EXPLAINER: Who Was Chief Bola Ige And Why Was He Assassinated? By Deborah Eyibio
As a diplomat, he used tact to effectively manage the Agbekoya riots which broke out among peasant farmers during the Nigerian civil war.
It’s been 20 years now since Nigeria lost one its pride, Chief Bola Ige – a former governor of the old Oyo State, and former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation.
The sage had his last breath on Dec. 23, 2021 following his assassination by yet-to-be identified individuals in Solemilia Court, No 8, Akinlabi Sanda Close, Bodija in Ibadan, Oyo State. The gruesome murder also led to the sudden death of Atinuke, his wife; and destabilized his family.
Though a Yoruba man, he was born in Kaduna when he had his humble beginning. He later moved to the west at the age of 13 in 1943 and attended the prestigious Ibadan Grammar School and the University of Ibadan where he studied Classics.
At 23, he became the organizing secretary of the defunct Action Group in 1953. He used his charisma and natural organizational ability to increase the membership of the party far beyond the west where it was founded in 1951 as an offshoot of the Egbe Omo Oduduwa.
Late Bola Ige later studied law at the University of London and was called to the inner temple bar in 1961. Upon his return home, he founded Bola Ige & Co, a law firm that produced many legal luminaries across the country.
He was appointed the Commissioner for Agriculture in the western region under the military governorship of General Robert Adeyinka Adebayo between 1967 to 1970 and till today, many still talk about his achievements in ensuring the presence of massive mechanized farming all through the region.
As a diplomat, he used tact to effectively manage the Agbekoya riots which broke out among peasant farmers during the Nigerian civil war. When the then administration of General Olusegun Obasanjo allowed the return of partisan politics in 1978, he joined the Unity Party of Nigeria founded by his political mentor, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
His participation in the then politics made him the first civilian governor of Old Oyo state after defeating the candidate of the National Party of Nigeria, Chief Richard Akinjide who was later to become the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice in the Second Republic.
Lover of history recalled how he implemented the free education policy of the UPN all through Oyo state and established the Ladoke Akintola University of Science and Technology (LAUTECH) amongst other great projects he established in the state which endeared him to the masses who continually sang his praises.
Though he tried contesting for the president of Nigeria, on the platform of Alliance for Democracy (AD) in 1999 but was rejected. Interestingly, Olusegun Obasanjo who emerged winner appointed Bola Ige as minister of Mines and Power, before moving him to become Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He was about to take up a new position as Africa’s Representative on the United Nations International Law Commission when he was gunned down in Ibadan, Oyo state. Ige was shot dead at his home in Ibadan.
Two years ago, Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka was quoted to have said “we have a phenomenon of unsolved murders and we know for a fact that some of them are the result of corrupt forces. A notorious example: A former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice in the country, Bola Ige was assassinated in his bedroom. It wasn’t a political affair, political rivalry and contestation.
“He was killed, you know, by the forces of corruption and so this compels one to ask what has happened to the investigation ordered by the President of the country into those high-profile murders. If we do not solve some of these murders, we cannot get into the heart, into the core of the corruption in this country and this involves also the authorized and constitutional agency of open society such as the judiciary,” Soyinka said.
The controversy surrounding his death
Surely, death is inevitable for every soul. Even if not assassinated, Bola Ige was going to die one day. However, no one expected Ajibola’s death in such an easy way and by those suspected to have carried out the ugly acts. He had been entangled in squabbles within his party, Alliance for Democracy (AD), this led to fingers being pointed at then Deputy Governor of Osun state, Iyiola Omisore as being responsible for the murder.
Bola Ige’s assassination was linked to an altercation that happened iat the palace of Ooni of Ife, Oba Sijuwade Okunade during the conferment of chieftaincy title on some individuals. Ige was mobbed by an angry crowd as they stripped him of his necklace, cap and destroyed his pair of medicated glasses.
The group was led by a certain ‘Fryo’, a known political thug loyal and devoted to Omisore. It was an obvious breach of his security and attempt to eliminate him openly. A day after the assault, Omisore granted an abusive interview to Tempo magazine that was published the following week.
In his words, he said “…Bola Ige came on radio here to insult me and my family. That is his last one. He was beaten yesterday; the people of Ife beat him up and he was crying like a baby as they removed his cap and his glasses.”
This pointed Nigerians to the long-standing disagreements between the duo. The then Osun Governor Bisi Akande and his deputy Omisore were never on good terms and the latter was about to be impeached by the Osun State House of Assembly for various irregularities.
