Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Femi Fani Kayode - MKO Abiola, Susan Rice & a deadly cup of tea


 Ambassador Susan Rice was up until recently the American Ambassador to the United Nations. Her long-standing aspiration of becoming the Secretary of State for her country was dashed when the Republicans in the Senate started sharpening their knives in anticipation of her formal nomination for that position by President Barak Obama.

Sensing that her nomination would not scale through the Senate and that she would not be confirmed as Secretary of State due to the role she played in the cover up of the Benghazi affair in which the American Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other American citizens were murdered by a group of islamist terrorists, her nomination was withdrawn.

Instead of Secretary of State, President Obama has now nominated her for the position of National Security Advisor which is a job that does not require Senate approval or confirmation. I wish Susan Rice well in her new assignment but I am constrained to ask the following questions and the people of Nigeria would like to have the answers. What did she put in the tea that she served to Chief MKO Abiola on July 8th 1998 just before he died? She was one of the last people that saw him alive, she served him some tea, he coughed violently, collapsed right in front of her and her team and one hour later he was dead. What was in the tea? Was it Abuja ''green tea'', Darjeeling, Earl Grey, Liptons or some other more exotic brand?

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Can someone please ask Susan Rice what her role was in the death of MKO Abiola? Who sent her to do the job and who was she working for? At that time she was Assistant Secretary of State for America in President Bill Clinton's government. Was she acting on his direct instructions or simply on the instructions of her boss and controller in Langley?

Chief MKO Abiola was the winner of Nigeria's freest and fairest elections. That election took place on June 12th 1993. The following day it was annuled by General Ibrahim Babangida. Shortly after that, as a consequence of the sheer outrage that was generated by the annulement, Babangida was compelled to ''step aside'' and hand over power to Chief Ernest Shonekan. In what was clearly a strategic manouver he left General Sani Abacha (his own Chief of Army Staff) behind to be the Minister of Defence for the incoming administration.

A few months later Abacha toppled the Interim National Government of Chief Ernest Shonekan which he had served and seized power for himself. Abiola was arrested and detained. He was never granted his freedom again. Four years later Abacha himself was murdered by forces that are yet to be identified and General Abdulsalami Abubakar took power. Exactly 30 days after Abacha was killed, those same forces that killed him murdered Abiola as well in an attempt to ''balance the equation''.

These are the facts and sequence of events. One thing is self-evident and cannot be denied no matter which side of the divide one may have been on in the June 12th saga- certain questions must be answered. And some of those questions are as follows. Who killed MKO Abiola? Who killed Sani Abacha? Who sent the respected Chief Emeka Anyaoku (the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth at the time) and Mr. Kofi Annan (the Secretary General of the United Nations at the time) to meet with Abiola and ask him to relinquish and renounce his mandate if he wanted to be released? What was their response when Abiola refused to do so? What role, if any, did officials of the Abubakar administration play in the murder of both Abacha and Abiola? What role did the CIA play and exactly what transpired in the room when Assistant Secretary of State Susan Rice (as she then was), Ambassador Thomas Pickering and two other faceless and nameless officials from the American Embassy met with Abiola on that fateful day. For how long did Ambassador Pickering give him mouth to mouth resuscitation after he collapsed? Sadly instead of being revived and released that day Abiola died in what can only be described as mysterious and questionable circumstances.

This is all the more so because Abiola's security officer and the man that was charged with looking after him and protecting him throughout the time that he was incarcerated (an honest, upstanding and courageous police officer by the name of ASP Zadok) told the Oputa panel in 2002 that Abiola was ''hale and hearty'' and in ''very high spirits'' just before going into the meeting with the Americans. He went further by telling the panel that as he was about to enter Aguda House (the premises where the meeting was scheduled to be held) with Abiola he was asked to leave his principal, to step out of the premises and to go and pick up another car from somewhere else by one of General Abdulsalami's security officers. He promptly obeyed the order but half an hour later when he came back he found Abiola in a terrible condition, coughing violently, writhing all over the floor in pain and breathing his last breath. Thirty minutes later he gave up the ghost.

Another question that needs to be answered is the one that the respected columnist Mr. Gbolobo Ogunsanwo has dubbed as ''the question of the missing one hour''. Permit me to explain. According to the testimony that was given to the Oputa Panel by Major Hamza Al Mustapha, who was General Abacha's Chief Security Officer, from the first day that Abiola was arrested right up until the day that he was murdered he (Al Mustapha) was in charge of his (Abiola's) security. Each time Abiola was moved from one safe house to another he had to sign for it. Each time Abiola ate his food or drank anything, his men tasted and drank it before-hand. He went as far as to say that each time Abiola went to the toilet he was made aware of it and that nothing happened around Abiola or to him without his direct permission and the involvement of his most loyal men. After Abacha was murdered and Abdulsalami Abubakar became Head of State, Al Mustapha was still in charge of Abiola's security and he still maintained direct responsibility for his life, his well-being and his welfare right up until the minute that he was murdered.

