Do you think General Ibrahim Babangida will ever be brought to book?
This is the shocking and damning revelations concerning leading political and military personalities and landmark events during the darkest days of Nigeria under military dictatorship. It is based on an interview given by oshood Fayemiwo, 47, a living legend in the struggle to ensure virile and questioning democratic civil society in Africa and anchored by the managing editor of Pointblanknews, OLADIMEJI ABITOGUN.
From the Excerpts we learn that: - IBB killed Abiola, Abacha, Idiagbon, Ige and Elewi - Abacha died of spiked viagra - SSS kept Abiola's Compromizing Video - Abiola kept Samuel Doe's money in Swiss Bank - Abiola funded 1985 Coup with $10 million - Nigeria might break up soon
No other journalist in Nigeria would challenge his impressive fearless reportorial style with which he took on the military for a deceptive transition agenda in 1993 Nigeria. The 1988 graduate of Education and Political Science from the University of Lagos, Nigeria threw himself into the thick of the effort to dislodge the military from power.
Long before many of his contemporaries understood the game of deception foisted on his native country Nigeria, by gap-toothed sly by smiling Babangida, husky trimmed Egba Lawyer Ernest Shonekan, and the dark goggled General Sani Abacha, Fayewimo clearly interpreted, investigated and reported how Nigerians had helplessly turned to pawns in a complex political chess manipulation.
He used his media, Razor, to monitor and expose every move of the 14 year Nigerian military dictatorship.
The military was irreverent and extremely stubborn in tormenting Nigerians. Fayewimo was a consistent and dogged nemesis. He used the power of words to expose the stealing and plundering military politicians. He was always publishing their secret and coded foreign accounts containing money stolen from Nigeria.
The military caught him and kidnapped him from exile in neighboring Benin Republic in 1997. He did not see the light of day light until after Abacha’s death. Abacha would not release him even after Pope John Paul II came to Nigeria and entered a plea on his behalf.
Since he left Nigeria in 1999, he has not returned to the country of his birth. As a matter of fact, he said he may never step his foot on Nigerian soil again. But he has done well with himself. An holder of three masters degrees, one in MA Journalism (2004) from University of South Florida at Tampa, another one from State University of New York in Information Science (2006), and yet another from the same University in African History. He is also finishing his PhD in Public Administration and Public Policy even as he has just started another doctoral work in law Juris Doctor (JD). He finds time to practice as an International Consultant, writes a weekly column for pointblanknews.com and has also worked as a journalist with The Informed Constituent of Albany, New York, The Crow’s Nest Newspaper, Florida and The Works Magazine.
This is his first major interview since leaving Nigeria in 1999. When he came to pointblanknews.com’s corporate headquarters in Manhattan, New York last week, he was again his characteristic self. He held nothing back. He confessed the undue favors extended to him by some of the key actors in the Nigerian intrigue. And issued a range of challenges to living Nigerian leaders to speak up on their atrocities and Molestation of the country.
He was interviewed by POINTBLANKNEWS Managing Editor, OLADIMEJI ABITOGUN.
You got into student union politics very early. How did that happen?
I was interested in politics immediately I entered the University of Lagos. University of Lagos, as you know, was very unique and strategic in Nigeria, not because of anything, but because of its location close to the government, because Lagos was where the seat of government was then.
So very early during my undergraduate years I was involved in students’ union politics. In 1983, one of my friends, actually I was his campaign manager, Lateef Gbadamosi, became the president of University of Lagos Students’ Union. If you could remember, his secretary-general was late Chris Imodibe who eventually died in Liberia while working at the Guardian as Foreign Correspondent.
Mr. Imodibe was part of our group and it was the first time I met Chief Abiola. It was Gbadamosi who invited him to our campus. He was with us at the Students’ Union Building. From there we went with him to Eni Njoku Buttery he ate with us and addressed us. That was my first time of meeting Chief M.K.O. Abiola in real life. Gbadamosi later graduated and left the University of Lagos. I participated in politics and became the president before I was eventually removed.
What led to your removal and how were you removed?
Well, we had problems. When Abiola learnt that I was preparing to play politics in UNILAG in 1984, he sent for me. But I ran into problems with the administration of the then Vice Chancellor, Prof. Akin Adesola as a result of my principled opposition to some of the policies. I was banned from contesting the presidency of the Students’ Union. I had problems at the University. I almost became a permanent student. It was hot (laughs). So I took a year off. And I went to Abiola’s house and explained my situation.
Were you on suspension or you acted on personal volition?
I was not on suspension. I acted on my own because I was also having some academic problems. Let me just say that I was not in a hurry to graduate. That is why I said it was fun. Well I had an interesting meeting with Chief Abiola who, having listened to me, gave me a letter to the then Deputy Editor of National Concord, Mr. Ismaila Mohammed. That was in 1984. That was how I knew and witnessed the Babangida coup of 1985. You want us to continue from there?
What kind of personality did Chief Abiola project when you first met him?
There were many students. We all surrounded him at the Buttery. Gbadamosi brought him. So many people hated Gbadamosi because there was the erroneous impression that the students’ union was being sold to the government of National Party of Nigeria (NPN) led by Shehu Shagari. Lateef Gbadamosi had gone to congratulate Alhaji Shagari for being re- elected in 1983 shortly before he was removed by the military.
Abiola was a very simple person. He ate with us. He waited in line. Everybody saw him in queue, he was served. He projected a populist personality. He made people laugh. People liked him. That was my first time in his company. He took and shook my hand after I was introduced to him by Lateef Gbadamosi. And that was it.
Nigerians often complain about falling standard of education. I feel it has always been that way. How were things during your time?
I was president of UNILAG Students’ Union from 1985 to 1986. To me, I think Nigerian students can hold their own anywhere in the world. Pointedly, it was General Babangida who spoiled the Nigerian educational heritage. His pathological hatred for any organized opposition made him to move against the educational system. That was why he targeted students’ unionism.
Student union association was not voluntary during our time. So long a student was duly admitted, such a student was made to pay the union fee alongside the university tuition. Students cannot aspire to full leadership training without a rallying point like the union. The cults mushroomed because Babangida sacrificed the union.
Administrators, professors and every other component of university system are in place because students came to school. When students are denied their rights to associate, when the platform for such association, the union is destroyed, something so important for students to agitate for their interests, students become cultists. You are here in the United States, you see how Nigerian students excel. But the Babangida regime was very silly. The man systematically destroyed our schools and he destroyed our heritage as well.
