Culled by Richard Akinnola
“General Abacha was not happy with my departure from his government. He felt I was arrogant and over-bearing. News started to get to me that I was in danger and that I should be very careful. First and foremost I was very sure that I had not offended him in any way. Even though he went to investigate my account in the Justice Ministry he could find nothing against me. So personally and officially, I was clean before him; so what other offences could he be looking for? My friends in govermnent told me he had assured them that I should suffer some pains which I could never forget. Anyway, he was the government and so I started to bid farewell to my wife (this was at a time of many unexplained murders -Chief Alfred Rewane, Mrs Suliat Adedeji, Rear Admiral Olu Omotehinwa, Admiral Tunde Elegbede). My wife would assure me that we should continue to pray.
Little did we realise that he would pounce on our son, Oluwatoyin, who qualified as a lawyer in 1995. Toyin was very dear to us. He was a loving child; he was palpably cheerful and kind. He had one Igbo boy, Victor, as his friend. They were so close that the boy looked very much like part of our family. When this boy could not pay his school fees, I had to pay. On the day of his wedding, my wife and I stood in as his parents. We do not know how this boy got into the SSS (State Security Service) camp and these operatives used him against us. He told them Toyin’s movement in the evenings, particularly to his Fiancee’s house; and he told them the address of the house. Toyin’s Fiancee was Prof. & Mrs. Abiola Ojo’s daughter.
Victor was a very useful target; always collecting money from the SSS boys. So when mention was made about the Onagoruwas, he made himself conveniently available. But his role in Toyin’s murder, although very peripheral, was very effective. One day, when they were to capture Toyin, Victor phoned and we got the phone call at a time when Toyin had just been attacked. We dismissed the whole thing and never connected him to this evil. However, on the day that they felled Toyin, Victor phoned and he was told that some people had held Toyin down outside. He then told them to call me to the line. Before I could get to the phone, he cut off. At this very time, the assailants were taking Toyin away and thereafter shot him. I did not know what was happening as I was woken from deep sleep. When we later got Toyin to the hospital and they phoned Victor, he told them he would not come immediately as his car was in some predicament. We never saw Victor until some days later.
We later got to know that the group of SSS boys got all the information they needed about ‘Toyin through Victor: The fact that he had just qualified as a lawyer, his Fiancee’s place and name. That was why that fateful night they first looked for him at the Fiancee’s house. They found him there but he did not know that they were looking for him. He was in fact warning his Father-in-Law to be very careful that night.
On 18th December 1996, the murderers struck. As Toyin was riding into the compound, he was held incommunicado. Our own security man had left the door unlocked as he normally did and he ran away, while Toyin was held by these assassins who occupied the compound. I was only woken up after they had finished their operations. They took Toyin outside into the main street, where he had a very big fight with them. They later shot him in the back and fled. By the time I woke up, Toyin had been shot and was in the throes of death. His death was unbearable to me.
Was I dreaming?
Who killed Toyin?
What did he do wrong?
All these questions filled our mouths.
We did not connect this with the government at all. Why should a government do this? Why?
Soon after this tragic event, the Head of State wrote me a letter expressing his heartfelt sympathy. He assured me that the culprits would be arrested and they would face the law because this type of crime should not take place in this country. He sent delegates to me, one led by his deputy, General Oladipo Diya: and another led by Chief Michael Agbamuche, who succeeded me as Minister of Justice and Attorney General. All expressed the good wishes of the Head of State to me and my family. I grabbed at the letter which had been written to me and re-assured myself that this evil act could not proceed from a Head of State whom I had served faithfully and whose letter confirmed this.
That dastardly night of Toyin’s murder, some sharp-witted men of my family had gotten the number of the car, which the murderers brought and had written it down. They got an artist to sketch the faces of the assailants.
