Nigerians are very religious. They believe that sin will eventually get punished. They are, however, unable to explain how former leaders who stole hefty amounts of public funds are going away with their loot. A case in point is Ibrahim Babangida, former military leader and dictator, who is believed to have stolen the most money from the coffers. In recent times, it has become apparent that no Nigerian administration is willing to bring Babangida to book for his atrocities.
Gani Fawehinmi and Wole Soyinka did not think Babangida would go unpunished, but he is. Regarding all the atrocities that Babangida has commited and national resources stolen or wasted, will Nigerian's ever get retribution? Will IBB die without being punished? The late human rights lawyer was confident Babangida would not escape justice. Is justice still possible as Gani had predicted?
Before he died, Gani had this to say:
Q: It is 20 years this month since Dele Giwa died. Could you recount your frustration?
A:(Prolonged laughter). Let me start by saying that I have no illusion, no doubt, no pessimism about who killed Dele Giwa. Dele Giwa was murdered at the instance of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, no doubt about that. Why?
Dele Giwa was investigating the Gloria Okon drug business deal and her activities with the wife of General Ibrahim Babangida. The military government of Buhari and Idiagbon knew this. There can be no doubt about this and an investigation was on. And at that time, Babangida was Chief of Army Staff. (Long pause to regain his composure). When Babangida took over on the 27th of August 1985, Dele Giwa was investigating the matter to know the facts and the truth. And in October 1986, security chiefs, Togun and others, met with media chiefs. Ask them today, they are still around and many of them are still in charge of their newspapers.
The security chiefs told the media men that if anybody was preparing any type of story and wished to publish a story that may affect the President – Babangida – and his family, including his wife, the person must first clear such story with the security forces. Giwa said, “No, I am not prepared to clear my story, I am not prepared to subvert my journalistic independence or put my profession under security men.” To confirm to you that Dele Giwa was doing a story, when we were before Oputa, December 14, 2000, Ray Ekpu was asked, and I have the tape recording of what he said: “Was Dele Giwa doing a story on Gloria Okon and the wife of then president Babangida?” He said yes. When Dele Giwa refused – I am talking about early October 1986 – to agree to submit his story, the repression, witch-hunt, tailing and everything started.
First to conduct an explosive interrogation with him was the Director of Military Intelligence. It was very explosive, a shouting match. Then on Friday, 17th of October, it was the turn of A.K. Togun, Deputy Director of the State Security Service, SSS. “You are doing gun-running. You are carrying arms to subvert the Federal Republic of Nigeria.” Giwa said: Me? Gun-running? You want to give a dog a bad name because you want to kill it? After the event, Giwa ran to this place. Ray Ekpu was sitting where you are sitting now and Dele Giwa sat at the other end. That was about 1.45 p.m. on the 7th of October, Friday. He said: Chief Gani, please you have to save me. They want to kill me. They are now alleging that I am doing gun-running. It is a lie. They are telling lies against me that I want to take over government. It is a lie. I said, thank you very much. I will do my best, but go back and put it in writing.
He ran back. I saw them off to the gate. That was the last I saw of Dele Giwa. Then they brought the letter here at about 4.15p.m. I told my colleagues, please let’s move fast. We started working, but it was late to go to court. On Saturday, we went on with the preparation and by Sunday we were through. At 12.45 p.m., my phone rang and I picked it up. It was Ray Ekpu. He said, Gani, Dele has been killed. Tears were rolling down my cheeks like water. I dashed there and asked, where is he? He told me that the body had been taken to First Foundation Hospital, Dr. Tosin Ajayi’s hospital. ‘‘Describe the place to me,’’ I demanded. He did and I ran there. I saw the lifeless body of Dele Giwa, shattered. The torso was gone, the spleen was dangling. You could see the inside of his body and the intestines were shattered. Parcel-bombed.
How did it happen? Saturday, the 18th of October 1986, Haliru Akilu phoned his house and spoke with the wife who took the phone. He asked the wife to tell him the description to the house. The wife asked why. He said there was a parcel that would be brought by the ADC to the President, because they were all friends in a way. The wife said, O.K. 25 Talabi, off Adeniyi Jones Avenue. Then at 11 a.m. on Sunday, another telephone call, but this time Dele Giwa was at home at breakfast table because he woke up late and he was in his pyjamas. In front of him was Kayode Soyinka, his London correspondent. Haliru spoke again. He said, Dele Giwa, don’t worry, everything is over. Dele said, No. I have told my lawyer and we are going to court tomorrow. Haliru said: Don’t worry, everything is over. Forty minutes later, the parcel bomb came. He had been receiving parcels like that before from the Commander-in-Chief.
