Olufemi Atoyebi and Bayo Akinloye
A former Chief Security Officer to the late head of state, Gen. Sani Abacha, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha (retd.), on Saturday, claimed that the cause of death of the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election in Nigeria, Chief MKO Abiola, and the late businessman’s last moments were recorded on video.
Al-Mustapha hinted that the existence of the tape was known to a few Nigerians and also attributed his incarceration to his attempts to preserve the videotape. However, in swift reactions, a former physician to Abiola, Dr. Ore Falomo, and a human rights activist, Yinka Odumakin, dismissed Al-Mustapha’s claims as an attempt to rewrite history.
The former CSO spoke about the tape and other matters when he fielded questions shortly after he delivered the third South-West annual lecture titled, ‘Developing leadership abilities in youths’, which was organised by the Asorodayo Youth Heritage Organisation, at Lafia Hotel, Ibadan, Oyo State.
He said, “On October 21, 1998, I was arrested because of a video cassette, not because of the late Kudirat Abiola. The family of the late Abiola was, as it is, a very close family to me. But something happened, which a particular camera in the villa captured.
“So, they wanted to take the videotape and burn it so that Nigerians would not know what happened. That was the beginning of my travails.”
While he served Abacha, Al-Mustapha had a fearsome reputation for high-handedness, brutality and was widely seen as one of the most powerful men in the country. Shortly after Abacha died, his former CSO was arraigned for a long list of crimes. However, at the Ibadan event, he claimed he was persecuted because of the videotape.
He said, “For 15 years, I didn’t have the chance to defend myself in newspaper, radio and television. So, the belief was Mustapha had committed an offence, even before my arrest. But the actual thing that happened to the late MKO Abiola is in that cassette that they want to see, that is why Mustapha was subjected to punishment and I was called names. They have wanted to know the whereabouts of that tape in the last 17 years.
“I appeared before 14 judges in Lagos. As soon as the matter was about to finish, they would stop it and take us to another court. For 15 years, I was in that state. Out of the 15 years, five years and two months, I served in detention with torture. The remaining was between Ikoyi Prisons, Kirikiri Prisons and Kuje Prisons.
“Many people, particularly lawyers, took money from those who were looking for the cassette. They would go to radio and television stations to rain abuses on me, rather than coming to court. But they did not know what was going on in the court of law.”
However, the former Army Major, who did not shed light on the whereabouts of the tape, made strenuous efforts to debunk the widely held belief that he organised and superintended the assassination of the late wife of Abiola, Kudirat.
He said, “On the late Kudirat Abiola, Rogers himself confessed in a court of law along with other witnesses how much money they were given. Rogers confessed he was told to do so. He was given money. He was given a house. He was given a car every six months, and he was promised to be taken outside Nigeria. The plan was as soon as Lagos court pronounced me guilty and I was to be hanged, then they would rush me to prison and hang me without giving me the option to go for appeal. That was what happened.
“I thank God Almighty everything that happened in Lagos State Court was compiled and signed by all the 14 judges. We are putting it together. My father has already put the book together in three volumes. You will see them soon.”
Al-Mustapha said if he had been guilty of all allegations against him, his conscience would not allow him to speak about what happened in the public.
“If I am guilty, there is no way I can talk, there is no way I can get the confidence to look into their eyes because they are the bigger ones above the law in Nigeria. I am doing so. I have done it yesterday, I am doing it now and I will to do it tomorrow. If I were dishonest, I couldn’t do that.
“That is why the matter is before the Supreme Court now for appeal. We have been begging them since 2013 for the matter to be heard so that everybody can hear what happened. Up till now, the Lagos State Government ran away from it. We are begging them to come to the matter. We have nothing to hide.”
Speaking on Al-Mustapha’s latest remark, Falomo, who spoke with SUNDAY PUNCH from London, said Nigerians should ignore Abacha’s close ally.
He said, “It is not for him to tell the public why he was arraigned. It is for the Lagos State Ministry of Justice and the attorney general that handled his case to tell us exactly why he was prosecuted. Should we be listening to what Al-Mustapha says about this?
“I was in court to give evidence against him – concerning the killing of Kudirat which he was accused of. I gave evidence of how I rescued her, how she underwent an operation at EKO Hospital and how she died.
“I also described the bullet that was retrieved from her body during the operation at the hospital. To the best of my knowledge, the prosecutor, that is, the Lagos State Government, represented by an attorney general back then, presented the case very well to the judge. The judge found Al-Mustapha guilty but on appeal, he was set free. I don’t understand how he came about the fact that he was not arrested because of Kudirat’s death.
“I don’t know about the video he is talking about now. The video was never mentioned throughout the trial. When he was examined in court, he never spoke about the video.”
Also reacting to Al-Mustpaha’s claims on Saturday, a member of the defunct NADECO, Odumakin, described them as ‘lies.’
He said, “As much as facts and history are concerned, Al-Mustapha was arrested for the killing of Kudirat; he was charged alongside (Lateef) Sofolahan and others, convicted for the killing, and sentenced. He went on appeal. The appeal freed him. “But the Lagos State Government has appealed to the Supreme Court. To now say that he was not arrested and prosecuted for killing Kudirat Abiola is an attempt at rewriting history. If he can tell those lies openly, then the court now knows what he wishes to put on evidence before it.”
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