Retired Major Hamza al-Mustapha was the Chief Security Officer (CSO) of then military head of state of Nigeria, General Sani Abacha, from November 1993 to June 1998. After the death of General Abacha, he was arrested and subjected to marathon trials for the murder and attempted murder of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola.
On January 30, 2012, A Lagos high court sitting at Igbosere had convicted him for the murder of Kudirat Abiola, the wife of the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993, presidential election, Chief Moshood Abiola. He was also sentenced to death by hanging.
On Friday, July 12, 2013, Al-Mustapha was discharged and acquitted of the crime by the Appeal Court, Lagos Division, on grounds that there was not enough evidence to incriminate him in the murder of Kudirat Abiola. The verdict, which overturned that of the Lagos High Court which had sentenced him to death by hanging, consequently, set Al-Mustapha free after a period of 15 years.
He speaks of his persecution and need for unbiased political leadership to avert current threats of insurgency. Excerpts:
Our traditional question is, Who is a true Nigerian?
A true Nigerian is him who qualifies for the true definition of a patriot. One who has a true love for his country and the citizenry. One who is ready to scarify what he has for the country, including his or her life. A true Nigerian is one who can initiate and create. One who can go on discovery voyage for the wellbeing of this country and humanity. A true Nigerian is a dependable, reliable brother or sister that can do much more than what an ordinary man or woman can do, irrespective of status.
You have been through a lot for the sake of your duties to this country. Having spent 15 years in prison, what does freedom mean to you?
First, each individual has his own destiny. Many people went to prison; but if you find yourself in prison on grounds of persecution, then there is every pride for you to look toward brighter days when freedom comes because you have worshiped God almighty as to the Muslim faith and as did Jesus, recorded in the Bible.
I went through a lot of torture, which resulted in some health issues I am still treating now, both in Nigeria and abroad. It was never an easy journey, but God almighty knows best. I lost everything, including sleep, access to my lawyer, parents, family and friends for years as punishment.
I remember seeing my father and mother just two times each before they died, while I was in prison; and my family was not left out. They were endlessly harassed, sometimes kept out under the rain by men with arms, with claims of searching the house, and my younger brother was arrested several times. I remember them taking everything from me, including my children’s toys, thinking I kept some things in them, but they found nothing.
I will summarily say that there is nothing like freedom. You do not want to taste the other side of it. Persecution, I must say is the worst form of offence. The true definition for persecution is when you lose everything in its totality. Your rights as enshrined in every law around the whole world. I suffered all that. I spent five years and two months in solitary detention. I spent 15 years in prison. I was taken to numerous detention facilities across the nation before my freedom.
We were tried in the heavily controlled media and the then government considered it noble to sponsor a lot of propagandas against us for years and most activities at the court were never reported. I am glad today that the court does keeps its record of proceedings. I remember one Katako and some others who were induced to testify against us, without them covering up their tracks properly.
There were pictures and video clips of his wedding attended by some traditional rulers as at the time he claimed to be somewhere else as they were told to say. They confessed after the evidence surfaced and even mention those that masterminded the plot for them to furnish the court with false testimonies against us, all in the name of persecution, but God is God. All these were never reported in any news media because those persecuting us believed that they had the monopoly of controlling what was in the media.
Let us talk about security. Bornu State and Nigerians generally were known for peace, but today people wear bomb vests and blow themselves and others up and the peaceful Bornu is now known for Boko Haram insurgency. How did we get here?
There was total negligence from all parties. There is much more than the official information people have heard. The negligence is one, but when you look at the genesis as to the actual reason the insurgency in Bornu State started and how it spread to Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe, Bauchi, at the initial stage, and the lack of response when it was very much as tiny as an ant, to the period that it became a full-grown lion, so destructive and dreaded, you can see clearly that all parties upon whose shoulders the responsibilities of leadership, welfare of the people, moral guidance on doctrinal changes and security provisions rested acutely failed. A close study of events shows that there was that lack of support.
Let me be quick to say that, in most of the arrests, there are many non-Nagerians that were carrying out such assignments. On the causes of the insurgency, when you look at these states and neighbouring countries in which Boko Haram activities have taken place, you will clearly find one thing: Every form of insurgency known to mankind has existed where the armies are readily available for recruitment and deployed to insurgency activities.
There is a great need for the entire security apparatus to sit together and ask some fundamental questions and look for answers to them.
They must understand the genesis as to who started it in Nigeria, collaborators outside Nigeria, what started it all, their sources of funding, sources of ammunition, drug supply, money, and they also need to find out who was passing the doctrinal messages to their brains, leading to them undertaking such missions as assigned to them.
The aspect of drugs and doctrinal change will tell you one thing, where a leader can stand up and identify up to three subjects and ask them to lie down to be slaughtered and they will oblige without any fight tells you there is a lot more to be desired and to be investigated.
There are foreign collaborators as to what they do. Let me note here that insurgencies, as scientifically defined, can never be the same as any insurgency that happened anywhere. Every insurgency is one on its own, with a whole new different experience, unlike what obtains when many people would come in as experts and say that there was similar insurgency in country A, B and C, therefore, they would want to enforce similar approach to them. It does not work that way.
Every insurgency must be treated the way you see it. There are no identical insurgencies anywhere in the world. There are yardsticks to measure the way it is, so that you can now plan your containment and then peace-building, peace-sustenance after containing it.
That is trauma management unto the community affected. If you look at Nigeria, drawing from the experiences, of the current one we have, which is about to be contained, God willing, it shows that there were so many outlets that were keeping them sustained.
They visited known banks in Nigeria and conducted armed rubberise to have their arms and ammunition supplied steadily to the extent that at some point they were more equipped and had so much logistics in terms of ammunition, weapons and spare ammunition and weapons, armouries from where they got re-enforcements that kept them sustained.
That was a very disturbing issue, and the answers must be on the fingertips of those in leadership. There are no two ways about it. I will not fail to add also that, if you have a size in terms of strength of a battalion of insurgents and you have a conventional military battalion, it will cost you more to manage, to move and to operate an insurgents’ size of a battalion compared to the conventional military battalion.
Then the quest then is. Where was the money coming from? Who was supplying the money and how were they able to have kept that strength and sustained the tempo of their fighting spirit for all those number of years? How much were they spending monthly, annually and where was it coming from?