But the man had his argument. He said some professors were “extremists” who were teaching what they were not paid to teach. He felt that unionism was being democratized when students had options of joining or not joining but strictly listen, learn and graduate…
He was only trying to run Nigeria like a military barrack. He could not expect to arrive at a consensus on behalf of 120 million Nigerians. He also could not assume that Nigerians, 120 million, would have consensus on an issue. That is what society is about. What is a university? The university is supposed to mould its products to have questioning minds. That is what the university system is supposed to teach, to develop minds to such a degree where they can question things.
There is no way you proffer solution to the multifarious problems of modern societies if university students do not have questioning minds. So it is mere bunkum. Universities are not supposed to be military academy where ideas have to be regimented and you have to regurgitate what your professors are teaching you. That has been the tradition. All over the world that has been the tradition of the university. Babangida and his cohorts, all these people they never attended a traditional university, so what do you expect?
They wielded out radicals like Patrick Wilmot and Festus Iyayi from what should be a natural environment.
Who should decide what university students are supposed to be taught?
You had met Abiola. You later became the president of the students’ union government of UNILAG. You have not explained what actually led to your removal from office.
There was a contemporary called Panaf (shortened form of Pan Africanism). His real name was Olajide Olakanmi . He was the president of ULSU (University of Lagos Students’ Union) in 1981. Unbeknownst to most students of University of Lagos, he was, and I think till today was an informant for the State Security Service, SSS. He was given some money; most students would not know this that is why I am disclosing this, after almost twenty years. He was parading himself at UNILAG as a radical but he was actually working for the SSS. He first brought some money when I was contesting for the presidency to assist me in order to become, purportedly, the president of the students’ union. They claimed they embezzled some union funds but my budget had not even been passed by the Student Union Senate but every right-thinking person at Unilag at that time knew they orchestrated my removal because Akin Adesola, the VC knew I was too tough for him. That was the whole truth.
At that time, it was two thousand naira. Meanwhile, my friend, Lateef Gbadamosi, had warned me about the foggy moves of Panaf. Elsewhere, in some of the places we used to go, we had tips that Panaf had collected money from the SSS. He had assured them that he could influence political events at UNILAG. Things were usually super-charged in those days and the security service were always interested in who should become the leaders in those days. And actually, I was approached after I became president, if I was interested in becoming an operative or informant. And since I was not interested, they demanded to have a nominee from me. I gave them the name of one guy we used to call Tonee. He was my campaign manager.
Was this another payment apart from what Panaf was to pay your campaign?
Panaf had already graduated and he was actually working with UNILAG then. He read integrated social science. He served as president and graduated. Then he went back to the university as a worker. As a matter of fact, Olu Shodimu, the present Registrar of the University of Lagos, was actually a student leader, later worker for the SSS. The point is, at the University of Lagos, if you become a student union leader, the SSS would approach and try to recruit you. So there are many student leaders who the Nigerian masses often take for radicals, even activists out there. They are mostly phonies (laughs). So, Panaf Olajide Olakanmi got the money and used the money to buy himself a Citroën car. Anthony Kayode, whom I had nominated for the SSS job did not get the job because at that point, there were serious disagreements and we were sacked.
How much was involved sir?
Well, I would not know. But Panaf brought to me two thousand naira. And Alozie Ogugbuaja, the then Police Public Relations Officer told Lateef Gbadamosi and I that we used to visit Ogugbuaja, the man who accused the military of always idly drinking pepper soup and had the time to stale cups. He was removed. But because I had the information and I travelled to Bayero University Kano for NANS convention and before I came back, Panaf Olu Sodimu and the students’ union authorities colluded and removed me before I came back from Kano. This was in February 1985. That is exactly what happened.
Would you say if ULSU was an exception or was it the standard practice all over Nigeria for the SSS to aggressively recruit students’ leaders?
Hmn, I think throughout the 80’s down to the time Babangida came after Ahmadu Bello University, ABU crisis of 1986, when students were killed in Kaduna and Babangida set up a panel led by Segun Okeowo and some leaders, up till the time that the Justice Akanbi panel recommended voluntary unionism, I think they felt the need was no longer strong to compromise student leaders. Uptill my time, it was standard practice like I explained UNILAG being the cynosure of all eyes, due to its strategic location, I think that they did that in other universities, Ibadan in particular.
They say NANS president now has escort cars with sirens. Was it also like that in your time?
No. I am sure they are doing that because of politics. That was not the practice. Students’ union officials may be important to them now because of politics. And of course some of these so-called student leaders, there are other things they do now, take university girls and go and give them in Abuja. Things do not happen in Lagos anymore. It is now Abuja. And I read many heart breaking things from Nigerian news papers. But my conclusion, before I left Nigeria ten years ago was that, students’ union is dead in Nigeria.
How did you come to know so much about the August 1985, Babangida coup d’etat?
I had left university of Lagos for one year like I said. I lived in a military barrack, the Ikeja cantonment. I lived there with an uncle and that was when I started working with the Concord. I actually had three people in Ikeja cantonment at that time. I do not want to mention their names because one of them is still in active military service. One is here now in the United States, came originally as a political assylee. The other one has retired. I would not like to mention their names. But I was living with them. The Babangida coup was planned around Ikeja cantonment. I have to tell you this General Muhammadu Buhari, the then Head of State is still alive, he knew it two weeks before the coupists struck. And for the first time, Nigerians should be able to know why Babangida staged the coup, because we have heard so many stories. There have been several guesses all over the place. Of course I am not a coup plotter, but we heard the real truth because we lived in the barracks.
My senior colleague, Dr. Taiwo Ogunade of City University of New York has been able to also disclose some of these information. Basically, what I want to say is that Chief Abiola was the one who sponsored the Babangida coup in 1985. And the reason Babangida struck was because he had been marked down by Buhari and Idiagbon for drug running. For posterity reasons, all these things should be disclosed to Nigerians. Brigadier Aliyu Mohammed, you have heard of his name. He later became a Lieutenant–General. He was brought back by Babangida to become National Security Adviser, NSA to Obasanjo. This man and Babangida were actually involved in drug running when Babangida was chief of Army Staff to Buhari regime.
Babangida has been amply rewarded as one of the arrowheads of the coup that toppled Alhaji Shehu Shagari.
