In his quest to win back the support of Southwest for the 2019 presidential election, President Muhammadu Buhari, responded to a 20-year old quest by many Nigerians, especially, the progressives, for an official recognition of Chief Moshood Abiola’s sacrifice in stirring the movement that pushed the military back to the barracks and returned civil rule in 1999.
In doing so, President Buhari bestowed Nigeria’s highest national honour, reserved for presidents, on Abiola. He also gave the second highest national honour, often bestowed on Vice Presidents, on Babagana Kingibe, Abiola’s running mate in the June 12, 1993 presidential election which was annulled by the military with results declared halfway.
So doing, Buhari placed late Abiola on a pedestal that equates him with the number one office in the country.
The decision has however stirred new debates on what should actually be the proper step to assuage the spirit of the dead and close the chapter on the death of Abiola and all those who died alongside, in the quest to return democratic governance to Nigeria.
Who killed Abiola?
By recognizing Abiola’s sacrifices, President Buhari just answered one leg of the question. The bigger question still remains who exactly killed Abiola, why and how?
It has always been suspected that Abiola’s death was state-managed. Popular opinion has always been that Abiola died of food poisoning after drinking a certain tea that was handed over to him by officials of state.
However, two Nigerians had raised issues that gave a clue to who actually killed Abiola. One is his personal physician, Dr. Ore Falomo and the other is Major Hamza al-Mustapha, who was Chief Security Officer (CSO), to Gen. Sani Abacha, Nigeria’s most brutal dictator, who clamped Abiola in detention.
Ripples Nigeria recalls, that Dr. Falomo had made allusions which pointed to who killed Abiola. In past interviews published in newspapers, Dr. Falomo narrated events that led to Abiola’s death leaving no doubt as to who killed him.
Below is a recap of an interview with Dr. Falomo:
“That day, I was in the sitting room here. A call came from the personal physician of (Gen. Abdulsalam) Abubakar. He said, ‘Doctor, get yourself ready and start coming to Abuja. The Head of State has sent his personal jet through Governor Buba Marwa. It would be at the VIP section of the airport.’ Of course, I was not going to enter that aircraft. But I asked him, ‘Why are you sending for me? I was given about two weeks appointment to come and see Abiola, so tell me what has happened that warrants me to come urgently.’ He didn’t want to tell me that Abiola had died, so that my reaction would not be, ‘Alright if you have killed him; eat him. I’m not the doctor for the dead, but for the living.’ That could have been my reaction, which was exactly my reaction when I finally learnt that he had died. After that, I called Kola Abiola and told him that something bad had happened but that I didn’t know the extent. The doctor also told me not to come alone; that I should bring any of my colleagues. I then thought, maybe he had not died. I told Kola and he said, ‘Doctor let’s go to the airport and take the plane to Abuja.’ I didn’t know Kola had heard.
“We boarded Kola’s car and he tuned to BBC news. At that time, it was about 15 minutes to 6pm. Then they announced that Abiola had died. I asked Kola ‘Is that true?’ He wasn’t crying, I knew he had heard. I told him to turn back. And just before we got to Maryland, people had started rioting. We were lucky to escape without the car being damaged.
“I refused to go. When we got back to the house, Kola asked me: ‘What is going to happen next?’ I said, ‘Nothing; I’m not going to Abuja.’ Then he said he must go. I said ‘Yes; go so that you take care of the body. One thing I want you to tell them is that they must not bury him because he is a Muslim. There must be a post-mortem.’ They were already talking to Abiola’s two wives about burying him immediately.
“They arranged for them (the two wives) to come and see Abiola the day before he died. That was of course for them to say goodbye. They did all of these without my knowledge. Up till that time, I was the only one in five years, who was allowed to see Abiola.
“Then I received another call. This time, the governor of Lagos, Marwa, said I should come, that the pilot and others were waiting, that he would send a car to pick me. I declined the offer and asked them to wait. I called Prof. Oye Adeniran to represent me. I told him to tell Abubakar’s physician that I want a post-mortem. When the doctor heard my request, he then called me back and said he would advise Abubakar that there must be a post-mortem. Then he said, ‘these are two deaths too many.’ He was referring to the death of Sani Abacha and that of Abiola. You remember in Abacha’s case, there was no post-mortem. How can a Head of State die so suddenly and he was hurriedly buried without a post-mortem. I told him that I would assemble a team of international pathologists to conduct the post-mortem. So, the body was embalmed and kept in the morgue waiting for the pathologists to arrive.
“Abiola was not beaten. He died shortly after the American delegation got to Aguda House by 3pm. According to the written press conference given by Ambassador Thomas Pickering, who led the American delegation, Abiola died between 3:20 and 3:40pm that day. Nobody told Abiola that he was going to have visitors that day. So, they woke him up and he just brushed his teeth and came out to meet with them. He had not had his lunch. These were facts borne out of the autopsy. His intestine was clear. They exchanged banters, he told Susan Rice, who was part of the delegation, what she wore the first day he met her. Pickering said Abiola’s brain must be sharp to remember all that.
“According to them, their mission was to convince Abiola to denounce his mandate and go for another election. By then Abacha had gone, one of their problems had been solved. Abiola was left. They had brought that suggestion before and Abiola rejected it. So, their mission was unnecessary because they were not going to get him to say yes. It must have been for another purpose. When they came in, the chief guard that usually stayed with Abiola was not there because they didn’t tell him some people would be visiting. Abiola came unaccompanied to that meeting. Of course, they had been told he was a tea drinker.
“They brought a special flask, which Hamza Al-Mustapha described as multi-dimensional. They poured themselves tea and poured tea for Abiola. There was no precedence of a visitor bringing tea for the host. It is unconventional. It is not done anywhere in the world. Not only did they bring it, they offered someone in detention tea, with no guard around.
