From MOLLY KILETE, Abuja
dr. Idoiye Ikoli, a medical practitioner, is the elder brother of the late Rear Admiral Daniel Ikoli. In the aftermath of his younger brother’s sudden death, he spoke with Sunday Sun, recalling what it was like growing up and the kind of upbringing their late father, a retired Navy Commander gave to them. He also debunked the claim that his younger brother committed suicide.
How would you describe your late brother?
My immediate younger brother would have been 52 on October 2, this year. We came from a humble background. My father was a naval officer, who retired as a Commander. He was well respected during his days in the Navy. So growing up as children, my father used to tell us that it was better to have a good name than to pursue wealth. So he instilled in us the virtue of hard work, that no matter the situation, hard work would always take precedence. My father also had this unassuming attitude to life and had respect for everyone, no matter your cadre. That was the kind of life we were used to and all of us toed the line of being very humane and humble people. I don’t know if you have been following the reactions of other people to the death of my younger brother. His colleagues would tell you exactly the kind of person they interacted with. The news of his death was very shocking. I was coming in from the United States and stopped over in Dubai, from where I called the family only for me to be told about what happened. It’s very shocking. I have the very best memories of him.
Do you believe that your brother took his own life?
With what I know about my brother and the way we trust in God, it is a terrible thing to imagine. The thought of it does not even arise because this was a hard working person, a person that was willing to face challenges and that was what brought him to limelight in the Navy. He recently served on the Presidential Committee on Arms Procurement, and was the only naval officer in that committee. In constituting that committee, it is on record that members were selected based on credibility and diligence. So that means he was indeed recognized as a diligent and credible person. He was no doubt hard working and that was what took him to that position and, of course, he was promoted because of his dedication and diligence. So to answer your question directly, my brother didn’t take his life.
What about the rumour that he took his life because of an undisclosed health condition?
If he had an ailment, he would have told me because we were always together and I discussed freely with him. And for goodness sake, I do not know where that is coming from. The Nigerian Navy carries out physical and medical tests on its personnel every year. Again, I discuss health issues with him because he is very particular about his health. As a matter of fact, if you tell him you have to put on some weight, he would tell you that it would be unhealthy. He took very good care of his health and had never been overweight. He was well trained and smart and had never been on the fat side. In fact, while we were growing up, we used to tease him that he didn’t want to put on weight. When he was promoted, I visited him in Abuja, and just jokingly said, ‘Daniel, I think now you should put on some weight and he said, ‘No, no, I don’t want to put on weight.’ Now at the level of his career, people tended to see a lot of generals on the heavy side with potbelly because they believe that it is a way of showing affluence but he had never been obese. I can assure you of that. People who knew him would readily attest he was never obese. Indeed, he was a workaholic.
Do you suspect any foul play?
Yes, because he served in the committee that investigated the procurement of arms in the armed forces. I have reason to suspect that there was foul play. You know, for his kind of person known to have an uncompromising attitude and working on such a sensitive committee, one could be a target of deadly plots. You never know whose toes he might have stepped on. But that notwithstanding, my faith is so strong in God that the way I look at it is that what has happened has happened. And nobody knows where it came from. What I just know is that my younger brother is dead and he is gone. It is a terrible thing, so the thought about suspicion is not something I want to hold on to that much. Anything could have happened, you never could tell. We live our lives, but you never know what it is and what may have happened. People are saying, ‘oh, he did very well and probably had good prospects in the Navy like becoming the Chief of Naval Staff. His colleagues knew well and how hard he worked for the good and service of the country. He was a very brave officer and at that level of his career, there is so much competition and he was not interested in that kind of competition. He wasn’t a rash person, he was not a drunkard, he was not involved in crude oil deals, he was a very disciplined officer, who had deep concern for the welfare of his personnel. He was also concerned about his mates and colleagues. We grew up together. He was not just my immediate younger brother, but he was my friend, so I knew him very well. All his mates knew because we were always together. Just the other day when I went to the hospital to see his body, one of them came in and asked, ‘Where is doctor, where is doctor?’God knows best. All I can say now is let’s keep our fingers crossed and see what they will come up with after the investigation.
What do you have to say about the speculation that he was worried about being assassinated? Did he ever tell you of such fears?
I was not available for a while, so he might have discussed with any of my siblings, but it was not a topic, because I always told him to keep his faith in God and do what he had to do. The truth is that anything that was right he had to do, he would go ahead to do it. Perhaps, he may have informed other sources about threats to his life, but I don’t quite remember having such discussions with him. Maybe he discussed with somebody because I was not available for him to discuss with me.
It was also speculated that he was worried about the effect of the exchange rate on his children’s school fees?
I don’t know where all that is coming from. He has one of his children abroad. I mean, the issue of exchange rate affects everybody and every Nigerian who is involved in the issue of foreign exchange. So that should not cause him troubles. The last time I met with him and we discussed, this was not an issue that could make him commit suicide. Well, I don’t know because these days some journalists and other bloggers just publish anything without doing proper investigation.
What would you miss about him?
