Capt Sagir Koli, until a few weeks ago, was known to a few in the military intelligence circle, his family, colleagues at the 32 Artillery Brigade in Akure, the Ondo State capital, schoolmates and friends. But all that changed when he revealed a secret recording of the involvement of the military high command in ensuring victory for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Ekiti State governorship election. The recording was done on June 20, a day to the election. He was drafted again to be part of the efforts to allegedly rig the Osun State governorship election last August. Then he made up his mind to let the cat out of the bag. His superior suspected he had something up his sleeves and started threatening him. It got to a head when he was tipped off about the plan to arrest him. He fled. In this exclusive interview with The Nation from his hideout, Koli, a graduate of Sociology from the Bayero University, Kano who voluntarily joined the military in 2005, laid bare the truth about how civilian authorities turned the military into a partisan institution.
Prior to the meeting between your boss, Brig-Gen. Aliyu Momoh, Musiliu Obanikoro, Ayodele Fayose, Jelili Adesiyan and others at the Spotless Hotel, Ado-Ekiti on June 20 last year, what were the things you saw that made you decide to record the proceedings secretly?
It depends on the manifestation of our operations there. When we got to Ekiti State, as military personnel, we were supposed to be apolitical, non-partisan and neutral. We were sent there purposely to provide an enabling environment for election to be conducted peacefully. That was our primary responsibility there. We were to ensure the security of the voters, observers, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officials and any other person or organisation that was there to ensure a free and fair election. We were to provide security for them. But when we got to Ekiti, I discovered that we were taking sides with a political party. I tried to bring this to the knowledge of the command and the commander in particular. But I found out that he ( the commander ) was working based on plans. Two days to the election, I told my commander (Brig-Gen Momoh) that: “Sir the way we are going is negating our primary role here.” He categorically said: “By now you would have seen my direction. And all I want you guys to do is to follow my direction. I am working on directives.” From there I knew that we had compromised. I was the intelligence officer responsible for writing the situation report, which we call sitrep. Two days to the election, we changed from 12-hourly report to three-hourly situation report. We called it three-hourly sitrep. I was at the centre of where the election was being conducted in Ado-Ekiti. We had field commanders in all the 16 local government areas. If there was anything, they would call us at the Forward Operational Base (FOB) and we would tell them the next thing to do.
So what prompted the meeting at Fayose’s Spotless Hotel?
A day to the election, my commander said the then Minister of State for Defence (Musiliu Obanikoro) wanted to see him. Ordinarily if the minister of defence should come to your AR (Area of Responsibility), it is our duty to protect him. We went there. I was thinking we were going to be given further directives. When we got to Spotless Hotel in Ado-Ekiti, we entered and I saw PDP chieftains. Spotless Hotel was like Fayose’s campaign office. That was where thugs were kept. It was even part of our operational order to work with the thugs. When we entered a room and I saw the caliber of people there, I said: “This is the final stage of this compromise.”
So, you started the secret recording?
Immediately they started talking, when I noticed their mood, I said this is it. I had already made up my mind that something needed to be done about these people. I took oath of office to protect the constitution and to protect democratic institutions. Every commissioned officer, from 2nd Lieutenant, Lieutenant and Captain, was imbued with the value to protect the constitution. I am not a baby captain, my course mates will become majors. So, I said I had to record them. When they started, you know I am an Intelligence Officer; I am trained, so the way I will do the recording, you can never know. That is why up till today, some of them are still shocked about how it happened.
Going by the countenance of Fayose at the meeting and other things you as an Intelligence Officer know about him what kind of a person would you say he is?
Fayose is a thug. I know him very well. He knows me. His CSO before he became governor knows me very well. They know me. He is a violent man. I have to say it. Throughout my encounter with him, with his aides, he was always aggressive towards the opposition. Politics is not a do-or-die affair. It is about being the leader of the people, not dealing with the people. You are a leader and you should lead by example. If you don’t want harm to be inflicted on you, don’t inflict it on others. All Fayose wanted was to intimidate and arrest his opponents.
Did you have any bad encounter with him?
I personally had a bad encounter with him and my commander had to call me to order. My commander said that was Fayose’s nature. You know those of us who are Major, Captain and down, we don’t take nonsense. Once you are a civilian, we just see you as a bloody civilian. We don’t take any rubbish from you. My commander was looking at him as a candidate, I was looking at him as a bloody civilian. He talked rudely to me and I gave him back. So, he called my commander that I was rude to him.
When was that?
