By Sam Omatseye
The following is an excerpt from my upcoming Book, Forty Days and Forty Nights, that chronicles the life of Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong, and the National crisis that erupted in the Obasanjo years when six Lawmakers impeached a Governor in a Gangster fashion.
Lalong spent 40 days in OBJ’s Gulag and it took the intervention of now President-Elect Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu then Lagos State Governor to plot his escape, underlining their long-drawn duel pitting his progressive forces against OBJ’s fascistic spirit.
This excerpt begins in detention in Abuja by EFCC before Lalong ended up in Lagos.
“He gave us Tea. We relaxed,” Lalong said. He was referring to himself and his Deputy, Musa.
Later, Lamorde’s – EFCC’s Operations Director Men started interrogating them.
But Lamorde said it was a political matter. “It is not us that brought you here,” Lamorde confessed. “It’s your political matter. Relax. Say what you want to say.”
They gave them Papers to start writing statements. But they were still not comfortable with them. Magu became another pain in the neck.
“Do you know that at one point this Magu brought a plain sheet of Paper for me to sign a specimen signature? Without a statement. That was when I abused him in that Place.”
Again, Lamorde intervened when he heard the shouts and quarrels between them.
“I said, Look at this Man. He said I should sign plain sheet. For what ? I’m still Speaker of the House ooo. I’m signing the destiny of Plateau State on a plain sheet for you ?
He said no, there were certain Documents they wanted to verify. I said, bring those Documents. If I am the one who signed I would tell you I signed. If it’s my signature, I would tell you it’s my signature. But I cannot sign my specimen signature on plain Paper. I don’t know what you want to do with the People of Plateau.”
It was then that Lamorde told Magu, “No, you can’t do that.” Not long after, they played host to a few Guests, including Solomon Lar and Bishop Hassan Kukah.
It was after that, they flew them to Lagos, and the Man in charge again was Magu. They took them to the EFCC Detention Centre on Awolowo Road in Ikoyi, Lagos…
In Detention were not only the two of them but at least 14, all Members of the State House of Assembly.
Their mission was straightforward. They wanted Lalong, as Speaker, to sign a draft impeachment notice. Who were those who drafted the Document ?
“A prominent SAN today was one of them. I was there when he did same to Fayose. Gani Fawehinmi was the Consultant to the EFCC.
So all of them, Gani and this other Lawyer, were the ones drafting.”
Lalong said they were working together for their consultancy for the EFCC.
He said he met the Lawyer there. It was then that we got the information that they wanted to do the same to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who was then the Governor of Lagos.
We were waiting to see if they would bring the Lagos House of Assembly. But they couldn’t because I think there were threats that if they tried it, they would bring the whole Lagos down.
So, at the end of the day, they didn’t arrest anybody from Lagos. That was under Ribadu. Today, all of us are working for Asiwaju.”
Lalong remained there for 40 days because they could not coerce him to sign the impeachment notice.
It was Tinubu, who came to their rescue. The EFCC had said no bail was working because they said the People who brought Land Documents had fake evidence.
So, it was Asiwaju who invited Fashola and Osinbajo. Osinbajo was the Attorney General of Lagos State. Fashola was the Chief of Staff. He asked them to process Land Documents, and they did in order to bail them out.
They could not deny that Land Documents signed by Lagos State Government were authentic.
“Any other Person who brought Land Documents from Lagos, and brought it to us to bail us. They rejected it but accepted for others. They left me and two others.
So, the day they came out, the day Lagos brought those Documents, they seized the Documents from Lagos State Government.
They now realized there was no way to keep me. Then, they said they’ll release me but bring me back there.”
Lalong was the last Person they released. He had already signed to leave the Jail. But when he was going downstairs, the EFCC was arranging for the Judge to re-arrest him.
But some Persons, including PoliceMen in the Building, alerted him and asked him to take a way out before they got to him.
“They got me out of the Place, put me in a Taxi. So, when the Taxi dropped me out, in less than ten minutes, EFCC came and raided the Place for me. They didn’t see me, of course,” he recalled.
He said the Fellows who organized his escape were his Friends in the Police and the SSS.
“They came and said, this thing is not fair and that my offence was that I refused to impeach Dariye,” he said.
They told him that the EFCC wanted to frustrate and leave him alone in detention and coerce him to sign the impeachment draft. They wanted to browbeat him to bow. They did not have the numbers.
Out of 24 Members, only eight of them signed the Document. That was not even up to half of them, and so they did not have the numbers to impeach a Governor.
So, before they realized, he entered the Taxi. They sold a dummy. The EFCC thought he was heading for the Airport, and they ran there to ambush him. The reason was that their Wives were going to the Airport to fly to Jos.
“So, they went to the Airport to arrest us but they did not see us,” he narrated.
Rather the Taxi took him to Ibadan through the express, disguised.
From there, he kept on changing Taxis until he reached Ondo and Akure in the wee hours of the morning.
He said they slept in Akure. He recalled they got to Akure at about three in the morning.
For food, they bought stuff along the way. They slept for a couple of hours in Akure before heading North by Road. He was with a few others on the trip.
When they got to Lokoja, they (SSS) realised that he had escaped and heading towards Jos.
It was then they hurriedly rallied six turncoats in the House from where they hid in Abuja to Jos to impeach Dariye. They pulled it off around 6 am. They entered the House Premises and barricaded it. It was a melee that involved shooting, and two Persons died from gunshot wounds at the Plateau Hospital. They were Patients. People were firing Bullets at them. They even shot a PoliceMan in their Car.
They came with Soldiers as well. They performed the exercise and left.
“By the time we arrived Jos, there was news flash that Dariye had been impeached … by the time they had impeached Dariye, they didn’t look for us again.”
Dariye himself had fled. He was in Makurdi for a while and later he went to Lagos and Asiwaju picked him and gave him Shelter.”
Lalong mused that it was bad for conscience that the same Asiwaju was running for President, and Dariye was supporting Peter Obi of the Labour Party.