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Al-Mustapha and rule of law

At a time the Yar’adua administration is preaching about the rule of law, one cannot understand why the fate of Major Al-Mustapha, former Zamfara State…

At a time the Yar’adua administration is preaching about the rule of law, one cannot understand why the fate of Major Al-Mustapha, former Zamfara State Military Administrator, Col. Jibrin Bala Yarkubu, former Lagos State Police Commissioner, Mr. James Danbaba and Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) Rabo Lawal is treated with unbelievable apathy by President Yar’adua.

In fact, their trial and continued detention have been discredited by the testimonies of the star witness in the case, Sergeant Rogers, who has credibly established the dark political motives behind their trial.

During one of the court sittings on the issue, Sergeant Rogers alleged that two former Ministers of Justice – the late Chief Bola Ige and Mr. Kanu Agabi had approached him in his cell and solicited his cooperation to implicate the suspects. According to his testimonies, which shocked the prosecution team to the marrow, the two former ministers had promised him handsome rewards if he would agree to help Obasanjo successfully convict the suspects.

Surprisingly, one of the accused former ministers, Mr. Kanu Agabi, who is still alive, has refused to publicly deny the damaging allegations made against him by Sergeant Rogers. To many Nigerians, however, his silence is not funny because the fate of the suspects is hanging in the balance. Worse still, the Yar’adua administration refused to set up a high-powered investigation into the grave allegations made by Sergeant Rogers.

In other Western societies, any suggestion of the perversion of justice would have instantly attracted the attention of the government. Can justice be done when there are malicious private motives? The trial has been burdened by the crisis of credibility. Former Chief of Army Staff, General Ishaya Bamaiyi, almost lost his life in custody because of the repeated refusal of the former Obasanjo administration to allow him go for medical treatment abroad. But eventually, the court let him go to Dubai for urgent medical treatment. He was a sorry figure throughout his trial and he was eventually acquitted because the Obasanjo administration has failed to prove the allegation against him.

Obasanjo wanted him dead because he had the audacity to oppose his endorsement by the former General Abdulsalami Abubakar administration as the Presidential candidate of the PDP in 1999. Gen. Bamaiyi argued that it wouldn’t make sense handing over power to a former military ruler at a point Nigeria was making a transition from military to civil rule. Predictably, as soon as Obasanjo was sworn into office, he went for Gen. Bamaiyi and had him detained for ten years for an alleged murder he knew nothing about.

The acquittal of Gen. Bamaiyi dealt a blow to the credibility of the former Obasanjo administration and put the motives of the case into question. One would have thought that with Bamaiyi’s acquittal, which confirmed sinister political motives in the case, the Yar’adua administration should have intervened to review the entire trial.

If President Yar’adua could find nothing wrong granting amnesty to mass murderers, economic saboteurs and those committing open treason, one cannot explain why the case of Al-Mustapha and other suspects has not attracted his interest. The late Minister of Justice, Chief Bola Ige, used his office to release leaders of the Odua People’s Congress (OPC), Dr. Frederick Fasheun and Ganiyu Adams, despite the murder charges against them, including the killing of police officers. Nigerians are forgiving and that largely explains why the memory of OPC murderous activities has almost faded.

However, while we should have no quarrel with the idea of granting pardon to suspects, selective application of the rule of law and granting of freedom is repugnant to our sense of natural justice. Discrimination against particular suspects carries the risk of dividing Nigerians emotionally and causing dangerous political diversions among fellow citizens.

It appears President Yar’adua is under-estimating the undercurrents of disenchantment among northerners who rightly feel that his administration is treating certain suspects as kings while others are treated as pariahs. For example, Alhaji Asari Dokubo, the Niger Delta militant leader, had not only taken up arms against the government, but also killed about two thousand innocent people in the course of his insurrection. But today, he is a free man and even goes about giving public speeches as a hero.

What a shame that Major Al-Mustapha and others are languishing away in jail for eleven years while terrorists, kidnappers, economic saboteurs and traitors are being celebrated as heroes and being begged to accept amnesty!  

Kachalla writes from 39, Late Brigadier Musa Usman Road, Gombe