That was before that meeting. You know I had been in the state to do situation report. We went to him and the then incumbent governor. We had Operation IS (internal Security) in Ekiti State and Fayose as a stakeholder in the election, we had to meet him. The Election Security Committee, made up of the army, police, DSS and others, had to meet him. We brokered peace. So, I had encounters with him. You know the way he talks anyhow. He was talking to me that way and I gave it back to him. I said: “ Don’t talk to me like that. I am a commissioned Nigerian Army officer. I am not here for you or for anybody. Don’t talk to me like that.” He was looking at me and I told him: “If you talk to me anyhow, I will place you where you belong .” He then called my commander and the commander called me. I said: “ He can’t shout on me like that sir. I won’t take it.” His then CSO, I think his name is Adewuyi, speaks Hausa and he called me and pleaded with me to take it easy with his boss. I said no problem. The CSO said he served in Jos as a DSS man.
Did your commander visit Fayemi when he assumed duties?
Let me be categorical to you: I forced the commander to go and see Dr Kayode Fayemi. Because of the fear that if they should see him in the Government House, they would say he has compromised and since he was sent to uproot him, the commander did not want to go and see the governor. I said: “Sir, this is the Chief Security Officer of this state. This is our Brigade. This is our AOR (Area of Responsibility), there is need for us to go and see the governor.” He said since I insisted, I should arrange it. I called the CSO, Akin and said: “Can you arrange a meeting between my commander and his Excellency.” He said yes. I said: “Please I want it today.” He said I should give him two hours. He later called me that we should come by 2pm. I told the commander and we went to the Government House.
What happened at the meeting?
When we got to the Governor’s Office, only me, the Garrison Commander Col Adukwu and he, three of us, entered the office. Dr. Kayode Fayemi said: “ General, you are welcome. I learnt you’ ve been in the state for long. By your schedule of duty, you have been busy.” You know he talks well. He said: “General, I believe in the military and I believe the military should be the one that will do justice to the election in this state.” He said he had doubts about the police. He said all he wanted was that the General should ensure lockdown and not allow anybody to come and cause trouble. He said: “Even if I lose this election, I want peace to reign in this state.” That was the governor’s remark. The commander said he would make sure things went well.
After that did you remind him of the promise he made to the governor?
After that I never mentioned anything about the other side to him again because I knew he never wanted to hear.
Was there any point in time that Brig.-Gen. Momoh told you that he had direct instruction from President Goodluck Jonathan to ensure that the PDP won that election?
He never mentioned the president’s name. He would always say: “I am working with the Presidency.” Of course, calls were coming from the Presidency. The SGF, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (Anyim Pius Anyim), was calling him. I know because I handled his phones. He coded the numbers. You will see Principal, you will see Master. He has it; Fayose has it. He would tell me “this phone if it is ringing, give me.” I would see “Master”. After the discussion, he would say see “this Presidency again, they are disturbing me. I am doing their work here”
What was the role of Chris Uba in all of these?
Chris Uba entered Ado-Ekiti a day to the election from Enugu with 16 commissioned officers. I was in Forward Operational Base (FOB) when an officer was asked to go and escort him from Akure airport. I saw him. He wore a green polo shirt and black trouser. I can remember all those things. They are still fresh in my memory. I saw him in FOB and I was like, what is a civilian doing here. A civilian is not supposed to be in the FOB. No. This is pure operational ground. It is there you give soldiers directives, you read the rules of engagement and tell them where and where to cover. A civilian is not expected to be at the FOB and I saw the man there. I was like haha. They told me he is Chris Uba. He is from Abuja. I said what the hell. Who is Chris Uba? I don’t care. They said I should look at him with the commander. When I saw him with the commander, I was alarmed.
So, he came with some soldiers from Enugu?
Yes. You know as officers, we know ourselves, especially if you are of the same rank. You meet in courses and exams and all that. I saw some officers and I asked one of them: “Bros, are you not serving in 82 Division?” He said: “Yes. We are here.” Then the officer who led them, Major Ujon, I know him very well. I said: “Sir, why are you in our AOR? Are we not capable?” He said: “ Koli, we are here o. We came with this man.” I said: “ To come and do what?” He said: “We are strike force.” Strike Force? I called him. He is my friend also. I said: “ Oga, be careful. Be careful. Your task here, you have to be very careful. See what we have been doing and I believe you people too were brought here to do the same thing.” He was alarmed. I told him: “Oga, you are with a civilian in the name of Chris Uba and so what? We are giving soldiers operational orders and a civilian is there. What is his business there?” He said: “Koli, mellow down. This is beyond me. If we talk, the civilian will call our superior and they would say we should follow what the civilian is saying. That is what we sent you for.”
” Was there monetary compensation to the officers and men?
