiola to prevent any harm done to your subject?

    Zadok: Yes.

    Falana: So, you were tricked to go and see Admiral Akhigbe?

    Zadok: Maybe.

    Falana: When you left Abiola with Major A.S. Aliu, you were confident that you were leaving him in the care of a competent person.

    Zadok: Yes.

    Falana: After his death what happened to his property he left in detention?

    Zadok: I have a copy of the list of his property. I handed over his property to Ambassador Baba Gana Kingigbe who immediately called Abiola's family to inform them that Abiola's property were with him and they should come for them.

    Falana: US official Dickering later addressed a press conference to say Abiola died of national cause.

    Zadok: Yes.

    Falana: Brig-Gen. Ibrahim Sabo said the day Abacha died, Bamaiyi said Abiola must also be killed is a similar way to balance equation.

    Zadok: Yes, I heard it.

    He was asked why he did not inquire from Major Aliu who gave tea to Abiola and he replied, "Major Aliu was the overall security office in charge of Abiola's detention. I did not have the gut to ask him. Who gave Abiola tea and whether it was tasted before giving it to him.

    "Chief Abiola need to keep photocopies of his letters in his Bible and Koran. I did not have the time to go through them. But if the commission requests for them it will assist this commission greatly.

    At the end of Zadok's testimony, Mr. Falana requested the commission to order the IG to give full protection to Zadok.

    Gen Sabo also testified yesterday in respect of Chief Abiola's death.

    Led by his counsel, Mr. Umar Shinthien, Brigadier-General Ibrahim Sabo's evidence ran thus:

    Shinttien: Brigadier-General Sabo, you told this commission in Lagos that apart from what you said then on Chief Abiola's death, you have more to say.

    Sabo: Yes I still have a lot more facts on Abiola's death. I will also tender some documents here before this commission, while I will take the rest documents to Akanbi's anti-corruption commission.

    Shinttien: Tell this commission other facts you know.

    Sabo: I said earlier that on June 8 1998 many things happened from the sublime to the ridiculous. The sublime has to do with the death of former head of state, General Sani Abacha while the ridiculous was on the threat to Abiola's life. I said in Lagos that General Ishaya Bamaiyi called me after General Abacha called me after General Abacha death and asked me where was Chief Abiola, I said I didn't know, that Major Al-Mustapha was the one keeping him. General Bamaiyi then told me don't you think that now that General Abacha is dead, Chief Abiola should be similarly killed to balance the equation? I looked for Major Mustapha and told him what Bamaiyi has said. I later learnt that Bamaiyi had told Mustapha the same thing because Mustapha told me he had been looking for me for the same purpose.

    Major Mustapha in his evidence gave certain indicators on how General Abacha died and how Chief Abiola died. He said Abacha choked, jerked and foamed before he died Abiola also choked, jerked, foamed and died. Since Bamaiyi used the word similarly, I think Abacha's family should be interested in this because both died the same way.

    Shinttien: When General Bamaiyi told you this and Mustapha confirmed he was told the something, what did you do?

    Sabo: I advised that Abiola's location should be changed and he said he had done that.

    Shinttien: Did you attend late General Abacha burial in Kano.

    Sabo: No I didn't go because of the security of Abiola that was being threatened.

    Shinttien: What happened after late General Abacha's death?

    Sabo: After Abacha's death, there was a lot of clamouring as to who would succeed him. General Jeremiah Husseni was there clamouring to succeed Abacha and there were others. Then myself, General Magashi and Bamaiyi then met and decided that instead of deliberating on who would succeed General Abacha, succession by hierarchy should be followed with General Abdulsalami Abubakar as the head of state, General Bamaiyi, Chief of Defence Staff and General Magashi as chief of army staff, this was arrived at in order to shut out any bickering. We then called General Abdulsalami for a meeting of the PRC. It was an extra-ordinary PRC meeting because it was not scheduled.

    Shinttien: Did you inform General Abdulsalmi Abubakar of the threat to Chief Abiola's death?