The other key players in that coup were Late Tunde Idiagbon, Mamman Vatsa and late Brigadier – General Ibrahim Bako. Buhari was brought in as the head of that government as a compromise leader after Bako had been killed in the coup at the presidential palace in Abuja while attempting to arrest Shagari. Idiagbon became Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters for ethnic balancing. Remember? He was a Yoruba from Kwara state. The coup plotters ran into serious problems. Major Jokolo, who became the Emir of Gwandu, was one of them. He threatened them that none of them would leave Dodan Barracks alive after the takeover. Idiagbon had made a broadcast to the nation. That was 31 st of December, 1983. Buhari was then the General Officer commanding in Jos, Plateau State. They were deliberating on who would step into Bako’s shoes. Jokolo insisted…
Point of observation, sir, General Babangida, in an interview with Point Blank News/people’s magazine, said that Brigadier General Bako was never in consideration for the exalted office of Head of State.
Then who were they considering for that position? As usual, the deceptive general said Buhari was the first choice Buhari was never part of the original plotters of the coup.
He said Buhari had always been the first choice. No question. Number two, you said there was an ethnic balancing, but that was not obvious. Buhari/Idiagbon was a moslem/moslem and North/North ticket. Ilorin was in the North.
Remember I was not in the military, I am a civilian. I did not take part in their coup. But you know Ilorin people. When things are robust they claim south. When things twist otherwise, they claim north. The name Tunde Idiagbon, is a Yoruba name, the man wasa moslem. They put him there to look like geo-political balancing. The point is that Buhari was not one of the ring leaders of that coup.
He came in as a compromise candidate. The composition of that government was changed because Bako died at the presidential palace. I was twenty three or twenty four at that time. It wasn’t as if I knew much.
The one I knew very well the coup that Babangida himself planned. The coup was neither motivated by altruistic motive nor by patriotic motive. It was a self survival coup d’etat. That is the point I want to stress. There are different ways coups take place in third world countries. It could be to reject oppression, change a bad direction for a country or to serve patriotic purpose on how a nation should be governed. None of these reasons motivated Babangida to organize his coup.
His career was on the line. He had his back to the wall, because of his activities as a former GOC and as the Chief of Army Staff under Buhari regime.
You should also know that Obasanjo knew and subscribed to the coup that toppled Buhari. Like Babangida, Aliyu Mohammed was also a drug baron that was well known to Buhari and Idiagbon. Aliyu Mohammed was slated for retirement as well. Babangida and Mohammed were both marked down for retirement and possible trial.
Ambassador Mohammed Rafindadi was in charge of the then National Security Organization, NSO, now known as State Security Service, SSS. He, Rafindadi was an uncle to Buhari. When they came into office, a lot of things were going on and they discovered Idiagbon insisted on death penalty for drug pushers. And most of the drug peddlers and international couriers were Babangida’s boys. As a matter of fact, Babangida’s clique introduced drug-running into Nigeria. When Buhari regime uncovered the elaborate entrenched Babangida drug-running network and the rumor of his wife, Maryam’s involvement as well, they penciled him down for retirement. We shall talk about the Gloria Okon connection later.
The Babangida’s removal announcement had been scheduled for October 1, 1985. Babangida knew and staged the coup to pre-empt the calamity of October. They had the coup plans. They wanted to strike in October, but with Babangida’s pending retirement, they quickly brought the date back to August.
After they had agreed, the boys, Abubakar Umar, Abdul Aminu, Lawan Gwadabe and Anthony Ukpo went to Otta to inform Obasanjo that they wanted to remove the Buhari/Idiagbon regime. Any military coup also needed Obasanjo’s clearance. There is no coup in Nigeria, either successful or abortive that Obasanjo does not know of. You know he had this phony organization called African Leadership Forum. It was all a ruse He used that organization for anything but leadership training. He came here to the Council of Foreign Relations to collect the initial money to set up that clandestine organization. Anyway, that was the body they used to plan anti-people policies at Ota including coup planning.
Nzeogu’s coup as well?
I am talking of anything that happened after he became Head of State in 1976. He was even in the know about the coup that killed General Muritala Mohammed.
You mean he knew about the Dimka’s plot?
Yes of course. That was why he left for Abeokuta that day. The CIA has documents in the United States here about this.
But he maintained the face of the avenger of his boss’s death to all of us. Are you accusing Obasanjo of hypocrisy?
Yes. He became the Head of State and checkmated the other plotters. He knew of the 1976 coup. That is why I said he always knows about every coup plot including that of Abacha.
Well maybe because he would have access to intelligence estimates as a former leader of the nation.
We shall talk more about that. So the boys went to him in Otta. They gave him a note to know if he had a candidate in office. He did not want any obvious association, but he gave them the name of his cousin, Onaolapo Soleye who was a lecturer at the Department of Economics at the University of Ibadan to become Buhari’s Minister of Finance. Buhari drifted and his economic policies were harsh. Obasanjo tried to advice him then, they snubbed him. He was annoyed and that was why he said he would never talk to a “deaf regime”. He had a pre-existing axe to grind with the Buhari regime.
So when the IBB boys came to tell him that they wanted to remove Buhari, he asked to know who they had as Buhari’s substitute. They said Babangida. He said o.k.
He said that? Would he not have had intelligence that IBB was a drug baron?
He said o.k. I don’t know what he knew or what he did not know. He gave them his blessings. They told him they had a problem. What was the problem, he asked? They said with Buhari, it would be very easy to topple the government, but with Idiagbon, they did not want to kill anybody. How would they get Idiagbon out of the way? They want Obasanjo to call Idiagbon to lure him to go out of the country to go to Saudi Arabia on Umrah, the lesser Hajj. Obasanjo invited Tunde Idiagbon. Tunde Idiagbon came to Obasanjo’s farm at Otta. It was the first time Idiagbon smiled to journalists. He was always frowning, but he laughed for the first time in Obasanjo’s farm. Obasanjo gave him the bogey advice that it was time for Nigeria to court the economic co-operation of the Saudis and the Middle East, so that the economy of the country could be revived. It was a dummy idea of the Babangida boys to get Tunde Idiagbon out of the way. And when Tunde Idiagbon was going, they were also afraid of Vatsa, he was in charge of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. Vatsa was asked to go with him on Holy pilgrimage to Mecca. During the Sallah celebration, they took over power. The coup was staged on a Friday. It was at Ikeja cantonment.
