Posted by News Express | 12 February 2014 | 8,753 times
The recent open letters by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and daughter, Iyabo have touched the raw nerves of Dr. Bisola Clark, wife of elder-statesman, Senator Edwin Clark, bringing back sad memories of the death of her two children inside Iyabo’s car. Adeife (10 years) and Akinola (14) – not Edwin Clark’s children as he had not married Bisola as at that time – were shot dead while riding in Iyabo’s vehicle on April 20, 2003.
In a five-page letter which she released to the press yesterday, Bisola accused Obasanjo and Iyabo of hypocrisy and of insensitivity, alleging that they abandoned her to her fate after the tragic incident. Below, as pieced together from Daily Sun and Vanguard, are excerpts of the letter entitled “General Olusegun Obasanjo and his daughter, Iyabo Obasanjo’s hypocrisy over the death of my children: A response to issues raised in Iyabo Obasanjo’s letter to her father”, as well as Iyabo’s reply:
“My attention has recently been drawn to an open letter written by Iyabo Obasanjo to her father, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, following the former president’s letter to President Jonathan.
“My primary motive for writing this letter is due to the scant regard paid by Miss Iyabo Obasanjo in her recent open letter to her father to my children, Adeife and Akinola, innocent victims amongst others, who paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives in the tragic incident of April 20, 2003. She referred to them very casually as children of an acquaintance and glossed over their identities. Her references to the lives lost and the suffering caused the families were cursory and inadequate at best, considering the impact the accident has had since then on all members of the families involved. Her actions and inactions since then would seem to indicate that she never truly appreciated the gravity of what happened that day.
“Iyabo, in the said letter, made copious references to an incident which has remained etched in my memory over this period of 10 years since my two children, one aged 10 (Adeife) and the other aged 14 (Akinola) were brutally murdered by gunmen in Iyabo Obasanjo’s car as we drove from their ancestral village, Igbogun, several kilometres before Ifo in Ogun State.
“Miss Iyabo Obasanjo had then invited me to a thanksgiving party ostensibly to be held in Igbogun, the Obasanjo’s ancestral village on April 20, 2003 heralding Chief Obasanjo’s victory at the 2003 presidential poll. Strangely enough, the ceremony as advertised, never took place. When we got there on that day, there were not many people present and even the principal celebrant, i.e. Chief Obasanjo himself, was conspicuously absent. It was after waiting in vain for a considerable length of time that Iyabo informed us that the celebrant had inexplicably bypassed Ibogun and had gone straight to his farm in Ota and thereafter suggested that we drive to Chief Obasanjo’s farm in Ota. We then left Ifo for Ota in broad day on that fateful day (20th of April, 2003) approximately one hour away from Ota, the dastardly incident occurred.
“At some point in the journey, Miss Iyabo Obasanjo had suggested that my children should join her car with her police orderly and an elderly member of Iyabo’s family who was travelling with her on that day and her driver, while Iyabo and I drove in the car of my friend who voluntarily came to pick me up to go to Igbogun, because my driver failed to show up on that day. We were approaching towards the outskirts of the town, while heading towards Ota Farm, when suddenly some gunmen presumably jumped out of the bush or from another car which had been trailing Iyabo’s car. I remember vividly that one of the gunmen was wearing a white ‘agbada’ with a tortoise on his chest, they held submachine guns in their hands and surrounded Iyabo’s car which was carrying my two children, Adeife and Akinola. Before we could grasp what was happening, they had opened an intensive gunfire on the car. Iyabo and I made every attempt to go back to save the children but the gunmen turned their guns on us. The summary of this story is that my two children, along with three other occupants of that car were brutally murdered on that nightmarish day.
“I had kept quiet about this incident for all these years but when I read Iyabo’s letter to her father, in which she alluded to the incident, I felt that the time had come for me to break my silence for the sake of posterity.
“On that fateful day, my two children’s lives were taken instead of Iyabo Obasanjo who was the daughter of a sitting President at the time.
“Up till now, justice is yet to be served, ten years after the incident. At the inauguration of the foundation which I established in memory of the children, I recall that no single member of President Obasanjo’s family, not even Iyabo, in whose place my children died, attended the launch of the foundation.
“This was even though the former President had through his Chief of Staff Gen Abdullahi promised to be present at the event.
“In the end, Gen. Obasanjo sent his then Minister of State for Women’s Affairs (Miss Funke Adedoyin). I also vividly recall my mother sorrowfully remarking that the Obasanjos had reduced the death of her grandchildren to a ‘women’s affair’ issue. The theme of setting up the foundation was to immortalize the names of Adeife and Akinola but painfully Gen. Obasanjo and Iyabo never got involved. Quite sadly, they never did anything in this regard and never took part in any of the various activities we organized at that point in time or since then.
“In concluding this letter, I hope and I pray that my intention in writing this letter is not regarded and given any political coloration as has been given other letters, as I even hesitated to pen my grief down, but I persisted after an intensive and passionate consideration of the sorrow caused me by the loss of those who were so dear to me. It is my considered opinion that this is shared by all those who share the memory of the tragic loss of these innocent souls, whom I believe if they come across this letter wherever they are will be contented and fulfilled that this was done in furtherance of their memory and the legacy of love they left behind.”
Responding to the Biola’s heart-rending letter, Iyabo told Vanguard yesterday: “There is no way to compensate Mrs. Bisola Clark for the death of her two children. It is impossible to compensate for the loss of a child albeit two.
“As often alluded to, the loss of a child is the worst emotional pain we as humans can have. I don’t aim to undermine her loss but how does any society help someone deal with the loss of a child.
“I participated as a member of the board of the foundation for the children when it started and contributed funds at the start-up. I was not invited to the formal launch of the foundation and I was not in the country when it occurred.
“The impression I was given was that it was for huge donors to give money and I didn’t have that kind of money to give. The foundation was a family foundation and my interference in its handling was not appreciated which I understood.
“I referred to the incident in my letter because I was and is still a very traumatic incident for me. I am not trying to belittle her pain, which I cannot even claim to be able to fully understand.
“No one has ever told me the motive of the killers but of course I am well aware that if I was in my car that day I will not be alive today. In the history of our country so many senseless deaths have occurred.
“I do believe we need, as a country, to consider this in our actions in trying to make these kinds of loss of life a thing of the past.
“The death of those two wonderful children was one of the reasons I accepted the job to come back to Nigeria and serve in some capacity first in the cabinet of Gbenga Daniel for four years, then as Senator.
“I was living in the US without any plans of moving back to Nigeria when the incidence occurred. My belief was and is that the only way to make this right is to make sure we create a country where such random acts of violence don’t occur and that we work to develop the country.
“I failed in my attempt at that but I am still hopeful that at some point, the insecurity of life of the average Nigerian as it is today will be a thing of the past and we will create a country with adequate education and training for the youth to prevent them falling into mischief and a fair and just criminal justice system that punishes offenders, to deter.
“Dr. Clark and I were not even friends and who knows if we could have been without the incidence. It is now a mute point, that I went on with my life and she went with hers is not strange. We could not force a friendship where there was none.
“Whether the gunmen intended to kill me or were just after the car as some have alluded to (this would be a strange way to steal a car, by putting 50 bullet holes in it) I have resolved will never be known. I don’t know what Mrs Clark will want me to do for her.
“If there is a way to not have those children or anyone else in the car that day, I would go back through time and do it or just even sit in my own car. I was happy to see a picture of her getting married recently on the internet and I wish her the best married life can offer.”
•Photo shows Obasanjo and Iyabo.
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