It was two days before Christmas 2001. My family and I had just moved to Wisconsin from Minnesota. A Caucasian American woman I worked with broke the news. “Did you hear that your country’s Attorney General has been killed?” She heard it on the news that Chief Bola Ige, Nigeria’s Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, had been murdered. My heart sank! Enthusiasm for work on that day vanished like smoke. My work colleagues noticed that I was visibly troubled. Bola Ige killed? No, not Bola Ige! It was the last news I expected in a democratic dispensation that was struggling to find its bearing in Nigeria. Bola Ige, the erudite lawyer. A man of wanton and wise words and master-orator. A linguist of large latitude. A multi-linguist of incomparable match. He was my mentor. My “John-the-Baptist”. A man who stands tall in my heart till today even in death. I will forever admire Bola Ige. But who killed him? And why?
Esa-Oke, the home-town of Ige is a few miles from my home town of Imesi-Ile. On December 26, 1984, I had the opportunity to shake the hands of the colossus whose observed public lifestyle helped shape and change my world. I have shaken many hands in my lifetime-the rich, the poor, presidents of nations and businesses, governors, and religious leaders of substance striding across all races. All hands are equal before God, but their grips and impacts are different. Shaking the hands of the Cicero of Esa Oke was sui generis to me. I was in my 20s. After the handshake, I felt like the baton as Cicero was passed on to me!
Weeks after the cold-blooded murder in Ibadan, stories began unravelling. Accusatory fingers were pointed at Iyiola Omisore, an Ile-Ife Chief, a one-time Deputy Governor; and a man who had a skirmish with, and allegedly made verbal threats at the slain old man in Ile-Ife during one of the many city’s many festivals. Hatred of Omisore boiled up in many young people I knew then, especially in Ijesha land. Omisore was sent to the calaboose because of the Attorney General’s murder. From confinement, his people elected him senator. But rumours around him that he killed Ige have been like the California wildfire incident; the more you contain it, the more it sprouts and spreads in certain seasons. In 2013 when I swung back to writing, I began reading, researching, and talking to people. A bastion of information I dug up on the case got me more confused about who really stuck in the sword that killed the Cicero of Esa Oke!
In 2014, I met Architect Muyiwa Ige, the son of the slain enigma. Eye-ball-to-eye-ball in his office in Osogbo 2014 as Commissioner for Lands, Physical Planning and Urban Development in Osun State, I asked the question: “Who do you believe killed your father?” the younger Ige rolled out the story and images as the killers came into the house a few days before Christmas, snuffing life out of the man we all loved. As he narrated the story for about 10 minutes, tears welled up in my eyes. Friends, there are too many animals in human skins walking around Nigerian streets. And many of them are active in Nigerian politics. I did not meet with Muyiwa to ask him about his father’s killers; so I did not seek his permission to publish details of our discussion. But I can boldly affirm that the death of Bola Ige will remain a mystery and a misery in the hearts and minds of those who adored him.
Sometime later, I stumbled on an interview with Chief Bisi Akande published in a major Nigerian newspaper. Baba Akande is a leader in the ruling party APC. He was Osun State Governor and Omisore, his deputy from 1999 to 2003. In the interview, Baba Akande said these words when asked whom he thought killed Ige: “Obasanjo’s government killed Bola Ige. And may be, to answer your question correctly, we may need to ask the government of Rashidi Ladoja”. The rumours and etched narratives that Omisore killed Bola Ige won’t go away. Tomorrow, many will vote against him in the Osun election because they believe he was complicit in the cold-blooded murder. And many will side with him because they believe the narrative was just to set up a young man who had a bright future in Nigerian politics. Between 1999 and 2012, there were about 100 high-profile political killings in Nigeria. They are still all under investigation; and not one has been resolved. Who killed Bola Ige? Like other killings in Nigeria, we may never know!
But what we know today is that 48 people are running to be Governor of Osun tomorrow. Omisore is one of them holding the banner for his new party SDP. Osun is ranked 34th out of 36 in the category of moneybags states. It’s not rich in crude oil. Money is scarce. Resources aren’t in abundance. The IGRs are in low-gear. The federal allocation to the state has plummeted over the years and the debt profile has ballooned to around N120bn, according to immediate past Chief of Staff, Gboyega Oyetola. But 48 people are jostling to be governor of my state which has no money and scanty honey. In Ile-Ife and part of Ijeshaland, Omisore is rock solid popular and beloved by many. But his is just one of three senatorial districts in the state. Will he carry the day? Omisore would have probably gone into tomorrow’s election with a slam-dunk triumph if a sitting senator, Demola Adeleke, from Osun West, is not running.
But Demola Adeleke too wants to be governor under the PDP. He has been called many names. The dancing, doling rotunda has been called a dullard because he was not cerebrally gifted in high school. Demola may have failed in High School, but he passed the course in life. He is successful in business and well-travelled. His gregariousness may win him some votes tomorrow. Demola has put his F9 life behind him; and now promising the people that he will become an A1 Governor. His brother, Deji Adeleke, is super-wealthy. And I heard he has promised to sink huge amounts of money into the process for his younger brother. What a brotherly love! Young people are listening to Demola campaigning. Will he shock us tomorrow?
In tomorrow’s election, Oyetola will be standing in for the ruling party APC. He was the Chief Of Staff to Governor Rauf Aregbesola until a few weeks ago. I do not know Oyetola; I only read about him. I read that he is a successful businessman and a trusted hand to the exiting exemplum, Rauf. He was named 2017 Chief of Staff by a major Nigerian newspaper. He is not rambunctious or rumbustious like typical Nigerian politicians. When I watched him in the debate, he displayed a cool-cat quietude. His experience in politics spans eight years but he’s gathered about 30 years in the private sector. But the road to the Government House will not be a cake-walk for Oyetola. The outgoing governor has a peculiar personality that draws men to him. Oyetola is not Rauf, but he however, has something going on for him- incumbency it is! Running against an incumbent party in power anywhere around the world is rowing the boat against the tide. But when the winner is declared tomorrow, will ordinary Osun citizens also become winners or remain losers? Will the rich keep getting richer from Abuja handouts; and poor workers and the general poor continue to suffer? Who will win tomorrow? I don’t know! But Adeleke, Oyetola, and Omisore are all within a striking distance. One of them will be governor.