By December 23, 2016, it will be exactly 15 years since a former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Bola Ige, was murdered in his Bodija, Ibadan, Oyo State residence. His only daughter, Mrs. Funso Adegbola, who is also the Founder, The Vale College, Ibadan, in this interview with Yinka Adeniran, bares her mind on the circumstances surrounding her father’s murder and the pains his killing has caused the family. Adegbola also speaks on why former president Olusegun Obasanjo must now say all he knows about her father’s death. Excerpts:
Does it not appear strange to you at the point late Chief Bola Ige was killed that those who were supposed to be guarding him were out of their duty post?
It was a bizarre! A big bizarre! That everyone of them should go and eat at the same time is indeed a huge bizarre.
Would you say that those people might have something to do with your father’s death?
God sees all. My own belief and the way my parents brought me up is that ti ‘ro ba lo l’ogun odun, ojo kan lo too a baa, a yaa sile (if falsehood and lies go on for 20 years, on a particular day, truth will catch up with it and even leave it behind). We know in part but it is only God who knows in full. And, I don’t put anything past anybody but I know that my father was very good to his staff and even we, his children, were good to them. So, we leave everything to God. It’s 15 years; that we are still here today is the grace of God.
Some people believe that if Chief Bola Ige didn’t join the government at the time, he might probably still be alive?
Hindsight is 2020 vision. It’s easy to say now, looking back. At the time, it was something he considered, he prayed about it and discussed with us (my mum and we, the children) about joining the government and he believed at the time that joining the government was God’s purpose and God’s will for his life at that time. So, I can’t fault him. My father is a kind of person who discussed his plans with his children and his wife and at the time, that was not a rash decision. It was something that he considered and prayerfully thought about. He discussed with his constituency, his children, his family, his political associates and many others. So, I can’t fault his reasoning and decision. It was his decision, not mine and he took it because he just felt politics was the highest service and the best way you can serve your people, which was his own belief. He didn’t join because of money. He joined so he could serve his people, especially in the power and steel ministry and later on in the ministry of justice. I can’t fault him, he’s my dad and I know that he was not a flippant person. He didn’t do it to show anybody anything. It was just for the service. My father was not a money person. He never had money. He never chased money; that’s something I inherited from my dad and mum. My parents were extremely contended. They taught me never to chase money and I have never made money the pursuit of my life. But at the same time I looked at it, I was 41 years and a day old when my father died, I was 42 years when my mum died. Both of them died at the age of 71 years, though my mum died just 16 months after my dad’s death. And throughout their life time, my brothers and I have never lacked anything. If they list the first 10,000 richest people in Nigeria at the time, my father’s name can never be there, but we never lacked. We were never chased out of school and I can’t remember there was anything that ought to be done. We always had enough. That’s a great legacy. They left a beautiful and unblemished name, which still works for the children and grandchildren and I’m grateful to God for that.
Suddenly, a man named Fryo, who came up that he knew something about his death later withdrew his account. What do you think of it and did you ever believe him?
I don’t know Fryo. I leave Fryo, his senders, his agents and everything that surrounds him to God. I don’t know Fryo and I have no business with him and I will never have any business with him. I leave everybody in God’s hands and in the court of God. There is nothing I can do about them but I know that they can never tie the shoe laces of my father. All of them, put them together, everyone of them, from the highest to the least of them, they don’t even measure up to my father, in my estimation. So, where are all of them now? For me, that is not what matters. But just to restore people’s fate in the system. It is government’s duty to provide security and if a minister of justice and attorney general of the federation could be killed like that, what would happen to the common man on the street. Rewane, Dele Giwa, Ken Saro Wiwa and others, what happened? If they even dealt with a set of people and people know that you cant do it and get away with it, there can’t be more and more of it. There is so much impunity around. How can somebody just wake up and take someone else’s father’s life? And they are still walking on the street, enjoying themselves like nothing happened. Somebody has to stop these kind of people.
Some people like Pa Ayo Adebanjo believe that former president Olusegun Obasanjo knew those behind the death of your father…
(Cuts in) Former President Obasanjo has never talked to me or my mum, before she died, about what he knows or what he doesn’t know as far as the issue is concerned. Well, he’s alive and its up to him to say what he knows but he’s never told us up till the time my mum died in 2003 and my brother and I are still here till today but he has not told us anything. We don’t know what he knows but I know that God knows what he knows.
Before the death of your father, you had a fear that Nigeria was not worth dying for. Fifteen years on, do you still hold on to that opinion?
