I WASN'T KUDIRAT ABIOLA'S AIDE -SHOFOLAHAN
Former protocol officer to the HOPE 93 campaign organisation for Chief M.K.O Abiola's presidential election in 1993, Alhaji Lateef Shofolahan, stunned the court yesterday as he denied any relationship with the late Abiola's wife, Alhaja Kudirat Abiola.
Shofolahan is facing murder charge along with Major Hamza Al-Mustapha over alleged complicity in the June 4, 1996 assassination of Alhaja Abiola. Led in evidence by his counsel, Olalekan Ojo, Shofolahan said he did not know anything about the killing of Kudirat Abiola.
According to him, he only knew the deceased when she used to come to the campaign organisation with other wives of Abiola, namely Dr. Doyin Abiola and Chief Bisi Abiola to collect campaign materials. 'I had never worked with Alhaja Abiola. I was never her personal assistant or driver. Nobody from Abiola's house can come and testify that I worked for her.'
He also said he learnt about Kudirat's death just like any other Nigerian and could not confirm whether she was shot or not. 'I've never worked with her and I learnt about the woman's death just like any other person because it was a national issue.' Shofolahan who told the court how he worked for Abacha as a member of two- million-man march Abacha rally to support his presidential ambition also noted that he later worked for former president Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999 during his presidential election.
He told the court that he did not attend the late Kudirat Abiola's funeral ceremony because Area Boys took over the whole of Ikeja. Speaking further, he said, 'I begged the woman that headed the SIP, Mrs. Ojomo, that she should invite Abiola's family to identify me as having worked with the late Kudirat Abiola. My Lord, before I was taken before her, I begged her and she promised to take me there but they never did up till today.
When I asked that I don't know these people and I have never worked there, they said they would do but they never did it. I never worked with the late Alhaja Kudirat Abiola either as a personal assistant, a driver or in any capacity.' The witness disclosed that before he joined HOPE 93 campaign train of the late Chief M.K.O Abiola, he was a beer distributor with the Nigerian Brewery and Guinness.
Explaining his activities at HOPE 93, he said 'I gave accommodation to people at Gateway Hotel. After sometime, I was moved back to HOPE 93 office to be in charge of gifts, posters and campaign materials.
'When the election was cancelled in 1993, at the end of July 1993, everybody was paid off. After the closure of HOPE 93 by Dr. Jonathan Zwingina, I went back to my shop at 12, Abeokuta Road, Mushin. My business name was 'September 10 Enterprises'. I have been in beer business since 1986,' he added.
The witness stated further that he had no other work than his beer distribution business through his company, September 10 Enterprises, till 1998 when he joined the Obasanjo campaign for 1999 presidential election during which he stayed at Ota farm throughout.
'When Obasanjo won the election, I moved to the villa. I started working as a staff until they came to arrest me. Even, Obasanjo's aide, Bodunde and Chief Fasawe confirmed that I was a staff when they came to arrest me.'
Shofolahan said he was arrested over allegation that he was using the name of former president Olusegun Obasanjo to collect money from the Central Bank.
He stated that he was later taken to the police headquarters in handcuff around 4-5pm same day. At the police headquarters, the witness said, 'about 8 to 10 police officers came with recorders and video. They threw questions at me and I answered them.'
He told the court that on the following day, he was forced to copy a statement he never made. He said everything in that statement was a lie. They asked me to copy everything. The only true thing in that statement was my name, date of birth and my house address. The statement I wrote is not what I said, I was forced to copy it. When I was in Abuja before the SIP, I begged AIG Ojomo and told her that I have never worked with anybody either as a personal assistant or a driver. I have never worked with Alhaja Kudirat Abiola all my life. It is paper propaganda, it is a lie.'
When asked about how he met the first defendant, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, the witness said, 'in March 1998, during the 2 million man-march rally for Abacha, I didn't even know that the 1st defendant was among those on the high table at the Eagle Square. That was the first time I met him. The second time I met him was at the SIP in Abuja.'
Speaking further on the rally, Shofolahan said, 'I was a leader of youths from Ojuelegba during the two- million-man march. We that went from Lagos that day for Abacha rally were more than 3,000.' The witness said he saw the second prosecution witness, Sergeant Bernabas Jabila for the first time at the SIP in 1999. He also denied knowing the third prosecution witness, Mohammed Abdul, a.k.a. Katako. 'I don't know Mohammed Abdul. He has never come to my house before. Mohammed Katako has never met me at the National Theatre. He was the same person that told the court that he was in Azare on the same day, how come he now met me at the National Theatre. I never took Katako to Ikeja. M.K.O Abiola's house is not a hidden place,' he said.
Answering questions under cross-examination, Shofolahan said, 'I did not conspire with anybody, My Lord, and I didn't kill anybody. All these allegations, I don't know where they came from. May be my family had committed any offence before and it is now my turn to suffer.'
Answering further questions, Shofolahan said he knew Chief Abiola as an aspirant under the Social Democratic Party (SDP) during the 1993 presidential election and that he was the protocol officer at HOPE 93.
On his relationship with Chief M.K.O Abiola, he said, 'yes, I was protocol officer at the HOPE 93 presidential campaign organisation. I was number 22 on the hierarchy to Dr. Jonathan Zwingina, the DG of HOPE 93. Abiola's house is not too far to the campaign office but I cannot enter. Abiola himself cannot recognise me because of the gap.'
The matter has been adjourned till November 10 for adoption of written address.