Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, who was discharged and acquitted last Friday by the Court of Appeal in Lagos, has described his ordeal in various prison facilities across the country over a period of 15-years as a test by God and a ‘university’ nobody would want to pass through.
The former Chief Security Officer to the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha and Lateef Shofolahan, a former aide to the late Chief MKO Abiola were tried and convicted of murder of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola by a Lagos High Court in January 2012.
They were both sentenced to death by hanging in connection with the death of Kudirat Abiola, wife of the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election but on Friday, the appellate court overruled the judgment of Justice Mojisola Dada of the Lagos High Court and thus, Al-Mustapha was set free.
In this interview with the Hausa Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Major Al-Mustapha shares his experience in the prison, as well as his plans for the future.
A Lagos High Court had sentenced you to death by hanging, but this new judgement by the Court of Appeal has set you free; how do you feel?
The Almighty God has shown, through the Court of Appeal, that there was a grand plan to destroy us. But we handed everything over to God. In the past 15 years, a lot of things happened, just to show the world that, no matter what the people think of us, we stand by the truth.
How would you consider the 15 years you spent in prison?
Every Muslim who believes in God will know that one day he may find himself in a very difficult situation. I saw myself in very difficult conditions. I was detained in over 32 places, including KiriKiri. I do not think that any other person has suffered this kind of incarceration in Nigeria. I am the only person that has been treated this way. For five years and two months I was in a solitary prison across different states of the federation. The nine years and seven months I spent in Ikoyi, Kirikiri and the Kuje prison in Abuja were not different.
What will be your relationship with those considered to be behind your ordeal?
God created people differently. And He has different ways of testing individuals. Some people will be tested with positions of leadership, some with wealth, while others will be tested with poverty or illness. We have forgiven those behind this incarceration. This is so because they may have acted out of ignorance. They may have been tested by God and they did not understand what they were doing.
In my 15 years in detention, there was the accusation, as well as the conspiracy that I attempted to overthrow the government in three different occasions. I was arrested, but thank God that nothing incriminating was found against me.
There were other accusations – that Abacha’s belongings were in my possession; that I had a strong connection with Gaddafi; and that I smuggled bombs into the country. I was arrested on such accusations. The fact is that they were just looking for anything, including what happened in the past, to enable them put me permanently in detention.
Now that you are free, would you be interested in politics in the future?
No! I am a military man, I am not thinking of politics. I spent 15 years in solitary confinement, so I do not know what is happening in Nigeria presently; I am just a guest. However, only God knows what will happen tomorrow.
What did you learn in prison?
I really learnt many things. I learnt more than what you can imagine. I had the opportunity to understand Nigeria very well. I now understand the country’s justice system, issues of human rights, how some people use the judiciary and power against the poor, the patience of the poor in Nigeria. It was also an opportunity to understand my religion very well.
Prison is another university that nobody wants to attend. There is a blessing of sorts in the prison if one understands what is in it, through God’s guidance. Yes, it is really not easy to be in prison; everyday in it is hectic. I must give thanks to the Almighty God.