When news of the assassination of Kudirat Abiola hit the airwaves on June 4, 1996, to save face, the military administration of General Sani Abacha quickly announced a reward of $45,000 for whoever has information about her murder. Kudirat was the second but most senior wife of the acclaimed winner of the 1993 presidential elections, M.K.O Abiola. Little did Nigerians know that the anti-democracy government was all out to silence dissident voices by all means necessary.
It was at the trial which began with the ascension of Olusegun Obasanjo as President in 1999 that more details of the assassination master plan became known to the public.
As revealed by Barnabas Jabila, also known as Sergeant Rogers, the Strike Force unit which executed the assassination task, had Rogers, CSP Rabo Lawal and four other specially selected gunmen. They were given sub-machine guns and cash by Abacha’s Chief Security Officer, Major Al-Mustapha and Abacha’s son, Mohammed Abacha, before they left for the operation.
Reports after the incident had it that one of the bullets which was shot at Kudirat, as her vehicle moved around Ikeja, hit her on the forehead and caused major damage. Though she was immediately rushed to the highbrow Eko Hospital in Ikeja, she could not be saved. She gave up the ghost in the year she was to clock 45 years.
The driver who drove the white Mercedes Benz car Kudirat was riding in was also fatally wounded and died as a result. Her personal assistant, Alhaji Lateef Shofolahan, who was riding with them in the same car walked away unscathed. It was later alleged at the trial by one of the drivers of the vehicles which conveyed the assassins, Mohammed Abdul, that Kudirat’s personal assistant, Alhaji Lateef, was the mole who provided details of his boss’ itinerary and the easiest ways to hit her for the Strike Force’s use.
Years after her death, while a Federal High Court in Abuja acquitted Mohammed Abacha on May 2001, a Lagos High Court sitting at Igbosere, Lagos, convicted Major Al-Mustapha and Alhaji Lateef Shofolahan and also sentenced them to death by hanging. However, in a shocking ruling on Friday, July 12, 2013, both Al-Mustapha and Shofolahan were discharged and acquitted in a Lagos Appeal Court ruling delivered by Justice Rita Pemu, consequently upturning the conviction judgment of the lower court.
Kudirat Abiola was reputed to be a force which drove the pro-democracy movement with her temerity with mobilizing market women, the youth and the grassroot. She must have been marked as a major distraction to the continuity of the Abacha junta. Hence she became the first victim to be assassinated in the June 12 struggle and in the campaign to release M.K.O Abiola.
Nevertheless, that her death went unpunished and her killers allowed to roam free until today will remain a dent on the criminal justice system and a smear on the revolutionary legacy left by M.K.O Abiola.
Featured image source: Blogger