Surprisingly, religious fundamentalists have not cashed on the sad moment in fraudulent attempt to further their bogus relevant in society. Within three weeks, Nigeria lost four prominent, indeed very distinguished persons. First was Brigadier-General Mobolaji Johnson, pioneer military governor of Lagos state, a decent man, very distinguished in many aspects, the most notable of which was a clean record he earned as a probed public office holder when almost all his other colleagues forfeited unexplained assets to Federal Government. Also, since leaving office on July 29, 1975, (over 44 years ago), General Mobolaji Johnson maintained an extremely low profile in this God-blessed city, in total contrast with those who throw their weight about creating unnecessary tension by disrupting whatever political arrangement.
Furthermore, throughout his eight-year tenure as military governor, General Johnson exhibited such humility by conferring honour and respect on deserving young and particularly senior citizens in society. A widower for the past few years, General Johnson still substantially restricted himself from the social scene. Nevertheless, his health deteriorated lately. Yet, his death came as a shock. If good deeds and self comportment are measures for finding favour with God, Mobolaji Johnson will rest in peace.
Dr. Ore Falomo who made his name in the medical field also died. He will mostly be remembered for the positive role he played throughout the political problems of Bashorun MKO Abiola. Falomo’s combination of his professional calling with the daunting task of trying to rescue Abiola from their mutual military friends was a persona feat.
Much has been written about Tam David-West, not less than he deserved.
The fourth Nigerian whose death similarly evoked shock was flamboyant ex-Information Minister, Alex Akinyele, also known as Alexco. Throughout his public life, a social top notcher, Akinyele frequented social circuit instantly recognised always in full Yoruba dress ever with s matching cap, or he would make himself instantly recognised with beaming smile and a seeming Hubert Macauley signature moustache as he (Akinyele) moved round to exchanged pleasantries with as many friends and acquaintances as possible. He had this charisma that would easily disarm even a budding critic.
Taking advantage of his towering figure, Akinyele’s imposing personality and good build made him one of the best dressed Nigerians of his generation. His disappearance from the social scene in the past two years and self-restriction to his home town, Ondo, was a slight indication that he was failing in health. That was Alex Akinyele, as he returned to his creator.
Kogi prospects for 2023 polls?
The governorship election in Kogi State was preceded by the usual intimidating announcement of security personnel, specifically thousands of policemen dispatched in advance. Once again, it proved unnecessary bravado expected to instill fear into the traditional merchants of death who always excel in any election in Nigeria. But the Kogi excercise was just like any other election since almost forty years ago. Indeed, to put it most effectively because we seem to have forgotten so soon, the Kogi election drew Nigeria back some forty years.
Indeed, fifty-year olds might not appreciate the alarm which the Kogi elections should raise among Nigerians with the arson which claimed, most probably among others, the life of a woman leader of the opposition People’s Democratic Party, (PDP). The sad episode was virtually a repeat of post-election violent protests in Akure, Ondo State against the initial result of the 1983 governorship elections. The instant shock of the Kogi fatal arson is that as yet, we learnt nothing from the 1983 tragedy.
In 1983, Akin Omoboriowo was hitherto deputy governor to Michael Ajasin on the platform of Unity Party of Nigeria. However, Omoboriowo quit the party to contest on the platform of National Party of Nigeria (NPN) against UPN’s Ajasin for the governorship. Rightly or wrongly, Omoboriowo was declared the winner. Within hours, people revolted and took to the streets in Akure, in the process, decapitating a prominent NPN member, Chief Agbayewa. It is gory repeating these details but only such can adequately portray the journey to another madness inherent in the Kogi disaster.
A major part of the violence of the 1983 elections in Ondo state was the burning alive of an erstwhile die hard Awoist, Chief Olaiya Fagbamigbe, a publisher of many articles he authored in appreciation of Obafemi Awolowo. Then came post-military rule politics of 1979. Within four years, Fagbamigbe was among those who quit Awo’s party (UPN) for NPN. In the public revolt at Akure, Ondo state, in total rejection of purported NPN’s victory for the governorship of Ondo state, Chief Olaiya Fagbamigbe house was set on fire by the rioters, leaving him no chance to escape. Even if Olaiya came out from the arson, he would still have been lynched by the mob.
That was the repeat performance visited on a prominent politician in Kogi. Nothing could be more disgusting, illogical and unacceptable like the death of PDP women’s leader in Lokoja, Kogi State, Mrs. Acheju Abuh. Robbing salt into the wound was the official claim in Lokoja that the deceased was killed by fellow PDP members. At any rate, by whosoever, Mrs. Akeju was killed, either APC or PDP member(s) and whatever her crime, nobody or group or the state government has the right under the law to authorise, aquiesce, rationalise, let alone embark on summary death penalty through arson without right of fair hearing. And some people without conscience, after the woman’s murder attended church or mosque? What for? To seek forgiveness or rejoice for unlawfully killing a fellow human being in the circumstances? Have we become so callous and bloodthirsty in this country? Are we so backward in 2019?
If since 1983, we still revel in politics of do or die, what progress, if any, is in the offing? There is, at least for now, the seeming relief that President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered full scale police investigation into the death of of Mrs. Acheju Abuh. Nigeria Police? The same Nigeria Police which investigated the armed robbery murder of Funke Olakunrin, daughter of Chief Reuben Fasoranti? The preference is that Nigerians of whatever political affiliation should not be murdered during elections. Whatever police findings, Acheju Abuh is dead and can never be resurrected.
In the light of futility of police investigations, Acheju Abuh died or indeed, was killed for nothing. The effect? Arson or any form of murder of political rivals would have been legitimised. Who would be safe from such crime against humanity? APC or PDP? Neither side as 1983 in Ondo state and 2019 in Kogi state would have become dishonourable trade mark in the struggle for political power in Nigeria. That should not be the emblem for this country in the comity of nations.
Incidentally, there was this other aspect in the tragedy of Kogi state governorship elections which would still not justify the murder of the PDP women’s leader, Acheju Abuh. One of her party supporters was reported to have attacked, and perhaps killed a political opponent on the fateful day. On the approach of obvious APC avengers, probably a lynch mob, the PDP culprit was reported to have taken to his heels and took sanctuary in Acheju Abuh’s house. The mob traced him to the place and demanded his release to be slaughtered or burnt alive. What could she have done? To release her supporter for a waiting instant disaster? In any subsequent criminal investigation, Acheju Abuh stood the risk of being cited by the police for alleged complicity in such murder. Perhaps, to avoid that, she lost her own life.
There is a lesson for both parties as well as willing thugs in the service of their patrons and matrons. Surviving ones should purse and count their blessings and losses, whichever they choose. 2023 is frightening but Ondo 2020 can offer hope.
For the moment, political violence is a stain on Nigeria in an exercise where Senegal, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and others shine their distinction.