“And Ambassador Pickering said in his press conference that shortly after he had taken the tea, he complained of pain in the chest and grabbed his chest. And later, he felt uncomfortable and then, he went to the convenience to ease himself, but he did not come back as expected. They called on him and he told them he was coming. By then, he had started feeling weak. They asked him if they should call the doctor but he said they should ask the guard to get his pain tablet. But he died before the pain tablet arrived. By the time the doctor came, Abiola had already died. They took him to Aso Rock clinic, where they tried to jerk his heart back to life, but he was gone. That was how he died.”
Dr. Falomo was also asked in the interview if he suspected fowl play by Pickering and Susan Rice in Abiola’s death. He said:
“Yes. It is necessary to note that death followed Pickering’s missions. A notable personality usually dies after his mission to any country. You can go and read about him. The question was: Why did he come? We know him as Central Intelligence Agency man and he was not the serving ambassador in the country then.
“Abubakar was the one who gave them the appointment. During a cocktail to celebrate the US National Day, I asked the US Ambassador why they brought Pickering and others. I told him that Abacha, who was occupying Abiola’s position had died and why did they bring another military? We should also note that after Abiola died, Abubakar went to White House to visit the sitting American President and he went in military uniform. Can you recollect anybody who entered White House in military uniform? It is not done. He was given that exception. Up till now, nobody has repeated the precedence. What did he do? How long had he been on the throne here that he was received by the American President? Abacha was gone, Abiola was gone and they thought Nigeria’s problem was solved. But here we are.”
On Pathology examination conducted on Abiola, Dr. Falomo said: “The current American President has not found it important enough to come to the same country in which the previous governments took very big roles in taking those two actors out. I think it high time US apologized to Nigeria for the roles it played in the death of Abiola. The US also insisted on sending at least two pathologists just to protect its image, because there were rumours that it was the US that killed Abiola. Tony Blair sent a message to me through the British High Commissioner here that he was nominating Dr. John Shepherd, one of the top pathologists in England, and we made him the team captain. Human rights groups from Chicago sent in a pathologist. America insisted that they wanted to be well represented. So, they sent one Muslim doctor and one Christian doctor to me. I was there; Abubakar’s doctor was there; Dr. Coker, the owner of that hospital on Victoria Island was there and the team”.
On reports that Abiola died of natural causes as claimed by the pathologists, Dr. Falomo stated: “What they said was that there was not enough supply of blood to his heart because there was a collection of fatty materials in the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart. His heart did not get blood supply; that was why he died eventually. The question is, why did that happen? How could that happen to somebody who just woke up, had not done anything and was not doing any exercise. There are people who have worse conditions than that and they are still alive. Something must have engineered the heart to behave the way it did that Abiola could not survive more than 10 minutes. We took specimen from his intestine, took his blood and sent it to toxicologists in Canada and in London.
“Abiola died around 3:40pm and by 4pm, Pickering read his typed-written press statement and said he must have died of heart attack. The doctor that took Abiola’s body to Aso Rock clinic had not come when Pickering addressed the press. Could something have triggered the heart attack? The answer is yes. We also know that there are drugs that can affect the rhythm of the heart. Such drugs can disturb the rhythm of the heart to an extent that the heart can stop pumping blood. If you give it to anyone to drink in tablet or liquid form, it can make the heart to stop within minutes. Does this leave traces in the blood? Yes, because medical science has perfected all that now. They just conducted the post-mortem of Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian man that died about five years ago. When he died, nobody suspected, but now they believe he was poisoned and they are trying to find out what type of poison it was”.
Asked if medical science can detect the poison even now, Dr. Falomo said:
Yes, and that is why we are calling for a more detailed investigation into the cause of Abiola’s death. Why are the human rights activists here not pushing for further investigation into Abiola’s death? Our government did not even want to say that the man won the election, until President Goodluck Jonathan came.
Major Hamza Al-Mustapha suffered a very long term in detention while being prosecuted for human rights violations including the murder of Kudirat Abiola and the attempted murder of Chief Alex Ibru, publisher of The Guardian which became a torn-in-the-flesh for the Abacha regime.
His first public appearance was at the Human Rights Violations Commission otherwise known as Oputa Panel. In the course of investigations into Abiola’s death at the Commission, Al-Mustapha, then a captive of the state, consistently asked questions about how Abiola was killed.
He also made expositions that pointed fingers at the regime that succeeded Abacha. He remained unequivocal in detailing his interactions with Abiola and how much he worked to secure him until the fateful day when Abiola was moved to another location without his knowledge.
Al-Mustapha also disclosed that he had documents detailing developments around Abiola which were however confiscated from him upon arrest and detention. He said the documents were part of 15 bags carried away from his home in Kano and Abuja on the orders of the Head of State, Gen. Abubakar.
Out of detention after almost 15 years, Major Al-Mustapha has not relented in asking questions that are rather pointers to who killed Abiola.
He has also made revelations as to how the government called in some South-west leaders to the Villa and after a meeting, they returned to chorus that June 12 was over and that the region was ready to live on without Abiola.
In a video that went viral recently, Al-Mustapha was seen making direct allusions to the connivance of some prominent southwest leaders with the powers that be at the time, to bury Abiola with details of his death.
Specifically, he named a prominent southwest leader, who became an acolyte of a former governor in Lagos state, as being the spokesman of the region after monetary gifts had changed hands between the government and the leaders in the bid to cover details of Abiola’s death and end the agitations for validation of the June 12, 1993 presidential election results. Some of those same leaders are also celebrating the Federal Government’s honour on Abiola.
To fully get a hand on who actually killed Abiola and how, Dr. Falomo and Major Al-Mustapha hold the aces.
By Femi Qudus…
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