When Mustapha appeared before the Oputa Panel he exposed the fact that in the entire period of four years that he and his team watched over Abiola it was only in the one hour that he was killed that they had no knowledge or control of what was happening to or around him. According to him, Abiola was removed from the guest house that he had been staying without his (Al Mustapha's) signature or knowledge and without anyone seeking his permission. Simply put he was kept in the dark about the whole thing. Secret orders were given to keep him out of the loop, to take Abiola to a destination which he knew nothing about and to ensure that none of the usual trusted food tasters and minders were with him. The only person that accompanied Abiola from the old guard of those that had watched over him for the previous four years was ASP Zadok and when they arrived at Aguda House (the venue of the meeting) he was conveniently sent on a meaningless errand by General Abdulsalami Abubakar's Chief Security Officer and told to leave. Hence for the first time in four years Abiola was left completely on his own and he was surrounded by a coterie of strange faces who had no genuine affection or empathy for him. He was with them for one hour and during that hour not one of those that had watched over him, that had secured his safety and that he had grown familiar with over the entire four year period of his incarceration was with him. It was during that ''missing hour'', when he was all alone and very vulnerable, that he was poisoned.

Sadly by the time Zadok, who was undoubtedly loyal to him, returned to the scene Abiola was already dying. The question is who gave the order for Abiola to be brought to that meeting? Why did they keep Al Mustapha in the dark about it? Why was Zadok sent to bring another vehicle that was obviously not needed? That one hour, and what transpired during it's course, holds the key to everything. It appears that Abiola was lured into a trap by a group of smiling strangers who did not wish him well and who had sinister plans for him. It was like leading a lamb to the slaughter. 

Given these circumstances I have no doubt that this was a case of premeditated murder but the question is whose call was it and why did it have to happen? What was the motive? Was it done just to ''balance the equation'' as some said at the time or was it done in an attempt to pave the way for an Obasanjo Presidency one year later? Could General Olusegun Obasanjo have been released from jail and elected President if Abiola had lived and if he had insisted on claiming his mandate? The Nigerian people have a right to know the truth and it is about time that those that have wielded power in this country for the last few decades told them. The powers that be must appreciate the fact that they cannot sweep things under the carpet forever and that one day, no matter how long it takes, they will be held accountable by God and the Nigerian people for the morbid, secret and oftentimes homicidal choices and decisions that they made.

Yet the truth is that the military operates like a cult and we may never get an honest answer from any of them about what really happened. This is because there are very few Col. Abubakar Dangiwa Umar's in the Nigerian military. Very few of them are prepared to break ranks with the leadership and break the ''omerta'' code of silence like Abubakar Umar did over the June 12th election. Very few of them are prepared to call a spade a spade, speak the truth, expose the lie and damn the consequences. Most of them continue to spin the yarn and tell the lie that Abacha and Abiola's deaths were both from natural causes and that it was just a coincidence that one dropped dead on June 8th 1998, just 4 days before the 5th anniversary of June 12th, and the other droped dead exactly one month later on July 8th 1998. As they say ''the secrets are embedded in the sequence of events, the numbers and the dates'' and, in this case, the sequence of events, the numbers and the dates really do tell an interesting and revealing story.

 Yet no matter how hard they try to cover her up and silence her, truth is stubborn and she cannot be drowned. She is like a pack of straws that are held together and pinned down by an all-powerful hand at the bottom of a river. As long as she is held at the bottom of that river she cannot be seen or heard. Yet one day, in the fullness of time, that all-powerful hand that seeks to supress her forever will get tired and let go and at that point Lady Truth will happily float to the top of the water where she will be seen and heard by all. It is in the same way that one day, in the fullness of time, the pernicious and perfidious verdict of "death by natural causes" or "act of God" that the powers that be have claimed are the causes of Abiola and Abacha's deaths respectively will be exposed for what they are.

The fact of the matter is that until these questions are answered and justice is done Nigeria will not know lasting peace and she cannot possibly achieve her fulll potentials. It is a spiritual thing. Abiola gave his life that we may have a better tomorrow yet we refuse to acknowledge it or to bring his killers to justice. We are repaying his good with evil and the consequences of that are set out in the Word of God. Whatever anyone may have thought of him as a person, the fact remains that had it not been for Abiola's sheer resilience, courage, steadfastness, sacrifice and gallant refusal to bow before the Nigerian military and give up his 1993 Presidential mandate we would not have democracy in Nigeria today. He was faithful to his cause to the very last. In return for that the least we could do is to ask the relevant questions, demand the appropiate answers and expose the bitter truth. We owe MKO Abiola, his wife Kudirat (who was also murdered) and all the other June 12th and NADECO footsoldiers and martyrs that much.

Femi Fani Kayode is a former Minister of Aviation

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