Bola Ige: Remembering One of Nigeria's Greatest Lawyers and Statesmen 20 Years after His Murder

Bola Ige: Remembering One of Nigeria's Greatest Lawyers and Statesmen 20 Years after His Murder

James Ajibola Idowu Ige was perhaps one of the greatest statesmen to have walked Nigeria's political landscape and bestraddled it like a colossus. Bola Ige, as he was simply known, was everything rolled into one: he was a senior lawyer who rose to the rank of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), a gifted orator who used words with salt, and a good politician.

20 years after he was brutally murdered, Ige has simply refused to be cleaned off the consciousness of many Nigerians.

Bola Ige
Late Chief Bola Ige (SAN) was killed by gunmen 20 years ago at his residence in Ibadan. Credit: Beautiful Nubia & Tofeek Ibrahim Akinloye
Source: Facebook

Bola Ige's early life

Raised in the northern state of Kaduna, Ige rose to prominence through hard work. He patiently climbed the social ladder. Born on September 13, 1930, in Esa Oke in present-day Osun state, he first rose to national prominence when he was appointed the federal commissioner for agriculture in 1967.

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On the return of democracy in 1979, Ige contested for the governorship of the old Oyo state. He won the election under the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). When he sought re-election in 1983, Ige was unsuccessful as he was defeated by Omololu Olunloye.

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The late statesman was hounded into prison by the succeeding military junta after the 1983 elections on allegations of enriching himself as a party man. It was while in prison that Ige began writing his book People, Politics And Politicians of Nigeria: 1940–1979 which was published in 1990. When he was released from prison in 1985, Ige went back to his private legal practice.

It was not until the 4th republic which began in 1999 that Bola Ige returned to serious party politics. It was then that he contested for the presidential ticket of his party, Alliance for Democracy (AD), but he was unsuccessful. He then took up an appointment in the government of then-President Olusegun Obasanjo. He was first appointed the minister of mines and power in 1999, and then later in 2000, he was moved to the Ministry of Justice as Nigeria's Attorney General and minister of justice.

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How Bola Ige was killed in Ibadan

On December 23, 2001, Bola Ige was brutally shot and killed in cold blood in his private residence in Ibadan, Oyo state by armed men. That was exactly 20 years ago. To date, the killers of the former governor of Oyo state are yet to be found and brought to book.

Prior to his brutal murder, Ige was reportedly involved in controversies in his home state of Osun. In one of his interventions on the matter, Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka wrote in his book Interventions published in 2010:

"I stated clearly, at the time of his assassination, that the plan to murder Bola Ige did not begin with the incident at Ooni's palace when Bola was assaulted even as his official security detail went mysteriously missing. I stated that the first public signs of the conspiracy were given in the Osun State House of Assembly where a fracas was engineered for the sole purpose of destabilising that government and taking over the state through thuggery. Bola Ige was not a member of that House of Assembly, but Osun was his state, and the Governor, Bisi Akande was a loyalist of Bola Ige. The stature and influence of the deceased formed an insurmountable impediment to the ruthless planning of the earlier mentioned cabal within the PDP."

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Wole Soyinka went on to reveal that the late Ige spent a full day with him before his assassination.

The senior lawyer's murder remains unresolved as the persons arrested for the crime were later acquitted by the courts. 20 years after he was killed, calls are still on for his killers to be found and put to deserving justice.

This week, Soyinka repeated his call for the government to identify and try the killers of the late lawyer.

Ige's murder has joined a long list of political killings which remain unresolved in Nigeria's history.

List of unresolved murder and political assassinations in Nigeria has previously made a list of unresolved political assassinations in Nigeria. The list includes Bola Ige, Funsho Willians, Kudirat Abiola, Eunice Olawale, and Alex Badeh.

Others are journalist Dele Giwa, Marshal Harry, Lasun Odeleke, Dipo Dina, Barnabas Igwe, and Olaitan Oyerinde. The list also included Godwin Agbroko, Abayomi Ogundeji, and Bayo Ohu.

The murder cases have not made any headway as the killers are yet to be brought to justice.


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