Once upon a time in a town of folklore, the Tortoise fell in love with the daughter of a rich merchant. She loved him too.
It took only a while for the Tortoise to present his marriage proposal to the girls parents, and though her father initially expressed some reservations, he eventually caved in and reluctantly allowed Tortoise to marry his daughter.
Tortoise was cunning, a trickster and kleptomaniacal. One day, he paid a visit to his parents-in-law. While waiting for his father-in-law to return from an early morning outing, he observed that some tantalizing scent was coming from the direction of the kitchen, and immediately his gluttonous self took over with the only thoughts on his mind being only to have a taste and a bite of what his mother-in-law was cooking.
His opportunity came when his mother-in-law left the kitchen for another room. Tortoise leapt up and headed straight for the pot of porridge in the kitchen. He tasted it, took a bite and feeling he hadn’t gotten enough decided to scoop a bit of it, then he heard his father-in-laws voice entering the compound. He hastily packed a few spoonfuls of the porridge into his hat then onto his head and dashed for the living room.
He was soon greeted by his father-in-law, who though not too pleased to see him, received him howbeit warmly, asking after his health and his wifes’.
Within minutes, Tortoise began to sweat profusely, by reason of the hot yam porridge beneath his cap, that has now begun to heat up his scalp after burning off his hair (which is why according to this tale, Tortoises are bald to this day). His sweat was even mixed with some of the porridge.
When his treachery was discovered, his father-in-law raised an alarm and together with his neighbours, they had him tied to a nearby tree.
After the excitement caused by this event, many of the people around began to go about their business as was their custom, while leaving Tortoise to his fate, blaming him for his predicament while pitying his father-in-law for being unfortunate enough to have him as a son-in-law.
It was soon evening, and Tortoise was still tied to the tree. Most of those who witnessed that morning’s event and were now coming back home were shocked to still see him tied to the tree.
They began to hurl expletives at Tortoise’s father-in-law, accusing him of being wicked and insensitive to have left the Tortoise in the same condition since morning.
And just like that, Tortoise who was the villain in the morning attained Hero Status by the evening, while his father-in-law moved from Hero to Zero, which gave rise to the Yoruba saying ”Êbu Àlô Nî T’âhûn, T’àbò Nî T’ànô Rè”, which literally translates to mean, ”The insult goes to the Glutton on the way out, but goes to his in-law on the way back” (that’s the best I can make of that).
The lesson from this though, is that justice shouldn’t be delayed. Sometimes, when justice is so delayed, the essence of it is defeated.
A few days ago, Nigerians from the South-West were aghast when Hon. Justices Amina A. Augie, Rita N. Pemu and Fatima O. Akinbami of the Appeal’s Court, sitting in Lagos overturned the judgement of a High Court of Lagos State presided over by Hon. Justice Mojisola Dada, which had declared Major Hamzat Al-Mustapha and his co-accused Alhaji Lateef Shofolahan guilty on the 30th of January, 2012 of the murder of the wife of supposed winner of the June 12, 1993 elections, Alhaja Kudirat Abiola and had then gone ahead to sentence them to death.
Even though he didn’t actually pull the trigger that killed Kudirat on the 4th of June, 1996, the state witness Sergent Barnabas Jabila aka Rogers who did the shooting along with others, claims they did so on the orders of Al-Mustapha and that they were given information on her movements by Alhaji Shofolahan, one of her aides.
The Appeal Court Justices in overturning the judgement of the lower court said the Judge sought to obtain a guilty verdict at all cost, even when the prosecution witnesses recanted their earlier depositions, amongst other technicalities.
Just like the tortoise, even though Al Mustapha was eventually let off the hook, his scalp was burnt as he had spent the better part of 14 years in jail (within which he became an orphan). The delay in metting out justice in the heat of the event bought Al Mustapha the much needed sympathy even from notable Yoruba elders like Dr. Fredrick Fasehun (who even took the case too personal, even though the group Oodua People’s Congress, OPC which he founded in the wake of the annulment of June 12 General Elections by the General Ibrahim Babangida junta, which M. K. O. Abiola’s wife, Kudirat fought and died for, started up championing the case for justice over her death, as well as those of other pro-democracy activists who were either killed or maimed in the heady days of General Sanni Abacha, in whose government Al-Mustapha is alleged to have served as the head of the ‘Killer Squad’).
Many, especially in the South West, where the late Kudirat hails from saw this as a travesty of Justice, while those in the North where Al-Mustapha hails from hailed the Appeal Courts decision, others (in the majority) even in the South West were indifferent mainly because the sense of justice was lost with the length of time it took for the court in the first instance to come to a verdict (howbeit a death penalty), allowing insinuations and other political considerations to gain ground over facts and available evidence.
I am not a law person, and so can’t claim to understand much of the legal technicalities that led to the failure of the prosecution to eventually get conviction, but the truth is the prosecution team in most high profile criminal cases in Nigeria, muddle up their own case such that even when one is caught red-handed in ‘the act’, with very good defence attorneys (who aren’t in short supply in Nigeria) ‘black’ can be made to turn ‘white’.
Hence, just like other high profile murder cases in Nigeria’s sociopolitical history, Alhaja Kudirat Abiola’s murder has now returned to the ‘Unsolved Murder’ category.