Count me in the camp of Dr. Fasheun of the Odua People Congress, the amiable shy doctor who somehow swam against the tide of popular (some say lynch mob) opinion to save Major Al Mustapha from the gallows of death. I think justice was served, and if you’re to be objective- you cannot but reach the same conclusion, irrespective of the natural human emotion to scapegoat someone when public evil is brought to its knees.
There was no doubt that the supreme leader of Nigeria to whom Mustapha answered was General Sani Abacha. There is also no doubt in everyone’s mind that he- Sani Abacha- ordered those killings under his government. Al Mustapha could never have acted independent of Sani Abacha- the Head of State he served - without the later feeling threatened and dismissing him promptly. Hence, ultimate responsibility for the martyr of our democracy cannot be Al but Sani!
It is therefore not possible (under a fair system of logical justice) to hold Major Al Mustapha responsible for an order, which he was neither in official or informal position to give. It was ultimately Sani Abacha that gave the order, and it was apportioned to him the ultimate judgment, only possible by our creator, that gave our country an opportunity to clear the Augean stable when he died.
This is not to say the Al Mustaphas of the world who cannot resist unlawful orders albeit in very difficult circumstances (clearly, he was not in position to refuse order from Abacha, and may very well have incited the order) are not culpable, it is just to say that their culpability under the law was limited.
I am not a lawyer, but I know if Mustapha didn’t give the order and also did not pull the trigger, the best case that can be made is that of an accessory to the criminal act of murder, and that could have been proven by circumstantial evidence and passed the smell test. That crime could also not have earned anyone a death sentence, and the fourteen years the Major served was more than enough to wash away his sins.
The story of the jailing, trial and release of Al Mustapha is one that was never as straightforward as protagonists and antagonists alike will want us to believe. Fact: Al Mustapha was put on the stand for trial for the murder or attempted murder of three persons: Rewane, Ibru and Kudirat. Fact: there was no hard evidence put to the judges during trial about his effective authority in state murder perpetuated under the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in those dark days of 1993 through 1998. If anything, it was Nigeria’s military and government that was on the stand not Al Mustapha.
At best, the evidence was circumstantial and clearly obtained under duress; “he who must come to the altar of equity must do so with clean hands.” We cannot accuse Al Mustapha of torture and use of spurious evidence to try coup plotters, and then turn around to implement the same system against him. It was also very clear that the Generals to whom he answered and severally disrespected when he reigned supreme were very happy to see Al roast, but they too should never have gotten away with murder. As we know the Usenis, Abubakars and Diyas of the day were responsible for severally violating the rights of Nigerians under the Abacha regimes and all are free men today.
What Nigeria needed after Abacha was a Mandela not an Obasanjo; a national leader that will encourage reconciliation with no retribution, and starting over by baring the state instruments of coercion so that they can be dismantled. But Obasanjo was not in position to forgive, the man never forgives and here is where the Kudirat case got complicated. Indeed, Obasanjo who himself was responsible for deaths of university students and human rights abuse of Fela Anikulapo Kuti could not be in position to expose this real rot: death squads that they call them.
It seem to keen observers that on one hand, the trial of Al was a potent way to stick it to the Bamaiyis that dared mess with Obasanjo, but he could not be seen to be helping the cause of the NADECO (later AD and now ACN/APC) opposition or even Abiola whom Obasanjo equally loathed. Hence, while the compromised DMI and SSS interrogations were handed over to trial prosecutors who tried their best under difficult circumstances, the entire security apparatus that allowed Al and Sergeant Rogers to act was never exposed and are in fact still in place I dare say.
If you doubt this, ask- “who killed Justice Minister Bola Ige?” Evidence suggests the state was an accomplice, and the fact that accessories to that crime could register for election and be voted for to become Senators from the ruling party in fact suggests someone in Aso Rock under Olusegun Obasanjo had more than one explanation for that murder that is yet unresolved. Or rather, why will the guards provided by the state suddenly go out to eat while the principal under guard get strangled in his own bedroom? Keen minds want to know!
Which brings us to a very final point: until the death squad that lurks in Nigeria at the pleasure of a sitting president is fully exposed, then we’re all nibbling at nonsense when it comes to Al Mustapha and his fellow hit squad members including Sergeant Rogers. Because it is nearly impossible for a government to act under the autonomous authority of one person, and for the same government to refuse to release important records of such murders when key actors where brought to trial reveals a firm desire not to move on. The government that was in place in 1999 did not want to expose the deep rot of the system, so it shielded it and gave us Mustapha hoping we were going to be satisfied. But a few of us should know better!
The records of this hit squad should have been put to trial by the FG supporting the Lagos State prosecutors, but for very bad reasons including the clear intention to protect very powerful people, this remain hidden to date and Al Mustapha was just the scapegoat for an institutional failure to protect Nigerians from abuse of power in high places!