    Sabo: Before General Abdulsalami Abubakar was sworn-in as head of state, we all went to the villa where the body of the late head of state was lying and I told General Abdulsalami that General Bamaiyi suggested that since Abacha died, Abiola must also be killed. But General Abubakar said when they return from Kano, we would discuss further. He refused to do anything after he came back from Kano. I sent a message to him through AVM Idi-Musa that I wanted to see General Abdulsalam on the same issue but he refused to see me. I passed the information to Idi Musa that it was urgent and Idi Musa told me General Abubakar would listen to me when he returned from South Africa. He refused to see me until I was retired on July 10 1998, three days after Chief Abiola's death.

    Shinttien: Did Major Mustapha know the whereabouts of Chief Abiola at this time.

    Sabo: Mustapha did not know Abiola's whereabouts because he was arrested and detained. And since Mustapha was now out of the way, Abiola was open to any other person.

    Shinttien: Is it normal for a detainee's guard to be sent away and given tea in his absence?

    Sabo: It is not normal and this is an indication of what happened later.

    Gen. Sabo also alleged massive financial misdeeds by the Abdulkareem Abubakar government, saying:

    "Before General Sani Abacha's death there were bickerings from people including General Abdulsalami Abubakar that they were not being given any welfare. General Abubakar accused the service chiefs that they were the ones that had the resources but he did not have anything there was a time he asked Ambassador Zackary Ibrahim to give him N1 million urgently but Ambassador Ibrahim said he didn't have the money. And when Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar became the head of state, he was relieved of his appointment.

    "When General Abdulsalami came to power, he exhibited an accumulated and accentuated thirst for money. I stumbled on some documents and video cassettes even while in retirement.

    "There was the case of $40 million contributed by multinationals for General Sani Abacha's transmutation to civilian president. I gave the cassette of his disclosure to help him clean the system not knowing that he would use it to clean me out of the system because three days later I was arrested. I urge the commission to investigate this money contributed by multinational towards Abacha's self-succession.

    "There was also the case of Engineer Bubal Galatia, Director of NMA whom General Abdulsalami Abubakar directed to release N5 billion from the NMA to the minister through Chief Hope Ozodinma. But Galadima refused saying it was beyond his power to do so. That same afternoon, a lorry load of soldiers invaded his house managed him and took him to an unknown destination. He was ordered to put in his letter of resignation so as to look as if he resigned voluntarily but he refused and asked General Abubakar to fire him. He was fired and he was given two hours to vacate his official quarters.

    "The N5 billion was to be shared like this: "1.35 to be given to the minister, Chief Hope would be given N265 million and $18 million would be given to General Abubakar. I have documents to prove this (He than tendered the documents).

    "There is the issue of the printing of new naira denominations, of 100, 200 and 500. I shared Mustapha's opinions on this which he explained in his testimony that it was a booby trap for President Olusegun Obasanjo to fail. I have 13 documents to prove this which I shall tender, before this commission.

    "When General Abacha was alive the idea of the printing of new naira denominations was mooted. Three companies bided for the contract - J.B. of Munich; Thomas & Co. Of London, and Bodous of Germany. They all submitted their quotations. They all agreed on $30 per one thousand pieces but General Abacha said it was too much. The agreement was not sealed before his death. When General Abdulsalami came on board, he said it should be printed at $45 per thousand. G & D was given the contract of printing and here was the company reputed for tax evasion. The company has offices in Germany, Greece, Spain, Belgium, Argentina and other places, but only has a liaison office in Nigeria. The company evaded tax to the tune of 2 million Dutch marks in Germany. This is the same company given the job to print the money I commenced investigations into the activities of this company but General Abubakar ordered me to stop it. All these were known to him.

    "The NTA in its news at 7 and 9 p.m. on January 11, 2001 reported that a container load of fake naira notes was discovered in Jos and Maiduguri. This is what I am talking about.

    "During Abdulsalami's time, our soldiers in ECOMOG were not treated well at all. General Victor Malu then ECOMOG Commander once had cause to complain of adulterated fuel sent to them. When the contract for the supply of food to our soldiers was changed, it was given to one lady; I will mention her name later.

