Than Bola Ige’s
I feel so excited by Dare Babarinsa’s Grammar of Murderers published in the
Tell magazine, of November 1, 2004, that it occurred to me to write this
piece about the assassination of Chief Bola Ige, a mentor of most Nigerian
youths, when he was the Attorney-General of the Federal Government under
President Olusegun Obasanjo. Side by side with the opinion was the press
statement by the family of Ige published by the newspapers of October 25,
2004 describing Ige’s murder trial as a shame. The two publications remind
me of the circumstances of Ige’s life in his last days.
As governor of Osun State, I joined Lam Adesina, the then governor of Oyo
State at lbadan Airport to welcome President Obasanjo who arrived in lbadan
for an official visit to Oyo State. While President Obasanjo and Lam Adesina
drove out in the presidential staff car, I drove out in Osun State
Governor’s staff car. Uncle Bola 1ge, who accompanied President Obasanjo in
the same flight to lbadan from Abuja, had no official car to help him out of
the Airport. Seeing Bola Ige stranded at the Airport, Chief Mike Koleosho,
then Secretary to the Government of Oyo State, offered him a lift to the
state presidential reception arranged for Ibadan Liberty stadium. The car in
which Bola Ige and Mike Koleosho drove was pushed so far to the back of the
queue of the presidential motorcade that Bola Ige did not arrive until the
doors of the Stadium were closed against non-presidential entourage in the
Obasanjo and other dignitaries had sat in the state box (for the VIPs)
before Uncle Bola walked into the stadium. Spontaneously, the crowd rose to
welcome him with jubilant and deafening shouts of Ige! Ige!! Ige!!!. I
observed that such an enthusiastic welcome was not displayed by the people
for the visiting President. I wondered inside me what could be the feelings
and the ego of Mr. President and the PDP leadership under such a
circumstance and I was sorry for Chief Ige for what could be the
consequences of his stealing the show as the political octopus of Yorubaland.
Was it curious that, shortly thereafter, Obasanjo returned to the Liberty
Stadium for the funeral of the same ‘Uncle Bola’?
I also wish to recall another incident. I received telephone calls in Mecca
that the Osun State Police Command was being directly, without passing
through the Inspector General of Police, controlled from Aso Rock by PDP
leadership including President Obasanjo himself. I was asked to break my
pilgrimage rituals to return to Nigeria to avoid a declaration of state of
emergency being planned for Osun State. The story was that if a few people
could be killed in a riot, President Obasanjo would suspend me from office
as the Governor and take over the State. Riots were truly orchestrated. The
House of Assembly was sacked. Arrests of people with arms and charms
parading as rioters were made. Commands were coming from Aso Rock to the
Police in Osun State that prosecution should be stopped and those arrested
should be released.
Uncle Bola phoned and asked me to return urgently to see President Obasanjo
and did not tell me further details. I asked my security detail, who
accompanied me to Mecca, for advice and he suggested that it would be better
to return home immediately. Governor Bola Tinubu and I discussed the
desirability of returning home urgently too. I told them, I was more
convinced by what God could do for me than what man – any man for that
matter, might have in store against me. I decided to stay back for another
ten days thereafter. I told Uncle Bola so. He advised me to speak to Mr.
President on phone. I did not attempt doing so but I tried to placate ‘Uncle
Bola’ by saying I was unable to reach Mr. President on phone. I am happy,
however, that I had the opportunity of telling President Obasanjo, in
writing, on my arrival from the pilgrimage, that his harassment and
intimidation of my administration’s security apparatus in Osun State, during
my absence on pilgrimage, created a fertile atmosphere for the eventual
assassination of Uncle Bola Ige.
Uncle Bola Ige’s assassination is, perhaps, one of the greatest challenges
that President Obasanjo’s government has had to struggle with. Whether
justice has been done or not is for history to tell Nigerians and the world.
We must add, however, that the courage which some print media demonstrated
in the course of that historic national issue deserves praise by honest
people. In the hands of the assassins, who knows, if the graves of some of
us in the vanguard of articulating the course of justice on this matter
would not be deeper than that of Chief Bola Ige.
•Akande is the former governor of Osun State.