The private jet that conveyed Babangida from Lagos to Minna where he went for the Sallah holiday was an Abiola personal aircraft. Abiola had travelled out of Nigeria a week before the coup which took place on 27 th of August, 1985. Abiola had walked into our newsroom at Concord to address all of us in the newsroom and that was where he told us “we should forget about this government”.
Most people did not know what was happening. I was working at Concord and was in the news room when he said it. He said that the government was gone. A week later, the coup was staged and Babangida became the Head of State.
The point I want to make was that the coup was that of a self- survival. It was not patriotically motivated. It had nothing to do with nationalistic agenda. It was selfish and that is why Babangida exhibited the kind of evil reign that we witnessed for eight years. That is the point I want to make. Buhari-Idiagbon came to rescue Nigeria from the destruction of Shehu Shagari. 22 months later, Babangida came not for any reason but for his own survival because he was about to be tried for drug-running.
It is not so obvious to the general public that IBB was a drug dealer. We heard of his wife and Gloria Okon, Dele Giwa’s connection. We do not have any fact of IBB’s direct involvement. How is it hidden from us?
No. It is not hidden. I don’t know why in Nigeria. The press is there, the newspapers are there. It is not hidden at all. All the top journalists are there and nobody is talking now because IBB is still alive. You will see them talking immediately the man is dead. He has interests in virtually all the newspapers. You know what I mean?
Let all these people talk. Segun Osoba, Farouk Mohammed, Yemi Ogunbiyi, Ajibola Ogunsola, Sam Pemu Amuka, Stanley Macebuh, Patrick Dele-Cole, Imeh Umanah, Alex Akinyele, Tony Momoh, Doyin Abiola, Felix Adenaike, Banji Kuroloja, Dan Agbese, Yakubu Mohammed, Soji Akinrinnade, Raymond Ekpu. Let all of these people open up. And they all know why Mr. Dele Giwa was killed.
Infact, the story you are talking about that Dele Giwa was killed over, these people, top journalists they have it in Nigeria. If I could have it then, I was the first person to go public with the story in September 1993 before my senior colleague; Dr. Taiwo Ogunade of CUNY now came out to corroborate it. I was the only person through Razor, who came out to stick my neck then.
Sir, that was the story?
It was Babangida who planned the death of Dele Giwa. It was Babangida that killed him. It is very obvious. Senator Florence Ita – Giwa, Dele Giwa’s former wife knew. The one they now call Mama Bakkassi was a girl friend to Aliyu Mohammed, the one I just told you was to be retired with IBB, although he later changed his name to Mohammed Gusau just to deceive Nigerians.
You sure he is the same person?
Oh sure. He is the same person because immediately Babangida became Head of State, Babangida brought him back. Gusau Mohammed was about to be gazetted by the Buhari regime. I just told you why they struck. Babangida left him with Abacha, and Gusau later became a Lt-General. He was the person whom Babangida brought back to become National Security Adviser to Obasanjo. That is why Obasanjo was governing but did not rule and Nigerians did not know for eight years. Every step that Obasanjo wanted to take Aliyu Mohammed Gusau was always there. I mean your national security adviser is your life. Don’t you know? That is why IBB foisted the guy on Obasanjo. There are a lot of things in Nigeria, that Nigerians cannot hear about now until when IBB is dead. That was why he spread his tentacles all over the newspapers. And those whose names I have mentioned are alive…
What is the deal that IBB made with those notable journalists?
Immediately Babangida came into power, he knew that any journalist who was about town had the story. The first thing he did was to make Aliyu Mohammed (Gusau) the Directorate of Military Intelligence man. He surreptitiously was Babangida’s National Security Adviser, NSA. They had to cover their past dirty stuff. The man called all the top journalists in Nigeria, all these names that I have just given you, they assembled at the DMI, there was no DMI before IBB took over. He set up the Directorate of Military Intelligence at Apapa where they took me to under Abacha (Lagos).
So he now called them and said gentlemen, we want to cultivate the friendship of the press. If there is any story that is incriminating, we want to be sharing ideas, let us know. You understand now? You know they have their press briefing, media chat. Exactly. I have told you that there are always two stories in Nigeria: the official story, which they want the people to hear and the unofficial underlying real story that they do not want you and I to know.
Are you saying, sir, that the media is guilty of mediocrity in all of this?
No. I have told you of the institutional problem of media operations and ownership. The guys who are stealing the money are the ones rich enough to set up newspapers in Nigeria. And who will pay the piper would dictate the tune. Look at all the newspapers in Nigeria. Tell me which one is not being bank-rolled by these bad guys. That was why when I set up the Razor, it became a phenomenon in Nigeria, besides being modest. If I had one of the Generals as my chairman, do you think I would be able to publish all those stories? This is the problem in Nigeria. Nigerian newspapers are owned by the same set of people who are causing the problems; they have control over all the newspapers. Tell me which paper, tell me in which paper does Babangida not have shares in Nigeria, by proxy?
After killing Dele Giwa, he told one of his guys, Mike Adenuga, to go acquire shares in Newswatch. Babangida has shares today in Newswatch. Let Ray Ekpu, Soji Akirinnade, Dan Agbese and Yakubu Mohammed come out and tell Nigerians. That is why those guys can’t do anything.
Is it Vanguard you want to tell me about? He has shares. Let Amuka come out and deny it. How much did he have when he left Olu Aboderin’s The Punch? VANGUARD was about to die. Are you listening to me? VANGUARD was about to die when Babangida came and injected funds into the place.
O.K. Is it Tony Momoh? IBB knew that Tony Momoh knew about the death of Dele Giwa, he made him Minister of Information. Is it Alex Akinyele? Akinyele was a Director on the Newswatch’s board. He also made Akinyele Minister of Information.That was why IBB said “Oh, I know Nigerians very well”.
What of Guardian? Do you know that the Dasuki family in Sokoto has shares in Guardian? I am telling you that they sit on the board. And you know the closeness of the Dasukis and the Babangidas. How would Guardian write anything? You know the owners, the Ibrus collected contracts from the Babangidas too.
Is it Ajibola Ogunsola of The Punch that would go against Babangida? There is only one news organization in Nigeria that can rattle the government, perhaps, maybe The News.