    When General Abacha was alive 45 dollars was approved a day for each of our soldiers but when Gen. Abubakar came to power he increased it. But instead of giving them the money, they were given the old rate, where is the balance?

    "There is the issue of parting gift to each PRC member. N1 million was agreed as parting gift for each PRC member or 500,000 dollars. I inquired from two PRC members later differently. I asked them jokingly that I learnt you were all given ┬Ż a million dollars as parting gift. Where is my own share now? But they told me it was only 50,000 dollars. So what happened to the remaining 450,000 dollars per each PRC member times the total PRC members?

    Before General Abacha died, he left a foreign reserve of 9.7 billion dollars. There are papers to show this. But Abubakar claimed that only 7.17 billion dollars was left in the reserve what happened to the balance? This reserve that Abacha accumulated in five years, Abdulsalami depleted if in nine months.

    "Eagle Square here in Abuja was being renovated yearly when General Oseni was FCT Minister. Consultants were appointed for the renovation at N230 million. But General Abdulsalami rejected this and opted for upward review of N2.3 billion as against N230m.

    "Also through 59 million dollars he siphoned from government coffers he bought a house in London at 5 million pounds renovated it at 1 million pounds.

    "Before General Abacha died he approved 66 million Dutch marks for the maintenance of Alpha jets and other aircraft. When Abubakar took over he wrote another memo for the sum of 44,275,000 dollars for the same maintenance. I would have wished he was here to cross check if this signature on these documents were his.

    "There was also another memo from the CGS dated March 17 1999 at the injury time of the administration. There was request for the purchase of boats at 45 million dollars, purchase of amphibious plane at 21,747,660 dollars; and 5,000 rain coats jacket to cost 14,500,00 dollars. The normal cost of one rain coat to pocket were from rain is 45 dollar per piece and the total cost for the 5,000 rain coats should be 2,9000 dollars. It was signed by General Abdulsalami Abubakar to be purchased on ECOMOG issue, apart from the naval personnel that used to transport the food items, it was later given to merchant ships.

    "There is the issue of Engineer Ibrahim Ali, MD of NPA. General Abubakar called him one day and told him since General Abacha did not give you free hand to do your duties, bring your quotation and I will give you the wherewithal to execute it. He brought it to Abdulsalami. He met Alhaji Gidado Idris, former Secretary to the Federation there. Abdulsalami approved it for execution but when Ali left Abdulsalami ordered Gidado Idris to fire Ali when Gidado wanted

    to refuse, he told him that if he didn't do it somebody else would do it and that was how he was fired.

    Shinttien: What did all these mean with respect to Chief Abiola's security.

    Sabo: All these were to show that as Chief Abiola was to show that as Chief Abiola was in the custody of Abdulsalami, if Abiola was released, he would be demanding for his mandate and this will be unconducive for him to loot the country's treasury. General Abubakar should appear before this commission to explain ,what happens to the depletion of the economy.

    General Abdulsalami Abubakar set a booby trap for Obasanjo's administration, I am not saying this to curry favour from President Obasanjo. Let us not deal only on the past of the late head of state.

    Shinttien: In what other way to your knowledge has the General Abdulsalami Abubakar reduced the military to what it is now.

    Sabo: Another way which General Abdulsalami siphoned money is the task force for the armed forces and the police.

    On December 31 1997, N21, 270, 292,50 was disbursed to the armed forces and the police, I am not convinced the money was used judiciously, I have documents to authenticate this.

    There is also the issue of N80m water project which was discarded by General Abdulsalami. He re-awarded it for 20 million dollars while 10m dollars was collected upfront. I am sure the balance was also given. I am not sure whether the water project was executed.]]

    Again, I did not write the above. I copied it from the Vanguard of 20 July, 2001. But because we, as a people afflicted with amnesia, have conveniently forgotten this very recent history; because the people now enjoying the so-called dividends of democracy - not the poor, ordinary Nigerians now living in near-servitude in their own country, but the elected officials - have consigned to the waste bin of history the sacrifices of people who gave their lives to wrest democracy from the stranglehold of the likes of Babangida, Abacha and Abubakar, I chose to re-publish this emotive testimony.