A courier alighted from a motorcycle, got into the gate, called out and Dele Giwa’s son, Billy, a student of the University of Jos, got the parcel, looked at it, dashed to his father’s table, gave it to his father, who looked at it and said: Oh, this must be from the President!
Written on the parcel was: C-in-C. To be opened by Dele Giwa only, with a coat of arms. He said, O.K., this is from the President. He tried to open it and the whole thing blew up and shattered him. The house was in flames. So, there is no doubt about it that Dele Giwa did not agree to submit his story about Babangida’s wife’s drug deal with Gloria Okon. He was subjected to interrogation by Akilu, Director of Military Intelligence on Thursday, and Friday by Togun. Then, Saturday, they perfected their arrangement, and wanted to know the address to be sure. On Sunday, they phoned to be sure that he was at home. Apparently, from what I gathered, there was an uncompleted building close to the house and they might have been lurking there and spying to ensure that Dele Giwa was at home before they unleashed the terror bomb.
Immediately it happened, all Nigerians virtually called for a judicial probe. The Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), then headed by Chief Segun Osoba, called for a judicial probe. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) called for a judicial probe. The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) called for a judicial probe. Tony Momoh, Minister of Information for the regime, called for a judicial probe in his first reaction. But on the 23rd when the AFRC, headed by Babangida, met, they took a decision. Tony Momoh came out and addressed the press and said there will be no probe. It was reported in The Guardian. He said there would be no judicial probe at all. We went to the police and they said they were going to investigate the matter at their own time. I made up my mind that I would not take it at all. I owed a duty to the man, the facts I knew before his death, that he was being trailed. They wanted to kill him. Besides, I owed a duty to the Nigerian public and to justice. I would fight the battle.
I then prepared my will, submitted it to the High Court and to two banks, in case I died. I separated myself from my family and was living alone. I then started the investigations. I took statements from Billy, the son, Funmi (Giwa’s wife) about all that transpired, took statements from Kayode Soyinka and all available witnesses. I got the medical reports and others. I forwarded all of them to the DPP, Director of Public Prosecution. The facts were clear; Babangida had immunity as Military President. But Togun did not have immunity and we must proceed against him. Make up your mind, I told them (the DPP’s office). Do you want to proceed or you want me to proceed? He (DPP) said he was deferring his decision. I went to court to seek a mandamus to compel the DPP, then James Oduleye, who later became a judge in Lagos State. The case was first heard by Justice Candido Johnson of Lagos High Court. But the judge dismissed my application. He said it was hasty, frivolous and vexatious. There was no language he did not use against me. But I told myself that I would fight it to the end and test the limit of the legal system of this country. I went to the Court of Appeal, I met another brickwall. They said I couldn’t move. “No locus.” No locus about a dead man? No locus about my client? No locus about my friend? One of the judges even said that this was an application that would fail anytime, anyday and anywhere. I told the judge that I would go to the Supreme Court and I went to the Supreme Court, expecting to have the usual judgment. Then there was a bombshell. On the 18th of December 1987, the Supreme Court said I won, that I had the right to proceed and to prosecute if the Attorney-General would not do his duty, if the DPP would not do his duty.
The papers were all over the place, Gani Sinks Babangida’s Government! So I proceeded and got myself ready to prosecute Haliru Akilu and Togun. Everywhere, I was either arrested or threatened, one or the other, more than 18 times in various police stations under one false allegation or the other. Detention here and there, criminal charges – they even charged me with some reporters of Guardian Express – Nduka Irabor and others – for one offence or the other. Of course, I was always the first accused. I was also charged with Jimoh of The Punch, before Justice Obadina. More than 18 charges here and there. They would just fake up one thing or the other. But I proceeded and in the end, the die was cast. I received a notice from the then Attorney-General of Lagos State, Mrs. Eniola Fadayomi, who said that the government had decided to take over the prosecution from me and that I would be a witness. I said hurray! But I had my suspicions. We were to meet in court and I got ready and assembled all my facts. We went to court and the charges which I would have preferred were taken over by the government of Lagos State, a military government.
