General Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd.), a former Head of State, has been chastised by the family of late Chief MKO Abiola for his statements about the death of the acclaimed victor of the 1993 presidential election.
In an interview, Gen Abdulsalami stated that he was not slain and that he died after being ill, contrary to the widespread belief that he died after drinking poisoned tea.
Jamiu, one of Abiola’s children, claims that the former head of state failed to provide his father with necessary medical care, resulting in his death.
Expressing disappointment over the retired military leader’s claims, he said, “This incident happened over 24 years ago. Gen Abdulsalami is much older. I used to think that age would come with more honesty, but this is obviously not the case here.
“He said that unlike late Gen Sani Abacha he made arrangements for the family of my father to see him. Can anyone, first of all, ask him why it took almost a month for any family member to see him? Other political prisoners were being released all along but yet a visit was too much to ask for.
“When we speak of death, one can be liable in two ways. If you kill a person directly like in the case of my mother who, as you know, was shot by Sergeant Rogers acting on behalf of the then military government.
“Or if you kill someone indirectly by allowing the person to die as in the case of my father during Gen Abdulsalami.”
Daily Trust reports that Kudirat, one of the wives of late Abiola, was killed on June 4, 1996, by assassins suspected to be military.
Jamiu further said, “Trying to pin down my father’s death on poison would be a waste of time since there was an autopsy report and it did not state poison as the cause of his death even though there is still a possibility.
“But my father did have heart problems and the head of state knew that. The general public knew. Even those who saw him the night before his death said he was not well so why was he not given proper medical attention?”
Reacting to Gen Abdulsalami’s statement that God’s guidance helped him to handle the tense situation in the country at that time, he said, “God provides guidance to those who seek it, but those who do not will be guided by the devil. In this case, the general was not being guided by God’s guidance.
“If he was being guided by God, why did he allow the then UN Secretary-General, Kofi Anan, to see my father before any family member? Did my father even know who Kofi Anan was?
“My mother had been murdered in cold blood; would it not have been the priority of a head of state being guided by God to allow her children to see their father after such a tragic loss? We were never allowed to see him.
“Gen Abdulsalami was more interested in getting diplomats to talk to my father and persuade him to relinquish his mandate so that he (Abdulsalami) could enjoy a more legitimate stay in power.
“This world might be a circus to the former head of state, but let’s see what the hereafter has in store for him.”
Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), also criticized the statements credited to the former military leader.
Falana said the ex-head of state had to explain the circumstances around Abiola’s death while with foreigners in the villa, adding that his latest excuses were what he was told as the incident was only witnessed by his CSO, Major Aliyu, who was in the room during the tragedy.
“It has never happened in Nigeria’s history that foreigners will be allowed to give tea to a detainee, but now, it has become part of our history,” he said.
“In any case, even if it is water that you have to serve the detainee, you have to taste it first. How can you tell us that you left Abiola in the custody of foreigners?
“So, the general has to explain why Abiola was left in the hands of foreigners.”
He further said the military severally forced Abiola to renounce his mandate by bringing former Secretaries General of the Commonwealth and the United Nations, Emeka Anyaoku and Kofi Annan respectively, but failed before they brought in American diplomats.
He refuted the claim that Abiola died of natural causes, claiming he was denied medical attention for four years and was not released with other political detainees.
“When at the instance of President Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu came to Nigeria to visit Abiola, he told the whole world that his health was very bad and required urgent medical attention, for four years that was not allowed.”
He said the testimony of Gen Abdulsalam’s CSO was eventually discredited at the Oputa Panel after the general failed to attend the hearing