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Buhari’s latter-day populism versus unresolved political murders

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President Muhammadu Buhari PHOTO: BAYO OMOBORIOWO


It is nigh clear two years after President Muhammadu Buhari directed the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Kpotun Idris, to reopen investigation into the murder of some politically exposed persons, particularly former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Bola Ige, and former Deputy national chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Aminasoari K. Dikibo.
  
Making the order that fateful July 17, 2016, the President tasked the IGP to unravel the killing of those prominent politicians and bring the killers to book to bring an end to the national suspense over the dastard murders. But, as in his order on the IGP to relocate to Benue State at the height of unrelenting massacre of indigenes by herdsmen, the Presidents directive seems to have been observed in the breach.
 
Not that alone, security experts have noted that the unresolved and seemingly politically motivated killings are “technically sensitive” to leave for the Nigeria police to investigate, citing issues of corruption and alleged passive involvement of some police officers in some of the assassinations. 
 

However, the most worrisome aspect of the experts’ reservations revolve around the general perception that President Buhari’s pronouncement was merely calculated to achieve a political purpose and get at certain quarters that were suspected to have links to the dastard killings.
  
Then there is also the observation that the President’s directive was not comprehensive enough as it did not cover other high profile, but senseless killings, including the murder of Engineer Funsho Williams, Alfred Rewane, former Kano State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Munkaila Abdullahi, his wife and children and Youth Corps members serving as ad hoc staff of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) during the 2011 Presidential election, among others.
 
Nonetheless, despite those criticisms and doubts as to the sincerity and genuineness of intentions, notable politicians and citizens, including former governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, Chief Olu Falae, Chief Ebenezer Babatope and the national publicity secretary of Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, expressed the hope that at last perpetrators of the heinous crimes would be brought to face the law, even as they praised President Buhari for redirecting attention to the murders.
Backgrounds, First Information Reports

Chief Bola Ige: The then Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice had prior to joining President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration been an active and card carrying member of the Alliance for Democracy (AD). After losing the party’s Presidential ticket to Chief Falae, Ige retreated to his politics of “siddon look” until Obasanjo beckoned on him to join in his government at least, to shore up his deficient support from the Southwest geopolitical zone.
 
However with the approach of the next general elections, during which he expected to revive his Presidential ambition, the then Attorney General wrote to President Obasanjo, intimating him of his intention to quit the cabinet for the purposes of rebuilding his political career and the AD, which began to totter after Falae was allegedly robbed of victory at the 1999 Presidential poll.  

It was in the light of that notice of his planned withdrawal from the federal cabinet that the then AGF travelled to his home state for the yuletide, preparatory to reviving his political structure to prosecute the 2003 election. Coincidentally, Ige’s benefactor, the incumbent, had also made up his mind to seek a fresh mandate despite widespread anticipation that he would follow in the steps of the late South African leader, President Nelson Mandela.

On the fateful December 23, 2001 Chief Ige’s security details were alleged to have taken permission from him to go eat nearby, and some unknown gunmen said to have positioned themselves nearby gained access to the AGF’s compound and killed Ige.

Although the Police at that time empanelled a team of experienced intelligent officers to investigate the murder, arrests and even confessional statements were made, while some persons sent to prison, but nothing concrete came out of the effort.Given the circumstances surrounding the killing of Ige, particularly the aspect of his notice to discontinue membership of the federal cabinet and desire to aspire for the Presidency, the general perception among citizens was that the murder had the imprint of political opponents in government.

At the onset of the loss of camaraderie between former President Obasanjo and incumbent Buhari administration, the decision to reopen the case of Ige’s murder was believed to be an attempt to settle scores.One of the members of the Department of State Services (DSS) that was involved in the initial investigation about the killers of the late AGF, who spoke to The Guardian in confidence, said Ige’s murder would remain a closely guarded secret as far as the country continues.

He declared that the President’s directive to reopen investigations on the matter would go the same way as previous ones, stressing that if the President wants the whole issues involved, including the conspiracies and cover-ups to be unearthed, he should set up an inter-agency panel of investigators comprising the military intelligence, DSS, Police and Forensic analysts.

