By SIMON EBEGBULEM, Benin City
Saturday, May 4, 2013 made it one year since the Principal Private Secretary to Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, Comrade Olaitan Oyerinde, was murdered by unknown gunmen at his residence in Ugbor, GRA, Benin-City. He was shot dead in the presence of his wife, Funke. Sadly, investigations into the killing are puzzling. The Department of State Security (DSS) linked his death to armed robbery that went awry but the police declared it was pure assassination.
The two conflicting claims threw the nation into confusion, particularly Oshiomhole who had been seeking for justice on the death of his aide. Olaitan was remembered in a special manner by civil society organizations in Edo State, the state branch of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Coalition to Save Nigeria led by Dr Philip Ugbodaga.
The anniversary commenced with a candle light procession on Saturday while on Monday there was a lecture entitled, “Citizens Rights, Youth Empowerment and National Security” delivered by human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN).
The occasion was chaired by the President of the NLC, Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar. The Imaguero Hall venue of the event was filled to the brim and emotions were high when speakers paid tribute to the deceased in the presence of the wife and four of their children including the only son, Adams, named after Oshiomhole.
Falana, in his lecture, bemoaned unresolved murders in the country and called on the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, Mohammed Bello Adoke, to publicly apologise to Oshiomhole for the alleged misleading statement, that the office of the Attorney-General does not give legal advice to the police with regards to state offences, as regards investigations into the murder of Olaitan.
He said, “While the case of murder is a state offence, the constitutional duty to protect the lives of every person in Nigeria, Nigerians and foreigners alike is binding on the Federal Government.” He disclosed that a powerful leader of the party openly threatened the life of the Edo State Commissioner for Information, Mr Louis Odion, without provocation.
According to Falana, Odion quietly lodged a complaint with the police, but the complaint was treated in a cavalier manner as no charge was preferred against the criminal suspect who had threatened to violate the fundamental right of a citizen to life. “Regrettably, Edo State government left the matter in the hands of the compromised security apparatus.
In an attempt to defend the lives of our people, we must be prepared to end the culture of impunity and the official policy of granting amnesty to those who engage in violent crimes in the society instead of relying on the police to investigate serious crimes, Edo State Government should be more proactive” , Falana declared. “As comrades, we should have a coroner’s law
in Edo State for the investigation of unnatural deaths as it is the case in Lagos State. As we are marking the first anniversary of the assassination of our comrade, we should remember all those unarmed citizens who have been extra judicially murdered by security agencies and other criminally minded individuals in the society.”
.He said he had asked the governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, to reopen the case into the assassination of the former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Chief Bola Ige, who was killed in his home on December 23, 2001.
The NLC President,Omar, who was represented by Comrade Isa Aremu, said the cowardly murder of Olaitan was a big blow to Edo State government and labour organizations. Aremu said, “Olaitan was known for hard work, diligence and intelligence. His last support and unity was during the last delegates conference in
Asaba. It is time all Nigerians rally round to unravel the death of Olaitan.” The National President of TUC, Comrade Peter Esele, who described Olaitan as a man who made things happen behind the scene, said, “We will continue to celebrate him every year because of his conviction and doggedness.” Others who paid tributes were Comrade Didi Adodo, his former classmate, and Barrister Rufus Olanrewaju, among others.
Emotions rose when the widow of Olaitan mounted the podium to address the crowd with her little son, Adams. She said: “Staying alone with four children in the past one year has been hell. I remember some few months ago, my boy woke up from sleep and said, ‘Mummy, where is my Daddy?’.
I felt bad but I had to control myself. God has done it for me in Edo State. I had Adams pregnancy when we were in Abuja and God answered my prayers when we came to Edo State where I had Adams after we had had three girls. Secondly,
God blessed me with a good work through our daddy the comrade governor”. Her mood changed suddenly, and she thundered and laid curses on the killers: “ But the killers, if you are here or else where, you will never have peace. Your children, grand children will never have peace. Whatever you lay their hands upon in this world, they will never prosper, because the moment my son or my daughters ask after their father, you wife, your children will be having complications.
My mother died few months after my husband died. That very day the incident happened, the devil wanted to laugh at me, I almost collapsed but with the strength of God I was revived. I want to use this opportunity to appreciate you daddy (governor), you have been there for me, you will never die young. You will reap the fruit of your labour. We are not mourning, we are celebrating. They killed the body of Olaitan but his soul is still alive”.
Oshiomhole, visibly touched by the wife’s comments, said the sin will only be on the heads of the perpetrators and not their children “because if we add the children, the society will be in trouble”. He continued: “I saw Isa Aremu (Deputy National President NLC) shedding tears but I said no, I will not submit to that emotion because to submit is to make the killers smile or laugh.
Isa, the real cowards are hiding and they will live in shame forever. We have a duty to keep the memory of Olaitan alive. Olaitan is a man of uncommon vision and clarity, he is a very selfless worker. It is impossible for me to find a replacement; if there is anything happening in any section of the civil society, Olaitan will draw my attention and, if possible, he will suggest what was to be done; so it is impossible to find a replacement.
If it is impossible for me to have a replacement, it is impossible for the children to have another father and for the wife to have another husband.
“I am happy that one year on, the fighting spirit is on and people have asked me why I talk in this way. Some say I don’t talk like a governor when it comes to Olaitan’s matter. How is a man supposed to talk when a man is mourning? Is my office and indeed the life of any Nigerian as important as the life of a Nigerian?
I am conscious of the fact that I have tenure at best of eight years, the next position is ex- and we must continue to remind ourselves that today we are here and tomorrow we are no more. Some times I ask myself, should we bother to talk about Olaitan’s investigations because, as we have seen few weeks back, the former Inspector General’s house was allegedly attacked?
That former IG, when he was IG, I had an interesting encounter with him. He transferred an Assistant Commissioner of Police on account of the fact that he refused to do the bidding of a powerful party official. He transferred a DPO for the refusal of the DPO to arrest innocent people on the eve of an election.
“When you allow politics to influence your professional duties, you will be contributing to the destruction of the rule of law. Once the rule of law is no more enforceable, the law enforcement agencies are compromised, the celebration of democracy is basically the celebration of the rule of law.
And central to the rule of law is the capacity of the state, through the security agencies, to identity and prosecute criminals regardless of their status.” The governor appealed to Edo people never to allow rascals to take over the reins of government, noting, “If we do that at all levels, Nigeria will change.”
Oshiomhole went on, “There were attempts to scandalize Olaitan’s name in death, where they said his death has to do with exchange of dollars to naira. Olaitan was selfless and he was somebody that did not care about wealth, just his work. After working with me for three years, I noticed that he was the only person who had not made any attempt to travel outside Nigeria under any guise. And even when I will invite him on an official trip, he will find a way to decline. But one day, I called him.
I said, ‘Now you have worked with me all these years, you don’t want to travel, let your wife go. I approve that you should go on three weeks vacation after three years of hard work’. I approved vacation money for him. One month later, Olaitan did not travel, two months, three months and I had thought that he collected the money and maybe used it for something else.
It was two days after his death that the accountant came to me to say, ‘Oga, you remember the money you approved for Olaitan, he never collected it’. That is the kind of person Olaitan was. So I ask all of us to remain focused. The oppressors cannot survive forever. May the blood of Olaitan wet our appetite for struggle, may we have a country where the rule of law prevails”.