Tuesday, June 4, 1996, is a day that will linger on in the minds of Nigerians, especially the family of late Chief M.K.O. Abiola.
It was the day the wife of the notable and billionaire politician, winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola was killed. It would be recalled that the martyred wife of business mogul had held several campaigns following the detention of her husband by the then military government which annulled the June 12 presidential election. This allegedly informed the instruction of her assassination by the military dictator, late Gen. Sanni Abacha. The assassination came after two failed ones instigated by the same military ruler.
She was finally gunned down at close range alongside her driver in her white Mercedes Benz in Ikeja. Though, there were three people in the car (Kudirat, her driver and her PA; Alhaji Lateef Shofolahan), only the driver and the primary target were killed while her PA, Alhaji Shofolahan came out of the car unhurt. This, however, aroused suspicion and made Alhaji Shofolahan a primary suspect. The bullet reportedly went through her forehead, smashing her brain, while the driver was hit with a bullet that went in his mouth and crossed his shoulder.
After the brutal murder, late Gen.Sani Abacha pledged the sum of $45,000 to anyone who found the killer of Kudirat.
Investigations later revealed that the weapon used to kill her was a selective fire defence weapon, an F-90 submarine gun made in Belgium which was later traced to Hamza Al-Mustapha; Abacha’s Chief Security
Officer. Before her death, a radio station, an anti-military rule “Radio Democracy” based in Norway had been created wiTh support from American, British, Swedish, Danish and Norwegian governments to campaign against military dictatorship in Nigeria. The radio station’s name was later changed to “Radio Kudirat”.
Later in 1998, after the death of Chief Moshood Abiola and Gen. Sani Abacha, Abacha’s Chief Security Officer, Hamza Al-Mustapha alongside Mohammed Abacha were arraigned in over the death of Kudirat.
In the court, Mohammed Abdul (a.k.a Katako), who gave evidence as prosecution witness, narrated how late Kudira Abiola’s personal assistant, Alhaji Lateef Shofolahan, gave his boss away to the assailants. He said Shofolahan identified the houses of other personalities who had been marked for elimination. The witness also traced the movement of the killer squad in its murderous mission that took them to the Lagos residences of Lt. General Bamaiyi; Mr James Danbaba, former Lagos state police commissioner and the office of Lt.
Col. Jibrin Bala Yakubu, former Zamfara state military administrator.
He further told the court how Mohammed Abacha gave him and another member of the Strike Force, $10,000 each to flee the country when investigations commenced during Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration on the various political assassinations in the country.
Bamaiyi, Danbaba, Al-Mustapha, Yakubu and Rabo Lawal were all charged to a Lagos High Court in the year 2000 for the same offence but as the case dragged on for too long, General Bamaiyi applied for a separate
trial and was granted.
Despite all the testimonies revealed by the eyewitness who claimed to be working for Mohammed Abacha, Abacha’s son was released on the ground that he had no case to answer, that he was roped in simply on circumstantial evidence.
On January 30, 2012, a Lagos High Court sitting at Igbosere convicted Major Hamza Al-Mustapha and Lateef Shofolahan over the murder of Kudirat. They were also sentenced to death by hanging but were discharged and acquitted of the crime by the Appeal Court, Lagos division on Friday, July 12, 2013.
Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, born in 1951 in Zaria, Kaduna state attended Muslim Girls High School in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun state where she became the head perfect in her final year. She never had a university education but was a successful business woman in her life time. The martyr got married at age 18 and had seven children with the late business mogul.
Her children include Hafsat, Abdulmumin, Yusau, Kafilat, Jamiu,Hadi and Moriam Abiola. Even after 21years of her murder, her name still rings a bell in the ears of Nigerians.
- KAREEM AZEEZAT