Wednesday, 4th October 2023

Historic perspective on the pardon of Alli and Enahoro

By Eric Teniola
28 September 2020   |   3:20 am
The presidential pardon granted by President Muhammadu Buhari, to former Nationalist and Minister, Anthony Eromosele Enahoro (1923-2010) and also to Professor Ambrose Folorunsho Alli...

Chief Anthony Enahoro

The presidential pardon granted by President Muhammadu Buhari, to former Nationalist and Minister, Anthony Eromosele Enahoro (1923-2010) and also to Professor Ambrose Folorunsho Alli (1929-1989), former Governor of the defunct Bendel state and endorsed by the National Council of State is most welcome. I hope the pardon will be extended to others including Major General Tajudeen Olanrewaju, former Minister of Transportation and others whose cases are being reviewed in the Presidency. Let us discuss that of Professor Ambrose Alli first. On December 31, 1983, President Shehu Shagari’s elected government was dethroned by a Military coup headed by Major General Muhammadu Buhari.

Also dethroned and detained were elected governors that served between 1979 and 1983. They are Victor Olunloyo and Bola Ige (Oyo), Alhaji Lateef Jakande (Lagos), Bisi Onabanjo (Ogun), Michael Ajasin,(Ondo), Professor Ambrose Alli and Samuel Ogbemudia (Bendel), Cornelius Adebayo and David Attah (Kwara), Dr Clement Isong and Chief Donald Etiebet (Cross Rivers), Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa, Abba Musa Rimi and Lawai Keita (Kaduna), Garuba Nadama (Sokoto), Abubakar Bardeh and Wilberfoce Juta (Gongola), Mohammed Guni and Asha Jarma (Borno), Jim Nwobodo and C.C. Onoh (Anambra), Sam Mbakwe (Imo) and Solomon Lar (Plateau) Abubakar Rimi and Barkin Zuwo (Kano), Melford Okilo(Rivers), Abubakar Tatari Ali (Bauchi), Mr. AperAku (Benue) and Muhammed Anwal Ibrahim (Niger).

In overthrowing President Shagari’s government, Brigadier Sani Abacha, GCFR, told the nation in a broadcast on December 31st, 1983 that “You are living witnesses to the great economic predicament and uncertainty, which an inept and corrupt leadership has imposed on our beloved nation for the past four years. I am referring to the harsh, intolerable conditions under which we are now living. Our economy has been hopelessly mismanaged. We have become a debtor and beggar nation.

There is inadequacy of food at reasonable prices for our people who are now fed up with endless announcements of importation of foodstuffs. Health services are in shambles as our hospitals are reduced to mere consulting clinics without drugs, water, and equipment. Our educational system is deteriorating at an alarming rate. Unemployment figures including the undergraduates have reached embarrassing and unacceptable proportions. In some states, workers are being owed salary arrears of eight to twelve months and in others there are threats of salary cuts.

Yet our leaders revel in squandermania, corruption and indiscipline, and continue to proliferate public appointments in complete disregard of our stark economic realities. After due consultation over these deplorable conditions, I and my colleagues in the armed forces have in the discharge of our national role as a promoter and protector of national interest decided to effect a change in the leadership of the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and form a Federal Military Government. This task has just been completed.” Shortly after, the Supreme Military Council was constituted and the following were appointed as members. Major General Muhammadu Buhari, Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of The Nigerian Armed Forces from Kaduna state, Brigadier Babatunde Abdulbaki Idiagbon, Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, ((Kwara State), Major-General Domkat Bali, Defence Secretary, (Plateau state), Major General Ibrahim Babangida, Chief of Army Staff, (Niger state), Commodore August Aikhomu, Chief of Naval Staff, (Bendel state), Air Vice-Marshal Ibrahim Mahmud Alfa, Chief of Air Staff, (Gongola state), Major-General MammanJiya Vatsa, Minister of Federal Capital Territory, (Niger state), Brigadier Joseph Olayeni Oni, GOC, 1stMechanised Infantry Division-Kaduna, (from Lagos state), Brigadier Mohammed Sani Abacha, GOC 2NDMechanised Division—Ibadan, (from Kano state), Colonel Salihu Ibrahim, GOC, 3RDArmoured Division- Jos, (Kwara state), Brigadier YohannaYerima Kure, GOC, 82ND Division—Enugu, (Kaduna state), Brigadier Mohammed Mangoro, Minister of Internal Affairs, (Sokoto state), Brigadier Muhammadu Gado Nasko, Commander-Nigerian Army Corps of Artillery, (Niger state), Brigadier Paul Omu, Army (from Bendel state), Navy Captain Ebitu Ukiwe, Flag Officer Commanding, Western Naval Command, (from Imo state) and Air Commodore Larry Koinyan, Air Force, (from Rivers state).

On April 5, 1984, General Buhari promulgated decree Number 3 and decree Number 8.

