Ige: Not Finding My Father’s Killers a Dent on Nigeria’s Image

by Adabanija Kamorudeen

Ige: Not Finding My Father’s Killers a Dent on Nigeria’s Image

Renowned for his oratory prowess and political sagacity, the late Cicero of Esa-Oke and the then Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Bola Ige (SAN) had traversed Nigeria’s political terrain like colossus until his brutal murder on December 23, 2001 at his Ibadan, Oyo State home. It has been 20 years, but his killers are yet to be apprehended. As his immediate family plans to celebrate his life and time this week, his surviving son, Mr. Muyiwa Ige, in this interview with Funke Olaode, expressed the hope that his murderers would be caught one day while urging the government to revisit his case

In a couple of days, it will be 20 years since the late Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Chief Bola Ige was assassinated. Are you not worried that two decades after his murder the Nigerian government is yet to apprehend his killers?

Stating that one may be worried would be an understatement. Over and beyond being worried it is a major dent to the image of this country. As you stated, it is two decades later and his killers are yet to be apprehended. Although we know what transpired during the shenanigans of the trial then. It is my strong belief that everyone will surely get their comeuppance. I have always maintained that at the God-appointed time, a sensible government will do the needful to correct the ills of that period. You mentioned the Nigerian government. If there is the will to find the killers, the government knows what to do and how to do it.

It has become obvious that the government at the time (both at the state and National level) in 2002-2003 ensured that the case was not properly prosecuted and gave tremendous and unprecedented cover to the prime suspects and other accused persons.

So, you are obviously worried that there is no closure?

We all need closure, and for as long as the Ige’s murder is unresolved, as well as the numerous other unsolved murders, the issue will forever haunt his killers. This is because as they are walking the street today, they have the blood of Ige on their hands. My father left an extraordinary legacy that will dwarf the existence of his traducers while alive, and the killers, including those that aided and abetted the murder.

Again, it seems there is no pressure on government at the centre to find the killers?

Year in year out, the issue of the Ige’s murderers is brought to the front burner. One would expect that the government would be interested in solving the murder. Recall, my father was a sitting Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, as well as having been the First Executive Governor of Old Oyo State (1979-1983). To any reasonable person it will surely seem as though the government should do the needful. That has sadly not happened. Again, at this epochal 20th anniversary, I am using this medium to urge the federal government to correct the wrongs previously done and to prosecute the case properly.

They can start from the assault on my father in Ife (within the Palace precinct) on 15th December, 2001. Also, as he was a federal minister, the federal government should kindly revisit the case files and do the needful.

There are speculations that the book, “My Participations,’ an autobiography recently launched by your father’s political ally, Chief Bisi Akande revealed some facts that there was enough evidence that the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo was reluctant to find his killers. What is your view on this?

I have read the book. Baba Akande obviously, in his position as a siting Governor and Chief Security Officer of the State, must have had a lot more information to back up his assertions. Those facts raised should be interrogated in case it will lead to proper prosecution. As I stated earlier, everyone will surely get his or her comeuppance.

Don’t you think the state security failed him, considering what transpired at the President’s wife’s chieftaincy title award ceremony at lfe where his cap was removed? Wasn’t that an indication that his life was in danger?

The brazen assault in the Palace at Ife on 15th December, 2001 was an abomination and a sacrilegious act, perpetrated by despicable specimens of the human species.

Interestingly, the Chief detail assigned to my father allowed the urchins to get close to him. However, my Dad insisted and told the monarch at the time that he would not leave until his cap was returned. We later found out that that individual was compromised. What a shame and a betrayal of trust, to allow your Principal to be exposed to attack.

At a point, Ige’s political allies such as Rauf Aregbesola took over the administration of Osun State and the present federal government. What efforts did they make after the PDP’s failure to identify the killers?

The murder case was tried in Oyo State, since the murder took place there. We all witnessed the convoluted investigation that took place and the charade of the trial. Recall DIG Ojomo had made tremendous progress before she was summarily pulled off the case – African magic. Also the 2003 election tsunami that swept away the AD governors provided a glorious opportunity for the Ladoja’s government to file nolle-prosequi on the prime suspects and all accused persons.

