Unknown soldier in Mary Odili’s home

Who did it? The face of the farmer is a terrible host to hives; his skin is swollen and pale, yet bees and hornets say they didn’t do it; wasps wash their stingers off the attack, even the giant ant says its hands are clean. So who did it? Welcome to the season of denial, Nigeria of the year of the Lord, 2021, where things happen with nobody being responsible. Everything happening in the country today was forewarned. Every epoch has its own prophets who have foreknowledge of what the future holds. One of such prophets was the late iconoclast and music icon, the Abami Eda (Weird one), Fela Anikulapo Kuti, who did not only sing about things that were happening then but seemed to have taken several cursory stares into the future to give an expose of the ills ahead.

I would like to start today’s piece with some lines from his evergreen album, “Unknown Soldier”, recorded in 1979. In the album, Fela, the legend, paid glowing tributes to his mother, who was killed by some “unknown soldiers”, who invaded his ‘Kalakuta Republic’ residence on February 18, 1977. Fela’s “sin” which provoked the invasion by a thousand “unknown soldiers” was his “Zombie” album, which remains a parody of the regimented life of an average soldier, whose training consigned him to a life of blind obedience to superior orders without interrogating the rationale behind such orders. The General Olusegun Obasanjo military administration then found an excuse of “establishing a Republic within a Republic” to attack Fela’s residence and in the process, “threw” his 78-year old mother, Mrs Olufunmilayo Ransome Kuti, from the window of the second floor of a two-storey building.

The equally legendary Mama Fela went into an instant coma and died two months later. Expectedly, the same government set up a panel of enquiry, headed by Justice Agwu Anya. The panel, after taking testimonies from about 183 witnesses, came out with a report that the fire which burnt Fela’s house was “unintentional and was started by an exasperated and unknown soldier”. Case closed! In response to that, Abami Eda waxed the “Unknown Soldier” album. The most relevant lines of the lyrics, to our discourse today, are reproduced below:

I say unknown police

And then the unknown soldier

And then unknown civilian

All is equal to unknown government

Successive Federal administrations in Nigeria, since independence in 1960, have been terrible in their own ways. From the repressive First Republic Government of Tafawa Balewa to the five-year monstrous regime of the expired Military Head of State, General Sani Abacha, Nigerians have had causes to be brutalised, dehumanised and serially abused by those who took over the destiny of the nation as our rulers or leaders. The coming of democracy in 1999 gave a ray of hope that the rule of law would install sanity into the nation’s system. However, the experiences of Odi, a town in Bayelsa State and Zaki Biam in Benue State, where soldiers, under the marching order of the then president, General Obasanjo, visited unprecedented havoc on the people, indicated early enough, that democracy or no democracy, it was not yet uhuru for Nigerians and Nigeria.

But in all, never a time has the psyche of  Nigerians been this frontally  assaulted, than the present regime of General Muhammadu Buhari, whose stock in trade is to wage  wars of attrition against the nation’s judiciary -the most paramount institution that ought to protect the interest of the common man.  The way and manner the Buhari government harasses the judiciary, one may be tempted to ask if the Daura-born General does not hold a personal animosity against the courts of the land and the personnel therein, especially the judges.

One becomes more worried about the pattern of the attacks on the nation’s judiciary because it appears that the grisly attacks were and  are, targeted at judges believed to be too difficult to be “manipulated”. Besides that, the judges’ homes were attacked  in the dead of the night, with many of them roused from their sleep and hounded out in their pyjamas.

For instance, on Friday October 7, 2016, armed men from the Department of State Security, DSS, stormed the residences of Justices John Okoro and Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Court, on the excuse of allegations of corruption. Raided in that same manner were the homes of Justices Adeniyi Ademola, and Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court in Abuja. Justice Kabiru Auta had his Kano home raided while the Chief Judge of Enugu, Justice A. I. Umezulike  played host to the “midnight armed visitors”. In Gombe State, Justice Muazu Pindiga had his sleep disturbed and in Sokoto, Justice Samia was equally harassed.

Five years after those raids on the homes of the judges, save for their media trials, no court of competent jurisdiction has been able to convict them of any crime. Sadly enough, Justice Ngwuta went to his grave with that dent on his image and enviable services to his fatherland. While I do not hold the opinion that corruption should not be fought, my personal concern here is how this government thinks that it can employ corrupt means to fight corruption. The judicial officers involved are accountable to the NJC and I can’t find any justification why security men would visit judges in the dead of the night in  the name of investigating allegations of corruption. That, in  itself, is pure corruption. And sadly enough again, the hallelujah orchestra that hailed Buhari, labelling him “Sarkin gaskiya” over the assaults on those judicial officers has not deemed it fit to ask  Mr. Integrity why his government has not been able to convict any of those men, five years after their ordeals. The conspiracy of silence over the matter is a new level of corruption.

