“If you go through the Bible or the Quran, you will see that persecution is the worst form of offence. I was in several detention camps across the country.”
Hamza Al-Mustapha, intelligence operative of the Nigerian Army, was the Chief Security Officer (CSO) to Gen. Sani Abacha, head of state from November 1993 to June 1998. After Abacha’s death, he was arrested, tried and convicted for murder and attempted murder of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, the wife of the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993, presidential election, Chief Moshood Abiola.
Al-Mustapha was, however, discharged and acquitted of the crime by the Appeal Court, Lagos Division, on Friday, July 12, 2013.
In this interview, he opens up on his travails over 15 years, his next political move and thoughts on challenges facing the country.
How would you define a true Nigerian?
A true Nigerian is a person who qualifies for the definition of a patriot. He has extreme love for the country and the citizenry. He is ready to sacrifice all he has, including his life, for Nigeria.
It’s still hard to believe that any Nigerian could strap bombs and embark on a suicide mission. How did we get to this level of terrorism?
There was total negligence on the part of actors and managers of Nigeria, which led to the insecurity mess we are in presently. From the time of the birth of the insurgency in Borno till it escalated and spread to Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe, Bauchi and other parts of the North East, it was wrongly managed. If you look at the actual reason the insurgency in erstwhile peaceful Borno, that it was lack of response at the initial stage before it metamorphosed into a full-blown fight that cannot be curtailed. All parties involved lacked astute leadership.
Also, on the issue of a Nigerian wearing bombs to commit suicide, there is much to be desired. In most of the arrests, majority of the suicide bombers are not Nigerians. There is more to all these suicide bombing that is yet to be unravelled.
Despite the achievements of this administration in the fight against Boko Haram, nobody has been pinpointed as their sponsor. Does this mean we won’t get to the root of the menace?
From my personal investigation, unlike what people thought, Boko Haram started from way back in year 2000. It has spanned all the four presidential leadership since the return to democracy. The major cause from day one was dirty politics as well as insincerity on the part of the leaders, until this administration came into power and decided to face it head-on.
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How can we get the security of the country back intact?
It is very simple. All we need is the political will to do the right thing at all times. We should work on the institutional decay and promotion of greed. Then, the security of life and property will fall in place.
What does freedom means to you?
With freedom, you have everything; without freedom, you lose everything. I spent 15 years and some months in detention. I was persecuted. If you go through the Bible or the Quran, you will see that persecution is the worst form of offence. I was in several detention camps across the country. I was tortured and deprived of virtually everything. Throughout the 15 years, I was only opportune to see my father and mother twice before they died. My siblings and family members were also tortured and chased out of their comfort. The consequence of my torture is what I am treating now within and outside the country. But I thank God that I’m still alive to tell my story.
What has the ugly experience taught you about rule of law in Nigeria?
I must reaffirm my respect and trust in the judiciary. I’ve so much confidence in the Nigerian judiciary as an arm of government. We appeared before 14 judges in 15 years. There were mixed feelings. Some judges approached matters before them based on the media trial they read in the newspapers. My joy is that everything that happened in court is well documented for the public to see because majority of them were not reported in the media. There were several instances whereby the false witnesses they brought to testify against us ended up confessing openly about how they were influenced by our persecutors.
How would you rate the military now, compared to how it used to be?
I’m just back after a long time away from society. I may not be able to give an accurate assessment of today’s military but, of course, I watch happenings in the country from afar. However, going by my recent experiences, I will say a country that doesn’t invest in her military but is always quick to bring them to court martial whenever they err is playing to the gallery. You do not need an ‘aje-butter’ as a commandant, he will be a liability to the country. What you need is a commandant with so much guts and resilience to always ensure adequate protection of the nation’s sovereignty irrespective of intimidation. Remember that an army of goats commanded by a lion will definitely defeat an army of lions commanded by a goat.
What is your opinion on the agitations for state policing?
The fragile position of our democracy and excessive powers given to governors in our Constitution may hinder the effectiveness of state police. People who are agitating for it are basically doing so to ensure safety of their lives, rights and properties but the politicians are not. They are looking at it from the area of power acquisition, sustenance and manipulation of the provisions of the law for them and their cronies to remain in power.