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Not surprisingly, there were many visitors who had come to see him and the rule was that only two could enter at a time.
Not surprisingly, there were many visitors who had come to see him and the rule was that only two could enter at a time. By the time I arrived at some minutes after 11am, there were already two people inside so I had to wait to take my turn but it was not for long before I was allowed to go inside and was directed to the first floor.
All this happened yesterday morning when I went to Agodi Prison in Ibadan to see Senator Iyiola Omisore, standing trial for the murder of the former Attorney General, Chief Bola Ige. Omisore had in recent weeks broken a record as the first Nigerian to be elected a Senator while in detention, standing trial for murder, sworn-in while the case was going on and within the same period brought back to jail.
The former Osun State deputy governor who had on May 30, secured a controversial bail that enabled him attend the inauguration of the Senate, had been ordered to be remanded in prison last Thursday by the new judge, Justice Moshood Abass trying the murder case after the case was re-assigned from Justice John Ige.
Yesterday morning, inside Agodi Prison, Omisore sat on a small chair with a school desk in front of him while I sat beside him on a pavement. It was a make-shift arrangement for him to receive visitors and there were many people, old women, young men and relations who wanted to see him.
Of course Omisore knew I had not come all the way from Lagos just to say hello so he must have prepared for my questions but at the same time I knew it would be out of place to just begin to ask the questions on my mind for a man who was in detention at a time he least expected it. I had thought I should begin with some light hearted discussion.
Surveying the environment, I quipped: "This is the third time I will be inside a prison. The first was in December 1996 when I went to spend Christmas day with Chief C.O. Adebayo (current Minister of Communication) at Calabar prison when he was incarcerated by the late General Sani Abacha regime for NADECO activities. The second was two years ago when I went to see Lt. General Ishaya Bamaiyi (former Chief of Army Staff) at Kirikiri. Now, I am here to see you."
Chief Omisore smiled at this as he thanked me for coming all the way from Lagos even as he asked me what was happening in town as if he did not know.
Well, I volunteered that the Anambra coup saga was still the main menu in town and after a few more minutes of chit-chat, I asked him how he ended back in jail given that he had been given a bail. I did not call the process leading to the bail controversial. He explained that from his reading of the situation, his lawyer took too much for granted by not preparing ahead to make a fresh bail application because the new judge was not bound by an earlier bail granted by another judge since the case was starting afresh. From his explanation, I could see that he has had a lot of legal opinions on the issue but I did not want to go into anything bordering on legality so I had to steer the discussion away from legal technicalities to the real issue of who killed Bola Ige for which he was detained in the first place.
Looking straight into his eyes, I asked: "this Bola Ige's death, what is the real story; at least you must know something." It's not as if I was naive enough to believe he, or anybody for that matter, would tell me 'oh, I killed Bola Ige' but at least we had to begin the conversation. Besides, I would get a clue from whatever he said.
Smiling again, he retorted: "Segun, don't tell me you don't know my trial is all politics, that I have nothing to do with it." After going on for a while, he paused, apparently sensing that I was not following. "Now, what do you believe?"
Well, at that point, I had nothing to lose. "There are two theories about Ige's death and both of them, most people believe, point in your direction. The first is that his killing was to revenge the murder of Honourable Odunayo Olagbaju who was not only from Ife but your main supporter. The other theory was that Ige was killed so that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) could 'capture' the South-west and you were believed to be the arrowhead."
At this, Omisore laughed and said: "You don't believe all that, do you?" But I did not reply. I don't really know what to believe but he saved me the trouble of having to answer. "Let me tell you something about Yoruba people. If an election were to be held today, the PDP will lose in the entire South-west because of the fuel price palaver. That much I can assure you. Nobody can deceive our people as some people were doing until the last election. You can not lead Yoruba people by the nose. That was what we were saying and now they have all seen the result." Omisore delved into the politics of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), especially in Osun State and the role of the late Ige and how the goodwill enjoyed by the party was frittered away by Governor Bisi Akande. "There was no reason for me to kill Uncle Bola and I have never killed anybody in my life before. All the people who started this thing knew we did not kill Ige but they thought it was a convenient political tool. That was what has been going on, playing politics with the death of suich a man, it is unfortunate."
Omisore delved into the politics of Osun and how his relationship with his former boss, Governor Akande became sour and how attempts were made on his life.
But as interesting as his story was, I was not in Ibadan because of AD politics, my concern was Bola Ige and who killed him. I put the question to Omisore that if he did not, as he claimed, who did? Just before he could answer the question, Mr. Jelili Adesiyan, one of his political strongmen, also standing trial for Ige's murder, came and was introduced to me.
