Sunday, December 25, 2011

"Obasanjo, PDP knew about Ige’s death"—Lam Adesina talks tough

Chief Bola Ige was murdered in the bedroom of his Bodija, Ibadan home, ten years ago. In this interview with BISI OLADELE, Alhaji Lam Adesina, who was the governor of Oyo State at the time, recalled the night life was snuffed out of the then Minister of Justice. He also recalled the controversies that dogged the tail end of his political life, especially the crisis in the Afenifere and the debate over Ige’s acceptance of ministerial appointment from the PDP-led federal government. 


You were the governor of Oyo State at the time Chief Ajibola Ige was murdered. What was your experience then?

It was a bitter experience. That very day was a Sunday. It was the day we had our Christmas carol at the Government House. It was a normal Sunday; everything was going on fine. The carol came and went from 4:15 to 6:00pm that day. And then everybody dispersed. As if I got a signal of what was coming, my speech that day was centred on security in Oyo State. I called on the Commissioner of Police and the Inspector General of Police to strengthen security in Oyo State because an old school mate, Engineer Adegeebo, had been assassinated near his house in Bodija a week earlier.

Every cleric went home and I retired to Government House. I played for some time. Then I went to my room to treat some files. I was doing that when suddenly the phone rang. It was land line we were using then. The operator said that somebody wanted to speak with me. Then I picked the call and it was a brother to my deputy. He said he was asked to tell me that Chief Bola Ige had been shot by some unknown assassins. I was confused immediately. I didn’t know what to do. But later I regained my strength and quickly went down without telling my wife what was happening. It was 9:55 pm. I sent for my PS because all the ADC and other security staff had gone to their places of abode. I told him to drive me in one of the private cars. Inside the car, I told him that Uncle Bola Ige had been shot by some gunmen, that I was going to check him at Catholic Hospital, Oluyoro. The man who informed said Ige was taken to Oluyoro.

The place I have been treading for over 60 years, I remember that I lost my way. I was just going round and round until I gained my consciousness again. Immediately the gateman saw me, he quickly opened the gate. There, we saw Uncle Dele Ige, who was already rolling on the ground. I went straight to the room where Bola Ige was lying. I saw marks of bullets on his body. He slept with his face up. He was somehow breathing but the breathing was abnormal. I saw where the bullet penetrated on the left side. I saw it myself. Uncle Bola Ige was wearing shirt and trousers. And I saw Muyiwa standing by the side of the bed. He was wailing. He appealed to me, saying: ”Uncle, please tell the doctor to wake up my Daddy. Tell him. The doctor can do it.” Then, I approached the doctor and asked him the situation. The doctor called me to one side and told me that he was dead. He said: “Sir, Your Excellency, Uncle is gone. There is nothing we can do. They shot him straight in the heart. He asked me not to tell Muyiwa.

I almost betrayed my emotion when I got back into the room where Uncle was lying with Muyiwa beside his bed. I just quickly gathered myself and told Muyiwa that I was going to see the head of the hospital. That was how I bolted away. I came back to the Government House to inform Mr. President, who was Obasanjo at that time.

By the time I was going upstairs to my room, to try and tell Operator to phone Mr. President for me, the phone was already ringing. When I got into my room, it was still ringing. I quickly picked it up and it was Obasanjo.
He the Operator said the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria wants to talk to you. Then I asked him to put him on.
The question Obasanjo just asked was: “Is he certified dead?” I said: “Yes sir.” Then he dropped the phone. That was all. That was my experience. I can never forget that experience.

So what can you deduce from your interaction with the President that night?

It means somebody must have told him about the shooting of Bola Ige. May be that was why he was asking that question. But I was taken aback; I was surprised because I thought the president would let me brief him first before asking that question. In Yoruba custom, the President would have first greeted me very well, expressed his condolences and ask me to extend the condolences to members of Bola Ige’s family. He didn’t say that; He just dropped the phone and went away.

You said at the lecture held on Wednesday that Ige’s killing was politically motivated (Cuts in)

Yes. That is why first, Bola Ige had resigned. He wanted to go back home with a view to help to reorganise the Alliance for Democracy (AD).
Then there was turmoil within the AD at that time. The Afenifere laders were insisting that we governors must do whatever they told us but we were telling them that though we respect you, you should not expect us to do all you designed for us because we are the people on the field. They were actually trying to impose a number of things on us which we rejected. That caused a lot of friction in the AD. Some Afenifere leaders were inciting those they could incite against us, saying that we were emperors etc. But Bola Ige knew all these things very well. He was a master of politics more than many of the Afenifere leaders then. In fact, of all the leaders, Chief Bola Ige was the only one I could beat my chest anywhere to say he is my leader. He knew his onions in politics and was accepted by people in politics.

So, what was Bola Ige’s stand on the issues between the Afenifere leaders and the governors?

