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Al-Mustapha’s futile revisionism

Thursday with    Abimbola Adelakun

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The Chief Security Officer to the late dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, lately found his tongue and began wielding it freely. Much too freely, in fact.

Considering this past week has two dates that are significant in the annals of Nigerian history, one would expect Al-Mustapha to do the needful – keep quiet and slink into the earth like vermin but no, the man has seized the spotlight to make himself out to be the unacclaimed hero of a tragic narrative.

The first date, June 4, made 21 years since Alhaja Kudirat Abiola was assassinated. Today, June 8, makes it 19 years since Abacha died in circumstances that many would say thankfully resolved a major political conundrum for Nigeria. At the centre of both historical incidents was Al-Mustapha, the man who played an indecorous role in the whole drama. He was a key figure in Abacha’s government and was reputed for torture and other acts of cruelties that took place under his watch. Abacha’s death freed Nigeria from their murderous grip.

This week, Al-Mustapha was in Ibadan, Oyo State, to speak on -of all topics- youth and leadership. On that occasion, he embarked on a self-serving agenda claiming he knew more than usual about the circumstances that led to the death of the putative winner of the June 12, 1993, election, Chief MKO Abiola.

Al-Mustapha found a way to make the entire narrative of Abiola’s death about himself and an imagined act of injustice he suffered. He turns himself into a martyr, a victim of powers-that-be while he conveniently forgot that some 20 years ago, he was the one who had the power to decide who lived or died.

Al-Mustapha claimed he was persecuted because of a video tape that captured the last minutes of Abiola’s life. He added that some “powerful people” believed he had the tape and that was why he was on the chopping block for 15 years plus. The same Al-Mustapha, meanwhile, must have forgotten that his trial lasted that long because he and his lawyer engaged in all manner of sideshows to frustrate the case. Their diversionary tactics took advantage of the looseness of the Nigerian justice system to delay the course of justice until it was eventually denied the victim. Now, Al-Mustapha, his memory probably addled by his years in jail, claimed that he was subjected to long detention because he was privy to secret evidence some phantom big men wanted to be destroyed.

Al-Mustapha expects us to believe that the people who hounded him for 15 years over the said tape no longer care. That is why he can even boast about writing a book about the experience. If those people were as powerful as he would have us believe, why didn’t they kill him to permanently put paid to the possibility of the story from ever leaking to the public? Now that he has threatened to reveal all that went down in his book, is he now saying his persecutors are going to roll over and play dead over his revelations? Besides, how does the Jabberwocky he is spreading all over the place account for the death of Kudirat Abiola, Pa Alfred Rewane and the assassination attempts on the likes of Pa Abraham Adesanya? Why is he so insensitive and lacking basic judgment that he cannot just remain silent and go away?

But then, can one totally blame Al-Mustapha for smearing public sensibility with his odium? How does an organisation in the South-West, a region that survived the high-handedness and abuse by Abacha and his goons, invite the dictator’s underling to talk about developing Yoruba youths for leadership? How young were the organisers that they had no recollection of what Abacha’s government did to key figures in the South-West such as Wole Soyinka, Gani Fawehinmi, NADECO members, and others? Why would they even touch Al-Mustapha without wearing an antiseptic glove?

From Dino Melaye writing a book on corruption to Al-Mustapha speaking on leadership development, there seems to be no end to the number of absurdities daily visited on Nigerians. Meanwhile, the leaders of the organisation, Asorodayo Youth Heritage Organisation, were never named in the reports. There is scant information about who they are and what they do for a living. None of the many media reports on Al-Mustapha mentioned the names of the organiser of the event, or whether they had a rejoinder for their guest when he began to rant about his supposed innocence. Suffice to say they left him to purge his troubled conscience and proclaim his innocence without contradicting him with facts. Like many political jobbers in Nigeria who constantly engage in a public ritual of self-vindication by writing obnoxious books, Al-Mustapha too is seeking absolution. He is embarking on a self-exoneration and the unknown organisation in Ibadan gave him the best opportunity to legitimise his revisionism. Incidentally, he chose the same week that Kudirat and Abacha died to sell his fairy tales so that his revisionist account will override remembrances of Kudirat.

Al-Mustapha can try as hard as he likes but he cannot rewrite public memory. We will always remember that he was eventually arrested for the death of Kudirat. We will not forget that he was tried along with Abacha’s son, Mohammed, but who was later freed. We will be there to always remind him that at some point he was convicted for the death of Kudirat, sentenced to death by hanging, but was freed by an appeal court. The fact that he walks around is no testimony to his innocence, only a reminder that our democracy was founded on sorrow, tears, blood, injustice, and abuse of human rights. One day, when this nation finally gets it right, people like Al-Mustapha will eventually be put in their place.

One should note that Al-Mustapha is not the first human pustule that worked under Abacha who now seeks to rewrite history in his favour. In April, a former Chief of Army Staff, Ishaya Bamaiyi, wrote and launched his own self-exonerating book titled, “Vindication of a General.” The book was so full of half-truths concocted by his febrile mind that almost everybody who wrote a rejoinder to the book called him a pathetic liar. One wonders, why would Bamaiyi care so much about what we think of him or how he is remembered that he would write a book to vindicate himself? Is this a reflection of his hubris or an overestimation of his self-worth? Bamaiyi, among other laughable stories he told in his book to whitewash himself, asked us to believe that the famed Abacha loot was a mere media creation. Bamaiyi must have been living on the moon when various countries returned part of the Abacha loot to Nigeria.

The fact that both Al-Mustapha and Bamaiyi can carve a space in the public sphere to push for rehabilitation of their image shows that Nigeria has not been diligent enough in investigating their infamous activities. If they had been properly subjected to inquiry and their roles in past government formally determined and officially gazetted, there would be a limit to the kind of lies they would hawk around during the anniversary of their dead principal. After all, up till now, the people who took part in the Holocaust are still being inquired even though most of them are now old and even senile. Why has Nigeria not found the courage to do the needful on these people? Both Al-Mustapha and Bamaiyi are the public remains of the decomposed corpse of Abacha that was buried 19 years ago today but still stinks.

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