I am aware there have been quiet attempts to resurrect the case, but they constantly meet a brick wall. It is my hope that this present administration will dust off the files and re-investigate the case – starting from the assault in the palace at Ife. An interesting detail, which I recall now, is that the two policemen posted to guard the house from Bodija Police Station did not show up mysteriously on that fateful evening, and have also disappeared into thin air. We are told the Police have no record of them in the Force – African Magic again. What happened to those officers posted to the Ige residence on 23rd December, 2001? Why did they not report to duty? What happened to their records? These are questions begging for answers.

A few people were arrested who initially pointed accusing fingers at certain individuals as accessories to his murder. But they were later left off the hook.

Of course, the denial at the court left a deep hole in your Mum’s heart and she never recovered. What do you think went wrong at this stage of self-denial by the accused?

The issue you refer to is the recant of our star witness, Andrew Olofu. He had identified those that accosted him when they invaded my father’s house in the evening of 23rd December,2001, in a Police line-up. Interestingly, the same Andrew Olofu, a prosecution witness, was allowed to be tampered with by the prime suspect. When on April 9, 2003, Andrew Olofu recanted and became a hostile witness, my Mum, being a brilliant jurist and a retired Justice of the Court of Appeal knew that the case was thrown and lost. She was broken-hearted and remarked, ‘Se bi won se ma pa Bola mi gbe niyen? O gaa o, O gaa o. …She did not recover and died the following morning on April 10, 2003. What a shame! What a country!

Do you still have hope that the killers will be found one day?

The killers that are walking the streets now are really walking dead people. The blood of Bola Ige will haunt them. The unresolved murder of Ige’s assassination continues to be a major blight on the reputation of this country. If the government wants it resolved, it will be done.

Had it been that Ige was still alive, how would he have felt about the current political structure? Would he have been happy with the way things are going considering his philosophy and ideology?

If he were alive today, he would have been 91years old. He definitely would have withdrawn from active politics to allow the young ones he had mentored and had faith in, to blossom. The political dynamics would have also been different. The last 20 years have drummed up massive revisionism. Politics based on ideology and philosophy has ‘gone to the dogs’. There is a huge leadership vacuum and ‘everyone wants to be chief, no one wants to be Indian’. He would however, marvel at how debased the polity has been.

You have not been politically active though you had a stint as Commissioner during Aregbesola’s first tenure. Are you scared?

I had a glorious opportunity to serve in 2011, in Osun State, as Commissioner for Lands, Physical Planning and Urban Development. This platform provided the opportunity to add greater value to government policies and to measure the impact on the lives of the citizenry, from urban renewal of nine cities; to collaboration with UNHABITAT on structure plans of nine cities in Osun; to designing new towns for Osogbo and Ilesa. It indeed was a glorious opportunity to serve. I recall what my father always told me, that leadership is responsibility and when you have the glorious opportunity to serve in any capacity, do it to the best of your ability and make sure you better the lot of the common man. This has always been my guiding principle.

Why has Chief Bola Ige not been immortalised by the federal and/or state government?

I trust and believe that this will be done eventually. Recall that he was a serving Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation as well as the first Executive Governor of old Oyo State (1979-1983). Some people have suggested that a federal university should be named after him. I also remember sometime in 2013, the then Governor of Osun State, Rauf Aregbesola had made the pronouncement that Osun State University be renamed after Bola Ige. From another quarter, some people were suggesting that the new Osogbo NRC Train Station (when built) should be named Bola Ige Station. However, the family continues to give scholarships to deserving scholars in his memory, and we keep his legacies alive. Ige lives on!

What are you doing to mark the 20th Anniversary?

This post-COVID-19 period has been quite humbling. Additionally, we recently lost my father’s favourite niece. Therefore, we will be having a reduced Memorial Communion Service at the family church, Saint Anne’s Church, Molete Ibadan, where he was a foundation member in 1961. I am producing a stage play of his life and times on earth, titled IGE (From Kaduna Boy to Cicero of Esaoke), and will also be presenting an Illustrated Children’s Book on his life story, for young people. My father indeed was a great and good man, and my confidant. We must continue to honour his memory. May God continue to grant his soul, and the souls of our faithfully departed loved ones, sweet repose.

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