Adesiyan, former AD Assistant Secretary in Osun, who was a neighbour to the late Ige had been picked up after his family moved out of the area following the murder of a man to whom he had been an associate for more than 25 years. Adesiyan, by his account, came to know Omisore through the late Ige and it is a long story but one thing is clear, he was close to the late Attorney General and to the former Oyo State Governor, Alhaji Lam Adesina.
Apparently bitter that anybody could link him with Ige's death, Adesiyan, who was a NADECO exile during the days of the late General Sani Abacha, went into a long and moving tale beginning from the politics in Osun State, of how Ige tried to shore up the image of Akande at a time the Governor was becoming increasingly unpopular with the workers, how the former Governor sidelined traditional rulers who he described as 'royal contractors', the poltics of the House of Assembly members and how Omisore was caught in the crossfire. He gave instances of when he and Kunle Alao, also standing trial for the same murder met Ige on the issue. He also gave a clearer picture of how the late Olagbaju was important in the equation.
A very emotional man, Adesiyan pronounced curses on himself if he knew about Ige's death. Verse by verse, like a good story teller he apparently is, Adesiyan explained Osun politics and who played what role and at what point in the last four years. He said he was like a member of Ige's family and everybody knew him hence he wrote them a powerful letter when his ordeal began. He said from what he has gathered the only 'evidence' against him that he cannot be innocent is the fact that he has been defending Omisore, arguing that the Ige family believes Omisore is guilty while he does not.
As Adesiyan talked, Omisore had to go down to make pleas with his visitors many of who were getting restless, because the prison authority would not allow them in. Some were big men but the Prison authority would not be intimidated by big men, this was prison afterall. At a point, he had to tell one of his men to tell the visitors that they had to abide by the rules: "This is not my house so I have no control over visitors. If they say anybody cannot enter they just have to bear it."
But some of the lucky visitors managed to get in and the most notable was the Obafemi Awolowo University lecturer, Dr. Oladipo, the ministerial nominee for Osun State whose name was dropped by President Olusegun Obasanjo after scaling the first screening hurdle at the Senate before he was recalled. He was dropped on the strength of the fact that he was one of the people arrested and questioned over the murder of Ige even though the police later cleared him.
Oladipo, sporting a Senegalese caftan made of lace material was hailed as 'ex-minister' by Omisore, Mr. Kunle Alao and Adesiyan and a few other detainees I could not place.
But back to Omisore. If he didn't kill Bola Ige, who did? I told him that as much as his story and that of Adesiyan sounded believable, the testimony of Fryo, the principal suspect put a lie to what they said. Because it was that testimony that led to his arrest. "Fryo?" laughed Omisore. "That so-called testimony was a fabrication. That was the tale of Festus Keyamo who for reasons best known to him coached the boy to implicate me and Vice President Atiku Abubakar. I never met Fryo before and it was in this prison and in the presence of senior staff and a pastor that he came to me in tears pleading for my forgiveness."
Omisore went into a long tale of what he had been told of what Keyamo did to Fryo and the political intrigues which he adduced for what happened but when he saw that I did not appear to believe him, he asked me: "do you want to talk to Fryo himself?" I answered in the affirmative. Omisore then sent someone to call Fryo who was on the ground floor and about three minutes later, a young man wearing a night gown emerged and greeted me almost prostrating. He looked so young and vulnerable. I was introduced to him as a journalist who wanted to know the truth concerning the whole matter. He was initially tongue tied then he began to speak both in Yoruba and English having assured him I understood both. To put him at ease, I also told him I did my first degree at Ife so I was familiar with some of the places he was mentioning. And the boy surely had a story to tell.
Since the matter is still in court I will not want to go into the dirty details of all he said but there is really the need for the police to investigate Fryo properly so as to ascertain where he went, who he visited and where he slept on all the nights from the time Hon. Olagbaju was killed to the night Chief Ige was murdered. If they do that we might get to the root of a lot of issues that might help resolve this case.
There is also the need for the police to investigate the killing of Olagbaju so that a clearer picture of what really happened could emerge. One thing from what Fryo said however unsettled me: Could it be true that Festus Keyamo made up his story for him on the pretext that if he played Sergeant Rogers he would be free? There has been a lot of contradictions as to what the real testimony of Fryo (who was initially billed to be a prosecution witness before he became an accused person) really is.
After speaking with Fryo, I believed I had had enough, having spent two hours inside the prison while several people were outside waiting to see Omisore. At that point, I took my leave and I waved him goodluck as I returned to Lagos.