Nigeria: Funny Theories About Al-Mustapha’s Freedom
By: ABUBAKAR SA’AD BAKORI
Nigerians have a propensity for attributing motives to every action and it is not, therefore, surprising why some people are linking the freedom of Major Hamza Al-Mustapha to the 2015 ambition of President Goodluck Jonathan.
These theories are rather too far- fetched considering the fact that, despite repeated past appeals for state pardon, neither the Federal Government nor the Lagos State Government had responded to those appeals for clemency. In fa ct, there is no way the Lagos State Government would have accepted any political deal to release Major Al-Mustapha. The South-west is a hostile political environment to General Abacha’s former Chief Security Officer. And the Federal Government alone could not have granted amnesty to Al-Mustapha without the involvement of the Lagos State Government.
The involvement of some northern leaders in frustrating Mustapha’s freedom in the past also discredits the theory that his release is political. The deposed Emir of Gwandu, Alhaji Mustapha Haruna Jokolo, had once told the Hausa Service of the Voice of America (VOA) that some powerful northern leaders were opposed to Al-Mustapha’s freedom. According to him, former President Obasanjo was amenable to the idea of seeking the cooperation of Lagos State to grant him amnesty, but the effort was frustrated by these northern leaders.
On two occasions, during his independence anniversary broadcasts, many Nigerians had expected President Jonathan to surprise the nation by announcing the release of Al-Mustapha. However, such expectation turned to disappointment. Reacting to the rumours of Al-Mustapha’s possible release as part of the independence anniversary gesture of goodwill, presidential media spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati dismissed such speculations. He said in line with the Federal Government policy on the rule of law, it would not interfere in the trial of Major Al-Mustapha. He said the issue was between the suspect and the Lagos State Government. This incident also debunks the notion of Al-Mustapha’s freedom being influenced by President Jonathan.
Any suggestion that Al-Mustapha’s freedom is political is insulting to the integrity of the lawyers and judges that handled his trial. Are those peddling these theories suggesting that the President had told the Court of Appeal judges which way he wanted the case to go? Should the President dictate to judges what their verdict should be? Then what becomes of the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers? It is funny that some Nigerians don’t even know how the constitution operates. Any attempt by the President to dictate to the judges could have led to resistance because certain judges would rather follow their principles and lose their jobs than sacrifice their integrity.
It is, therefore, utter rubbish for anyone to suggest that Al-Mustapha’s freedom was political. All efforts to get him state pardon were frustrated and the man and his lawyers patiently exhausted the legal options available to get their client off the hook. How can anybody now tell us that his acquittal was political? Many, if not all of those peddling these funny theories, didn’t meticulously follow the case from October 1999 to July, 2013.
Major Al-Mustapha exhausted all legal avenues for freedom to their limits and it is, therefore, unfair to now associate his acquittal with politics. Political solution didn’t work for him as was the case with OPC leaders and former Niger Delta militants. In fact, Governor Fashola would have faced instant spontaneous riots and demonstrations if he had accepted any political deal to release Al-Mustapha. The South-west people are implacably hostile to the Major and, therefore, no political deal could have succeeded.
Contrary to these funny theories linking Al-Mustapha’s freedom to President Jonathan’s 2015 ambition, the Major got his freedom through a painstaking legal battle, lasting for 15 years. Reducing all these legal efforts for freedom to politics is preposterous. In fact, these theories are insulting to our intelligence. Many of those spreading these ridiculous theories didn’t even know about the silent efforts made for years to seek a political solution to Al-Mustapha’s travails. These efforts didn’t yield results.
However, Al-Mustapha’s faith in the courts remained unshaken. When he was sentenced to death on January 30, 2012 by a Lagos High Court, Al-Mustapha and his lawyers knew that it was not the end of the tether because legal options were still available, the same option that is also now available to the prosecution team after Al-Mustapha’s acquittal by the Court of Appeal.
While the prosecution team is considering the option of appeal at the Supreme Court, these busybody conspiracy theorists should stop insulting our intelligence with the idea that President Jonathan released Major Al-Mustapha to bolster his 2015 second term ambition. Al-Mustapha’s lawyers worked very hard for his freedom from the beginning to the end and, therefore, nobody should now come and tell us funny stories about the President being behind his freedom. These theories don’t hold any water and, therefore, these rumour peddlers should allow Al-Mustapha to settle down and define his next step in life.
—Bakori, a commentator on national issues wrote from No. 86, Panama Street, Ministers’ Hill, Maitama, Abuja