It was at the High Court of Justice Alonge. On that day, a murder was called but there were no accused persons in the dock. Akilu and Togun were busy sipping coffee and tea in their offices. The criminal dock was empty and vacant and never in history had a thing like that happened – an accused not in court and charges of murder read to an empty void. Even the prosecutor, Mrs. Eniola Fadayomi, would not speak with me. I went and greeted her but she turned the other way. I said: Ah, you called me as a witness. Why am I being treated like faeces? She would not talk.
Then the unthinkable happened. Chief Williams of blessed memory (is it?) stood up and told the court that they had a motion to dismiss the case against the two top security men. That the charge was frivolous, vexatious and that it did not connect the accused persons and so on. That proof of evidence did not connect them and that the case should be thrown out. That is what a counsel for the defence would do. But my Attorney-General who called me as a witness, who was the prosecutor, then stood up. She is still alive. She said, My Lord, I am for the prosecution. I agree with Chief Rotimi Williams that the charge brought was frivolous. That her charge against the accused persons who were not in court for murder, were not in order. I said what! This is perfidy, a prosecutor saying that what she brought was not in order? Ah, My Lord, I will never agree to this because it is injustice. The judge said I should sit down but I said, Never. Sit down to support a perfidious prevention of justice in Nigeria.
I will fight this matter till the end of my days. In the end, the judge struck out my case against accused persons who were never there, in a case brought by the Attorney-General, agreeing with the defence; from the very moment the case was heard. All they wanted was to get Chief Fawehinmi out of the way. Thereafter, I called a press conference where I said I would fight on. I told them that the battle had just begun. But they took me and dumped me in a cell. Then they said, how do we sell his chamber, sell his properties? Then they filed a N10 million libel suit against me. Akilu and Togun sued me for defamation of character, for saying that they killed Dele Giwa. Justice Ilori called me all sorts of vicious names. One man suicide squad. He abused the hell out of me. He is now a retired judge of Lagos State. He said that I should pay N6 million. While that one was still on, Ibrahim Babangida took me and sent me to Gashua Prison. He said we were opposing his structural adjustment programmes in 1989. I was still in Gashua prison when they took me by road to Maiduguri and flew me to Lagos to appear before Justice Anyaegbunam, that I wanted to sabotage his (Babangida’s) transition programme.
The case was heard on that day and I was taken back to Gashua. While still in Gashua, they wanted to sell this chambers and every other thing I had. In my absence, the lawyer went to the Court of Appeal under Justice Akpata. Akpata told them it was never done and that it was not fair. This man is in prison and you want to sell his properties. It is not right. I came back from Gashua on October 15 and by January 4, I was accused of contempt by Kabiyesi judge called Ligali Ayorinde. We called him Kabiyesi judge because in any case involving government in his court, the government would always win. He is dead now, but before he died, he became the Chief Judge of Lagos State. Now, I was in prison on January 4, 1990 and I was in Ikoyi Prisons. I served for some time before the Court of Appeal nullified my imprisonment and said I was wrongly convicted. That was still on when Babangida arrested me again and said I was planning a coup. The lawyers were aghast and angry. In the end, the case was struck out. They thought everything would cool down. But it never cooled down.
So the whole thing now is this: despite the vilifications, series of arrests, charges and seizure of my books and so on and so forth, I have obtained more than 11 judgements against them at one point or the other. At the end of the day I waited because he had immunity. Now he no longer has immunity. Then you may ask, why did I have to wait this long? My plan is very simple. The battle has just begun. I want to write to the Inspector-General of Police to dust the file of Dele Giwa 20 years after – the police investigation report, ballistic report etc. Mark you, the ballistician’s report confirmed that particles of the bomb came from the Army. So, Ehindero has to do his duty. But if he doesn’t do it, I will file an application to compel him to do so. So the battle has just begun.
Now, Babangida no longer has immunity. Such a man cannot escape justice because in law, a criminal act, be it murder or otherwise, has no statute of limitation. There is no time constraint. There is no time limit. There are examples all over the world. Take Augusto Pinochet of Chile. In September 1976, he got rid of (former Chilean leader Salvadore) Allende. He also massacred more than 8000 people, including 120 journalists. Today, at the age of 89 or 90, he is parading one court or the other for the murder committed more than 30 years ago. So Babangida’s trouble has just begun. Dele Giwa’s murder case will be revived and the battle to get justice for him will be waged until the truth is revealed. It must not be buried.
Q: We want you to relive your frustration at the Oputa Panel.