Decree No. 8 states that THE FEDERAL MILITARY GOVERNMENT hereby decrees as follows: 1. Immediately after subsection (1) of section 1 of the Recovery of Public Property (Special Military Tribunals) Decree 1984, there shall be inserted the following new subsection (1A), that is —- “(1A) Any public officer who—- (a) has engaged in corrupt practices or has corruptly enriched himself or any other person; or (b) has by virtue of abuse of his office contributed to the economic adversity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; or has in any way been in breach of the Code of Conduct, shall be guilty of an offence under this Decree and upon conviction shall, apart from any other penalty prescribed by or pursuant to any other provision of this Decree, forfeit the assets, whether movable or immovable property, connected with the commission of the offence, to the Federal Military Government.” 2. This Decree may be cited as the Recovery of Public Property (Special Military Tribunals) (Amendment) Decree 1984 and shall be deemed to have come into force on 31st December 1983.

Professor Ambrose Folorunsho Alli

The Decree 3 says “ WHEREAS by section 5 (1) of the Recovery of Public Property (Special Military Tribunal) Decree 1984, the Head of the Federal Military Government is empowered, by instrument under his hand, to constitute special military tribunals for the purpose of the trial of certain public officers: AND WHEREAS by section 5 (2) of the Decree it is provided that each tribunal appointed under the Decree shall consist of —- (a) a Chairman who shall be an officer in the Armed Forces not below the rank of Colonel or its equivalent; (b) three other officers of the Armed Forces not below the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel or its equivalent (c) a serving or retired judge of a High Court or any court of like jurisdiction who shall , amongst other things, assist the tribunal in determining questions of law: General Buhari later constituted five military tribunals to try the detained governors. The Lagos tribunal (Lagos state) was headed by Brigadier Paul U. Omu with Brigadier M.M. Nassarawa, Navy Captain J.N. Kanu, Lt-Colonel Yinka Martins and Mr. Justice T.A. Oyeyipo as Members. The Ibadan zone (Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Bendel and Kwara states) was headed by Brigadier C.B. Ndiomu. Other members are Commodore I.J. Ogohi, Lt-Colonel Y. Madaki, Wing-Commander C.C. Ohadumere and Mr. Justice S.U. Minjibir.

The Kaduna Zone (Kaduna, Kano, Nigerand Sokoto states and the Federal Capital Territory) had Navy Captain M.A. Elegbede as the Chairman while the members were Lt-Colonel I.D. Gumel, Lt-Colonel M. Maina, Wing-Commander J.P. Obakpolor and Mr. Justice P.P. Nwokedi. It was the Kaduna zone headed by Navy Captain Muftau Adegoke Babatunde Elegbede (1939-1994) that jailed the former Kano state governor, Sabo BakinZuwo (1934-1989). He was tried and sentenced to 23years in prison on charges of corruption by the Kaduna Zone. Bakin Zuwo was released from jail in January 1988. He died on 16 February, 1989 in a German hospital, where he had been taken after being in a fall. He was buried in Kano, his beloved city, in whose politics he had featured prominently for several decades. Alhaji Sabo Bakin Zuwo was survived by three wives and 26 children. Sadly, Captain
Elegbede was assassinated by gunmen on 19 June 1994 along the Gbagada/Oworonsoki expressway in Lagos.

It was the Ibadan Zone that jailed Professor Ambrose Folorunsho Alli. The Zone was headed by Major General Charles Bebeye Ndiomu (1934-2002) from Odoni in Sagbama Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. Professor Alli from Ekpoma in the then Bendel state was educated at the Immaculate Conception College in Benin City before going to St. Patrick’s College, Asaba, and to the School of Agriculture in Ibadan. He trained as a medical laboratory technologist at the University College, Medical Laboratory, Ibadan, from 1950-1953, and studied Medicine at the University College of Ibadan from 1953 to 1960. Alli did further Medical studies in Britain after that and worked in hospitals there and in Zimbabwe (1960-1962). Professor Alli returned to Nigeria in 1966 to begin a distinguished academic career. He was a Professor of Morbid Anatomy at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria from 1969 to 1971, and at the University of Ibadan from 1971 to 1974. From 1974 to 1979, he was Head of the Department of Pathology, University of Benin. He was tried on corruption charges and sentenced to a total of 66 years’ imprisonment. The sentence was later reviewed and reduced to seven years. His health deteriorated while in jail. Alli was released on 13 February, 1988 only after the payment of N983, 000.00 raised by his friends into the government chest. He died on 22 September, 1989 (his 60th Birthday) at the Lagos State Teaching Hospital. On page 17 of his book titled “MY DIALOGUE WITH NIGERIA”, the former Chief of Army Staff, General Julius Alani IpoolaAkinrinade wrote that “some people have pointed out seeming contradictions in the trial of former public officers. For instance, they say that while some former governors were jailed for accepting money from contractors, the contractors themselves were not jailed and while Abba Musa Rimi and Wilberforce Juta were jailed for giving money to legislators, the legislators themselves were not jailed for taking the money. I believe that in both cases, the governors were wrong to have taken the money and spent public funds in a way not permitted by law. People are confused because the government has not bothered to explain and they are in fact, edgy because they regard the judgments as contradictory.

To be continued tomorrow

Teniola, a former director at the Presidency, wrote from Lagos.