No, Nigeria is not worth dying for. For my dad, that was his own belief, I don’t believe Nigeria is worth dying for because there hasn’t been justice. If, now, for my father’s death, somebody or some people are paying the price, then I’ll know that Nigeria is worth dying for. My father believed too much in this Nigeria. Infact, too much. Every time you say anything negative about the country, he would say no, Nigeria is going to be great; that Nigeria will someday be part of G7 and all that stuff. That was him, and I don’t condemn him for it. That was him. But as for me, Nigeria is not worth dying for. I’m going to live for my children, my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. God forbids anything happens to you in this country, you are on your own. So, I’m not going to die for Nigeria, God forbids me to die for Nigeria. My father has already died for Nigeria; nobody in my family will ever die for Nigeria again.
From the December 15th encounter in Ife where your father’s cap was removed, did he mention the name(s) of anybody to you who was actually behind the incident whom you think could have been involved in his death?
No, he just mentioned the names of those people who were at the event. Because I remember it was Stella Obasanjo who was being given a chieftancy title. So, he named those who were at the event generally. It was at the palace of Ooni of Ife. He mentioned the Ooni (the late Okunade Sijuade) not the current one. Chief Akande wasn’t there. I think he said he was out of the country, if I remember well, Omisore was there. He was the deputy governor at the time. There were people from the Federal Government there; there were ministers from Abuja. I’m not sure if President Obasanjo himself was there, but Stella Obasanjo was there because she was the one being made a chief and that was what took my dad there. My brother wasn’t there because he didn’t go with my dad on that day.
You have borne this story and picture of your father’s gruesome murder in your mind for about 15 years. How do you feel remembering the whole thing?
As you can see, it’s very painful. Even now my voice is still shaky. It’s very sad. And because I think the person I love most in my life was my dad, it really hurts me that somebody could kill my dad that I love so much (sobs). How could they just (bursts into tears) kill someone who could not even kill a chicken in broad daylight? So, it was one of the most painful things that has ever happened to me in my life. My brother had died before then, he died in his sleep. It wasn’t as painful as someone killing my dad. My mother died 16 months after my father because she, too, was heartbroken. She died a day after the star witness changed his statement. My mother died the following morning. (Still sobbing) Infact, we’ve been through a lot; so, that is why I still tell my children that Nigeria is not worth dying for.
For posterity sake, are you looking at documenting these incidents into a book form so that future generations can understand better what actually happend?
Yes. But anytime I think I have got over it, I find out that it is still always very painful. Other people have written about it but I think I would. Luckily, my children met my dad but my brother’s kids, only one of them was already born when my dad was alive and he was a baby. So, I really think that for my children and my children’s children, I really should document the incident. Luckily, my father was a kind of person who documented things himself. He wrote books. This is one of his books: ‘People, Politics and Politicians’ (displaying the copy). He did a Sunday column in the Nigerian Tribune, which has been in three volumes. So, in a way, my kids have read about it and so, of all the grandchildren, they are the ones who spent most times with him. Luckily, they knew the kind of person he was, for them to be able to tell their children. That is why I feel I don’t know whenever the time will be right. But my father already wrote: ‘Kaduna Boy’, and its about the first 17 years of his life when he was in primary and secondary schools. That account ended in 1948, when he went to UI. So, in a way, he himself has told his story. But the story that is untold is the story of his death and because on the story of his death, there won’t be any closure really until we find who did it, who sent them. And I’ll like to eyeball them and ask, “Why would you kill him? What did he do?”, because my dad was a good man. He was a very good man. But I choose to focus on his life and what he stood for because, really and truly, that is what matters now. My dad was not like a person who left lots of houses for his children. But he gave us good education, he gave us a fantastic name, value, character, honesty, integrity, empathy, compassion, altruism, being your neighbours’ neighbour. So, my father was a kind of person who would go out of his way for other people. And so, that is what really matters to me and that is what I want to focus on because when it happend, for a long time, all I could think about was his dead body on the floor and I really asked God to take that memory away from me. Then I remember how he used to take me to school, the primary school, the secondary schools, when I would act plays and he rehearsed the lines with me. When I would do debate, he would pretend to be the opposers, so that he would give me points and how I should counter it. When I went to school in England, how he took me to school and how he put me through a lot of things. I wrote a book on his 74th birthday, which was 10 years ago, which I dedicated to his memor. I wanted to do it for his 70th birthday but I couldn’t go round to do it. I wish I had gone round to do it. I wish I had done the book during his life time. By the time I would have gone round to do the book, my mother had even passed away. So, none of them saw the book. So, that taught me a great lesson and