Bola Ige had been governor before; so he understood what was going on. They did the same thing to him when he was governor. They tried to report him to Papa Awolowo, that Bola Ige was planning to overthrow him. They did the same thing to Jakande, Bisi Onabanjo and others. So Bola Ige was trying to do certain things to protect the interest of governors.

So, Ige resigned to come and re-organise the AD. By and large, he was instrumental to the formation of the AD. I want to be challenged by anybody on that. He was instrumental to it. So, he resigned at the federal level to come home. But before Obasanjo accepted his resignation, he was killed because they knew that with Bola Ige in the West at that time, the plan of the PDP to take over the West would not work. Obasanjo had an agenda. He wanted to supplant the legacy of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. I don’t know what legacy Obasanjo has. He has not got any legacy in politics. Maybe he had in military but definitely not in democracy and politics. So, I couldn’t see any legacy he left behind. His regime witnessed highest rate of violence. They were killing here and there. Army and police were shooting people here and there. It was violence throughout. Awolowo had no legacy of violence. He had a legacy of peace and tranquility. Then, in good governance, nobody has ever beaten Awolowo till today. Even his colleagues never beat him in good governance and planning ability. That is why he was called a man with plan. But what plan has Obasanjo got? For eight years he couldn’t revive the ailing electricity. He sold all public investments and utilities – NITEL, Nigeria Airways. Nigeria has no national carrier today. Is that a legacy? Awolowo built many institutions and left them behind and which we have been building on? Who established Odu’a Investments Limited?
In order to supplant Awolowo’s legacy with his own legacy which was nothing at all. Then, he wanted to prove to other Nigerians – those who voted for him in the North and East, that his people had accepted him as their leader in the West. And he knew that with Bola Ige there, it would be very difficult. You need to see Bola Ige address the people and then you will say this is another Awolowo. They dreaded Bola Ige and that was why they planned to kill him. I am still saying it without any equivocation that the Government of Nigeria knew how Bola Ige was killed. That is why the killers cannot be found unless God in His infinite mercy and mightiness wants it to be so. How do you explain it that we took the so-called killers to court and one of the reasons they had to drag me out of Government House by force was to save the people who committed the crime. The PDP wrested power from me. I won the election clean and clear in 2003 but they could not afford Lam Adesina to be governor at that time because the killers would be known. So, when Ladoja came as their own governor, his administration filed a noli prosequi case. Any reasonable, normal human being would not have filed a noli prosequi case against Bola Ige’s murder. All of us are going to die one day. An Attorney-General of the Federation; somebody that had been serving his country in high capacity for a number of years, a very courageous man who almost lost his life in the struggle to enthrone democracy was killed just like that. I challenge any of them today – those who killed Bola Ige – including the PDP leaders at that time. Who among them fought for democracy? But they are enjoying democracy today. Obasasnjo was in Abacha’s prison. Bola Ige was one of those people who saved him. Was that how PDP would compensate Bola Ige? Bola Ige served as midwife to all the three political parties – PDP, APP and AD.

Would you say that taking up the appointment as the Attorney General was the beginning of Ige’s death? Again, how did you, as AD leaders, see the offer and acceptance of federal appointment by Bola Ige?

Those of us who were Chief Ige’s advisers were very wrong in advising him to accept the appointment. I want to tell the people of Nigeria today that we were very wrong. We did not think deeply. We were told that two wrongs do not make a right. Bola Ige was offended. We (his supporters) were offended when the Afenifere concocted what they called the primary election to select the presidential candidate. We were offended because nobody should have contested against Bola Ige in any race. He was the foremost politician among the Afenifere leaders. Who is Olu Falae? To me, he is too junior in politics to Bola Ige. He had never been in politics before unlike Bola Ige who was far ahead of him in politics. So, it should have been Bola Ige unanimously selected to fly the flag of the AD at that time. Many people in the AD made a mistake at that time. They must have been regretting today. So those of us who believed that we were offended did not speak against it when the ministerial offer came. People like us have never been a friend of Obasanjo especially when Awolowo was alive. But those of us who were his boys had to support Obasanjo because of Bola Ige.

Did that account for your support for Obasanjo for second term in 2003?

Of course it was to save democracy. You know I have been a fighter of the military in this country. I never wanted the soldiers to return. We fought for democracy. It was only God that saved me. If I made another mistake to struggle with Obasanjo and then there was an impasse, the soldiers would intervene again because they were already at the corner again. Obasanjo said he appointed people like Bola Ige because he wanted a good government. He asked him to come and master Ministry of Power not knowing they wanted to push him to the wall there. Then, again; the Ministry of Justice, not knowing that they would kill him there. When all these things happened we have to accept it. But never again, whether we are alive or not because we will tell our children that none of them should serve at the top again unless it is your party that is controlling the government there.

Culled from the Nation

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