As a human rights activist and June 12 advocate, what can you say about the allegation by Mahdi Shehu that the late Bagauda Kaltho, a journalist, was used by a United States diplomat to plant bomb in Durbar Hotel in Kaduna?
We must get it clear. The US Embassy should as a matter of urgency come out to clear its name on this allegation. I am speaking not just as somebody who was close to Bagauda Kaltho but somebody that is also a victim. While I was the student union president of ABU Zaria, there was a struggle for the leadership of the student union and the then Military Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida did not want me to be the president. So, there was pressure from the military and the traditional authority in the north. They did not want me to have a second term as the student union president because it was already clear that if I should go for the second term, I would win. Also, there were other factors. Of course, you cannot throw away the anti-democratic forces within the military. It was a conspiracy between the school authority under the leadership of Prof. Daniel Saror who was the VC then and the Senate of ABU with the exception of one other person and some other syndicates within the student union body. While the struggle for June 12 was at the peak, some of us were pin-pointed by the military as being in the forefront of the actualisation of June 12. So, the conspiracy theory came up and that is how I was linked. In fact, it was on record that I was the first person to be accused and arrested in Nigeria over alleged involvement in a bomb blast. It was the conspiracy by both the intelligence network, the DSS, NIA, the police force and other covert and overt security forces. What they did was to drop trumped-up charges against me and write a fake security report. I am saying this to establish that whatever anybody is saying, except the person brings out valid facts beyond what I am saying, the person cannot in any sense allege that the late Bugauda Kaltho was the one that planted the bomb at Durbar Hotel, Kaduna. During my ordeal, the DSS tracked my movements and wrote a phony security report linking me up with the bombing in Ilorin Stadium as at then because Gen. Sani Abacha was to go to Ilorin for an official visit and there was a bomb blast at the stadium. He was to come to Kaduna and there was a bomb blast in Kaduna both at Hamdala and Durbar hotels. So, I was the one that was picked for that allegation and they claimed that I had wanted to kill the Commander-In-Chief. The DSS took me from the central police station, GRA Zaria where I was kept for days and they were moving me from one police cell to another until the DSS came from Abuja to pick me and according to them, the order was from the former Chief Security Officer to Gen. Sani Abacha, Major Al-Mustapha. I was to be taken to Abuja but because of what they read from their own report, they were scared because they claimed that I could ‘disappear.’ So, they had to return me to the DSS central cell in Kaduna where I was detained for a whole month. They would interrogate me in the morning, afternoon, evening and midnight. In the course of their interrogation, it got to a peak that they loaded their gun and gave me few minutes to either sign to agree that I was planting bombs or they’d kill me because there was an order from above (the Commander-In-Chief) that if I did not implicate myself, they should kill me. At the end, I did not implicate myself. The only thing that came out from that report was that, they were able to blend false reports, allegations and false evidence to nail me. In fact, if not that I have the fear of God and the strong conviction that I had not planted any bomb, if you read the security report against me, you’d agree that I did it. I am saying this because you cannot take it away from what they are alleging against the late Bugauda Kaltho. It is possible that they wrote all sort of stories from the figment of their imagination to also implicate an innocent person. To tell how close I was to the late Kaltho, apart from reporting student union activities and pro-democracy rallies that I was involved in, it will also interest the general public to know that Kaltho was the first person who interviewed me immediately after I was released from DSS cell after spending a month there. In fact, to tell how the security network in Nigeria deliberately planted stories to justify their action, the director of DSS in Kaduna then was celebrating that he was the first person that caught somebody planting bomb. So, even when his own deputy told him that ‘this boy’ cannot do that, he ignored him. The assistant commissioner of police told me to my face that I had been coming to their station on different cases on students’ activism and that he is bidding me farewell that he is sure, when I get to Abuja, I would not come back again. I challenged him that I was going to come back and if I come back, I’d also visit him in his office in Zaria. He used to kill people in the cell. He’d throw a key and ask you to go and pick it for him and before you know it, you’re shot under a flimsy excuse that you had wanted to escape. I am bringing this out for the general public to know some of the reckless killings involving some of our security agencies in the name of protecting the establishment. Beyond that, when I was leaving the DSS cell, the director in Kaduna told me that they were going to come for me and I put it to them that if they had any evidence, they should take me to court until the deputy director of DSS pacified me that he was having a rough time with his boss on my case. In fact, the DSS went to search my house. It was just God that saved me because the officers have the fear of God if not, they would have implicated me. With my naivety and innocence, I left them in my parlour to take my bath. So, if these people were part of the evil machination, they would have dropped anything to implicate me. But all said and done, there are good people within the security system. A lot of them are bad elements; they concocted security report to justify their own theory. They do a lot of conspiracy and all that. If you go down in history, even in the era of the late Gen. Sani Abacha, they were claiming that people were throwing bombs. You’d recall that the then minister of information, Uche Chukwumerije was alleging that there was going to be a bomb blast in Kaduna and subsequently, there was a blast. Later, evidence in Oputa panel showed clearly that it was even government agents that were planting bombs. So, how would you accuse somebody that had just interviewed someone that was taken in by DSS for the same offence that he was the one that planted bomb? Until they bring any extra evidence to prove me to the contrary, they could as well have killed Kaltho because many people were killed or maimed and they’d just throw all sort of fake evidence to justify their killings. I want to believe that, that was exactly what happened to Bugauda Kaltho. It is possible that they killed him somewhere and deliberately took him and said that he was the one that planted the bomb. From all evidence and the manner my trial went on, it is clear that there was conspiracy theory. If they did not want you within the north or any other establishment, they’d concoct all manner of fake security reports just to nail you.
