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Revisiting Al-Mustapha’s struggle for justice

Held for almost eleven years and facing one of the longest trials within human memory, these victims of political trial have no idea when justice…

Held for almost eleven years and facing one of the longest trials within human memory, these victims of political trial have no idea when justice will ever come their way. The emotional, psychological and physical pains of long detention have taken a heavy toll on the poor detainees who have no godfather to speak for their freedom.

According to legal maxim, justice delayed is justice denied. When former President Obasanjo took office in May 1999, he was impatiently thirsting for revenge and it was not surprising why he wasted no time to have them in detention to face trial for alleged attempted murder of the late Kudirat Abiola.

It is obvious that Obasanjo went after Major Al-Mustapha and others not because he had special love for Kudirat but because the issue suited his private agenda to get rid of his perceived enemies. Since his conviction by Gen. Abacha for his role in the 1995 coup, Gen. Obasanjo was determined to inflict maximum revenge on the victims.

What makes Al-Mustafa’s alleged murder trial different is the political nature of the case. The revelations by the star witness, Sergeant Rogers have tainted the credibility of the case. Nothing infects justice worse than the virus of prejudice. Day by day, as the trial proceeds, Nigerians are treated to shocking details of how the former Obasanjo administration was desperate to use Sergeant Rogers to achieve his devilish scheming against Major Al-Mustafa and others.

According to Sergeant Rogers, two former Ministers of Justice, the late chief Bola Ige and Mr. Kanu Agabi and the former Lagos State Attorney General, Professor Femi Osinbanjo, had visited him in prison and solicited his cooperation to convict Al-Mustafa and other suspects. He alleged that they promised him handsome rewards if he could do so. The reinstatement of Sergeant Rogers into the Nigerian army by the former Obasanjo administration was part of the deal to secure his maximum cooperation to convict Al-Mustafa and others.

Unfortunately, Sergeant Rogers turned a hostile witness. Instead of playing into Obasanjo’s script, he revealed how the former President had wanted to use him to implicate his enemies. Sgt. Rogers adverse witness account turned out to be a major embarrassment to the prosecution team. When Justice is pursued with a hidden agenda, the credibility of the case will also suffer.

The former Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi, who was earlier acquitted, convincingly told the court that Obasanjo wanted him dead because he opposed the decision by the Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar administration to endorse   Obasanjo as the official presidential candidate of the PDP in 1999.

Bamaiyi’s logic was that it was unwise to hand over power to a former military ruler when Nigeria was returning to civil democratic rule. From that moment, Gen. Bamaiyi became Obasanjo’s marked man. Although he was lucky to be acquitted after spending ten years in detention, Gen. Bamaiyi almost lost his life after his health declined dangerously and had to be taken to Dubai for urgent medical attention.

The silence of Mr. Agabi and Professor Osinbanjo over the allegation by Sgt. Rogers that they had wanted him to implicate Al-Mustafa and others has lent credence to  suspicion of political motives in the case. Chief Bola Ige is dead to defend himself but it is incredible why Agabi and Osinbanjo should conveniently choose to keep quiet.

Because of the politically muddled up nature of the case and the fact that they spent almost eleven years in detention, Major Al-Mustafa and other suspects deserve pardon. Their case requires urgent political solution just as was the case with the amnesty for Niger Delta militants and other political detainees released by the federal government.

Despite the criminal nature of their offences, the Niger Delta militants, including Alhaji Asari Dokubo, were released as part of a political solution. The same gesture was extended to the OPC leaders and the leader of MASSOB, chief Ralph Uwazuruike. In the same vein, Al-Mustafa and other suspects should be released by the federal government. They have suffered enough for their alleged crime. It is not wise to discriminate against any group of Nigerians in the application of state pardon. Northern political leaders, including governors, senators and representatives, should be ashamed of themselves for showing lack of interest in the plight of Al-Mustafa and other suspects. Yoruba, Igbo and Niger Delta politicians have played great roles in the freedom of their political detainees facing criminal charges.

 Razaq writes from Block 24, Ibrahim Taiwo Road, IIorin Kwara State

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