All of them. Is it The Sun? It just came out through Orji Uzor Kalu. Kalu was also a Babangida boy. The Daily Independent is owned by Ibori. James Ibori was an Abacha goon. He has not spoken up on his connection with the death of Chief Alfred Rewane. Which other one? The Nation owned by Tinubu?
Sir, Tinubu was a democracy crusader…
He said he was (laughs) He was.
You were part of the movement, how sincere was he?
There was no movement really. We were fractured. We shall get to that later. It was a loose coalition of like minds. There was no platform that we really had. Even NADECO (National Democratic Coalition) itself was a contraption. We all just felt there must be a way for us to resist the Abacha INSULT, the dictatorship. We were so disjointed. Everybody had different agenda. There was not concerted effort.
Let us go back a little bit on your allegation that prominent journalists benefitted over the death of Dele Giwa. Investigative journalists like us find it difficult to connect the dots.
Yes, it was not so obvious that the letter bomb came from IBB. Gani Fawehinmi and many other theorists said it did come from “C-In-C”, Halilu Akilu, Col. Togun are not talking.
Let me clear that one for you. Buhari wanted to make Dele Giwa Minister of Information. Buhari actually granted his maiden interview to Dele Giwa, Ray Ekpu and Yakubu Mohammed for the Concord in February, 1984. In the interview, Buhari said “I would tamper with the press”. That was how Decree No. 4 was promulgated.
After the interview, Buhari made overtures to make Dele Giwa the Minister of Information. Buhari called M.K.O. Abiola and said “I want to make your editor the Minister of Information”, because Dele Giwa was editing Sunday Concord then. M.K.O. Abiola said Dele Giwa would not be interested. That was one of the reasons Dele Giwa left Concord. He was not consulted before Abiola determined his fate.
His fate was determined just like that?
Exactly. Meanwhile Dele Giwa was married to Florence Ita – Giwa. The one who later became a Senator. Ita – Giwa was annoyed that Abiola could not own Dele Giwa’s life even if he was working for him. She wanted him to leave and set up his own. Don’t forget the two, Dele Giwa and Florence Ita had met shortly after Dele returned to Nigeria. They met in Surulere. There was the lady called Ani Okpaku that Dele had separated with. They were in good company with Vera Ifudu. Her other sister was Dora Ifudu at the then NTA. It was Vera who had a birthday celebration party. She invited all the big guys. The late Chris Okolie was there, Sam Amuka – Pemu was there. Florence attended. She had just had a problem, frustration with her former guy here in the U.S. There at the birthday gig she met Dele Giwa and they went home and became so close and that was how they later married.
Dele Giwa only knew of what Abiola did through Florence. Florence was going out with Aliyu Mohammed. Mohammed was the one who told her that Buhari planned to make her husband Minister of Information. Florence was still a lady in town. Several of the top military brass were having a good time with her. She was generous with her endowment around then. Thank you very much, and would then get her contracts. This was one of the reasons Dele Giwa divorced her. They both could be intimate and in the heat of that moment one General or the other would be on the phone with her. Her Husband could be hearing the voice of a General underground. Dele was annoyed. But he bargained for it. They met at a party and went from there into marriage. She would tell Dele to “shut up, I have known these people before I knew you”.
When the parcel bomb that killed Dele was to be delivered, they did not know Dele Giwa’s house. Dele had moved to a new place in Opebi area in the same Ikeja. Abiola had told him to leave after he left Sunday Concord. He had a Mercedes Benz given to him by Abiola. He moved because they now believed so much in their new project, Newswatch. They did not know his new house.
Aliyu Mohammed was the one who volunteered the information that he knew his former wife, Florence. He sent for Florence and when she came, he asked for Dele Giwa’s new residential address. He knew they still saw from time to time though they were no longer married.
She described the new address to them. She pointed her former husband’s address. She did not know that they were after his life, that they wanted to kill him.
She said oh, she normally goes there but that he had moved from Adolphus Davis and that he now lived at Opebi. They said they needed to know the place that was how the babe volunteered the address at Opebi.
The lady knew a lot. That was why Aliyu Mohammed (Gusau) brought her into the strategic position of Presidential Liaison Officer in the National Assembly during Obasanjo’s regime. They were the ones who gave her money to go and contest in Akwa Ibom. Florence Ita – Giwa should speak up. Why has she kept quiet for almost twenty three years?
So this is a challenge for her to speak up?
Yes. I am throwing her that challenge. If the incident I have just narrated is a lie, let her come out and say so. But you see it is the truth. Nigerians must know. She should be able to tell us what happened to her former husband like that. Do you know, she has not granted any interview to anybody?
But she is media savvy. I am surprised she has never spoken about this, if it did happen?
Yes. The press in Nigeria will not ask her such questions (laughs). This is the tragedy of the Nigerian press. They would not ask her. They would be shouting “Mama Bakkassi” with those inconsequential questions. They should be able to ask her “what do you know about the death of your former husband”? “Why, all of a sudden, was she so close to Aliyu Mohammed? She lived far away from her home base. How did she work it and become a Senator? How did she do it and hold the position for eight years? She was in Aso Rock. Obasanjo’s Presidential Liaison Officer, National Security Matters. I have just told you how she got there. It is just to shut her mouth up. Your next question.
You said that the pro-democracy movement was not organized as such, that it was a loose coalition. Could you please explain what you are talking about?
How do I mean?
I need to be educated further, because what Nigerians saw was organized onslaught against the military.
It was an ad-hoc movement. It was an emergency set up. The arrow head was the late Papa Ajasin (Adekunle) Ajasin, who felt the stupidity of the military must be stopped. As a young Nigerian then, that was the only Nigerian that I had seen that had Nigeria’s genuine interest. He loved Nigeria as a nation. That old man was very committed. Very very incorruptible. If there was any Nigerian who lived what they preached, it was that man. He was transparently honest. There are only very few Nigerian politicians who will be placing phone call on the Inland Revenue to demand when his next pension would come. Only very few people would be chairman of a Local Government Area in Nigeria or Governor in a state without a private generating set. He did not have a generator. NEPA would take light and that was it. Baba would call for the candle to be lit. This is not what I read or because we were from the same hometown, I studied him at close range. Several times he would be sleeping, Abacha would call. He would say that they should tell him he was sleeping. They could not wake him up. That is Baba for you. Remember that he was older than Awolowo.
Yes, he was born in 1908 and Awolowo was born in 1909.