A: The panel was set up in 1999 by President Obasanjo. It was one of the panels he set up and we were very happy when it was set up and the terms of reference were expanded to include 1966 till that period. We submitted a memorandum to the panel and we appeared before the panel in Lagos and Abuja. Oputa listened to us very well. When we were in Lagos, a subpoena was served on Babangida to come and testify, at least, to have the opportunity to come and defend himself for the first time. He did not come. When he saw the handwriting on the wall, he ran to the court to dismiss the entire Oputa Panel. It was Babangida versus Gani Fawehinmi. The court said the quasi-power to summon would only be restricted to Abuja because the coercive power did not cover the entire country. That was the only area that he could not be compelled to come in view of the restrictive power of the federal government, vis-a-vis the area of authority. That is all, not that the Supreme Court dismissed the Oputa Panel.
When the panel made its report, this is where I am angry with Obasanjo. If he had allowed the law to take its course, I am sure Babangida would have been charged because the recommendation of the panel was very very adverse to the interests of Babangida. The recommendation of the Oputa Panel was against Babangida. But like other people who were involved in other things, Obasanjo did not give effect to that man’s report. Let me say this, Oputa is noted for being one of the most versatile, honest, pious, sincere, hardworking and philosophical judges this country has ever had. We call him the Supreme Court Socrates. He toured the country and worked relentlessly for three years and came out with the best report any tribunal could deliver. Obasanjo just kept it away. And to add salt to injury, Obasanjo then gave the report, the entire proceedings, to a confab to determine its fate. It was never determined.
That is one report that one day, we will ask the government to unearth and bring it out, just as the Okigbo report several years after it was delivered in August 1994. It has now become an albatross to Babangida’s stupendous pilfering, brigandage and stealing of the resources of our people, amounting to $12.4 billion. He even bought a television for N11.2 million, only one TV for Aso Rock, and his wife spent $8.9 million to tour and gallivant all over the world. Okigbo report found out too that much of the $12.4 billion was spent on contracts without documents, in spurious dedicated accounts that had no bearing with either internal or external reserves. The man was just collecting our money and misusing it.
So, if Obasanjo wants to do what is good for this country, all the 11 reports or tribunals set up since 1994 on Customs, Airways, Warri Refinery, Police, Judiciary, Ports Authority submitted to the government, should be dusted and released so that the likes of Babangida will be caught under Section 137 of the Constitution. This is because, anybody indicted of fraud, embezzlement by a commission of enquiry or an administrative panel of enquiry set up and accepted by the federal or state government, such person will be disqualified from contesting subsequent elections. Babangida comes within that scope. We are ready to fight him on this issue of Dele Giwa and other areas because we cannot afford to go the way we went between 1985 to 1993 when he destroyed the economy of this country with spurious organisations called MAMSER and DFFRI. It will be a disaster for us to have that kind of person as president of this country.
Q: Professor Wole Soyinka, your fellow civil rights activist, in his recent book, You Must Set Forth At Dawn, says that had you not rushed to court, Babangida would have been linked to the death of Dele Giwa. What is your reaction?
A: Soyinka said that Babangida confided in him that he would order a probe into it, but because I went to court, he would no longer do the public enquiry that Soyinka said Babangida promised him. And I think Soyinka is wrong, absolutely wrong. What Soyinka has written in his book flew in the face of the facts. The facts are against what he has written in his book.
What are the facts? The facts are that I did not go to court before the government took the decision not to conduct a public enquiry. I went to court after the government had made it known to Nigerians that there would be no judicial probe. Dele Giwa was murdered on the 19th of October 1986. On Thursday the 23rd of October 1986, the AFRC met and the mouthpiece of the AFRC was Tony Momoh, who was the Minister of Information. He told the press that there would be no judicial probe. I am fanatical about documentation and I have able lieutenants. Soyinka is wrong. Soyinka should have told us before he wrote his book, he should have told Nigerians 20 years ago that Babangida wanted to set up a probe, but that because Gani Fawehimi went to court, he could not do so. That also would be wrong because there is a bundle of evidence against Soyinka’s book. The Guardian and all other papers carried it. The meeting was on the 23rd and it was published on Friday the 24th of October 1986 that there would be no judicial probe on the matter and that it would be a matter for the police to investigate. Nothing more. So how have I, by my action in November, frustrated the truth from coming out. When I won my case on the 18th of December 1987, Soyinka organised a party, saying that he wanted to rejoice with me. I did not attend. I turned him down. Ask him today. That party never held because I refused to be there. I felt the relationship between him and Babangida was too close.