Susan Rice was up until recently the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Her long-standing aspiration of becoming the US Secretary of State was dashed when the Republicans in the Senate started sharpening their knives in anticipation of her formal nomination for that position by President Barak Obama.
Sensing that her nomination would not scale through the Senate and that she would not be confirmed as Secretary of State due to the role she played in the cover-up of the Benghazi shooting in which the US envoy to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other American citizens were murdered by a group of Islamist terrorists, her nomination was withdrawn.
Instead of Secretary of State, Obama has now nominated her for the position of the National Security Advisor which is a job that does not require Senate approval or confirmation. I wish Rice well in her new assignment but I am constrained to ask the following questions: What did she put in the tea that she served to Chief M.K.O. Abiola on July 8, 1998 just before he died? She was one of the last people who saw Abiola alive. She was said to have served him some tea, after which he reportedly coughed violently and one hour later, dropped dead. What was in the tea? Was it Abuja ”green tea”, Darjeeling, Earl Grey, Lipton or some other more exotic brand?
Can someone please ask Rice what her role was in the death of Abiola? Who sent her to do the job and who was she working for? As of that time, she was Assistant Secretary of State for America in President Bill Clinton’s government. Was she acting on his direct instructions or simply on the instructions of her boss and controller in Langley?
Abiola was the winner of Nigeria’s freest and fairest election. That election took place on June 12, 1993. The election was annulled by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. Shortly after that, as a consequence of the sheer outrage that was generated by the annulment, Babangida was compelled to ”step aside” and hand over power to Chief Ernest Shonekan. In what was clearly a strategic maneuver, he left Gen. Sani Abacha (his own Chief of Army Staff) behind to be the Minister of Defence for the incoming administration.
A few months later Abacha toppled the Interim National Government of Chief Ernest Shonekan which he had served and seized power for himself. Abiola was arrested and detained. He was never granted his freedom again. Four years later Abacha himself was murdered by forces that are yet to be identified and General Abdulsalami Abubakar took power. Exactly 30 days after Abacha was killed, those same forces that killed him murdered Abiola as well in an attempt to ”balance the equation”.
These are the facts and sequence of events. One thing is self-evident and cannot be denied no matter which side of the divide one may have been on in the June 12 saga — certain questions must be answered. And some of those questions are as follows: Who killed Abiola? Who killed Sani Abacha? What role, if any, did officials of the Abubakar administration play in the murder of both men? What role did the CIA play and exactly what transpired in the room when Rice, Ambassador Thomas Pickering and two other faceless and nameless officials from the American Embassy met with Abiola on the very day that he was meant to have been “released”. Sadly, instead of being released on that day, he dropped dead in what can only be described as mysterious and questionable circumstances.
This is all the more so because Abiola’s security officer and the man that was charged with looking after him and protecting him throughout the time that he was incarcerated (ASP Zadok) told the Oputa panel in 2002 that Abiola was ”hale and hearty” and in ”very high spirits” just before going into the meeting with the Americans. He went further by telling the panel that as he was about to enter Aguda House (the premises where the meeting was scheduled to be held) with Abiola he was asked to leave his principal, to step out of the premises and to go and pick up another car from somewhere else by one of General Abdulsalami’s security officers. He promptly obeyed the order but half an hour later when he came back he found Abiola in a terrible condition, coughing violently, writhing all over the floor in pain and breathing his last breath. Thirty minutes later he gave up the ghost.
Another question that needs to be answered is the one that the veteran journalist and respected columnist, Mr. Gbolabo Ogunsanwo, has dubbed as ”the question of the missing one hour”. Permit me to explain. According to the testimony that was given to the Oputa Panel by Major Hamza Al Mustapha, who was Abacha’s Chief Security Officer, from the first day that Abiola was arrested right up until the day that he was murdered, he (Al Mustapha) was in charge of his (Abiola’s) security. Each time Abiola was moved from one safe house to another, he had to sign for it. Each time Abiola ate his food or drank anything, his men tasted and drank it before-hand. He went as far as to say that each time Abiola went to the toilet he was made aware of it and that nothing happened around Abiola or to him without his direct permission and the involvement of his most loyal men. After Abacha was murdered and Abdulsalami Abubakar became Head of State, Al Mustapha was still in charge of Abiola’s security and he still maintained direct responsibility for his life, his well-being and his welfare right up until the minute that he was murdered.
When Mustapha appeared before the Oputa Panel, he exposed the fact that in the entire period of four years that he and his team watched over Abiola, it was only in the one hour that he was killed that they had no knowledge or control of what was happening to or around him. According to him, Abiola was removed from the guest house that he had been staying without his (Al Mustapha’s) signature or knowledge and without anyone seeking his permission. Simply put, he was kept in the dark about the whole thing. Secret orders were given to keep him out of the loop, to take Abiola to a destination which he knew nothing about and to ensure that none of the usual trusted food tasters and minders was with him. The only person that accompanied Abiola from the old guard of those that had watched over him for the previous four years was Zadok and when they arrived at Aguda House (the venue of the meeting), he was reportedly conveniently sent on a meaningless errand by Abubakar’s Chief Security Officer and told to leave. Hence, for the first time in four years, Abiola was left completely on his own and he was surrounded by a coterie of strange faces who had no genuine affection or empathy for him. He was with them for one hour and during that period, not one of those that had watched over him, that had secured his safety and that he had grown familiar with him over the entire four-year period of his incarceration, was with him. It was during that ”missing hour”, when he was all alone and very vulnerable, that he was poisoned.
Given these circumstances I have no doubt that this was a case of premeditated murder but the question is whose call was it and why did it have to happen? What was the motive? Was it done just to ”balance the equation” as some said at the time or was it done in an attempt to pave the way for an Obasanjo Presidency one year later? Could Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo have been released from jail and elected President if Abiola had lived and if he had insisted on claiming his mandate? The Nigerian people have a right to know the truth and it is high time that those that have wielded power in this country for the last few decades told them. The powers that be must appreciate the fact that they cannot sweep things under the carpet forever and that one day, no matter how long it takes, they will be held accountable by God and the Nigerian people for the morbid, secret and oftentimes homicidal choices and decisions that they made.
Fani-Kayode is a former Minister of Aviation