that is why I don’t like procrastinating. If I want to do something, I do it now because I don’t know what tomorrow holds. But my parents were fantastic parents. How many people had a SAN as their dad and a Justice of the Court of Appeal as their mum? My father was a governor when he was 49 years old, a commissioner when he was in his 30s, publicity secretary of the UPN when he was 27 to 32. So, he’s achieved a lot and had been through a lot as well. He was detained; he was restricted in 1972. When my late brother was born, he was in prison at that time. Even my mother went through a lot with him. They got married in 1960 and by 1962, he was placed on a restriction order. In 1983, he was jailed. In 1998, Abacha captured him as a prisoner of war. So, he’s somebody who had been through a lot, too. But all through the period, my father was a child of God and I’m happy that his first constituency was his family. My father loved his wife and his children till he died. And somehow I believe that, maybe when they even came to kill my dad, they might even have told him they had already killed my mum and my brother. God knows what they might have told him. So, my dad, having been through the death of one of us, would dare not afford to see another child die. God knows. The good thing was that he wasn’t crouched in a corner and his face didn’t look troubled in death. So, he might have looked his killers in the face and told them to do whatever they had come to do. He was just lying on the floor and the only reason I know he was dead was because there was a hole in his heart and blood was coming out. Apart from that, I wouldn’t have believed he was dead. In a way, when I look at it, I looked at his face, there was no regret. In a way, I am comforted by that. It would have been worse if I had found him cramped somewhere or if I hadn’t come there and my brother and mum couldn’t get out. Whatever, I know it could have been worse. So, in everything, God says we should give thanks. They obviously came for my dad. They didn’t kill anybody else, they didn’t take anything. They came for his life.
About six years to the end of the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the government couldn’t track the killers. And now there are insinuations that the government wants to revisit the case. Do you believe in the judicial system giving you justice?
I’m a lawyer and my two kids are also lawyers. My dad and mum were lawyers, too. So, it’s like I must have faith in the judicial system. That is the system my mother served for over 40 years of her life. And that was what kept my mum going that ‘won o le pa Bola gbe’ (Bola’s killer can never get away with it), and the day she realised that ‘won ti pa gbe’ (that the killers had gone away with it), she died the following morning. So, truly, I must have faith in the legal system because that is the way I’m trained. But it is not the legal system that investigates a crime, it is the police. So, I know that abroad, even cases that are on for 20 years, if they have fresh evidence like DNA or forensic evidence, they will revisit it. But then, when there is a will, there is a way. Like I said earlier, that is not my ultimate solace. As a lawyer, when there’s a crime, there should be a punishment. I believe some people should be punished but still, there is a superior court of justice and that is the court of God. To me, we have a system where we know that whoever is found guilty, goes to the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. But whatever it is, there is a court that is higher than the Supreme Court, which is the court of God.
I have tried my own as a child. Even after my mum died, so many of my mum’s siblings and friends, even my dad’s relatives, were like we shouldn’t give evidence. Muyiwa was giving his evidence when my mum died. My mum and I had followed my brother to court when he was giving evidence. That week that my mum died, Muyiwa had not even finished giving his evidence. And I haven’t given my own evidence. So, after my mum died, people said we shouldn’t give more evidence. Then my brother and I told ourselves that if it was either of us, my dad would go to the end of the earth to seek legal justice. So, both of us decided to give evidence and we told ourselves that the last thing anybody would do was to kill us too. And that it was better that they killed us on our father’s matter. So, we gave our evidence, and that was the least that we could do. It is a criminal case and we are not the ones to investigate the matter. It is a state matter. And as time went on, those who got acquitted got acquitted, those who got ‘no case’ judgment did. It is the state that has powers to do that, it has nothing to do with us, because if it had something to do with us, you can be sure that my brother and I will spend our last penny on it. But it’s totally out of our hands; that was why we left it for God. It is not a civil matter but the state against some people. So, if the state is not interested, we are not the state. So, the highest we could do is what we have done and that is what gave both of us some kind of solace. That is why, even after my mum died, Muyiwa was more distressed because he was very close to my mum, just as I was very close to my dad. Thank God we did our best for our parents when they were alive. We looked after them and saw them nearly everyday when they were in Ibadan. I worked with my dad for seven years before I started my school. He gave me the seed capital to start my school. He was always at my school’s functions. Muyiwa also came back and joined our dad’s chamber. Naturally, we were both in Nigeria when our parents died, we were both in Ibadan. In fact, Muyiwa was in the house upstairs and I came there later, too. In a way, God knows it all and we have accepted it. For a long time, these people have killed the closest person to me but I must not allow them to kill my spirit.