FORMER Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Ajibola Ige wanted to resign his appointment before he was assassinated in his Ibadan residence on December 23, 2001.
This was disclosed by the former governor of the State of Osun, Chief Adebisi Akande, in his autobiography, My Participations.
According to Akande, Ige had written his resignation letter and informed him of his plan to resign when it became clear that forces in the President Olusegun Obasanjo government felt threatened that Ige had the grip of South West politics.
Yesterday, December 23, marked the 20th anniversary of Ige’s death.
Recalling the last moment of the Cicero of Esa-Oke, Akande said: “Bola Ige had returned from Lagos in preparation for his annual Christmas feast in his hometown, Esa-Oke when gunmen invaded his Ibadan residence on December 23, 2001 and terminated his life.
“I had fears that Uncle Bola was in danger but he seemed oblivious of it. On the day he was killed, we had spoken on phone in the morning and I confirmed to him that I would be arriving that day. Since I travelled, we had been speaking every day. He kept saying there were a lot of things to discuss.
“He said he was going to submit his letter of resignation to Obasanjo because he was not happy with the way the country was going. He said he would come and see me in Osogbo once I arrived in town. I told him, ‘Not in your life!’ I said he should stop travelling in the night. I promised I would be with him on the morning of December 24 at Esa-Oke.
“A week earlier, Chief Ige had joined other guests at the palace of the Ooni of Ife where Mrs. Stella Obasanjo, Wife of the President, was being honoured with a chieftaincy title. I was not normally attending ceremonies at the Ooni’s place because I recognised the place as an enemy territory. I was abroad and was given full briefing later about the sad event of that day which presaged the assassination.
“On the same day of Stella Obasanjo’s chieftaincy ceremony, I was told that Omisore had led a group of thugs to the Ooni’s Palace. He was dressed casually and he was with many of his top boys, including several who were veterans of the Modakeke crisis. Uncle Bola sat by the left of the Ooni in the front while Omisore and his boys were at the back of the encampment where they were singing abusive songs against Uncle Bola. Despite remonstrations from the Ooni, Omisore and his team would not relent.
“At the end of the ceremony, the dignitaries were led into the inner palace where they would be entertained. Uncle Bola was still greeting some of the guests when the said thugs surrounded him, seized his cap and subjected him to a series of humiliations. For a Yoruba elder, removing his cap was the unkindest cut of all.
“Omisore presided with glee over that episode. It took the security details of Chief Bode George, the National Vice-Chairman of the then ruling PDP, to rescue Uncle Bola from these miscreants and chaperon him into the inner palace.
“Tragically, Uncle Bola had come to Ile-Ife without the usual security details of a serving Minister. He came with only his State Security Service (SSS) detail who was helpless in the face of the wild dogs unleashed by Omisore. Uncle’s cap was later released to him after the Ooni threatened to invoke traditional curses on the perpetrators.
“In the evening of the same day when Uncle Bola was assaulted, Hon. Olagbaju, who was representing Ife at the House of Assembly, was also killed by some hoodlums at a drinking joint in Ile-Ife. I understood that Olagbaju was set up for the kill. He was accused of holding onto the money meant for the boys who removed Bola Ige’s cap.”
Akande spoke further: “Uncle Bola’s main ambition in his last days was to resign from Obasanjo’s government and come to help us reorganise Afenifere. He believed Afenifere should be separated from the AD. He wanted a properly restructured Afenifere where the States, including Kogi and Kwara, would have representation in the leadership instead of the clique that surrounded Baba Adesanya.
“After he was assaulted in Ife by the renegade group led by Omisore, he became more resolved to return home and help us. He was also thinking of taking a part-time international appointment with the United Nations. After he was assassinated, a copy of his letter of resignation was found in his bedroom in Abuja.
“There was enough evidence that the government of President Obasanjo was reluctant to find the killers of Bola Ige. A day after the assassination, I was with Governor Lam Adesina and other governors at the Government House, Ibadan, when I received a phone call from Major-General Abdullahi Mohammed, the Chief of Staff to the President.
“Mohammed, a former military governor, was also former head of the Nigerian Security Organisation (NSO), the precursor of the SSS and later Directorate of State Services, (DSS). He was regarded as a strong pillar of the Obasanjo presidency. He invited me to come and talk to the President and that a plane had been dispatched to the airport in Ibadan to fly me to Abuja. I said I was not interested in talking to the President.
“But Governors Adesina and Osoba felt I should go and meet the President. Therefore, I told General Abdullahi that I would only come on the condition that they would not make me sit with Omisore and that nobody should ask me to make a statement. I said if the President intended to talk, I was prepared to listen Then, I went to the airport and boarded the presidential jet.
“As if I knew, what they intended doing was to call me and Omisore into a sort of court. By the time I got to the airport, Omisore was already lurking around. Obasanjo just talked generally in the same vein he had spoken to me on phone the previous night. He said he was sad and devastated by the assassination, and that he would do his best to bring the killers to justice.
“When I was about to board the aircraft on my return trip to Ibadan, I saw Omisore. The jet had gone ahead to bring Omisore from Ibadan. What they told him I did not know. So, why try to bring us together for a chat? All this created a suspicion in my mind that a 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 lge.
“There was no doubt, too, that there were other fronts against Bola Ige. Many months before the assassination, Omisore had been meeting with top leaders of Afenifere who were opposed to Ige. He had been admitted into their inner caucus. In this conspiracy, Senator Adesanya was not involved.”