The founder of the Oodua People’s Congress, Dr. Fredrick Fasehun, in this interview with Punch’s man, Allwell Okpi, explains why he went to Kano with Maj. Hamza Al-Mustapha, the former Chief Security Officer of late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha. Except:
How can you define your relationship with Hamza Al-Mustapha?
He is a Nigerian, I’m a Nigerian. He is a Nigerian citizen that was wrongly accused and I’m a crusader for justice. I felt that he was a victim of injustice. I thought my attribution and characteristics should come to play by telling the entire world that there was no justice in the treatment he was given for an offence he did not commit.
Many believe that Al-Mustapha masterminded the assassination of several people, including Kudirat Abiola, and some people testified to that in court. How come you say he is innocent?
Is that not the story we were told? Is that not what the media gave to the public? The press didn’t write to tell the Nigerian public that one of the same witnesses that said Al-Mustapha gave him the gun with which he killed Kudirat came back to court, crying like a baby and saying he was induced by the state to give the evidence. ‘Who is the state?’ He mentioned three levels, including the director-general of the State Security Service at the time. ‘What were you induced with?’ He said they promised that he would be given a house in Abuja; he would be posted outside the country; he would be paid salary in foreign currency, and his wife would be given money every month for sustenance.
When the state failed in its part of the bargain, he decided to confess the true version of his involvement. Some of the witnesses, as a result of complying with the wishes of the state, were set free and they were walking the streets freely. They even went back to their jobs. One of them was not even in Lagos in June, 1996. On June 4, when Kudirat was murdered, Katako was getting married in Azare, in Bauchi State. He got married at 10am; Kudirat was killed between 8 and 9am. And the judge of the lower court was told all that and she recorded everything said by those witnesses, and she based her judgment of hanging on those two witnesses. That was prosecution witness numbers two and three.
When the judge of the lower court was going to give judgment, she knew that such a crime might earn death sentence, she itemised the evidences but said there were circumstantial evidences. Circumstantial evidences in murder case? What are these circumstantial evidences, she didn’t say. She wrote 326 pages of judgment. What was she looking for writing 326 pages of judgment? According to the Appeal Court, she was fishing for truth, falsehood and lies. The Appeal Court wrote about 32 pages destroying her judgment, with various authorities cited. At the end, the Appeal Court didn’t see what circumstances the lower court based its judgment, so it refused the judgment on hard facts and evidences from credible witnesses; not witnesses that gave evidences and came back to retract them.
Don’t you think those people would have been induced to retract their earlier testimony?
That is ridiculous. Who will induce them? Al-Mustapha was in prison. Don’t forget that he was even accused of planning a coup in prison and some generals even said he was attempting to import stinger missiles into Nigeria. And when they called him to face the panel, he disgraced the entire panel by asking them questions. He asked them how much a stinger missile cost. None of them knew. He told them that the smallest type cost $250m (N40.3bn). Where will he get that in prison? And in that coup, I was supposed to have been his accomplice. The SSS invited me and queried me. I told them to put their questions in writing and I would respond in writing. They retreated.
How come they linked you with Al-Mustapha in the supposed coup plot, were you that close to him?
I don’t know. I’ve always believed that Al-Mustapha did not commit the offence. So, I would occasionally visit him in Kirikiri. I met Al-Mustapha during the seating of Oputa Panel. I didn’t know him before that time. Even at the panel. I didn’t know him until when I had given my own evidence and I was going to the toilet and he was sitting near the entrance of the toilet. And when I wanted to enter the toilet, he stood up and said, ‘you are Dr. Fasehun?’ I said ‘and you?’ He said ‘I’m Al-Mustapha.’ I said, ‘you Al-Mustapha?’ And I didn’t say a word to him again. But when that seating ended, he came to me. He said, ‘sir, congratulations.’ I said, ‘what for?’ Mind you, I still had that grudge against him. He said because you are one of the few leaders that didn’t come to Aso Rock Villa. I said ‘thank you.’
It was about three months later that I took interest in his case. Then, I started visiting him regularly until he started telling me so many things. I prevailed on him that as a military man, there are some information that he should not give to me. I told him we will be friends, provided he didn’t set this country ablaze.
Many people, including Yoruba leaders, have questioned your trip to Kano with Al-Mustapha. Why did you go all the way?
I once said they should release Al-Mustapha. If they don’t release him, they should take him to Abuja, Jos or Sokoto. They should take him out of Yorubaland. A fifth columnist could have been sent to liquidate that young man and, if he died in our hands, every Yoruba throat in the North would be slashed. All those that failed to leave the North will be killed. Now that God has prevailed on the situation and he did not die in our hands, I took him there to hand him over to the governor and the Galadima of Kano, because the Emir of Kano was not in town.
I told them that when Al-Mustapha was leaving Kano, he was in tatters, his hands were in shackles and his legs were in chains. I’m returning him on behalf of the Yoruba people hale and hearty, please look after him. I was not thinking of my own interest, because at 78, I’m not afraid of death. I did it for my people. When we got to Kano, the crowd was not singing any other thing but Oodua, Oodua. It was not Dr. Fasehun, it was Oodua. After I had spoken there, one of their big leaders said, ‘Dr. Fasehun, we kept quiet watching what you were doing.’ I didn’t know what he meant by ‘you.’ He added, ‘but after this journey, we see you as the greatest bridge-builder.’
When I was leaving, 45 northern leaders saw me off. So, it dawned on me that what I did was not a child’s play. On Monday, the Youruba community in Kano, which is four million-strong, invited me to speak to them. When I explained to them why I was in Kano, the Sheik amongst them said ‘sir’, we have nothing to give you but we are giving you a chieftaincy title, High Chief Olododo.’
You said you went to Kano on behalf of Yoruba people, but some Afenifere leaders have faulted that trip, saying you were not representing the Yoruba. How do you reconcile this?
I didn’t say I was representing the Yoruba and I didn’t interact with Afenifere leaders or anybody at all on that issue.
But their grouse is that you openly associated with Al-Mustapha, who represents the Sani Abacha regime that persecuted a lot of Yoruba people?
That is the lingering grudge we all had against Al-Mustapha. He was part of a regime that persecuted Yoruba people. But, should human beings nurse grudges for 20 years?
You have been accused of being sponsored to destabilise the South-West and some have said your trip to Kano further proved that?
What’s your response to that? With all modesty, I will be counted as one of those the Yoruba people that are in love with Yoruba people. There is no way I would work against the interest of the Yoruba. Those who are sponsoring damaging comments about me are doing it from their political standpoint, which I’ve been trying to expose. But unfortunately, I don’t have money to sponsor the exposure.
The Yoruba people of current times think money is everything. Many of them don’t believe in integrity. They don’t even believe in what (Obafemi) Awolowo struggled for. They are encouraging a one-man dictatorship, smuggling in one-party system into the South-West through the back door. I’ve been trying to remove the veil from the eyes of Yoruba people. If I see trends inimical to the interest of Yoruba people, I should be in a position to say ‘don’t go there, a tiger is lurking behind the door.’