The Strike Force, mobile police, SSS, Civil Defence, police and military men were paid. Our Brigade RSM handled the payment. He was given the money to pay the Strike Force. N20, 000 each. After the payment, they were directed to different parts of the state, Ikole, Okemesi, Ikere and all other local governments. They were handed over to PDP supporters and thugs directly to work for them. That was the instruction and Chris Uba was there supervising to make sure it was done.
Any funny encounter with Chris Uba?
In the evening, I was asked to escort him to his hotel, Midas Hotel around Pathfinder Hotel. The commander said I should escort him. I carried soldiers and we went. When we got there, the hotel insisted on seeing the content of anything being taken inside . They said that was their regulation. I was shouting on the hotel people. But I know they were doing the right thing. I told Chris Uba: “Sir, please let us just respect them.” So, we opened the bags and I saw money inside and some other envelopes. We closed the bags and the man went into his room and I left. I told the commander I had checked in the man.
What was the role of Adesiyan, Omisore and Obanikoro in the whole mess?
They said they were in Ado-Ekiti for presidential assignment and the assignment was to ensure they were victorious in the election. They said they were not there to go and tell the president about failure and that the commander was key to the success. They said the seriousness of the assignment necessitated the caliber of men that were sent from Abuja. They said the commander must redouble his efforts and make sure victory was theirs. If not, he knew the consequences. They said they met in Abuja and worked out all the modalities with the commander in attendance. They wondered why they were hearing complaints from Fayose that some things were not going according to plan. They said they were there for victory and that by all means they will be victorious.
At what point did Obanikoro tell the commander to be taking notes, did he actually take a pen and was took notes?
Waoh! I was the one taking the notes for him. As he was talking, I was writing. He too was writing some. Immediately we ordered the arrest of Daramola and other people they said we should arrest. We called them because I know the local government. You could hear my voice in the recording. I know the stakeholders. I know the actors. I did the situation report. The commander asked where Daramola was and I said Ikole , and that We met him too. We met the two DGs who were campaign directors to preach peace. We told them: “It is your state, don’t burn it. It is your state. It is your resources. Everything is yours.” So, he said: “You know Daramola.” I said “yes”. Anybody the commander asked about I knew. That was why I was close to him because I knew everything he wanted. I always told him things the way they were.
When you guys were leaving that meeting, did money exchange hands?
Among us?
I mean did Fayose, Omosore, Obanikoro give your commander money?
They had given him money since. Our hotel was stocked with money. We said in Jewel Hotel along that Fayose Estate. We had money already, Ghana-must-go bags of money. They gave him money prior to that meeting.
A day or two prior to the election, the APC held a rally and Amaechi was stopped from attending.
What really happened? Adams Oshiomhole was also there. They gave us directives. When Amaechi, Adams Oshiomhole, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu were coming, they asked us not to allow them to enter. Later, they said we should give access to APC National Leader Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Asiwaju entered, but they said we should ground Amaechi and Adams Oshiomhole. Before the order came, Amaechi had landed in Akure Airport and was on his way to Ado-Ekiti. He passed Ikere when Capt Buete, a Workshop Officer in Akure, was tasked to go and ground Amaechi. He met him on the road after lkere. They told him to be careful with him since he is a governor but he should ground him . Amaechi asked why and they told him it was order from above. He said “directive from who? Who is the above?” He called commander and he said be calm but don’t allow him to enter. Oshiomhole landed in Akure and soldiers were at the airport and they told him there was a directive that he should not enter Akure. Oshiomhole just went back. They said they saw danger in not allowing Asiwaju in but that we must effect the one on Amaechi and Oshiomhole.
To what extent do you think the military’s involvement in the Ekiti election helped swing victory in the way of Fayose?
The military was handed over completely to Fayose and his men to work for them. That raised Fayose’s and his people’s morale. In Ekiti then on the election day, if military vehicle was passing, you would hear people shouting power, power, power. Everybody had seen that the military was backing Fayose. Secondly, on election day, we were to impose restriction. Fayose’s men were given unlimited access to move freely, pedestrian, vehicular, unrestricted access for the movement of INEC materials. Fayose said it in that recording that INEC had given them some materials which they printed out and he has a contact.
What do they mean by contacts?