The most recent despicable attack on the nation’s judiciary by the Buhari government was last Friday’s foiled raid on the home of Justice Mary Odili of the Supreme Court. According to the reports, armed men, numbering about 30, and made up of soldiers and policemen, had stormed the Justice’s residence, not in the daytime, but, again, at night. Ahuraka Isah, Special Adviser (Media) to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), while confirming the attack said that the invading armed manticores could not gain access into the residence, as the justice’s security guards resisted them. Isah disclosed that the invaders armed themselves with a search warrant.

But as it turned out to be, the said “search warrant” was fraudulently obtained by the agents of the Federal Government, who deceived the court and the issuing magistrate, Chief Magistrate Magistrate Emmanuel Iyanna, of Abuja Magistrate Court. Upon discovering the fraud , as contained in the “misrepresentation of fact and misinformation of court”,Iyanna promptly revoked the search warrant.

Now, here is how Fela comes in. One, the man who deposed to the affidavit upon which the warrant was issued, is one nondescript Aliyu Umar, who claimed to “have observed some illegal activities going on in those houses within Abuja and hereby report the said matter to the law enforcement agency”. Two, the agency to which  Umar, the whistleblower reported his “observation” to, is a government agency known as the “Joint Panel Recovery Unit of the Federal Ministry of Justice”. The Ministry of Justice, for the purpose of elucidation, is headed by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN. The Panel comprising the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Nigeria Police Force and the Ministry of Justice, approached the magistrate court, obtained the search warrant and moved to Justice Odili’s residence.

Like Fela’s “Kalakuta Republic”, immediately Justice Odili resisted the illegal search on her home, the public picked up the matter and in torrents came denials by all the government departments and agencies involved. From the EFCC to the Ministry of Justice, the AGF’s office and the Police, including the Army, everybody claimed ignorance! Now the questions we should ask are: one, “Do we, as a nation, have a panel by the name, Joint Panel Recovery Unit?” If we answer in the affirmative, we proceed to ask: “where is the panel domiciled?” If our answer is “the Ministry of Justice”, then we ask question number three to wit: “Who heads the ministry?” Obviously, we know Malami as the head; then we can ask the fourth question thus: “Can the panel approach a court to obtain a warrant to search the home of a justice of the Supreme Court without the minister’s knowledge?” If we answer  “no, it cannot”, then we come to one and only plausible conclusion: the AGF lied – and that will be most preposterous. However, if the answer is “yes, the panel can do so without the minister knowing”, again we come to one plausible conclusion: nobody is in charge of this government which in the case under review, is  represented by the Federal Ministry of Justice.

And if we can cross examine the EFCC, the Army and the Police on their denials of complicity  in the matter, we will like to ask as follows: “Do we have the personnel of the EFCC, the Army and the Police on the team of the Joint Panel Recovery Unit?” If we get a positive response, then we all know that the three agencies lied. But if in the alternative, the answer is “no”, then we ask further: “Does the panel use revenants to do ‘recovery’ duty?”

This is exactly what Fela saw in 1979 and concluded that: unknown soldier, unknown police and unknown civilian, is equal to “unknown government”. However, what we have in this case of the invasion of Justice Mary Odili’s home and the denials by all the people and agencies involved is a case “of unknown whistleblower, unknown recovery panel, unknown AGF; unknown EFCC; unknown Army and Unknown Police, all equal to unknown government”. The denials confirmed that this administration is pathetically rudderless.

Nonetheless, the beauty of it all is that while the Buhari government keeps denying its involvement in last Friday’s despicable act, the magistrate, who erroneously issued the search warrant, had a clear idea of who approached his court. He had lucidly explained: “Upon misrepresentation to this honourable court that led to the issuance of a search warrant in favour of Joint Panel Recovery, Ministry of Justice, against House 9, Imo Street, Maitama, Abuja, dated October 29, 2021. In view of the above fact, the said search warrant is hereby revoked”.

As this weekly court of public opinion rises therefore, I beg to admit that I  have no further question(s) for the witness. May posterity be the judge.


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