It was Baba and Abraham Adesanya who championed the cause of NADECO. When I met Pa Adesanya in Obalende in 1994, before I left Nigeria, I told him once Abacha got one or two of you guys, that would have been the end. The people who were really committed were Ajasin, Adesanya, Dan Suleiman. The other guys who we are praising today, I don’t know where they belong because I would disclose to you today that Lt. Gen. Alani Akinrinade they are talking about, some of them I don’t know how committed they are. My picture that was taken and sent from prison to Alani Akinrinade in London eventually landed on Abacha’s desk. How that happened, how the photograph got back to Abacha, he never knew.
So you think there was a mole in the house?
That’s right. There were some photographs I took in detention insideAlagbon Prison with Major Kosoko, we were planning to send them to CNN or BBC and I sent them to Mrs. Alice Ukoko-Ugono, a Nigerian-Briton attorney in London, under diplomatic cover. Mrs. Sugono, you would recall was the founder of Women In Nigeria International, WIN, Women International of Nigeria, WIN, in London. That woman really played a great role that was heroic. There were lots of people who championed this June 12 struggle in Nigeria and we never hear of them. They were outside the country and they fought brilliantly.
She braved all odds and came to Nigeria. The pictures were smuggled to her. And she took the pictures to Lt. Gen Alani Akinrinnade. I was shocked when they showed me the photographs when I was eventually captured and kidnapped. How did the photograph that was sent to London under diplomatic cover get to Abacha and his agents? The woman told me that the only one who had custody of the pictures was Alani Akinrinnade. He was the only one they said asked to just see the picture. Well if Akinrinnade is reading this, because I am sure he must be back in Nigeria…
He was at Alausa Democracy fiesta.
That is why I am saying this. Most of these people… By the time I got to Ghana and I called Tokunbo Afikuyomi in Radio Kudirat. He was my colleague at UNILAG. I called him and I asked him what was happening, his excuse was incoherent. That is why I am saying openly now, everybody was just fighting here and there. The only movement that was solid was NALICON that was set up by Prof. Wole Soyinka.
Was that one formidable?
Oh yes, it was. The movement added fillip and energy to our struggle back home, otherwise Abacha wanted to crush all of us. It was a coalition of disparaged ideological minds.
But the story was that Senator Tinubu, who later became governor of Lagos State, did make limitless funds available for the struggle. How true is that?
Yes. Bola Tinubu was an individual. You asked me for a movement. There were more other individuals too like Prof. Banjo who used their resources. But was there any movement? There was no movement. Tinubu made some financial contributions. Other people also did. He was close to Abiola. He accompanied Abiola to Abacha’s office where they discussed that Abacha should stay for six months. And when Abacha reneged, that was how Tinubu ran away from Nigeria.
Was that deal not like a dinner with the devil?
But Abacha told them. He gave them the impression that he would stabilize the place and bring up Abiola. It was a charade.
Was Abiola naïve or he was acting in the best interest of the country?
Not an issue of naiveté. Abiola was trusting. He was an unorganized and indisciplined person, because of money. I mean for someone to live that kind of life. Can you compare between Abiola and Awolowo for instance? Abiola wasn’t organized. He wasn’t a disciplined man. But he was very trusting. We are talking of politics and power.
Do you think he was ever transformed by the betrayals of June 12?
We never knew and we would never know if he had Survived his incarceration. Prison has a way of bringing one’s real character.
How about his tenacity?
Tenacity has nothing to do with discipline. One becomes disciplined while alive.
You had your reservations about his life and you still had your weight and skills behind him?
It was a systemic change. If Obama’s election was annulled because he was black, that would have been the end of America. It is not about personality. A lot of presidential candidates came and were banned before him, nobody fought for them because there was no general election.
When did you choose to abandon intellectual war for armed struggle?
You should understand that many people died because of Babangida’s wickedness. Do you know the kind of pains Babangida inflicted on Nigerians? It appears that the man would go scot free. It should not have happened in any civilized society. That was why I left Nigeria. The annulment of June 12, we may be pretending now that things are ok.
Is that not like taking an extreme position on a matter that appears settled?
We are talking about June 12 now. Your children, mine and their children’s children would talk about the gross injustice. We may be pretending now that let us move forward, things are o.k. Things would never be o.k. in Nigeria. I know that there are forces at work, but the point is that Abiola won on June 12. It would have been alright even if they removed him after a day, one month or ten years in office. But that a man would just wake because he was military general and peremptorily annul an election, because he was a Military General, when the results were everywhere.
At what point in the debacle did you decide to float Razor?
I never knew there was going to be an annulment. What was certain was that Babangida was not ready to go. Because the election was held on 12 th of June, 1993, by March Babangida was dissolving parastatals and constituting boards and memberships. I told my colleagues in Daily Times like Bunmi Aborishade and others that the man would not go anywhere. Six months to that election, the man should have started his farewell tour. Anyone with a sense of history would see it on the horizon that this man would not go anywhere. What was the point of changing officials if he had to go in three or four months? He even made Abiola the Chairman of Nigerian Export Import Bank NEXIM. And I said what is this man IBB, doing?
I never thought of June 12. Razor was a child of circumstances.
Your publication became completely engrossed in that agitation. Didn’t you go beyond normal reportorial routine? You almost became a politician. Why that choice?
Things were abnormal. The role of the media extends beyond gate-keeping or merely informing, educating or entertaining the people. What I saw and discovered was that in any military regime, the press do not only have to become adversarial, we also have to play advocacy role. And that was what happened at that time. There were no democratic institutions. The military pocketed the country. There was no voice of dissent. Newspapers should not have to be a gate keeper only, but to go beyond the normal role of the press in any civilized society. Be advocates. That was how I saw it. We had no access to guns. We could not stage a coup. The only weapon was to wield our pen and fight.
I think the Razor and other militant publications at that time played a militant role.
You actually did more than that. Your connection with Professor Segun Banjo…
Well, you see…
Why the option of arms?
I subscribed to that notion at that time that the way Abacha was going, the man wasn’t interested in dialogue and something needed to be done. Concerning the role of the press in informing, the soul of Nigeria was at stake. I just felt that the monopoly of the military to ammunitions should be broken. There were other colleagues who felt that we would all be crushed if we stayed inside Nigeria.
We had some U.S. based professionals who would form the Peoples Liberation Army of Nigeria, PLAN. The arrangement was afoot. It was said that they were ready to help Nigeria. They would support us to go inside the bush and fight Abacha.
