It is trying times for Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, as he seems (merely seems) to be so vulnerable to critics either demanding he should resign or be sacked. On this matter, even the innocent man on the street is understandable but it is a question of ignorance (let’s not say mischief) of elites.
Let’s face it, even after the so-called outing of the Lagos State Government white paper on the Lekki massacre, it was wrong to have deployed soldiers to unarmed protesters at Lekki and worse still, the attempted cover up. Before then was the convenient excuse that in the absence of dead bodies, what was the proof that anybody died or that soldiers killed anybody at Lekki? Have you noticed that not much is said these days about the purported absence of corpses at Lekki to embellish the claim of Lagos state government that soldiers merely went for a tea party unsolicited by unknown persons? This was because this column revealed that the Oro cult in 1953 in Lagos, disappeared till today, with the corpse of Alhaji Bisiriyu Apalara, into a house, No. 8 Tapa Street. off Kano Street, East, Ebute Metta? Yet, following the Aplara murder trial in Lagos, eleven cultists, (repeat eleven cultists) were hanged in Lagos even without ever finding the corpse of the murder victim
If under the white rule, eleven cultists, indeed murderers were hanged in Lagos in 1953 for the murder of one man whose corpse was never found till today, why can’t a similar trial be arranged now in view of the almost carbon-copy circumstantial evidence? In 1953, street lights were suddenly switched off at Kano street, Ebute Metta to cover up for members of the Oro cult who killed Apalara. At Lekki, street lights were similarly switched off. Eventually, to cover up for the murder operations at Lekki, the CCTV cameras were switched off to deliberately prevent scene of blatant murder being recorded. Then, to cover up everything, vehicles with sweepers underneath turned up in the early morning following the criminal operations mainly to wash away bloodstains of the deceased. Who did all these and for what purpose except to cover up crimes? Certainly, not the unarmed protesters who had earlier been scattered by the invading army?
Who requested for and sent the invading soldiers? Not the protesters? Governor Sanwo-Olu denied ever being part of the violence of the invading soldiers. The army, initially denied ever being at Lekki but after finding itself abandoned and put on the spot, had to throw it back that it was deployed to Lekki at the request of the governor. The same Sanwo-Olu, initially said to protesters that only two were killed and offered them two million naira (about four thousand dollars), which the protesters rejected as blood money rather than chicken change. Has the governor been asked to resign? If all these submissions were made by Lagos State Commissioner for Information, Gbenga Omotoso, the poor fellow would have been under pressure to resign.
Information Minister Lai Mohammed is facing that pressure. How logical in view of the above? More significantly, in 1984, late General Babatunde Idiagbon was Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters under the military regime of General Muhammadu Buhari. Long detention and eventual trial of the president, vice-president, former governors and former ministers were pivotal in the policy of that regime. As a prelude, General Idiagbon, at a media briefing attended by the topmost in the media all over the country shocked the gathering with a specific allegation that the five former governors of the opposition Unity Party of Nigeria had confessed (repeat confessed) that each of them looted the treasury during their tenure. What was to be said of the erstwhile self-glorifying Awolowo’s men, being exposed as just another set of treasury looters? But Awolowo, in a sort “Cool down, men….” rebuttal to Nigerian friends and foes within hours countered the blatantly false allegation by Idiagbon in claiming (Awolowo that was) that as at the time he was speaking, his party’s former governors: Michael Ajasin, Bisi Onabanjo, Ambrose Alli, Lateef Jakande and Bola Ige had not even been interrogated yet, let alone confessed to stealing a kobo. Repeat Awolowo. This was an unexpected news as we say in this profession and inevitably no reporter could afford to miss it.