It was evident that as a key leader of AD, Chief Bola Ige was behind Akande. The sour relationship between Akande and Omisore caused a fracas at the state assembly and even led to the death of a prominent member of the House representing Ife Central Local Government area, Odunayo Olagbaju.
A week after the attack on Bola Ige at Ooni’s palace, he was killed in his home in Ibadan. Omisore alongside others were arrested and arraigned before an Oyo State High Court as part of the suspected killers of the former Attorney General of the Federation but were later released for lack of evidence.
Reacting to this in his autobiography, Akande said “there was enough evidence that the government of President Obasanjo was reluctant to find the killers of Bola Ige.” According to him, his summon to Abuja to meet with Obasanjo and the involvement of Omisore in the wake of the assassination was a fundamental poser that the government was bent on sweeping the murder of the attorney-general under the carpet.
“When I was about to board the aircraft on my return trip back to Ibadan, I saw Omisore. The jet had gone ahead to bring Omisore to Ibadan. What they told him I did not know. So why try to bring us together for a chat? All this created suspicion in my mind that cover-up was actively in the offing. That was why I came to the conclusion that the Federal Government was complicit in the assassination of Uncle Bola Ige.’’
Speaking on the character of Omisore, Akande said “he crept into my life like a silent malignant cancer. He came in full force. In a few months, I thought I knew him. I regret I did not know him in his true colors”.
“When I nominated him as my running mate, I had banked on him that he would be my successor and that I only needed to groom him properly for the daunting task of governance. As I was mentored by Chief Ige, I thought I had a duty to also mentor Omisore. I had planned to spend only one term in office and I believed that, with four years of proper exposure and mentorship, he would be ready. But Omisore was ready right from the start for something less noble. By the time we came to the government, all the pretenses were off. I knew I was dealing with a wolf in wolf’s clothing. I was alarmed by his way of spending money,” Akande revealed.
Who is Omisore?
He is a man with many corrupt cases around his neck. He is a political harlot whose dream to govern Osun State has failed to actualise multiple times since the advent of this republic. Though he is regarded as a political heavyweight, he has never clinched the gold. The question many ask is whether he truly has the power to move mountains or mere paper tiger.
Omisore moved from one political party to the other multiple times in his desperate bid to govern Osun. From Alliance for Democracy (AD) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and now All Progressives Congress (APC). His romance with the current governor, Gboyega Oyetola should make the public be vigilant.
Unarguably, the September 22, 2018 governorship election was a close race in which Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led with 254,698 votes ahead of Oyetola who polled 254,345 votes.
Omisore came a distant third with 128,049 votes, he immediately became the beautiful bride to be courted by his two leading rivals after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared the election inconclusive on the ground that the 353 votes margin between Messrs Adeleke and Oyetola was lower than the number of canceled votes (3,498) in seven polling units.
Delegations from both the APC and PDP met with Omisore after the first ballot of the 2018 poll but he eventually threw his support behind APC, saying the ruling party had accepted the conditions he gave them. Omisore, who was facing several charges by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC, took the offer from the APC as he was allegedly promised a soft landing in his case with the anti-graft agency. The supposed offer was that; his seized travel passport would be released, his case with the anti-graft agency dismissed and his frozen bank account unfrozen.
Defection to APC
Omisore officially decamped from the SDP to the APC in February, 2021. He was welcomed into the party by the deputy governor, Benedict Alabi, and Famodun, the state chairman of the party. Upon joining the party, Oyetola said he had caught a big fish and he has on several occasions been in the company of the Governor.
Oyetola sees Omisore as a political figure who can help diminish the influence of the opposition PDP in the Ife/Ijesa district and possibly enhance his chance in the coming gubernatorial election in the state come 2022 while the senatorial contest Otunba Omisore is eying, along with other elections will take place in 2023 at same zone of late Bola Ige.
Chief Bola Ige was amongst the brightest stars for Yorubas. There are those who consider it their duty to focus only on Chief Bola Ige’s life. To them we say, a celebration of Chief Ige’s life is inevitable as his legacies live on.
Nonetheless, in honoring late Bola Ige, we owe it to ourselves to ensure those who lead or seek to lead are the brightest stars amongst us. Certainly not political vultures, wolves, or their associates involved in cruelly extinguishing one of our brightest hopes. The seeing eye shall always see, by their associations we shall know them. The dastardly acts they perpetrated on that fateful night shall never stop our stars.
Continue to Rest well, Chief.