By Jennifer Ugwueke
Major Hamza Al-Mustapha (rtd), former Chief Security Officer (CSO) of late Head of State General Sani Abacha, has debunked popular claim of his former principal dying from eating a poisoned apple from prostitutes.
Al-Mustapha who narrated how his late boss died in an interview with ThisDay, said the sudden collapse of the health system of Abacha started on June 7, 1998, right from the Abuja International Airport, immediately after one of the security personnel who accompanied President Yasser Arafat of Palestine shook hands with him.
Narrating how Abacha died, the former CSO said;
“Shortly after the hand shake, I noticed the change in the countenance of the late Commander-in-Chief, and I immediately informed the Aide-de-Camp, Lt. Col. Abdallah, who advised that we keep a close watch on him.
“Later in the evening of June 8, 1998, around 6 p.m., his doctor came around and administered an injection to stabilise him. He was advised to have a short rest.
“Happily enough, by 9p.m., he was bouncing and receiving visitors until much later when General Jeremiah Useni, the then minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), came to see him. He was fond of the Head of State. They were very good friends. They stayed and chatted together till about 3.35a.m.
“A friend of the house was with me in my office and as he was bidding me farewell, he came back to inform me that the FCT Minister, Useni, was out of the Head of State’s Guest House within the Villa. I then decided to inform the ADC and other security guards that I would be on my way home to prepare for the early morning event at the International Conference Centre.
“At about 5 a.m., the security guards ran to my quarters to inform me that Abacha was very unstable. At first, I thought it was a coup attempt. Immediately I prepared myself fully for any eventuality.
“As an intelligence officer and the Chief Security Officer to the Head of State for that matter, I devised some means of diverting the attention of the security boys from my escape route by asking my wife to continue chatting with them at the door. She was in the house while the boys were outside. From there, I got to the Guest House of the Head of State before them.
“When I got to the bedside of the Head of State, he was already gasping. Ordinarily, I could not just touch him. It was not allowed in our job. But under the situation, I knelt close to him and shouted: ‘General Sani Abacha, Sir, please grant me permission to touch and carry you.
“I again knocked at the stool beside the bed and shouted in the same manner, yet he did not respond. I then realised that there was a danger. I immediately called the Head of State’s personal physician, Dr. Wali, who arrived in the place in eight minutes from his house. He immediately gave oga (Abacha) two doses of injection, one at the heart and another close to his neck. This did not work apparently as the Head of State had turned very cold.
“He then told me that the Head of State was dead, and that nothing could be done after all. So I asked the personal physician to remain with the dead body while I dashed home to be fully prepared for the problems that might arise from the incident.
“As soon as I informed my wife, she collapsed and burst into tears. I secured my house and ran back to where Abacha was. At that point, the Aide-de-Camp had been contacted by me, and we decided that great caution must be taken in handling the grave situation.
“Again, I must reiterate that the issue of my boss dying on women was a great lie just as the insinuation that Abacha ate and died of poisoned apple was equally a wicked lie.
“It was at this point that I used our special communication gadgets to diplomatically invite the Service Chiefs, military governors and some few elements purportedly to a meeting with the Head of State by 9 a.m. at the Council Chamber.
“That completed, I also decided to talk to some former Nigerian leaders to inform them that Abacha would like to meet them by 9 a.m.
“The situation became charged when one of the Service Chiefs, Lieutenant General Ishaya Rizi Bamaiyi (rtd), who pretended to be with us, suggested he be made the new Head of State after we had quietly informed him of the death of Abacha. He even suggested we should allow him access to Chief MKO Abiola.
“We smelt a rat, and other heads of security agencies, on hearing this, advised I move Abiola to a safer place. I managed to do this in spite of the fact that I had been terribly overwhelmed with the crisis at hand.
“But then, when some junior officers over heard the suggestion of one of the Service Chiefs earlier mentioned, it was suggested to me that we should finish all the members of the Provisional Ruling Council and give the public an excuse that there was a meeting of the PRC during which a shoot-out occurred between some members of the Provisional Ruling Council and the body guards to the Head of State.
“When I sensed that we would be contending with far more delicate issues than the one on ground, I talked to Generals Buba Marwa and Ibrahim Sabo (all retired), who both promptly advised us-the junior officers- against any bloodshed. They advised we contact General Ibrahim Babangida, who equally advised against any bloodshed, but that we should support the most senior officer in the Provisional Ruling Council (PRC) to be the new Head of State.
“Since the words of our elders are words of wisdom, we agreed to support General Jeremiah Useni. Along the line, Bamaiyi lampooned me, saying: ‘Can’t you put two and two together to be four? Has it not occurred to you that Useni, who was the last man with the Head of State, might have poisoned him, knowing well that he was the most senior officer in the PRC?”