Former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Farida Waziri, presented her new book to the public in Abuja on Tuesday. I was privileged to have reviewed the book at the occasion.
Being reviewer meant I had read the 224 pages book from cover to cover, and it was a delight to plumb the depths of the very revealing work. The title is Farida Waziri: One Step Ahead. Life As a Spy, Detective and Anti-Graft Czar.
Mind you, by ‘revelations,’ I do not mean who stole what, or how Farida got and threw them into jail. The book is short on naming names, and I pointed it out in the review. But in terms of general information, there’s a lot to chew.
The young Farida was an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) when Lt Col Buka Sukar Dimka carried out the bloody military coup of February 13, 1976. The head of state, Gen Murtala Ramat Mohammed, and many others were killed. Hassana , the wife of Dimka, and Farida were friends. This put the police officer in an awkward position, as the Special Branch of the police, where she worked then, was involved in the investigation of the abortive coup.
“Hassana Burundua was my friend. She was an ex-Police Officer, a former colleague,” the author writes.”I reeled in disbelief, trying to make sense of what I heard, as the voice of Dimka informed listeners that the country once again was caught in the vortex of a military coup.”
Farida met a good number of the officers indicted for the coup, as they were kept at the detention facility of the Special Branch. By a quirk of fate, she was also at the Bar Beach on the day they were executed.
When she saw the gruesome sight of mangled flesh, “I took to my heels. ..It was a terrible sight. I ran home, straight to my bedroom. Months after, I couldn’t bear the sight of raw meat, let alone tasting it. The picture of the execution was fresh in my memory.”
Dimka, the arrowhead of the coup was not part of those initially executed. He had vanished into the thin air when the coup was quashed, and wasn’t arrested till three weeks later.
Farida writes: “Lt Col Dimka remained an enigma of sorts. The inconsistencies in his character gave rise to speculations about his state of mind and his real motivation for the bloody coup. His wife Hassana gave me a first-hand account of the grisly business of February 13.
“This was what she told me. She woke up in the morning to see some soldiers trooping into the garden behind their house in an unusual way. They claimed they came there to wait for Oga-the boss. She asked what was going on, and one of the officers replied: ‘You don’t know? Go listen to the radio.’
“She was shocked to hear the unmistakable voice of her husband broadcasting a coup. Knowing the consequences, Hassana broke into tears. Dimka came in later and asked for water to drink. She asked him what happened, but Dimka was mute. She asked for her four children. He told her they were on holiday with Maria, who was later found to be his girlfriend. Thereafter, he hurriedly picked a few things and ran out of the house, just in the nick of time.
“From the window, Hassana saw the movement of soldiers and armored tanks surrounding their house. Then, she heard a voice on the megaphone, cautioning, ‘don’t shoot until I say so.’ She cowered Inside the room when the megaphone blasted: ‘If you are inside, come out with your hands on your head.’ She stepped out and was handcuffed and taken away.”
That was the first coup experience. Another was to come in 1995, under the Sani Abacha regime, and it involved bigwigs like former head of state, Gen Olusegun Obasanjo, his deputy, Major General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, Col Lawan Gwadabe, Col Bello Fadile, and many others.
Farida was Commissioner of Police B Operations, and she was appointed into the legal team that was to work with the Special Investigation Panel (SIP). These are her comments about the major dramatis personae:
Colonel Frank Omenka was the Chief interrogator. “He enjoyed the misery he inflicted on suspects. I hold the conviction that he was a full-blown psychopath. He had a record player in his office. After a vigorous interrogation session during which he was in a good mood, he’d go to his office and dance to loud Makossa music. If you happened to come into his office at that time, he would invite you to dance with him. I always declined.”
Of Col Gwadabe, she recalls: “He was a fine and outstanding Officer, a brave man who showed no fear despite his ordeal at the hands of his interrogators. For some unfounded reasons, his interrogators had the conviction that he was involved in the coup plot, and they were determined to break him and extract a confession out of him by any means. Though held in the premises, he was he was frequently taken out to undisclosed location for torture. On one occasion, he was taken out early in the morning. They brought him back the following morning a complete wreck, unable to walk. Upon orders from above, he was sent to undergo physiotherapy before next interrogation could begin. On another occasion, they administered the so-called ‘truth pills’ on him and the drug triggered a cardiac arrest that left Gwadabe unconscious and threw his interrogators into a panic.”
Of Major General Yar’Adua, she recalls: “He was brought in looking unsettled. I studied him through the one-way glass window. He sat quietly in his room, nervous and chain-smoking, wracked intermittently by fits of cough. When I had the opportunity, I entered the room and politely said to him, ‘Sir, why are you doing this to yourself? It seems smoking is not good for your health.’ He gave me a wry look. ‘If you were in my shoes, what would you do?’ he asked. ‘If I were in your shoes, I would be praying,’ I responded.
Obasanjo, on his part, she says was unruffled. ”Calm and composed, he exuded an air of quiet dignity and confidence. I found his reaction intriguing. He endured the interrogation with the same character with which he entered the premises.”
The submission of the author about the 1995 coup is: there was no coup. It was phantom, a cock and bull story.
Farida Waziri eventually became Chairman of the EFCC. It was a turbulent ride. While President Yar’Adua who appointed her backed her all the way, the same could not be said of his successor, who eventually removed her. The drama that led to the sack, while she was investigating sleaze in the oil industry, is chronicled in the book.
A good read, no doubt. The book effectively tells the life story of Farida Waziri, along with her exploits as an undercover cop, detective, wife, mother, and anti-graft czar.
— Femi Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity