Nigeria’s politics has witnessed a wave of troubling political assassinations (killings) since return to democratic rule in 1999.
Assassination has since become an instrument of settling political scores in Nigeria.
- Although some of the killings were discountenanced as ordinary murders, the timing of killings leaves no doubt that they were politically motivated.
Actions by the government and police to stem the ugly tide and find the killers were insufficient and ineffective.
Although this list is not exhaustive, here are top 9 of the glut of political assassinations in the country’s history:
1. Chief Bola Ige
Nigeria’s Justice Minister and Attorney General Bola Ige was shot dead in his home in Ibadan, in the southwestern state of Oyo, on December 23, 2001 becoming the highest level politician to have been killed in Nigeria while in office.
Fingers were pointed at the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for complicity in his murder and Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka referred to the PDP as a “nest of killers”.
The murder case which accompanied his murder was muddled up as one political thug called Fryo who had confessed to being part of the murder and implicated the then Deputy Governor of Bola Ige’s home State, Osun, was later left off the hook when the government withdrew the case from court for “want of evidence”.
His murder was widely linked to a political crisis between the Governor and Deputy Governor of Osun State, where Ige hailed from.
Ige was the political mentor of the Governor, Bisi Akande who was at loggerhead with his deputy, Iyiola Omisore. Four days before Bola Ige’s death, a member of the Osun State House of Assembly, Odunayo Olagbaju who was a supporter of the deputy Governor, had been stabbed to death in Ile-Ife.
Some believed Ige’s killing was in retaliation of Olagbaju’s while others were of the opinion that Ige was a victim of PDP’s political chicanery in a desperate bid to control the South West being held by The Alliance for Democracy (AD) party of which Ige was the undisputed leader in the West.
In the 2003 election, PDP won all but one of the South West states largely due to the vacuum of leadership in the AD due to the assassination of Bola Ige.
2. Marshall Harry
On March 5, 2003, Harry Marshall, the national vice chairman for the South-South Zone of the now defunct All Nigeria’s People’s Party was killed in December 2001.
Marshall Harry was an important politician both nationally and within Rivers State, where he was known as a political “kingmaker.”
He had supported the Rivers Governor Peter Odili in the 1999 election but later disagreed with Odili’s policies and began a move to stop the reelection of Odili in 2003.
He moved to the ANPP after his suspension by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in 2001 for “anti-party” activities. He then began to campaign against President Obasanjo.
On the night of March 5 2003, some armed men in plain clothes came to Harry Marshall’s residence in Abuja, the federal capital and made their way to his bedroom.
He began to shout for help, but no help came even though his residence was located within walking distance of the headquarters of the Abuja police command. Although the motive for his killing was later said to have nothing to do with politics according to the Police, those familiar with the political scene in Rivers State believed that his death was related to the bad feeling between him and the Rivers State government.
3. Ogbonnaya Uche
An ANPP senatorial candidate in the Southeastern state of Imo and former commissioner in the Imo state government, Ogbonnaya Uche, was shot in his home in Owerri on February 8, 2003, and died two days later.
Uche told journalists before his death in the hospital, that he believed the attack was political, and explained that two days before the shooting, he had been trailed to the party secretariat by a group of armed men, who had asked his driver where he was.
4. Abigail And Barnabas Igwe
In the Southeastern state of Anambra, Barnabas Igwe, chairman of the state branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, and his wife Abigail Amaka Igwe were ambushed in their car and brutally murdered in Onitsha, in September 2002.
Barnabas Igwe had been an open critic of then Anambra state Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju, and had called for the governor’s resignation due to his failure to pay government workers for several months.
Mbadinuju was the only one of twenty-one PDP governors who could not get a re-nomination of his party in the 2003 election due to his alleged involvement in the murder. He was charged to court for the murder but was never convicted.
5. Ayo Daramola
A PDP governorship aspirant in the Southwest state of Ekiti was killed on August 14, 2006 in what the police said could be a political assassination.
Ayo Daramola of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), was stabbed and shot in his hometown of Ijan-Ekiti.
His assailants scaled the fence of his home, attacked his guards and burrowed a hole to his bedroom where they killed him, according to the police. Daramola was killed hours after he staged a campaign rally in the state capital Ado Ekiti the previous day.
A PDP senator, Bode Olowoporoku and former Deputy Governor in Ekiti State, Biodun Aluko, accused the state government of being the mastermind of the murder. That was the end of that matter as nobody was convicted.
6. Funsho Williams
Three weeks before Daramola’s killing, on July 27, 2006, a leading governorship aspirant in Lagos State, Funso Williams of the ruling PDP was strangled in his home, a few hours after he returned from a political meeting.
Williams was a leading member of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which was locked in a bitter internal struggle over the Party’s ticket for the Lagos coveted governorship seat.
Although about a dozen top politicians were detained by the police in relation to his assassination, they were later released leading many to believe that like many past political killings, this would end up as another undetected murder.
7. General Sani Abacha
Nigeria’s Military ruler, Sani Abacha died at the presidential villa in Abuja in June 8, 1998. Officially, Abacha’s death was natural. But many believe the brutish ruler who conducted a massive loot on the country’s coffers was poisoned. Poisoned or natural death, I guess we will never know.
8. Obi Wali
The seed of murder was sowed in the Niger Delta region of Nigerian when Ikwere, River State born politician of progressive inclination, Dr. Obi Wali, was brutally murdered in his Port Harcourt residence. Although the police questioned his wife back then in the early 90s, the case died just like that.
9. Aminosari Dikibo
The obnoxious wind of death has never stopped blowing in the South as another big politician. Chief Aminasoari Dikibo, was also killed on February 6, 2004. The killers of the PDP National Vice Chairman (South South) were never apprehended, though the police allegedly adopted a face-saving tactics of parading some armed robbers as the suspects. Fifteen years down the line, there has been no conviction.
Political assassination continues till date as seen during the March 9, 2019 governorship and state house elections during which Temitope Olatoye, a serving federal lawmaker representing Lagelu/Akinyele Federal Constituency in Oyo State was shot dead. The reason for his murder remains a mystery till today just has there hasnt been an headway in nailing the perpetrators. What we know is that, the murder has political undertone.