THE late Senator Afolabi Olabimtan who died in an auto-crash last August never knew in his widest imagination that death could come calling so soon. Before the sudden exit, calculations, projections were rife. Prominent among such projections was his autobiography. The graces, the grass and the gains. It is apparent that the erudite scolarís political foot-prints on the political map of Nigeria and South West would remain visible for along time to come. But because the wicked hands of death snatched him when least expected, his political associates, especially members of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) came together to launch his autobiography post-humously.
However, the launching of the book is not the subject of discourse. The Ogun-born senator had used as an appendix in the book minutes of a meeting purportedly held in Kaduna in June, 1994, Advising General Sani Abacha to detain Chief M.K.O. Abiola indefinitely. Senator Olabimtan had used it as one of those lies circulated against him, his person and some eminent Yoruba leaders to the effect that they had asked Chief Abiola, the aclaimed winner of June 12, 1993 presidential elections be kept in prison to buy time for constitutional conference. The meeting, according to the minutes, was said to have been chaired by Chief J.S. Olawoyin. Also in attendance were Chief Adisa Akinloye, Oladipo Diya, Dr. Omololu Olunloyo, Chief Bisi Akande, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, Mrs Mobolaji Osomo, Dr. Olusola Saraki, Prof. Wande Abimbola, Alhaji Yahaya, Chief Richard among others.
Senator Olabimtan had said that with this calibre of people and considering the grammatical defects in the minutes, it would be practically impossible for him and several others to be at the meeting. As a matter of fact, he said, it was one of the several lies told against him and others to paint them in bad light, particularly the die hard Yoruba leaders, fighting to uphold the sanctity of June 12. Good enough, however, several of the personalities who were claimed to have attended the Kaduna meeting are still alive. Some are beginning to kick against every attempt to link them with such meeting that never held anywhere in this world. According to them, it was one of the moves by their political enemies to throw spanners to work, possibly make a mess of their esteemed political career. They equally reasoned: How could they have objected to the release of Abiola from detention nor the actualisation of his mandate? To them, the meeting simply did not hold.
However, speaking in an interview in Lagos, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, a Peoples Democratic Party chieftain, objected in the strongest term to the claim that he was one of those who attended the meeting and indeed blocked the release of Abiola. According to him, there was never such time he attended such a diabolical meeting even though he served in the government of late General Sani Abacha.
According to him, "I want to state it clearly and unambiguously that I (Ebenezer Babatope) never attended any secret Yoruba meeting whether on the said June 25, 1994 or on any other date to discuss, plan and approve a decision to advise the late General Sani Abacha to detain Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola. I humbly declare to all Nigerians that I have never attended any meeting in my entire sixty years on earth where Chief Adisa Akinloye, and some of the names listed have been in attendance.
"I equally state in all humility that there was never a secret meeting of Yoruba leaders attended by the late Professor Afolabi Olabimtan and allegedly convened by General Oladipo Diya in which I (Ebenezer Babatope) have been in attendance to discuss anything connected with the detention of the late Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola. I never attended any meeting (political, religious, secret or open) where the late Professor Afolabi Olabimtan had been in attendance since 1994."
He added: "There was never a meeting (secret or open) in 1994 or in any year for that matter, where I have been present with Olabimtan and all the people mentioned to have participated in an alleged decision to have Abacha incarcerate Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola. I am sure all the people mentioned in the story will attest to this point.
"All the stories connected with the arrest of Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola in 1994 and known to me as a Minister of the Sani Abacha administration have been honestly documented and published in my two books The Abacha Regime and June 12 Crisis - A struggle for Democracy (1995) and The Abacha Years - What wWnt Wrong? (2000)."
Tracing the genesis of the story, Chief Babatope explained: "In 1994, many fictional stories were released by dangerous elements with the aim of creating problem in the country. One of the clandestine publications said to have been prepared by a Yoruba Solidarity Forum was captioned ĎThe Yoruba Agenda.í It was sponsored publication of a subversive group that was then opposed to the Abacha plan of constituting a Constitutional Conference.
"The said publication went after Chief Olu Falae who was then seen as the major rallying force behind the moves of the Yoruba resistance against the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election that was won by M.K.O. Abiola.
"Another clandestine publication titled "Yoruba Elders Meeting held at Hamdala Hotel, Kaduna on 25th June 1994 with Lt. General Oladipo Diya" was released by these diabolical forces."
He claimed that the minutes of the alleged meeting were equally circulated to Nigerians at that time and that the document was apparently written in poor English and contained palpable lies that no reasonable or responsible person would ever attach any credibility to it.
This notwithstanding, he said: "I am sure, the late Professor Afolabi Olabimtan would never have told lies against himself by claiming to have attended a farcical secret Yoruba meeting in Kaduna in which a move to plan the incarceration of Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola was allegedly approved. The late Professor Afolabi Olabimtan was never cowardly in his life time to have criminally kept quiet all these years (1994-2003) about details of such an alleged secret meeting if truly the meeting was ever held.
"It will be interesting indeed to have the late Professor Olabimtan lying against himself about a secret Yoruba meeting where the above was arrived at and which apparently indicted him."
Nigerian federation illegal, says Marioghae
Prince Onokee Marioghae is a descendant of the great Ogiso ruling dynasty of the ancient Benin empire. He insists in this interview granted to Okey Ndiribe that the British colonial masters had no right to create the federation without involving or consulting the traditional rulers with whom they signed treaties when they arrived Nigeria.
Can you explain why you believe that the Nigerian federation has been null and void ab initio?
