19 years later, I remind Nigerians of A.K. Dikibo
By Tony Eluemunor
Hey, what has happened to the panel which President Muhammadu Buhari set up in 2016 to uncover the assassins that cut down Chief Aminasoari Kala (A.K) Dikibo and Chief Bola Ige? This Saturday February 4th marks exactly 19 years since Dikibo, the then Vice-Chairman, South-South of the then ruling party (Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was assassinated but the killers have not been found. Bola Ige was killed in 2002, 25 years ago, yet those who murdered him have not been brought to book. And Bola Ige was Justice Minister when he was cut down, right in his own bed room.
Really, I’m not blaming the Mohammadu Buhari administration for failing to solve the two murders for there are ample current issues to blame the administration for; the persisting petrol and aviation fuel scarcity, its failure to get any of Nigeria’s petroleum refineries humming, the Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) queues and the newest one, the shameful queues at the Automated Teller Machine (ATMs) as folks struggle to withdraw money from their own bank accounts. Often, there is no money in the ATM machines and when money is available therein, the telephony inter-switching among the banks is not functional. So, here and there, Nigerians are wandering about from one ATM machine to the other and the story is the sad one. And nobody has offered any apologies or resigned. By now, some precious lives would have been lost as some families would be unable to provide food and medicament for their children. Mom and pop businesses are failing, the sluggish economy is slowing down even further. There is a devil situation in Nigeria and it is getting worse!
May we please return to Chief Dikibo; he succeeded the late Chief Harry Marshal as PDP Deputy National Chairman (South-South). And he succeeded him too as a victim of an unknown assassin.
Towards the end of 2002, a bitterly fought PDP presidential primaries was just starting though only a few Nigerians knew it. And it was masterfully plotted. The adroitly planned attack was two-pronged. While Atiku was on one side, fighting to be retained as Vice President, the late Dr. Alex Ekwueme, the Second Republic Vice-President to late President Shehu Shagari was testing the waters, too, to deny former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the chance to contest for a second term. Ekwueme had hidden his desire to contest for the presidency until just before his December 2002 world press conference where he made the announcement. The presidential ambition was so well hidden that not many believed me when I wrote exclusively on 1st October 2002 (as Daily Independent went from a weekly paper to daily)I had met Ekwueme in the German Ambassador’s residence and knew then that he would challenge Obasanjo for the Presidency. Thus, when Ekwueme openly jumped into contention, it was just less than 10 days to the January 6th, 2003 PDP presidential primaries.
When the fact stared Obasanjo in the face, that a majority of the governors were keeping the support of their delegates from him, the primaries were less than 48 hours away. Obasanjo had planned to dumpVice President Atiku Abubakar as his deputy. Seeing he was on the verge of losing his fight to be re-nominated as PDP presidential candidate for the April 2003 elections, he returned to Atiku. It was a political masterstroke. Ekwueme had kept the position of Vice President open for Atiku, and if he refused, he would ask the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Umar Na’Abba to team up with him to save Nigeria.
Fifteen PDP state Governors, led by Delta’s Chief James Onanefe Ibori, including Abia’s Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, Adamawa’s Boni Haruna, and Edo’s Lucky Igbinedion, were in the forefront of the governors who wanted President Obasanjo dumped. The masterly campaign had been pursued most discretely and strategically; so strategically that Obasanjo had no chance of fighting back.
Then, suddenly, the PDP settled the matter amicably. The battle was over. With Atiku back on the ticket with Obasanjo, it looked plausible that Atiku would be a natural successor to Obasanjo in 2007. Often, that is the story that has been told about the 2003 PDP presidential primaries, but one great man has often been left out in that intriguing story; A. K. Dikibo!
Until he moved, the situation had remained fluid. As Obasanjo went around that Friday evening, visiting the top delegates, there was a great man by his side; Dikibo. But before Dikibo joined Obasanjo’s corner, he had told him point blank: “President Obasanjo, I will work for you this time. But this is the last time I will support you. Next time, I will support Atiku”. It was not Akitu that won over most of the Governors to Obasanjo’s side; Dikibo did.
Hey, why would Dikibo have told Obasanjo that next time he would not work for Obasanjo but for Atiku? After all, Obasanjo was contesting for his second and final term as a President as the constitution did not envisage a third term. That implied that the Third Term was on and Dikibo knew about it and did not dance around it. He opposed it.
By then, Dikibo had a campaign of his own; to be PDP National Chairman. If a Southerner became National Chairman, then the presidency would have swung up North and that would have meant no third term for Obasanjo. I wonder if the Police Force has ever looked into that angle.
