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WHY IS MAJOR AL-MUSTAPHA STILL IN THE LURCH?

By NBF News
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Even at the risk of banging our heads against a brick wall, we should not abandon the efforts to seek mercy for any fellow Nigerian, especially a man many considered to have been punished with vengeance. Francis Bacon, the famous English lawyer and statesman, said, 'Revenge is a form of wild justice, which the law should seek to weed out.'

The seeming indifference by the so-called northern leaders to the fate of Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, the late General Sani Abacha's Chief Security Officer, is incredible and disappointing. While the Niger Delta politicians were united in seeking the freedom of former militants, northern leaders are yet to demonstrate the same common concern to the fate of Major Al-Mustapha, who was sentenced to death after already spending 14 years while on trial. In fact, the Yoruba political and community leaders were also united for the freedom of former OPC activists - Dr Frederick Fashehun  and Mr Ganiyu Adams. So were the Igbo leaders united behind the freedom of the leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Chief Ralph Uwazuruike.

Why is such unity absent among northern leaders? Is it true, as alleged by the deposed Emir of Gwandu, Al-Mustapha Haruna Jokolo that some northern leaders are behind the continuing travails of Al-Mustapha? According to Jokolo, former President Olusegun Obasanjo was initially determined to find a political solution to Major Al-Mustapha's plight but some northern Generals and politicians frustrated the efforts. One cannot imagine any Niger Delta politician working against the freedom of former militants for whatever reason. To do so would have brought instant resentment and ostracism against him.

Unfortunately the reverse is the case in northern Nigeria where our leaders are more interested in what goes into their pockets rather than the interest of fellow northerners facing difficulties. It was never on record that our so-called Northern Governors' Forum, senators and representatives even considered it necessary to make Al-Mustapha's issue their priority. From day one, the Major's trial was laden with politics and prejudice as there are political forces determined to see him dead.

Did Al-Mustapha commit a worse crime than the mass murders and kidnappings carried out in the name of militancy in the Niger Delta? Yet, the late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua had the magnanimity to find a political solution to an issue that bordered on treason.  Former President Obasanjo didn't have hesitation releasing the OPC leaders despite their involvement in genocide or ethnic cleansing. Therefore, why would President Jonathan have any difficulty finding a lasting solution to the travails of Major Hamza Al-Mustapha? Why must he succumb to the blackmail of subversive forces?

Former President Obasanjo himself was a beneficiary of state pardon by the General Abdulsalami Abubakar administration in 1998. Without that amnesty, Obasanjo would have not qualified to contest the presidential election of 1999.

Should President Jonathan succumb to this kind of blackmail? Despite the contradictions, discrepancies and recantations of prosecution witnesses, Justice Mojisola Dada of the Lagos High Court went ahead to sentence Major Al-Mustapha to death on January 30 this year. There is even the theory that she had no choice but to hand down this harsh verdict to save her neck from the anger of the former NADECO forces who have been relentlessly thirsting for Al-Mustapha's blood.

Let us pause for a moment and ask whether vengeance is a matter of life and death for the advancement of any nation. For a man who has spent 14 years facing detention and trial within a trial, including allegation of plotting a coup d'état against the former Obasanjo administration, Al-Mustapha's travails couldn't have been worse. Fourteen years behind bars is enough punishment and should qualify the Major for state pardon. If other former detainees who committed graver crimes were considered fit for amnesty, there is no reason Al-Mustapha should not be accorded the same privilege.

The utter indifference of northern leaders is, however, largely to blame for the current travails of Major Al-Mustapha. Leaving this young army officer to his fate by our so-called northern leaders is a big shame. Without the active intervention of northern leaders, it is unlikely if President Jonathan would be concerned either about his situation. If you throw our own son to the wolves, the world will laugh at you. How do you expect President Jonathan to take decisive decision on this issue when northern leaders are indifferent to Al-Mustapha's plight? Major Al-Mustapha's pardon may go a long way to reduce political tension in the country. Whatever may be the benefits of vengeance, the virtue of mercy is by far greater.

-Abdulkadir sent in this piece from 61, Katsina Road, Kaduna