First and foremost, it was not planned well.
Secondly, he wanted to turn it into an exclusive movement. And besides, there was no thorough home work. Choosing Benin Republic to me was the first faulty step. Cotonou was more or less the twenty-second State of Nigeria. I mean that it was reasonable to think of bringing arms and ammunition into Nigeria and say the people should train. But where were they going to train them? There was no political contact. No link whatsoever with those who were fighting inside Nigeria. It was more or less like a one - man show.
You don’t organize a movement like a one man show.
Were you able to point out these weaknesses to him?
We had an argument in Cotonou. I said, because left to me, he has not acknowledged that I had his life and that of his wife in my palm for almost forty-eight hours. The Nigerian government, through S. Adoli the Nigerian ambassador to Republic of Benin, was ready to offer me money to betray them. And I said no.
They should not have used Cotonou or anywhere near Nigeria. These were people who had been out of Africa for a long time. They should have done their home work before importing arms and ammunition. People should have been waiting on the ground for them. Uganda should have been a place of preference. Even I could not make the mistake of choosing a place like Ghana. Ghana, Niger, Chad, Cameroon are too close for comfort to train and want to fight in Nigeria.
The man should have chosen elsewhere. It looked like the man did not have enough money. I read an interview in The Nation in Nigeria, that the man is broke. If he can come to the U.S., there is money waiting for him. He should use this occasion to know that he could contact me through you guys.
You mean there is some money waiting for him here?
Yes. For Prof. Segun Banjo and his wife Ngozika
Do you think he spent up to $4m on the struggle?
I can’t affirm or deny.
I did not see the cache of arm. But at the same time, I would not deny it. I don’t know.
Did your recruitment involve voodoo initiations?
Not necessarily voodoo. When we got to Ghana, there was the suggestion. They were suggesting that kind of stuff, for the purpose of trust and all that. I laughed, because we were not talking of General Ukunda kind of warfare in Congo. I am a Christian. I don’t need to take any concoction or voodoo. I said I would not be involved in that kind of a thing. Many were ready to do the initiation. The struggle is my life and I don’t need to go through any nonsense to be able to prove that.
The Nation said you were arrested because you had assisted the man to plan an escape. What is your story?
I was not arrested. I was kidnapped. I had been invited to Alagbon. I made up my mind after an encounter with Zakari and later Nuhu Ribadu. It was my first time of meeting him. Zakari Biu used my arrest to get Fred Ajudua. They had the idea that Ajudua was the one who was sponsoring me. Ajudua contributed to my…. I want to say it openly today that no matter what anybody may say about 419, no matter your grouse with Ajudua, the man contributed so much to the struggle.
People did not know. There are 419 in America. I don’t want to go into that one. But that man, Zakari Biu raided our office and saw some documents showing correspondence with Ajudua. Ajudua was having a quarrel with Coomasie, the then Deputy Inspector General of Police, D I-G, and Aliyu Atta, the Inspector – General of Police was a friend to Ajudua.
The man never had any respect for Ibrahim Coomasie. Coomasie stepped up after Atta had retired. Then they began to spotlight my closeness to Ajudua. They saw some documents. Ajudua was on my board. Zakari used that connection to go to Ibrahim Coomasie and that was why they arrested Ajudua.
There was the rumor in Nigeria, that I gave up Ajudua. No. They saw my correspondence with Ajudua when they raided my office, that was why they went after him.
When I left Nigeria, it was with my family from Nigeria. When I got in touch with Benin Republic, it was too close to Nigeria. There was nothing we could do. The best thing was for us to stay in Ghana until we had a country that could give us reception. Then we could continue there. But because Nigerian Security guys had already infiltrated Benin Republic, Banjo’s life was in danger. I just put my life on the line and I said I was not going to betray him. What you should know was that I was so concerned with my family, that I wrote a letter to the Beninois government concerning the activities of Mrs. Naryse Fontus. She was the Chief Protection Officer of United Nations High Commission for Refugee (UNHCR). That woman was on the payroll of the Abacha government. We had it on authority that Abacha was sleeping with the woman whenever he was in Cotonou.
Going to UNHCR was like going back to ones death because the woman would virtually betray you. So we knew. She was the one who, however, paid. She gave me money to get Segun Banjo out of Benin Republic. I had photocopies of the money she gave me. So I wrote to the Beninois government on her activities.
I told my family that the letter should be released if anything happened to me. It was that letter that saved me from being killed.
There were lots of people who showed interest in the Nigerian problem at that time. I would not deny, I would not confirm. I would not know. Maybe yes. Maybe it was exaggerated. I don’t know. I don’t know if he spent close to $4m. But on the issue of voodoo and initiation, I told him we were not running Alice Lakwema the LORD’S Resistance Army of Uganda (laughs). You know what I mean. Not the rebel army of Congo. We are educated people. If the struggle is my life, I don’t need to be used. I don’t need to take any concoction. I do not compromise my Christian fundamentals. I said I would not be involved in that kind of a thing. Many people were ready to do the thing. Even some who did not believe in my struggle, just wanted to be initiated voodooist.
It was said you travelled to Ghana with the man (Banjo) and that the reason you were arrested by the DMI was because you enabled and smuggled him to escape.
I was first arrested by FIIB, Alagbon. Zakari Biu effected my arrest to get Fred Ajudua. Biu had that idea that Ajudua was the one who was bankrolling me. Remember Ajudua contributed. No matter your grouse concerning 419 with Ajudua, that man was one of the Nigerians who were committed to the struggle. There are 419 people in the American system as well. I don’t want to go into that now. Zakari Biu ordered a raid on our office. He saw some documents between Ajudua and I which was a strong link of Ajudua with me. Remember, Ajudua was not having a good relationship with Coomasie. Aliyu Atta was a friend to Ajudua. Ajudua had no respect for Coomasie.
It was after the retirement of Atta, that Coomasie went after Ajudua. And somehow, Ajudua was connected with me. Ajudua was a director of our board. Zakari used that to demonstrate to Coomasie that the document must be used to nail Ajudua and that was why they arrested him. I want to use this forum to clear the air of the wrong information in Nigeria that I gave up Ajudua. No. It was our correspondence that they saw when they raided my office that led to his arrest. I did not give him up.
How was Ajudua your boss?