That PDP national Convention was held on 6th January 2003. On 4th February 2004, Dikibo died. Ibori had convened a South-South political summit in Asaba, in furtherance of South-South interests, especially that a South- South son or daughter should be President, come 2007. Perhaps he was actually pushing for the Vice President position for the South-South as the presidency had been zoned to the North in line with the understanding within the PDP. So, he at least wanted to unite the South-South for that course. But would that course not have been a stout stand against the Third Term scheme, which was being mulled underground by then? It was not a surprise that some highly placed politicians in Abuja opposed that summit. And it is on record that some of their South -South lackeys, supported Abuja. A particular Governor from the South-South had asked all invitees from his state to keep away from Ibori and his Asaba summit but Dikibo refused to listen to him.
Dikibo, disdaining that stay away call, was well on his way to the summit when some people ensured he was unable to disobey that Governor’s orders. He had flown into Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, hopped into a car to make it to Asaba by road. The assassins killed more than Dikibo that day; they killed the last real push of the peoples of the Niger Delta region to peacefully speak with one voice.
By that time, the so-called South- South champions of today and the pretenders to such titles, such as E. K Clarke had not found their voices. Dikibo and Ibori and yes, D.S.P Alamieyeseigha were the authentic Niger Delta champions of that era. Of the three, Dikibo and Alamieyeseigha have been killed. Only Ibori remains alive, but he, too, paid a formidable price. Yes, he was persecuted and railroaded into a British jail and Nigerian journalists threw everything odious at him just to make him the face of corruption.
A day or two after Dikibo was assassinated, Obasanjo announced in Lagos that Dikibo was felled by armed robbers. That may have been the case…but the man was shot execution style; the bullet entered from beneath the right hand side of his jaw, escaped from his head and hit the roof of his car. It is curious how armed robbers could have so shot a man who refused to stop for them on the highway. They should have shot straight and hit his face or his side.
In a letter from Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, now a Senator, to President Olusegun Obasanjo, Kalu recalled: “I am further worried because the late A.K. Dikibo complained to Governor DSP Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa State and myself at the Port Harcourt Airport three days before his brutal assassination that some powerful persons in the Presidency and a governor from one of the South- South states of the country were planning to kill him. Though he looked ruffled and agitated, we never knew his death was imminent”. Kalu wrote to inform him that some people were also after his own life.
No wonder Ogbeh, when he was PDP National Chairman wrote that a nest of killers existed in the polity. He addressed his letter to President Obasanjo!
Dr. Akin Oshuntokun was Obasanjo’s media chief at the “Obasanjo Speaks” event at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, in April 2002 where Obasanjo launched his re-election bid. He might remember a journalist who asked Obasanjo why he would have awarded himself pass marks when he failed to meet the plans indexed for him in the Presidential Policy Advisory Committee Report. T. Y. Danjuma headed that committee. Oshuntokun did his job of supporting Obasanjo, Obasanjo won and he was rewarded with the headship of the News Agency of Nigeria. Many other journalists supported Obasanjo as though he was God. They, too, reaped their reward. Some of us opposed Obasanjo, maintained our position that he failed and were arrested several times.
Those journalists clapped for Obasanjo as he killed the internal democracy in the Peoples Democratic Party, an all-inclusive party Dr. Alex Ekwueme and the 40 wise men had founded to rid Nigeria of ethnicity and religious divide problems. Oshuntokun, after serving as Obasanjo’s campaign spokesman, is now rendering the same service to Peter Obi of the Labour Party, claiming that he is on a mission to help Obi repair Nigeria. Who will tell Obasanjo and all the large number of journalists that supported him (is there really any need to name them here?) that Obasanjo and his supporters ruined Nigeria? Had the PDP enjoyed internal democracy in 2004, for instance, Dikibo would be alive today, all things being equal and Atiku Abubukar would have been President in 2007. Nigeria would have been on a totally different trajectory. And a Buhari presidency would never have happened. So, too, the religious and ethnic divide that has made Nigeria a dangerous place today.
Ibori would be justified if he does nothing now but sit back and laugh at Nigeria. He saw the danger in the Obasanjo-administration and he and Ekwueme tried to save Nigeria from that looming danger. He was targeted and made the face of corruption. Dikibo fared even worse; he made the supreme sacrifice. That is why I remind Nigerians of him today…just as Ibori paid for an advert in two newspapers on Feb. 4th … so that his memory will endure. It will because he was a good man. Those who killed him will never know peace.