He said: “This is what the nation does not know about killings around that period. The killers were well trained assassins, either in or out of service, I cannot tell; but they were often guided out of crime scenes by state operatives that provided cover for their exit.”A.K Dikibo: On February 6, 2004, Chief Dikibo was gunned down along Ogwashiuku/Kwale expressway on his way to a South/south zonal meeting in Asaba, Delta State. Dikibo replaced Chief Harry Marshal as deputy national vice chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), after Marshal was killed in Abuja on March 3, 2003.

A twist to the gory stories surrounding the murder of the two political leaders came in August 2015 when a group known as South/South Renaissance Group (SSRG), petitioned President Buhari naming the alleged killers and asking for the reopening of investigations to their murder.It is not known whether President Buhari’s directive on the IGP to reopen investigation into the unresolved murders was sequel to the petition by the SSRG, but the petitioners alleged that a current player in the APC was the mastermind of the murder of the two leaders.

In the petition signed by Dr. Offili Ijeomah, which was copied to the IGP, SSRG called for the prosecution of the named politician to avoid further bloodshed, maintaining that he harbours political thugs that target his political opponents.Despite the petitions from SSRG and new PDP Reformation Coalition, no action had been taken to prosecute the said politician, who defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) last year.

There have been strident claims by opposition that the President always shields members of his political party, APC, from investigation for sundry crimes. It is therefore not easy to hazard a guess as to what could become of suspects in the unresolved murders if they happen to belong to the ruling party.It is against that speculation that some observers express worry, not only about the genuineness of the directive to reopen investigations into the unresolved murders, but also why other cases like that of Engineer Funsho Williams and former Kano REC, Munkaila Abduallahi and massacre of some youth corps ad hoc staff in Bauchi in 2011, were not listed.

Funsho Anthony Williams participated in the 1998 governorship primary of Alliance for Democracy (AD) in Lagos State. Despite the competitive nature of the election, Williams was said to have carried the day, but confusion set in at the Sobo Arobiodu venue of the primary leading to the declaration of the exercise inconclusive.At the end of altercations and several caucus meetings of the party and leaders of the Afenifere, it was agreed that Alhaji Ahmed Tinubu should be gifted with the AD governorship ticket in recognition of his contributions to the fight for the reclamation of June 12, 1993 mandate given to Chief M. K. O Abiola.

Three years after, at the build up to the 2003 general election, Funsho crossed over to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and oiled his political machinery and contacts with a view to recontesting the position of governor of Lagos State. Funsho looked forward to the 2007 election to actualize his dream of becoming governor of the state. But one year to the next election, precisely on July 27, 2006, he was murdered by strangulation, with multiple stabs on his chest, according to pathologists.

The next day, the police arrested Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe, who was also aspiring to fly the flag of PDP in the 2007 governorship poll. Funsho’s campaign manager was also arrested in connection of the dastard murder. As at that time Ogunlewe was a minister of works in Obasanjo’s federal cabinet.After months of moving round big circles, the police failed to arrive at a convincing outcome concerning the perpetrators, and with time everything died down. There were no convictions, neither were prima facie cases established against those arrested.

In the case of Kano State REC, not much was heard after the Munkaila, his wife and children were buried, except that the then Commissioner of Police in Kano State, Ibrahim Kpotun Idris, was elevated to the position of IGP.Although the Police disclosed that investigation had begun into the circumstances behind the mystery fire that engulfed the late REC’s household, no official report was released.

The same fate befell the youth corps members that served as INEC ad hoc staff in Bauchi. However N5m was doled out to the families of the deceased but the culprits were never apprehended.The list of unresolved murders have continued to bulge ever since, to include the most celebrated assassinations including, Odunayo Olagbaju, Osun State (2001), Igwe Barnabas and his wife, Abigail, on September 10, 2002, Chief Ogbonnaya Uche, alias O.G.B (March 2003); Yemi Oni (AD Ekiti State); Mr. Ikenna Ibor (ANPP Anambra State, March 27, 2003); Hon. Tony Dimegwu (ANPP Imo State, April 30, 2003); Mr. Issa Zaria (ANPP Kwara State, April 2003) and Chief Onyewuchi Iwuchukwu (ANPP, Imo State, April 19, 2003).

With much blood being spilled in the country, it seems the blood of the victims of unresolved assassination have been crying out and wrecking vengeance on the nation. That these high profile murders have remained unresolved after the President gave the directive gives the impression that it was a mere political pronouncement intended to leave wounds on the consciences of the perpetrators and their sponsors and nothing more.

 


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