Who was correct between General Idiagbon and Chief Obafemi Awolowo? Nobody could react but I did in this column (then on the defunct National Concord). That was in 1984, as we all waited for the facts. If Idiagbon was correct, then Chief Awolowo would lose much in political reputation. If on the other hand, Awolowo was correct, that would put General Idiagbon in a difficult situation in his fight against corruption. The trial commenced for all the five governors and surprisingly, only one was found guilty and duly convicted. That outcome was the easiest interpretation. As only one UPN former governor was found guilty, it meant Chief Awolowo was correct that as at the time he was reacting, his former governors had not yet been questioned as General Idiagbon claimed or was misled to misinform Nigerians. Or if all five UPN governors had truly confessed to looting the treasury, there was no way the military tribunal could find four of the governors not guilty to discharge and acquit them. That was an issue so hot between the national opposition leader and Nigeria’s interim deputy military leader. For anybody to keep quiet would not do our history any good. The only advice I offered Idiagbon was to avoid a repeat of such controversy in future.
What was General Idiagbon to do? Quit or jump into the Atlantic ocean? Did anybody ask for his resignation? Months later, while political stormy petrel of the UPN, Ebenezer Babatope was in detention in Lagos, I attended the funeral service of his father, Reverend Babatope in Ilesha where I ran into Awolowo’s private secretary and former editor of Nigerian Tribune, Banji Kuroloja, who kept on unusually smiling, such that I had to inquire from him what. was funny about me. The man explained that he simply remembered the piece in my column summarised above and which, according to him, he read to Chief Awolowo as part of his daily routine, as pressure is not comfortable for the sight of the aged.
According to Awolowo’s private secretary, the former UPN leader asked for the column to be read for him a repeat of the piece and yet another repeat, making three times. Still, Awolowo was curious to know which paper carried the column and who was the columnist. Coming from a newspaper, National Concord, most critical of Chief Awolowo in his political history, and Duro Onabule, one of his fiercest critics? Neither Chief Awolowo nor any of his lieutenants bothered about resignation or dismissal of Idiagbon. In any case, Chief Awolowo had been in public service for a long time with wide knowledge of its complexities.
Hence, when he knew that his former governors were yet to be interrogated and so publicly vouched for them, it had to be conceded that General Idiagbon relied on briefings at his disposal. Topic closes, even on Lai Mohammed.
On Aburi Keyamo stands
That even Minister of State in the Ministry of Labour did not know to what he was plunging when he claimed on television that the judicial panel set up by a state government into atrocities committed by any of the federal security agencies was illegal? The atrocities committed by these agencies were such that every reason is being employed to jettison the probe. Many of these critics are either too young or forgetful to remember our history, past and/or present.
The man in the dock is Festus Keyamo and he cannot be said to be uneducated about our past and of course, our present history. After independence in 1960, we commenced killing ourselves, such that brotherhood disappeared. We could feel safe to jointly attend any meeting in any particular part of the country, especially if the participants were armed men. That dangerous precedent has since spread into Boko Haram, bandits, terrorists, insurgents, freedom fighters. Distrust, betrayals and self-aggrandisement are the words.
Our neighbours probably underestimated our mutual distrust and invited us to an all expenses-paid gathering hoping for a reconciliation of the warring groups. Each side presented its case and agreement and agreement reached on all issues in dispute. That was at Aburi, Ghana in 1967. Back home, powerful stakeholders, comprising miseducated elites, university lecturer and self-centred top echelon of the civil service took it on themselves to dismiss those who met at Aburi as too naive to solve the country’s problems since these self-appointed groups were impliedly to lose their power of awarding contracts and distributing political/high ranking civil service appointments among their family members and friends. That worst fear that they would lose their privileged status within our government not only influenced but finally dominated their mentality as they demanded and, along with their murderously ambitious politicians, supervised the throwing of Aburi Report to the dogs to be substituted by their own political design. Since Aburi Report could be pronounced illegal in 1967, any document can follow the same route. Of what value is the Lekki murder report?
Nigeria tried the new political design but there was no show as governors always betray on who would or should succeed then. Only in Nigeria does an incumbent insist and impose a successor, thereby perhaps unconsciously, rendering the constitution illegal like the Lekki report. With state governors, no agreement is legal or honoured on his successor. It is not a special or peculiar Festus Keyamo thing. Who killed Aburi report? Nigerians. Who are killing agreement with various workers union or professional unions? Fellow Nigerians. The source is always the throwing of Aburi report to the dogs as always all public reports.
Unfortunately for them, they became even with their own political design, they became insatiable for more. First term agreement.