Dying For Nigeria Is A Waste – Bola Ige’s daughter

This week, precisely September 13, 2016, the late Chief Bola Ige, a former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, would have been 86 years old. On December 23, 2001, he was shot dead at his home in Ibadan by unknown men.

In this interview with Punch's Olufemi Atoyebi, his daughter Mrs. Funso Adegbola recalls with nostalgia the family life of the late erudite lawyer and expresses hope that the revisit of the murder case promised by the present government would do justice to the memory of the departed.

What does the family think about the Federal Government announcement that the case of Bola Ige’s murder will be reopened?
I will speak as a lawyer and daughter of the late Chief Bola Ige. If we don’t get to the root of political murder in Nigeria, it will be like an open sore in the nation’s political and legal system. It is almost 15 years since my father was killed and nobody has been made to pay the price for the murder.

It is a welcome development that the Federal Government is reopening the case. It is never over until it is over. I think any government that wants to redeem the image of this country and people’s faith in the system will like to put a legal closure to the matter.

But as a child of God, even if the perpetrators of the murder are put in jail or executed, it does not amount to my father and it does not bring him back. In terms of that, we are not seeking vengeance because nothing can bring him back. But we are asking for justice. He was the Minister of Justice when he was killed, so justice should be done to the killing and moreover, to restore the hope of common man and young people in the justice system.

Someone must stop this senseless killing in Nigeria. If people kill others and get away with it each time, for us, it’s not going to add to our faith in the legal system.

However, what keeps me going is the fact that there is divine justice. The Bible says vengeance is the Lord’s. The battle is the Lord’s. My brother and I have done everything possible as children (of Ige) to ask for justice. When the murder trial was on, we both gave evidence so we could not have done anything less for our father who gave everything for us, for Nigeria. We leave the rest to the authority and to God.

Let’s travel back to the event of that day when he died. Where were you on the day of his death and how did you learn of his murder?
I was the first person to arrive in the house when he was assassinated. It happened on Sunday, December 23, 2001, a day after my birthday. On the day of my birthday, my father called me on the telephone and prayed for me for 20 minutes. He said he was proud of me and told me that he was going to see his elder brother, George, who was ill in Lagos.

He promised that he would attend Christmas carol of the church where I worship when he returned to Ibadan same day. The plan was that on December 24, he would travel to Esa-Oke for Christmas and that I would help him to organise food for his guests. At mid-day, I went to his house in Bodija but he had yet to arrive from Lagos. In the evening, I went to the house again on my way to the Christmas Carol but he was still not back. I told my mother that if he returned, both of them should come to the church. Then I left for the church, expecting them but they did not come.

On my way back from the church, I visited the house again because I also live in Bodija area. I saw his two drivers outside the gate and one of them was trying to play with my daughter but she did not want any of it. On my way upstairs, I noticed an eerie silence. I also noticed that the key to my mother’s room was outside the door so I thought they were in the library. But my son called my mother and she answered from her room. He unlocked the key and we met my mother, my brother (Muyiwa) and his wife in the room.

My brother then said that he thought they had shot our father. He rushed to his room while I followed; there we met him on the floor with a big gunshot hole in his heart. Muyiwa could not believe he was dead, so he blocked to hole with his hand and attempted to revive him. Then he took the body to his car, believing that he was still alive. I was crying while my brother took the body to the hospital. When I came out, he had sped off.

Did you stay with your mother in the house?
I drove to my house, told my husband what had happened. He thought I was joking. Unknowingly, when I left my father’s house, I did not remember to take my children home with me. My husband took me back to the house where I saw my mother crying and rolling on bare floor with my children. She said she would rather die because they had killed her husband.

Did she see the body?
She did not see the body because Muyiwa took it immediately and rushed downstairs. But she concluded he was dead because Muyiwa claimed he heard gunshot.

The University College Hospital staff were on strike so my father’s body was taken to Oluyoro Hospital. Earlier in the day, my father had taken his brother from Lagos to the same hospital and was admitted to one of the wards. So the nurses were surprised to see the body of someone they had earlier seen in the day and who had given them cash gift for Christmas.

They took the body to the theatre for surgery but he was dead. My husband later told me that he was brought in dead. I called my uncle, Dele and told him what had happened. When he got to the hospital, he met his sick elder brother (George) and both cried over my father’s death. Uncle Dele later collapsed and had to be revived at the hospital.

What was the condition of your mother at home?
At that point, there was no way we could hide the death from my mother, we had to tell her that her husband had died. She broke down.

When we got home, my husband was trying to talk to the people who were with my father. One of them said they had gone up and saw my father dead but when I came in, nobody said anything about him being dead to me. In fact, one of them, as I said, tried to play with my daughter. Only one of them looked disheveled and subdued. They said they had gone to eat but Muyiwa said it was impossible for our father to ask them to go and eat outside at the time of the night when there was food in the house and there was a cook to prepare it.

Obviously, it was either they were there when the killers came, or the killers told them to take a walk while they killed him. Only God knows what happened that day. What is obvious is that someone led Muyiwa’s wife to my mother’s room at gun point and locked them all there. Then someone else was with my father to carry out the killing. My mother was praying while all these were going on and she was certain that at the end of the operation, something terrible had happened. Whoever killed my father knew what they were doing.

What did the family do after it was obvious that Ige had been murdered?
My mother said I should call the then Oyo State governor, Lam Adesina, who also called the then President Olusegun Obasanjo. The security aide had 84 rounds of ammunition, which he should have used to protect my father, locked in a cupboard in the house. Obviously there was no attempt to defend him. We were promised justice but we are yet to get any. It was the darkest Christmas ever in the family. My father was buried on January 11, 2002 in a week-long ceremony.

From the event that led to the death of your father, would you say that he had premonition of his death?Funny enough, I was the one that had premonition of his death. On December 18, 2001, my mother was honoured with the Order of the Federal Republic by President Obasanjo. On the 15th of the same month, my father’s cap was removed in Ooni’s palace. Two days after, a report was published where those who removed the cap said that would be my father’s last visit to the palace.

On the night between December 21 and 22, 2001, I had a terrible dream that I was wearing black cloth and crying. When I told my father that he or my brother could be killed, he discarded the thought. I had earlier lost my immediate younger brother in 1993 so I could not bear the loss of another family member.

My father said that nobody could kill him and I replied that Nigeria was not worth dying for. Then he said anything worth living for was worth dying for. When he was killed, I remembered that a day earlier, I had warned him of a tragedy in the family. December 15 was special in my life; it was the day his cap was removed in Ife and also the birthday of my daughter.

Was it not strange that those who were to guard him went to eat at the same time on the day he was killed?It was bizarre that they left him at the same time.

Could we insinuate that his security aides knew something about the killing?
God knows everything. If lie reigns for 20 years, it will take only one day for the truth to catch up with it. We as humans only know a part, God knows the whole. My father was good to his staff and his family. It’s been 15 years since he was killed but we shall leave everything in the hands of God.