I said he was on my board. He was a member of the board of directors of my company, Razor. I also knew he gave lots of money to several pro-democracy people and leaders. Unfortunately, they have not treated him well.
So what actually happened? How and why were you arrested?
I took my family out of Nigeria. Cotonou was the first stop point. But meeting the Banjos, I knew that Cotonou was not safe. Benin Republic was very close to Nigeria. There was not much we could do. It was better for us to stay in Ghana, maybe we could eventually get a country to give us reception, the struggle would continue from there. Nigerian Security guys had already infiltrated Cotonou and they wanted to take Banjo out (kill him). I put my life on the line that I was not going to betray them. But what you should know was that I was so concerned with the safety of my family that I wrote a letter to the Beninois authorities concerning the activities of UNHCR.
I had detailed the activities of the woman, and I gave a copy of the letter to my former wife. The UNHCR boss was the one who gave me the money with which I took Banjo to Ghana. I made photocopies of the currency notes. The letter I had given to my wife on the woman’s activities became the reason why I was not killed immediately I got to DMI.
That is the story I want to tell you today. When they saw that letter, they were fooled that I could not be working with Banjo and still had a document alleging inappropriate things against the woman. Remember we heard the woman was a girlfriend of Abacha’s and that she was on the payroll of the Nigerian government then.
I was taken to Nigeria on Saturday February 15. I was kidnapped at 10 p.m. Friday February 14, 1997. On Saturday, February 15, 1997, when I got to DMI, Apapa and they were interrogating me, that letter was brought out. It was that letter that saved me when Mustapha, Omenka and all of them arrived to interrogate me. I was grilled for twelve hours. That letter that I wrote in which I said I did not cause the escape of Professor and Mrs. Banjo, and that it was the UNHCR woman that did it, that was what saved my life.
So they asked me “why did you leave Nigeria?” I said because I could not practice anything. “Did you go to join PLAN?” I said “No”. “But you said it in your paper that there was only one way to remove Abacha, and that was through Armed Struggle. So did you go to Benin Republic to give effect to what you wrote two months ago?” I kept quiet.
So they produced the letter. I had written it in English and I got a professor friend of mine at the University of Benin in Cotonouto translate it into French. Very good French. I had a copy in English. They produced it. When they read it there, they started looking at themselves. And I said this letter confirmed that I wasn’t a member of PLAN. I was very diplomatic otherwise…
But in actual fact you were a member of PLAN.
I have just told you now that I wasn’t a member because of some of the things that I disagreed with Banjo over. The idea of voodoo. There was no meticulous plan. Why smuggle arms and ammunition through Benin Republic? Only a fool and tactless person would do that. Benin is just an annex of Nigeria. Why not go to Senegal. Even to Gambia. Why not go to Congo. Or Sudan, the largest country in Africa where one could be in an enclave and no one would know. I just don’t know. PLAN was not planned well.
And I told Prof. Banjo. But that doesn’t mean that I should betray them, because they offered me money. S. Adoli, the Nigerian Ambassador sent emissaries to me that if I betrayed Banjo they would pay me, and I said no way.
How much were they offering sir?
Well, I don’t know and I did not care to know.
Were they non- specific?
No. It was that letter that I wrote. The woman left Benin Republic within 24 hours. She just vamoosed. And I found out that she is in Kenya now. They were after her life because she was collecting money from the Nigerian government. I told you that Abacha was allegedly sleeping with her. She was telling them that I was the one who caused the escape of Banjo.
I did not need to argue for myself, the letter that I wrote nailed her. I did not submit the letter to President Mathew Kerekou, it was just a back-up plan. I knew that they would come for me. They were so desperate. God inspired me to write that letter and I sold them a dummy. When Omenka and Al Mustapha saw the letter they said that it was the woman they were paying who betrayed them and not me. That was why I was not killed that night.
But they still went ahead to torture you, in spite of that?
Yes. But torture is different from killing.
I want to know what the holding cell looked like.
It was a gulag. Rodents co-habit with humans. Once you entered the place, you can’t know your way out. It was a real dungeon. An underground tunnel. I was there by myself. When I got here, to the U.S., I was still having flashbacks and nightmares. It was a harrowing experience. I’m o.k. now. It was not a pleasant experience. (Voice increasingly became pensive) I was there for two years. I was quarantined. I did not have any contact with any human being. I was thinking that they did not want to shoot me but knew a civilian would not survive the place because that was the same place they kept late Gen. Mamman Vatsa.They just wanted me to die somehow and that my body would be collected and that would be it.
Understand that one of my cousins was one of those who interrogated me. They did not know. He is still in the system. He pretended that he did not know me. That was the cousin with whom I lived when Babangida took over power. He did not torture me. He pretended that he did not know me.
So you did actually drive Professor Banjo to Ghana?
I did not drive him. I ordered a cab for them. I took them to a hotel. It was a non-descript hotel. Nobody knew that they were there. The UNHCR guy wanted me to take them out at night. I made up my mind that I would take them out in broad day light.
The Nigerian Security people didn’t know that they could come out in the afternoon. Bad things happen at night. They were waiting for them at night. We got to Benin Togo border at 11 a.m. The Nigerian goons were there from 12 midnight to 6 a.m. I hired the taxi like any other passenger. I did it through my United Nations Card.
They stopped us at the border, I flashed my card and I said I was taking U.N. Official to Ghana, they waved us on. And then I returned.
Were you indeed suspended, hanged downwards to roast gradually on a burning stove while at DMI dungeon? Was it that bad?
(Laugh) It borders on exaggeration. You know I said it in my column. It was exaggerated.
You mean that never happened?
Well, I wasn’t tortured to that level. All that fire thing, no, no.
You were only released after Abacha died?
Remember there was a fight at DMI. They were not coordinated. Sabo was the second in command to… There was a lady military officer that used to come to me at night. We were exchanging information. She could not have access to my place. She was the one who went to Bamaiyi to tell him about my case.
Remember Alima Asuku from Kogi state, a girlfriend of Abacha’s was there. She had four children for Abacha. The lady was from Okene. She was detained with us. She was very nice. She was nice to me.
Ishaya Bamaiyi was the only military officer who visited me in the underground tunnel after my case had been presented to him by the lady military officer. We spoke. Bamaiyi thought that if Abacha died, he would step into Abacha’s shoes. God had shown me that Abacha would die.
Did you tell him that?
Yes. The message was open. I told the lady as well. Omenka and all of them heard me when I said that