By Shaka Momodu
Thirty years ago, he faced the cruel and ignominious fate of being tied to the stake and a hail of bullets from marksmen ended his precious life. That person was Bartholomew Owoh (26) who alongside others, Bernard Ogedengbe (29) and Lawal Ojuolape (30), were executed by firing squad after being arrested and tried for drug trafficking.
The case of Bartholomew Owoh, the youngest of them all, was particularly tragic. At the time of his arrest, the crime did not carry capital forfeiture -the punishment was six months imprisonment.
But Decree No. 20 was hurriedly promulgated and back-dated by one whole year to take effect from when he and others committed the crime and on the basis of that they were all tried, found guilty and executed by firing squad. Someone recently asked me if this actually happened and I said, “read the records of history against Buhari’s name”.
The man responsible for that “judicial murder and crime against humanity” is today the APC presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, who has shown no remorse, no regret and has tendered no apology for his actions.
Furthermore, he has sought no remission or restitution for that act of pure evil. He is the same man being daily burnished in the media by revisionists as the new face of “change.”
I sometimes wonder how he has been able to sleep, eat and wake up every morning for the past 30 years knowing that his hands are stained with the blood of these young men.
Before the promulgation of Decree 20, drug offences were bailable and it is instructive that Bartholomew Owoh was even on bail when it was promulgated. My personal investigation reveals that immediately the decree was promulgated, the young man expressed his desire to escape from the country.
But his father prevailed on him to stay back, promising that he would protect him from the grave injustice. The young Owoh heeded his father’s advice and stayed.
But his father clearly underestimated the deadly resolve of General Buhari to implement the new decree against his son and others. I can imagine the horror the poor father must have felt on hearing that soldiers had marched his son to the Bar Beach firing range to be executed.
I can imagine the last few moments of Bartholomew’s earthly life as he watched soldiers march around in a choreographic and synchronised parade to carry out the orders of General Buhari. What was going on in his mind?
Did he have the moment to say goodbye to his family? Definitely no. He must have been too shocked by what was about to happen. What were the last word(s) he heard on this earth before the hail of bullets hit and silenced him forever? Have any of Buhari’s supporters bothered to ask or imagine?
Have any of them put himself on the receiving end of such grave injustice? I guess the last word Owoh heard was: “fire”! And the last sound? The crack of gun shots as hot lead pierced through his body ripping him apart. He probably twitched for a few seconds and his precious life ended just like that. Where and how were he and others buried? In an unmarked grave perhaps! Expectedly, their families were denied the privilege of paying last respect to their loved ones.
If Bartholomew Owoh, the youngest of the three were still alive today, he would have been (56) – about the same age as Buhari’s running-mate, Yemi Osinbajo. He would have been married with children; somebody would have called him father; somebody would have called him uncle.
But he died in his prime, as his life was brutally cut short by no less a brutal regime with the red hand of murder. What is a life worth to those who casually say Buhari has changed when the evidence points to the contrary? What is the value for human life to the revisionists and those uninformed bloggers who spread fantasies of Buhari’s daughter who is alleged married to an Igbo Christian man all in a bid to sell him?
I can imagine the eternal guilt Owoh’s father must have felt and probably still feels, that’s if he is still alive for prevailing on his son not to escape.
The irony here is that Bartholomew Owoh and his co-travellers were no saints; just as Buhari who ordered their execution is no saint. But the difference is that while the supporters of Buhari tell us that he has changed and are willing to forgive and give him a second chance, the same Buhari never gave Bartholomew and his co-travellers the opportunity for a second chance – to change and be good citizens of the society.
Each time my mind drifts to this monumental injustice, I still freeze in shock and a cold chill runs through my body. How could this have happened in our country? But I am a witness to this part of our history.
I doubt if many Sai Buhari! crusaders feel the same way. But I know for sure that they won’t be so supportive of Buhari if their relatives were among the three Nigerians executed by a back-dated law. Can anyone of his supporters out there stand up and be counted on this score?
Needless to say that many of them were too young to appreciate the gravity of the injustice while many others were not even born then. So, they can be excused for not being witnesses of records but they can’t be excused for refusing to use the lessons of history as guides to the future.
The frenzied campaign to dress Buhari in borrowed robes and foist him on Nigerians must be interrogated without let. Buahari’s critics must never allow themselves to be intimidated into silence by those who attack them for daring to interrogate the past, present and acts recorded against the general. Moreso, as the Sai Buharis have the right to air their opinion and support for the general without molestation. It is the fairest minimum for a healthy debate.
It is in this regard that I take exception to Buhari’s supporters who would rather re-write history and shout critics down for daring to air contrary views from the make-belief narrative being used to dupe a new generation of Nigerians, especially bloggers, facebook and twitter savvy youths. Whatever the case, facts remain sacred, comments are free but the records of history endure.
One of the often forgotten victims of Buhari’s high-handedness is Busari Adelakun. Does that name ring a bell? If it doesn’t, let me introduce him to you.
Busari Adelakun was a grassroots mobiliser like no other. He was so instrumental to the emergence of the late Chief Bola Ige as the governor of old Oyo State in 1979 that he was appointed Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs despite his low academic qualifications.