What I am saying in essence is that, until there is proven evidence to contradict my claim, I am saying that just as I am a victim of their fake disposition, Kaltho was also one of the preys. In fact, if you look at what also came out from the Oputa panel, it goes to affirm that the real enemies of the country are people within the government because it is not only Bugauda Kaltho that was their victim, we have people like Shehu Sani, Femi Falana, Ganiyu Fahewehmi, Mohammed Sule, Dele Giwa, Chima Ubani, Olusegun Mayegun, lecturers and so on. If not for God Almighty, I’d not have been alive to tell my story today. Many people were picked by the military junta at random because they were identified as threats to the then military government. They’d make sure they eliminate you because they had people who were ready tools in their hands and a great number of our security forces are part of the syndicate.
As far as I am concerned, Bugauda Kaltho is a victim of state conspiracy.
When were you elected the student union president and why were you expelled from ABU?
I was elected student union president in 1991/1992. The crises continued till 1994. I was tried in different courts: Upper Area, Magistrate and Federal High courts at different times. Any time I was being arraigned in a court, you’d think that a hardened criminal was being taken to the court. They’d bring all sort of siren, amoured cars. In fact, whenever they were passing judgment, they’d bring the NTA to record the judgment. Any day I was in court, no other case would be entertained and they’d make sure they threw tear gas everywhere. They maimed a lot of students; many were unable to make it while several others lost their admission. At a point, the New Nigeria Newspaper even wrote an editorial on me that I was an armed robber. However, in essence, I was fighting to make sure they did not extort money from students.
My offence was that I won a popular election, that is why Nigerians must realise that we have so many enemies that are against free, fair and credible elections. I got to ABU when there was no student union. We engineered an election and the school management annulled it. We forced them to de-annul it. At my swearing ceremony, the northern oligarchy said, how can somebody from the south become the president in their own university? Meanwhile, I am from Kogi State. At the end, I defeated the candidate of the government and the reactionary element of the north was also squarely defeated. That was the genesis of my problem. Again, when I was student union president, there were different theories that I was being sponsored by an international organisation and southern agents to destroy the north. They concocted all sorts of fake reports and in the end, I was expelled from ABU Zaria.
They planted all sorts of things to eliminate me at different times but they did not succeed. They then used a trumped-up card saying that I was not a student of ABU Zaria. I was in 300 Level when they finally succeeded in expelling me. Like I said, it was a combination of all forces. They wanted to kill the ant and the dog by giving him a bad name. During those days, if they wanted to nail you, they’d allege that you’re planning a coup. At a point, the school authority (ABU) said I was part of those planning a coup to overthrow the government of IBB. When former President Olusegun Obasanjo came on board, he set up a committee on politically-expelled and rusticated students. They recommended that I should be reinstated but the management of ABU under Prof. Abdullahi Mahdi refused to reinstate me. So, of all other students that were reinstated across Nigerian universities, I was the only one that was never reinstated by ABU.
What do you think should be done to unravel those behind the disappearance of the journalist, the late Bugauda Kaltho?
First, the United States Embassy that was mentioned should come out in clear terms either to confirm or contradict the allegation. Secondly, we have come to a time in this country where we have to declassify security reports as it’s done in other climes so that we’ll know those that are enemies of the country. This is because, in most cases, people that get recruited into the security forces including the DSS are not patriotic and they are people that do not mean well for the country. So, they should declassify some of this information so that we know those who are the real enemies of the state and that at the end of the day, we will not put a terrorist or bandit in government which will turn around to feast on the blood of Nigerians. I want people like Major Al-Mustapha, former chief security officer to Gen. Sani Abacha to come out and say something because his name was mentioned at different times when I was interrogated. He should also come out clear on what he knows about the disappearance or killing of Journalist Bagauda Kaltho and many other people. He was saying that if he revealed the information at his disposal, Nigeria will go ablaze. This is the right time for him to tell Nigerians the truth so that he’d wash himself clean otherwise he is part of those that are engineering and deepening the killings and maiming of Nigerians. Nigeria is bleeding and the only way the bleeding can stop is when Nigerians get justice in terms of good governance, good representation and people being accountable and open to people in the sense of it. When we are talking about accountability, it’s not about finance alone. Anybody that holds public office should be subject to public scrutiny either when he is in office or when he leaves so that we do not promote criminal elements as statesmen and people that are being celebrated ‘your excellency’ when there is nothing excellent about them or called honourable when everything about them is not honourable.