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Let Al-Mustapha be

Posted by By Emeka Omeihe on 2007/11/07 | Views: 557 |

Let Al-Mustapha be

The recent call by a former Adjutant of the Nigerian Defence Academy Major General Usman for the pardoning of Lt General Ishaya Bamaiyi and Major Hamza Al-Mustapha for whatever offences they may have committed is not only interesting but equally loaded.

The recent call by a former Adjutant of the Nigerian Defence Academy Major General Usman for the pardoning of Lt General Ishaya Bamaiyi and Major Hamza Al-Mustapha for whatever offences they may have committed is not only interesting but equally loaded.

Bamaiyi, a former Chief of Army Staff and Al-Mustapha are standing trial for alleged attempted murder of the Publisher of The Guardian Newspapers, Mr. Alex Ibru during the hey days of Abacha’s maximum rulership. Al-Mustapha, Abacha’s Chief Security Officer (CSO) is also facing a treason charge.

According to major General Usman “I believe they deserve mercy. Even if they are guilty, they deserve mercy. Now, they are still awaiting trial. The trials have been dragging on and on. I sincerely believe that they deserve pardon.”

Though Usman did not give reasons for calling for the release of the duo especially given the gravity of the charges, there is every reason to believe that he has problems with their continued detention and trial. That reason, cannot be found even, in his recognition that the trials have been dragging on and on. For, it will be very difficult to sustain the call for pardon just on account of the long delays the trials have suffered.

This is moreso, given that in our own clime, the judicial process has been very notorious for long delays and long adjournments. The usual congestion in our courts is a direct consequence of these long delays. Thus, it would appear absurd for the General to seek the pardoning of Bamaiyi and Al-Mustapha just because their trials have suffered very long delays.

And for such a call to be sustained, we could as well pardon and release the army of Nigerians who are languishing in prison custody on account of the undue delays in their trials. This is moreso, for people who are languishing in custody for very minor offences.
This could not have been the reason for the call, especially given the standing of Usman in the military. It is therefore safer to presume that Usman has been very economical with words.

Again, it would also seem absurd to assume guilt on the part of the accused and on that basis proceed to pardon them. The logical process would have been for the trials to be quickened and concluded. Thereafter, the authorities could listen to pleas for clemency in the case of conviction.

But since Usman went ahead to make such a call in the face of those subsisting trials, it meant he must have other reasons than the ones he seemed to have proffered. And those reasons can only be appreciated not within the legal angle but along the political circumstance and context of the alleged offences. It would seem to this writer that that is the point Usman is trying to make.
That is why he would even want them presumed guilty and all the same, pardoned. He is desperate to have them released and under any circumstance. It is a different kettle of fish whether the accused would share this view.

Difficult as the call is, it has once again raised issued regarding the circumstances under which both officers are being charged. They are standing trial for alleged offences they committed while serving their master – General Sani Abacha. Their master has since joined his ancestors.
However, his sins continue to re-vibrate. But to what extent can we absolve their master from those offences. And how justified are we as a people, to hold them responsible for actions they were alleged to have taken during the dark days of the regime of Abacha.

These posers may have been at the back of the mind of General Usman when he called for pardon for Bamaiyi and Al-Mustapha for whatever they may have committed. He may have reasoned that since the offences for which they are being tried were committed during an era that has been swept away, it was time for us to put the issue of that era to the dustbin.

There is also the issue of to what extent we can hold these people responsible for actions they took on behalf of their master who then, represented the state. These are some of the issues that have been brought to the fore by Usman’s prescriptions. The matter is not made any easier by the fact that that master, on whose behalf they may have acted is no more.

It would therefore appear that the issue must not be seen solely from the legal angle but from its political viewpoint. That appears to be the point Usman is making without say exactly so. And I think there is a valid point in that. I think time has come for us to take a political view of that trial.

It is true that the lives of prominent Nigerians are involved. It is true that the issue is both serious and sensitive. It is also true that such trials will put to check the culture of impunity and the recklessness that have been the stock –in-trade of some of our leaders. It will also serve a lesson to the likes of Al-Mustapha who loomed larger then life during the infamous regime of Abacha. That regime was everything bad and many Nigerians lost their lives in very suspicious circumstances.
It is therefore to be expected that Nigerians would be excited that all those who were fingered in connection with some of the killings of that era are brought to book, if anything, to serve as a deterrent to others.

This writer was one of those who wanted Al-Mustapha to be taught the bitter lesson of his life. He needed to be told that power is not only ephemeral but very transient. He needed to be told that over – zealousness and the arrogance of power have their limits.

He needed to be told in very clear terms that nobody can play God. Al-Mustapha needed to be taught those lessons because of the way he conducted himself while Abacha was alive.
But then, the unexpected happened. And all that bravado fizzled out unilaterally. In the past nine years or so, Al-Mustapha has been in detention. Within the same period, he has be arraigned for treason. Thus, even if he goes scot-free on the murder charge, that of the treason charge is still there. And in the case of the treason charge, the offence was said to have been committed while he was in detention at the Kirikiri Maximum Security Prisons.

Since his detention, Al-Mustapha’s father had died without his being either allowed to go and bury him or even the courtesy of seeing his dead father. Neither has bail been granted him.
Without going into the merits or otherwise of the charges preferred against the former Chief of Security Officer to Abacha, it would appear that the time has come for reason to prevail in the matter. It would seem to me that we may be missing the point if we continue to look at the Al-Mustapha’s case solely from the legal angle.

It is high time we took a political view of the issue. It would seem to me that despite the obstinacy and excesses of Al-Mustapha, it is time to set him free. It is time to pardon him for whatever offences he may have committed. He has learnt his lessons. After all, he was a diligent and faithful servant who should not be made to suffer for the atrocities of his dead master.

Whether you like him or not, the man Al-Mustapha is a fine officer. He is also principled and intelligent. Report had it that he could have even assumed the leadership of this country at the death of Abacha if he so wished. But he did not.

It would appear that there is a limit to the extent we can hold him responsible for the sins of Abacha. But even at that, allegations on state sponsored killings are still with us. Even in the last democratic dispensation, such accusations were quite rife. We have not forgotten in a hurry, how a serving Nigerian Minister, Chief Bola Ige was murdered despite the retinue of his security guards.

We have not forgotten the politically motivated killings that dotted the entire political space in the last eight years of our democracy. Condemnable as these are, the fact that they could also happen during civil rule, should caution that we take a compassionate view of the case of Al-Mustapha and pardon him. That is the point General Usman sseems to have made and I think the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister for justice, Chief Mike Aondoakaa must take interest in this case.

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Comments (3)

Abieyuwa(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Otasowie means evening life is better than morning life. There is an error in your “evening life is better than evening life”?

Naija g(Houston, Minnesota, US)says...

Sokari doesn’t mean joy. Joy is Biobela. Go to the village and ask the meaning of the name.

Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.