Against the backdrop of the recent Appeal Court verdict which gave Al-Mustapha his freedom after 14 years in detention, Dr. Frederick Fasehun, President, O’dua People’s Congress, explained the rationale behind his support for the contentious development in this interview with Saturday Vanguard. Excerpt
After 14 years , how would you describe the release of Al-Mustapha?
Democracy is the true manifestation of justice and truth. Al-Mustapha was accused of conspiracy and murder; whereas, conspiracy is an element of at least two people and nobody has come out to say Al-Mustapha conspired with him because nobody can conspire with himself.
The witnesses that gave evidence in court initially said Al-Mustapha gave them an assignment to kill Kudirat Abiola. For the first two years of Al-Mustapha’s arrest, no charges were levelled against him. During that period, they were fishing for charges but the Nigerian constitution says “no Nigerian should be detained for more than 48 hours before appearance in court”.
It took the Nigerian security system two years to file charges against Al-Mustapha, and when they cooked up charges against him, they brought few witnesses who gave evidence that Al-Mustapha sent them on the assignment to kill Kudirat Abiola. However, three years ago,those witnesses appeared in court again saying they lied against an innocent man.
Perhaps,some political giants promised them houses in Abuja and salary in foreign currencies, telling them their wives would be given N50, 000 monthly for sustenance which was enough reason for them to concur to any arrangement. Also,look at the case of Cazato who earlier gave evidence that he was the one who drove the assassins to the site of the assassination and that he later went back, but could not recognise the car they drove. At first, Cazato said it was a 504 station wagon and later Cherokee jeep. Afterwards, he returned to court inserting his evidence that as at the time of the murder in June, that same year, he was nowhere near Lagos.
The day Kudirat was murdered, Al-Mustapha was getting married in his village in Kano State. So how was it possible for him to have been invloved in the murder of Kudirat? After the wedding, Al-Mustapha went for his honeymoon and yet, the judge gave her judgment on those retracted evidence.
What were your contributions to Al-Mustapha’s release?
I took interest to look into it and realised what we had was injustice in the decision of the High Court. Al-Mustapha went to the Appeal Court under Justice Aminat, and the court reversed the High Court’s judgment. The High Court had written 366 pages of judgment in search of dishonesty, falsehood and lies. But, the Appeal Court was able to have its head screwed to its neck. And in this case, three heads were better than one.
Why are you sympathetic to the cause of Al-Mustapha?
I am always sympathetic to the course of justice. I am not sympathetic because it is Al-Mustapha. I am crusading for justice because I knew he was suffering injustice. I knew he was up against political giants who do not believe in truth and justice, whose goal is squandering money to suppress justice, and that was what happened.
What was your reaction the day Al-Mustapha was sentenced to death?
Well, I thought Al-Mustapha would be released that day. That was why I stormed out of the court. On that day, the presiding Judge used some abusive words even before they were sentenced, which was biased. I attended virtually all the court proceedings and even the day after the sentence, the reports in the newspapers were the opposite of what really happened.
Al-Mustapha’s words were exaggerated and that was enough to make him commit suicide, believing that the entire society was mobilised against him. But thanks to God and some noble Nigerians who had the nerves to intervene.
How about when the case was taken to the Appeal Court?
I never envisaged that the Appeal Court would pronounce justice. But I knew the court is saddled with the responsibility of “sieving the chaff from the grain” and it has done so.
What are the similarities between you and Al-Mustapha, could it be as a result of being a security officer?
I’m not a security officer; neither am I supporting Al-Mustapha because he was a security officer.
What is your message to the Abiola family?
We regret the death of their parents, but they should insist on justice. Perhaps, the case can be reopened. This murder case should not be swept under the carpet like some other cases in Nigeria.
Besides, when Chief Abiola was in detention, there was evidence that Al-Mustapha gave him special treatment which Al-Mustapha himself said in court. He also said there was a time when Abiola was going to be killed by the authorities and when the news filtered to his hearing he had to change Abiola’s room.
He also testified about how he arranged for Kudirat to see her husband whenever she wanted. When the Americans paid Abiola a visit at the prison, Al-Mustapha was not there. That has been certified by Susan Rice, former Ambassador of the United States of America to the United Nations (UN). When Rice was questioned on that issue, she said, “Don’t ask me, ask Abdulsalam.”