THURSDAY Column with Mohammed Adamu
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CLOGGING THE TRIAL
Abacha’s anti-June 12 decree was in such terribly ridiculous taste, even the junta’s Secretary for Information who announced its promulgation, Comrade Uche Chukwumerije –although he was rumored to carry the one-page document wherever he went- was probably ashamed beyond that to propagate it, let alone, to work out an effective mechanism for its enforcement. In fact by this time then June 12 had become such a discomforting albatross on the neck of the military establishment that it did not know whether keeping Abiola endlessly in jail was an incentive to its effort at consolidation or a disincentive. And worst still MKO’s trial had soon also drifted into a conundrum, with two senior lawyers –FRA Williams and G.OK. Ajayi- locked in an unending legal battle over who had Abiola’s leave to represent him in court. Williams insisted that both Abiola and his family members had briefed him to take over from Ajayi, who insisted that he needed to be properly briefed by his client, Abiola, to drop out.
The Government on the other hand gloated over the impasse and expectedly therefore was not about to bring the accused, Abiola, to the open court so that the representation issue could be resolved once and for all. Nor was the Government ready to allow access to MKO in his prison cell by either of the senior lawyers since doing so would unwittingly provide an avenue to resolve the representation saga. In fact at this time even Abiola’s Doctor, Falomo was no longer allowed access to him. This inevitably stalled the treason trial –as Government had wanted, and now endlessly kept Abiola in jail with the pleasant implication that there was no more bad press for the government each time he was brought to the court in Black Maria –and especially with the Police always having a hectic tear-gassing time with stones-throwing protesters including curse-bearing nude old women around the court. Nothing could be more terribly de-campaigning for the Abacha junta on the international scene.
But if the Government had thought that stalling Abiola’s trial would translate into relief for it from the prying eyes of local and international media, it soon found out the contrary, namely that keeping Abiola in jail endlessly without trial was equally as worrisome to the international community. Thus Abacha had soon found out that neither continuing nor discontinuing the high-profile trial could save the Government from the outrage especially of an international community which had made it clear it was waiting eagerly for a just closure to the June 12 debacle. Nor was releasing Abiola –even if on conditional- bail a palatable option. Because the Government evidently was not about to risk freeing a man such as MKO who was not only armed with a popular mandate but who had already proclaimed himself President.
FAKING A BAIL
Soon as the no-trial period dragged, the Government came up with what turned out to be a deceptive bail offer to Abiola which perfection was obviously intended to be mired in the controversy of who was the legitimate legal representative to execute. Since discrediting the June 12 struggle was high on the Government’s immediate objectives, the impasse between the two senior lawyers over legal representation provided a perfect opportunity to spin an un-executable bail-grant. And so, that infamous bail offered Abiola by Justice Abdullahi Mustapha of the Federal High Court was after all a carefully choreographed ruse never intended to be executed. It was informed by the junta’s desperation for some breather from the harangues of an international community now pushing for the release of MKO. Granting Abiola bail and then alleging that he had spurned it or that a disagreement between his lawyers was in the way of perfecting it, would kill two birds with one stone: first it would revitalize the worsted image of the junta internationally and then it would now shift the onus of resolving the June 12 impasse off Abacha to the courts.
Many had wondered why, amidst a surfeit of judges in Abuja, a particular one of Niger State extraction, Abdullahi Mustapha, would be flown in a Presidential jet from his Benin base, to Abuja on a Saturday to grant bail in such a hurry -on a treason charge- to an accused person who previously was not even allowed a leave of court to have access to his lawyers or personal physician. Those who ordinarily should celebrate the prospect of that bail were suddenly apprehensive of a conspiracy to release the man and then get him bumped or sniped on the outside; -a bail which could not wait just two more days to the next Monday and at the grant of which there were neither clerks in court nor Abiola’s lawyers, except some curious-looking Abacha foot soldiers (Adedibu and Pascal Bafyau) who presented themselves as ‘representing Abiola interest’. The question was asked: ‘if Justice Mustapha so urgently needed to convene his court on a Saturday to grant a bail that could not wait just 48 hours to Monday, why was it not equally necessary that the beneficiary of the bail was as expeditiously served the bail papers? Needless to say that Abiola was never released; nor was he even aware that he was to be released. In fact after FRA Williams eventually took over Abiola’s case from G.O.K Ajayi, a fresh attempt by him to perfect the bail was vehemently opposed by the same Government prosecutors on the grounds that the bail documents were ‘forged’.
AVERTING THE WORST
Earlier, a grand design to plant a voluptuous female as one of Abiola’s cell guards who was detailed to compromise him carnally had been frustrated via a quick warning note to him by Mr. Lisa Olu Akerele through a regular channel which we had maintained, of sympathetic –even if regularly paid- security informants. Had the Government’s plan succeeded, Abiola was to have been a lone porn star in a video cassette which would be delivered to major embassies of the world hopefully at last to discredit the June 12 struggle by showing that while the international community was on top of it, the arrowhead of the struggle himself was busy violating the sanctity of his detention facility to titillate himself. If memory serves right, on a very bad day thereafter, something terribly went wrong, as with all high-risk security channels like this, and this avenue was busted by El-Mustapha’s men, leading to the arrest of so many agents including Akerele himself. But this would’ve been the worst blow ever that the June 12 struggle may never have recovered from, if it had been successfully delivered. Olu Akerele almost paid the supreme sacrifice for paying to maintain the very channel which averted this.
The ‘cat’ with the nine lives (June 12), had not only survived the antics of its worst traducer, namely Abacha who had suddenly died, ironically in nearly as compromised a situation as he had plotted for Abiola, but little did we know that the ghost of June 12 in fact had the resilience to survive even its alter ego himself Abiola, who was assassinated by the Abdussalami regime in the foolish hope that at last this wandering ghost seeking to be rested would be content with the bodies of the two major contending gladiators interred. By the way General Abdussalami, when he took over, was a little more imaginative. He chose to hand over on May 29th as a ploy to make that date our ‘Democracy Day’. He needed only have waited some 13 days more to do so on June 12. But no! As the gods would want it, June 12 had also been fated to wrestle and to overcome even the more insidiously subtle antics of the man who superintended over the assassination of Abiola.
FROM GCFR TO C-IN-C
June 12 at last has risen from the ashes. It has taken the center stage of our democratic narrative. There is no stopping it, it seems. Until our ‘Democracy Day’ becomes also our ‘Hand Over Date’. Until the late MKO is recognized, posthumously as having been elected –and thus taking his rightful place as President and Commander In Chief.
In June 23 2016 when I wrote ‘ODE TO MKO: A PARODY OF SHAKESPEARE’, I was as prophetic as I could be when I said: “we grieve not, knowing that he died so that the essay of our new dawn may be made legible. Lie still in thy muted grave my liege MKO. Thy rest is nigh; thy repose will soon come. Thy tongue-less tomb will soon be laced with a waxen epitaph; and it shall proclaim: ‘Here lies the President who, in Heaven before the angels, took his oath; and posthumously on earth, is crowned ‘Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.