He was a very loving brother and someone that inspired a lot of confidence in the younger generation. I saw that he had indeed kept to all the attributes our parents instilled in us; he exhibited them to the letter and those were very genuine attributes. Again, whoever I met and introduced myself as Dr. Ikoli, they would say, ‘oh, I know your brother in the Navy, he is doing a very great work.’ They always said very good things about him, describing him as a very good man, who was very hardworking and very committed to the welfare of his men. And those are the things that would make anybody feel happy if good things were being said about your relations. I mean, he was really wonderful. Before going to serve in the arms probe committee, the people at the command he headed have kept on talking that the command was completely turned around because of his good work while at NNS Beecroft. It was said that nobody ever commanded the place the way he did. He changed a lot of things and I was quite impressed by all that. I told him that our father, if he was alive, would have been so proud of him. That was the way we encouraged each other.
What is the burial plan?
Well, we are really in great shock but we are putting ourselves together, to see what we have to do. I believe that by end of the week, we would have been able to make progress in planning the funeral.
Colleagues say Naval officer’s death suspicious
From MOLLY KILETE, Abuja
fresh facts are beginning to emerge over the alleged suicide of Rear Admiral Daniel Ikoli, who died last Tuesday, in Lagos.
Serving and retired officers who spoke with Sunday Sun contended that there was no way the deceased officer would have taken his own life as being speculated, given his attitude to life.
They also debunked rumours that the late Admiral Ikoli was suffering from an undisclosed illness that prompted him to commit suicide, saying that the claims were meant to divert the attention of the Nigerian Navy, the police and the public from the truth and possibly get his immediate family to accept what happened in good faith.
Military officers who spoke on the condition of anonymity believed that those who murdered the officer might have spurned the rumours.
Ikoli was a member of 33 Regular Course of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), and an indigene of Bayelsa State. He was described as a man with a lion heart who was determined to go through any challenging situation and come out stronger.
“So let’s stop assuming he truly committed suicide, that is not possible,” a retired Rear Admiral, who the deceased officer happened to have worked with at the National Defence College (NDC) in Abuja, told Sunday Sun over the telephone.
“Let us assume it was true that the officer actually killed himself. However, before we conclude, look at it this way: those who went into the room where the lifeless body of the officer was, said that they found three expended bullets in the room. How is it then possible that he actually shot himself? Because if somebody carries a gun and shoot himself once, I can assure you he will not have the strength to pull the trigger for a second round. I don’t think it was suicide, I just think they should investigate it thoroughly. He could not have taken his life,” he said.
The night before Ikoli died, he attended a party held by the Flag Officer Commanding, Western Naval Command. “How could somebody who wanted to commit suicide attend a party and be merry, a sourced queried?”
Some of the colleagues believe that the brutal killing of Ikoli might not be unconnected with the “uncompromising position” he took when he served on the Presidential Committee on Arms Importation, stressing that individuals who had vested interest and who might be negatively affected probably had a hand in the slaying of the admiral.
For instance, they said some people were not happy that the deceased officer was given accelerated promotion shortly after completing his assignment at the panel, when most of his mates in the Army and Air Force were still wearing their ranks of one-star general.
Aside these speculations, it was also rumoured that the killing of the officer could have been prompted by the fears of some people who perceived that he might be appointed as the next Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) as the tenure of the incumbent, Admiral Ibok-Ette Ibas, would expire in the next few weeks.
It is believed that with his accelerated promotion and track record in his 33-year service had put him in a set of senior officers from among who the next CNS could be appointed any moment from now. It was gathered that the Buhari administration might have tipped him for the position.
“He may have been killed because he is among the set of officers from whose rank the next Chief of Naval Staff would emerge. He has all it takes and at the end of the day it is one of his contemporaries that would emerge the next CNS. So he was also in the race as far as I am concerned,” a military source said.
Military officers who served at the National Defence College, where Ikoli once served as director of administration, described him as a very strict, straightforward, calm and calculated person who did not compromise.
They said that it was from the NDC that he was posted to NNS Beecroft, and then to his present office before he died in mysterious and controversial circumstance.
While at NNS Beecroft, he was said to have demonstrated integrity during the 2015 general elections. Politicians from different parties tried to compromise him with huge sums of money, which he politely rejected.
Ikoli, the son of a retired naval officer apparently took after his father, who was also in the Nigerian Navy. His younger brother, also followed in the same footsteps and enlisted as a member of 34 Regular Combatant Course, but retired from service after putting in a good number of years.
A retired officer from the Nigerian Air Force told Sunday Sun that from his experience as a retired air police officer, it was impossible for a suicide victim to shoot himself twice as alleged.
His words: “When you fire two empty shells, can somebody kill himself twice? Gunshot is always once. Once you fire yourself once, by the time you start doing two empty shells, it means there is a second party.
When Sunday Sun visited Ikoli’s home in one of the estates in Abuja, the building was locked up. Some of his neighbours, who spoke to the reporter, said they last saw him about one month ago.
They said that the widow and children usually came around once in a while to spend time there. They also confirmed that his widow traveled to Lagos last Thursday after the news of her husband’s death broke.
The neighbours described Ikoli as a gentleman who could not go out of his way to hurt anyone. The also noted that he was very fond of his family.
The death of Admiral Ikoli, which is now the topic of discussion among officers and men of the Nigerian armed forces is also said to be generating tension among colleagues who want circumstances surrounding his death unravelled.
They said that if Ikoli’s case was swept under the carpet like many other high profile murder cases, military personnel would no longer be safe in their homes and offices.
Only few weeks ago, an army colonel and former commandant of Command Secondary School in Ibadan, Oyo State, Col. Anthony Okeyim, was murdered in his house. His body was found in his apartment in the school. Sources said he was attacked in front of his official quarters and strangled.