On February 3, 1997, I wrote a reply to the Head of State’s condolence letter. I apologised about the delay in replying to his letter. I told him of the pulverising effect which Toyin’s killing had on us in the family and we thanked him for his warmth, kindness and gift. We told him that his promise to track down the perpetrators of the hideous crime was heart-lifting and encouraging. We then told the Head of State that we had passed some useful information to the police, including the particulars of the car used for the murder. I gave the Head of State the particulars. It was a white car, a Mercedes Benz 230E; bearing registration plate number “Lagos BB-844-SMK.” This is a common number. And at its back, on the right, the car had a Deutschmark sticker. I also informed the Head of State that when the police visited Shomolu Local Government (where the car was registered), they were informed by the authorities that the number Lagos BB-844-SMK was registered for a Honda car owned by a Colonel in the Nigerian Army. The last information that we had was that the vehicle was seen on its way to Abuja. Despite this letter and the particulars supplied, Abacha gave no reply. In the meantime, General Abacha ordered that these two vehicles -the Mercedes Benz and the Honda- should be hidden in the Aso Rock Villa. The owner of these vehicles was Colonel -. now Brigadier-General- Laoye. This came to surface when the Oputa Panel was sitting. Colonel Laoye brought the Honda car there and we told the Oputa Panel to order its seizure and to order the police to go and do their work well, but the panel refused for no tangible reason. Hence, the car and all those involved in Toyin’s murder have disappeared perpetually into thin air, unless God is interested in their discovery.
June 8, 1998, Abacha died in Abuja and was succeeded by General Abdulsalami Abubakar (who had served Abacha as Chief of Defence Staff). I wrote him. a letter “Sanni Abacha Killed My Son, Oluwatoyin Onagoruwa” (1) and requested him to investigate Toyin’s murder. In the letter I gave the General the whole story of how Toyin was murdered.
I told him that so far no evidence had been produced by the police; but on our own we had produced the number of the car used, the identities of those who committed the murder and their pictures, all of which we had given to the police. I told him of Brigadier-General Laoye, whose Mercedes Benz car was used bearing the plate number normally worn by his Honda car. We mentioned to General Abubakar the inability of the police to investigate the Colonel. We told General Abubakar Abdulsalami that there were certain questions the police should ask the Colonel, viz: How did the number plate of his Honda car come to be used on the murder vehicle; and why the switch of the Honda number to the murder car?
Furthermore, I requested him to question both Alhaji Ismaila Gwarzo (Chief Security Adviser) and Major Harnza Al-Mustapha (Chief Security Officer) because they presided over Abacha’s security outfit used for committing murder.
What was my offence against Abacha? Abacha’s contentions were three.
First, he alleged that I humiliated his government by my manner of leaving, which he considered unnecessarily arrogant.
Second, I insisted in my discussion with him that it was not proper for him to succeed himself by self-succession.
Third, I released Mr. Turner Ogboru, brother of a coup plotter, without his permission and still maintained that I was not disloyal to him.
As for the first one, I already told him and the other top military men that I would leave their government immediately they violated any of the fundamental rules we agreed upon. This meant that they would obey the law to its final particulars. It was a gentlemen’s agreement that should not be violated -yet they did. I opposed the self-succession bid because it was a gigantic violation of the basic rules of our Constitution. On the third ground, I released Turner Ogboru because the court had ordered that he should be released, which no earthly power could prevent. My obedience was to the court not to men.
Mr Alex Ibru, the then Internal Affairs Minister, had asked my opinion when the order of the court was made; and in a written advice I had told him he had no choice but to comply with the order of the court. Mr Alex Ibru
later had to pay dearly for this through a bullet from Abacha’s satanic messengers from the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI).
As for me, I paid with the life of my son, Oluwatoyin. However, in spite of my pleas, Abdulsalami never acted. I really thought General Abdulsalami was a better person than Abacha; that was why I wrote him. But he was busy about his own thing and never had time for me.
Then President Obasanjo came to power and he set up the Oputa Panel. I wrote to Justice Oputa, stating the murder of my son and how government agents had been involved. The identities of the murderers were exhibited but the result had up to now been unpublished. I have exhibited the photographs of the two assailants for the purpose of the public judging by themselves. Although this other man ran away from the country, Sergeant Rogers is still present. It is my conclusion that the sketches look very much like Sergeant Rogers. I told the panel to call Mr Rogers but it did not call him for one excuse or the other.
So Toyin was one of those killed to give General Abacha the rest he will never have.”
Excerpts from his book – “A Rebel in General Abacha’s Government” , by Dr Olu Onagoruwa