To confirm the truth of my statement , you only need to approach the Attorney-General of the Federation and demand from him copies of the amalgamation and federation treaties. Let him give a written reply to your demands .You will soon find the truth of the assertions I have made here.
Having satisfied yourself that they are true, I shall refer you to page nine of my pamphlet entitled" The Federation of Nigeria is Legally Null and Void" I hereby direct once again request that the National Assembly should pass a resolution based on the revelations made here. These are:
a) That the federation of Nigeria is legally null and void and has always been so.
b) That all states who were truly outside the Benin empire shall not be forced to be within the emperorís administration after his throne has been restored to him.
c) That his majesty is to make every possible effort to keep the geography of Nigeria together- as we have too many things in common . President Olusegun Obasanjo probably does still not realise that every Oba and Emir is speaking directly to him through me. My people did not sell their sovereignty to the British, nor to the politicians either. You got to power by the treasonable conspiracy with the British.
Why did it take you so long before you decided to agitate for the restoration of your crown?
The only truthful thing about all these is that it was a treasonable conspiracy to strip the traditional rulers of all their power and give same to the British puppets who I choose to call slaves, that call themselves politicians. Our people and most of the traditional rulers did not understand that. The treason had been committed. It was a question of how to live with it. So long as the politicians keep flexing their muscles to perpetrate this treason and felony, all of them are guilty of the same offence because their motives are the same with that of their predecessors.
If the president has spiritual insight or knowledge he would realise it is now that the politicians have swindled themselves back into power and placed themselves above their traditional rulers, that the judgement of God would fall swiftly upon them. In the past many of them perished at the hands of soldiers, who forced themselves into power and trampled the politicians under foot for 32 years. Obasanjo is enraged as if it were his perpetual right to rule whereas politicians committed a treasonable conspiracy with the British. If this treason was not intended by the politicians why have they not rectified it 43 years after? Why did Britain make sure that in the constitution it handed over to the politicians, no traditional ruler was given any place in governance ? Why did Britain hand over power to a third party? This third party was never in the polity of our independent sovereign peoples. These were not the sovereigns who, by treaty and various agreements, allowed the British in as a protective power. This third party were not the authorities that ruled the land. Obasanjo must know that the Emperor of Benin, the Emperor of West Africa has arisen and he cannot stop me. I am the father of all the Obas and nobody can take that distinction from me.
When he has handed over, that is the only time Nigeria would have attained independence. Why did he send the State Security Service ( SSS) to apprehend me? Otherwise, what would give him the arrogance to direct the arrest of His Majesty, the Emperor of Benin, Emperor of West Africa, Oba Isoko, Oba Aka, Oba Ikisikisi ? Since the 11th of October 2000, SSS operatives have chased me out of my home and office and there are witnesses. What does the government want the SSS to do with me? Until the SSS can produce all the people that have disappeared in their hands no one can trust their motives. The politicians and their predecessors stand accused of high treason. It was a treasonable conspiracy in which the politicians used the British machinery cunningly to remove and disgrace the traditional rulers from power. Whereas these were the only accredited guardians of our people, our independence and sovereignty. Our traditional rulers did not commit any crime before our people or the British before this treatment was meted out to them.
There was no federation either. In a federation, the concerned peoples come together by themselves and decide on ways and means and the formulae for governing themselves. They make a treaty to federate; that treaty also spells out their constitution. No northern or southern traditional rulers at any time ever sat together or discussed a federation even though these were the only accredited representatives of our people and their sovereignty. There was no federation and no one authorised it. Britain had no right to force such a marriage on us, as we were not even a British colony, but a protectorate. Britain came to this part of the world by negotiating with independent and sovereign peoples to be a protective power. But the politicians have decided to call themselves British slaves only to further their own interests. There was never an amalgamation of peoples; but there was an amalgamation of British administrations under one governor general. Even in the amalgamation of the British administration, no southern Oba or traditional ruler knew about it or was invited. Only the northern traditional rulers who were fighting among themselves were made to shake hands in a pre-arranged durbar to call off the hostilities. After the merger of the two British administrations, the regions continued to be administered separately by the British government, because we did not have much in common at that time.
The British never gave us independence; They never intended to. They simply substituted natives of the land for British officials to rule the land for Britain according to their dictates. And to make sure it remains so for ever, the Queen of England was until 1963, made the first member of the Nigerian Federal Parliament during the first republic.You can check this in the second schedule of the so called Independence Constitution of Nigeria, 1960 page 30, chapter five section 36.
Can you comment on the difference between the Oba of Benin and the Emperor of Benin?
The Emperor of Benin whose descendant I am, belongs to the great Ogiso dynasty. The Ogisos ruled in Benin for 32 generations before they left. In the new capital at Uzere in present day Delta state, eight generations have passed but five have reigned after interregnum. I would be the sixth to make a total of 38 Ogisos to reign. The last Emperor to reign in Benin before the exit of the royal family was Ehengbuda. He had a 16 foot tall son called Prince Ozolua. This prince was responsible for extending the ancient empire to its widest frontiers. Ozolua later had a son named Ozue who was only four inches shorter than his father. The two of them formed armies that trampled West Africa under their feet and brought honour to Benin. Ozolua shortly before the death of his father took his junior brother, a boy of only seven years of age, carried him on his shoulder on a two week long journey by land from Benin to Lagos and made him the first Oba of Lagos.
But after the British diplomatic mission left, there was no reply from the Lagos Oba to the emperorís letter for a very long time. The only news that came was that Lagos has become a bustling metropolis.