Contacts are PDP supporters and thugs. They are thugs. I canned so many of them. I canned so many of them. That was why he was complaining that we were disarming his men. I personally asked soldiers to beat the hell out of them. So, that unlimited access really helped them to do what they did. The third point, we were used to arrest APC’s points’ men before the election. I can’t remember that person’s name. He stays in Oye Local Government Area. He was arrested with about N30 million meant for the payment of party agents. It is normal. It is legal. INEC told us that parties were allowed to pay their agents. He was grounded and only released after the election. I have the picture of that man. I pitied him. I told him to cool down. A protocol officer to the then governor was arrested too. A chieftain of the APC in Gbonyin Local Government Area, a chief and APC diehard, was arrested too. Many of them were. I was the one recording the arrests, sending the situation report. They made several arrests within the local government areas and they could not bring them to the FOB because of the distance, but they would call us to tell us that they had arrested so and so persons. All the arrests we made were APC people. If soldiers mistakenly arrested a PDP thug, the commander would ask them to release him immediately. These are the three things which helped PDP to win.
Before Gen. Momoh was given the dirty assignment, did you know him?
I didn’t know him before then. I am an Intelligence Officer. He is an Artillery Officer.
What happened after the Ekiti election?
I was thinking there would be change of tactics, that they would tell themselves this thing should stop. I was sent again to Osun for the same purpose. The Ekiti election was June, Osun was August. I was tasked again to go and rig in Osun. As an officer, my intention was not to record this thing and implicate anybody, but just to put a stop to the dirty work the military was being used to do in politics. I joined the Army voluntarily and I joined to serve. When I got to Osun State, I collated the operational report. When my commander got back to Osun, he said we were commended for what we did in Ekiti. He said we were going to repeat the same thing. I told myself I would not be part of it.
How did you escape?
When my superior felt something was wrong they ordered my arrest but before they came l got wind of it and knew there was danger. That was when I fled. They now went to my house at 32 Artillery Brigade in Owena Cantonment, Akure . My brother, a 15-year-old, was staying with me. He was going to Army School inside the barracks. They arrested him and he was with them for five months. They handcuffed and leg-chained him for five consecutive months because of the annoyance that I had something against them. They went to my father’s house. He stays in Kaduna. He built another house. The main house is what people know as my house but he has relocated to the new house now. They went there with soldiers one night. The watchman he left in the old house told them he was no longer staying there. They said he should open the gate. He opened and they met an empty house. They asked him where he relocated. My dad had told him never to reveal his new address to anybody. So, he told them he did not know and they left. In the morning, he went and told my dad that this was what happened. He said if they wanted to come to his house they should come. He said he would tell them ‘my son is with you and you are asking me about him. ‘ Since then, I have not heard anything.
How did you get your brother out?
We started a legal action. The lawyer went there and they denied him the right to see the boy and he now went back and filed a petition against them for detaining a minor. Secondly, the petition noted that my father was looking for his son who he handed over to the Nigerian Army since 2005. In my 10 years, I could even tell you the number of times I saw my parents. They were taking me from here to there. I even served in Sudan. So, when the lawyer now wrote a petition against them and he copied the National Human Rights Commission, that made them release the boy. They called the lawyer and released the boy to him. He gave them a two-week ultimatum in the petition and they released the boy before the end of the two weeks.
How are your wife and children?
I know that the next people they would harm are my wife and children. So, I took them to an unknown destination.
Do you hope to return home someday?
Nigeria is my nation and I did what I did because of the nation. I am a military officer I should aspire to be a General tomorrow, write defence policies for my country and protect the institutions of national power. I can’t see myself as a military officer who took oath of office only to be destroying the constitution of the land, destroying the most important institutions in the land. I can’t afford to see my country going in that direction. The military all over the world is professional. Military all over the world is apolitical. Military all over the world is non-partisan. Democracy cannot sustain itself without a formidable military backing it and once you politicise it, then there is no need for me being in uniform. I should join a political party. If I go back to my job, be it so but if because of this revelation I can’t go back to my work, that is how God wants it and I know my conscience is clear. The elections have been postponed on the basis of insecurity. Do you think six-weeks is enough to remedy the situation? It can never be enough because the insurgency has grown to a level that you cannot even quantify the fire power the insurgents have. You cannot quantify the kind of support they are having from inside and outside the country. You don’t know the number of men they have recruited and it is insurgency, mark you, it is very difficult battle to fight. And if for six years you cannot put a stop to it, is it in six weeks that you want to do it. Even the Niger Delta disarmament took the military almost a year. I don’t think six weeks will be enough to crush Boko Haram. Is it not the same Boko Haram that was fighting and about 1,070 soldiers were sent to Ekiti State. That is a battalion plus. Is it war? Before I left there were about six battalions and a division in Borno. Each battalion is 1000 soldiers. There are twelve battalions in the Northeast. Yet Boko Haram is still killing people. Is it in six weeks that you will stop that ? On a last note, are you homesick? I miss my family. I have parents. I have a wife and children. I have brothers. I have cousins. Everybody is a Nigerian.
Source: The Nation


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