Friday, December 26, 2014

THE DETAILS: Who Killed Bola Ige?

There was once a Roman statesman, lawyer, political theorist, philosopher, widely considered one of Rome’s greatest orators and prose stylists. His name was Marcus Tullius Cicero who lived between (January 3, 106 BC and December 7, 43 BC) Cicero is generally seen as one of the most versatile minds of Roman culture and his writings, the paragon of classical Latin. He introduced the Romans to the chief schools of Greek philosophy and created a Latin vocabulary.

We learnt his childhood dream was "Always to be the best and far to excel the others." No wonder when he started his career as a lawyer around 83-81 BC, he successfully defended Sextus Roscius on a charge of parricide, which of course, was an indirect challenge to the dictator, Emperor Sulla, at that time and he had to travel to Athens with his brother and cousin, perhaps due to the potential wrath of Emperor Sulla.

Why are we celebrating Marcus Cicero today? It is because he shared most of the sterling qualities with our own Uncle Bola Ige, popularly called “The Cicero” of Esa-Oke, considering his education background and profession as an astute lawyer, elder statesman, administrator, seasoned politician, educationist and undisputable leader of thought.

However, sad enough, both men were murdered...
Perhaps, the only difference is that the power that be, that killed Marcus Cicero pride about it and even displayed his decapitated body for the people to see in that part of the world at that time taking a final revenge against Cicero’s power of speech while those who planned and killed our own “Cicero” are still hiding. The big question still, is who were those responsible for that cowardly act by killing Bola Ige on December 23, 2001 in his home at Ibadan? Life could indeed be an irony. This is the same Ibadan where he lived, served, developed when the opportunity came having being popularly elected as the first executive civilian Governor of the old Oyo State. This same Ibadan happened to be the seat of power, being the capital of the old Oyo State.

It was said that when the title “Cicero” was given to honour Bola Ige by the people of Esa-Oke, his home town, because of the inherent traits he shared with Marcus Tullius Cicero of Rome, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the late sage, was not too comfortable with the title because of the way the power-that-be at that time killed Marcus Tullius Cicero. And most disheartening he was killed on our own soil though far away from Rome. Then, not only did political parties monitor governors elected under their platforms, even the governed were given the opportunity to evaluate the performances of their governors. Today, state parties hardly tell you their mission and only busy themselves in how to rig elections, crush any opposition and kill opponents depending on the level of desperation.

Prior to the assassination, Ige was guest of His Royal Highness, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, the reigning Ooni of Ife and it was widely reported that some miscreants (apparently being sponsored by those who hated him) reportedly removed his cap and hung it on a tree in the palace area. One begins to wonder what has become of our society. What an irony! Years back, and precisely in 1980 at the same venue, the man, Uncle Bola Ige, was the centre of attraction as governor holding out the staff of office to the king-elect then during the installation and coronation.

I think it is not too late for the police to start a thorough investigation from that angle. This to me should be acceptable as a careful thought with a view to unraveling the assassination and bring to book the killers now that we seem to embrace the rule of law in the country. It is only when the killers are caught that we can be talking of prosecution. And with the zeal of the Inspector General of Police, Suleiman Abba, he should be challenged to come out with something that will cleanse the shame of a nation, that a sitting Attorney General of the Federation was that murdered in his home and more than seven years after, the nation is still groping in the dark. Most Nigerians share the belief that the Nigerian Police is capable if it chooses to come out with the expected result.

Of course, the Obasanjo administration did not help the police in that at the tail end of its tenure, it was widely reported that the former president at a gathering quickly admitted that one faceless drug baron which the then Ministry of Justice was planning to probe was responsible for the cowardly act. And because you cannot put something on nothing, on October 24, 2007, the court ordered the release from the Agodi Prison in Ibadan of the accused as advised by the state prosecution for want of evidence as usual and one cannot blame the defence lawyer boasting to even sue the Federal Government for damages while the real damage to the nation still looms and crime committed still unravelled.

Some schools of thought believe that if Ige had remained in his self-styled “siddon look” posture at that time and not joined the Obasanjo government, he may still be alive or at worst, he may not have been slaughtered the way they did. In any case, death could also have come due to old age. Some of us also believe that his joining to serve at all under Obasanjo’s regime was a silent revolution or protest from the way and manner his party presidential primary at that time was conducted. No political reasoning could really explain the “wedlock” considering the events of the past and even in the present circumstances. Could it be considered that he went too far to have opted to serve under the Obasanjo’s regime? However, as patriotic as he was to serve his fatherland when he was invited, should not in any way make him one of the high profile political killings that will be swept under the usual sealed marble forever.

Sometime ago, one high ranking police officer told the whole world that investigation could begin on any case if there are new findings, clues or trails but that it was “capital intensive”. This sounds comforting but not encouraging because the Nigerian economy is still strong enough to do more than unravelling this particular murder case with a view to bringing the killers to book. The police should be told that Nigerians deserve to know who killed “Uncle Bola Ige” as we used to call him then and of course, a host of others killed in similar circumstances for the sake of posterity and justice. More importantly, to prove to the world that we are able not only to detect crime but to carry out justice in the most civilised way as being done around the globe.

I hope the police understand very well that a murder case in every clime is not statute-barred, which means the case cannot be closed at any given time. Issues of note are many in this particular case and that is why time cannot sweep it away so quickly. The idea is that this nation must not allow the unborn generation to taunt us that a democratically elected government was unable to find the murderers of a former Attorney-General of the Federation. It is now 13 years after the murder and the nation is still waiting and seems hopelessly counting.

In fact, there is not even any hope for the common man when notables and nobles are being killed and nothing happens. My worry is that our children would found it really difficult to comprehend. By all means, Nigerians deserve to know who killed our own “Cicero”

BY ODUNAIKE ABIODUN SAMUEL Samuel, a logistics management expert, wrote to Punch from Victoria Island, Lagos 


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