But Adelakun was to fall-out with his boss, Ige, and pitched tent with his estranged deputy, the late Chief S.M Afolabi. Alongside other former Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) stalwarts, Adelakun moved to the rival National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and worked for its candidate, Dr. Omololu Olunloyo, in the August 13, 1983 governorship election which he won. Olunloyo was sworn-in on October 1, 1983, and three months later, December 31, 1983, a group of soldiers led by Buhari, overthrew the democratic government.
One of those arrested by the new junta was Adelakun. He was herded into jail alongside other politicians. While Adelakun was not put on trial, he was nonetheless kept in jail despite his poor health, he was an ulcer patient who needed regular treatment and a special diet.
But he was denied proper treatment and food; leading Adelakun to suffer in prison until he died. Even after his death, the military junta would not release the corpse to his family. He was yet another Second Republic politician who met his untimely death as a result of the in-human conditions he was subjected to in Buhari’s detention camps.
The same man is now being canonised by a cabal of primitive wealth accumulators, money changers and flawed progressives whose motivation is anything but altruistic.
APC, Buhari, Change, And Corruption
For God sake! How can a man who, according to Professor Wole Soyinka, “Built a career out of human rights abuses” suddenly become the change agent for the New Nigeria?
He has become the man who will cure Nigeria of all afflictions such as corruption, insecurity, etc. The only message coming out from Buhari is: “I will fight corruption and insecurity,” but he has been short on details on how he plans to achieve these twin objectives.
He is yet to give Nigerians an economic blue-print, five weeks to the presidential election. In the face of dwindling revenue, General Buhari is yet to articulate an innovative, and creative road map on how to move the economy forward.
It is not enough for Buhari and his party to tell us that he will fight corruption without telling us how. Of course, that is the easiest claim any politician can make but the statement cannot be taken as a commitment. It is all talk, and talk is cheap if it is not backed by an action plan which is currently missing.
For the life of me, why should the APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, brand every Nigerian who opposes Buhari’s presidential ambition as corrupt? Is that not a gratuitous insult? Is this not a typical example of an elder behaving badly? Why are these people so self-righteous when we see how corrupt they are too?
My worst fears were confirmed after reading news reports credited to the APC chairman recently that Buhari will not probe past corrupt acts because he wants to draw a line in the sand and move on. I chuckled and then laughed. If this is Buhari’s position, how then will he fight corruption, when even before the election, he has given a blanket amnesty to those accused of being corrupt?
Can anyone spot the contradiction in the public message of “change” and the utterances of the APC leadership? In one breath, they accuse anyone who is opposed to Buhari’s ambition as corrupt and in another breath Chairman Oyegun stated that Buhari won’t probe past corrupt acts. Hear him: “The only people I can think of, who will fear the Buhari presidency are those who do not want change; they are those who want to continue with business as usual; they are those who want to continue to profit from the level of corruption in the society. The message will be clear – whatever you engaged in before that was detrimental to the people of this country, please stop it. There will be a line drawn in the sand; on one the part is the past, the other side is the future.” How will this deter people from corrupt acts if past crimes carry no weight of punishment?
If the signals from Odigie-Oyegun are anything to go by, then the clamour for change by the APC may end up just giving Nigerians more of the same or just selling a bad apple disguised as an orange.
Now, hear Buhari in Port Harcourt where he went to launch his campaign: “I will send corrupt people to Kirikiri.” Really? (Probably without trial). That would have made sense if the PTF probe report wasn’t so damning. But unfortunately, Buhari’s Spartan incorruptible and austere credentials being trumpeted by Oyegun and his supporters have been ripped apart with his indictment in the management of the Petroleum Support Trust Fund, PTF. Based on the probe report conducted in 1999-2000, the PTF under Buhari’s supervision was mismanaged. The report was however neither made public nor was it acted upon by former President Obasanjo.
In its summary, the committee had advised Obasanjo to “set up a high powered judicial panel to recover huge public funds allocated to the PTF and to take necessary action against any officer, consultant or contractor whose negligence resulted in this colossal loss of public funds.”
According to the report, the sum of N25,758,532,448 was mismanaged by the Afri-Project Consortium (APC), a company contracted by the PTF as management and project consultants. Buhari as PTF chairman was said to have also “delegated to them the power of engineers in all appropriate projects requiring such power-” which made them assume absolute powers to initiate, approve and execute all projects by the PTF.
The mismanagement that took place in the PTF under Buhari’s watch was said to have been carried out by APC (the company) in their capacity as management and project consultants. Both their management services fees and budgets for several projects carried out during the existence of the PTF were greatly overpriced.
The question now is who will send Buhari to Kirikiri for the mismanagement, corruption and huge financial losses suffered by the taxpayers when he was chairman of PTF? With his indictment for mismanagement by a committee instituted in 1999 by Obasanjo, Buhari’s ability to manage the Nigerian economy and fight corruption has been called to question.
Will he lead by example by voluntarily surrendering himself at Kirikiri Prisons? Imagine the effects of such an action on many corrupt people who currently walk the streets free.