Deji Adeyanju has released an audio clip which he said exposed disgraceful collusion between Charly Boy and the Nigerian government, the same authority he blames for his ongoing ordeal as a murder suspect.
A short audio clip obtained by Sahara Reporters appeared to carry a furious discussion between Mr Adeyanju and Charly Boy —whose real name is Charles Oputa — during which Charly Boy seemingly corroborated suspicion that he had been in touch with Festus Keyamo while Mr Adeyanju was locked away in Kano over a homicide probe that was concluded in 2009.
Charly Boy could also be heard suggesting that he received financial support from Mr Keyamo while Mr Adeyanju was in custody, but swiftly added that there was no sinister background to the gift. Mr Adeyanju said the money was paid to Charly Boy to attack Atiku Abubakar ahead of the presidential election.
When the audio was recorded could not be learned Thursday morning, but the encounter seemed to have taken place at Charly Boy’s residence in Abuja. It followed a week of confusion about the future of Mr Adeyanju’s friendship with Charly Boy after the political activist tweeted on March 13 that he was severing ties with the sexagenarian due to multiple acts of betrayal.
Mr Adeyanju was released from prison on March 1, after spending 78 days behind bars on a murder claim that rights activists said marked a fresh low in the deployment of state resources to stifle activism and general dissent.
Mr Adeyanju had worked closely with Charly Boy to propel ‘Concerned Nigerians’ and ‘OurMumuDonDo’ as some of the most visible community organising entities around the Nigerian capital. Both groups shot into the limelight in 2017, after President Buhari’s extended medical vacation in England became a trending cause for national concern.
Together, they held several rallies to highlight government shortcomings in human rights, anti-corruption, accountability, transparency and other critical issues of civic space.
Both activists, alongside some of their fellow marchers, are known to have been arrested together and summarily released by the police in Abuja, who often treat them as irritants rather than critical components of a broadening civil society. Although many had reservations about the approach and intention of the activists, they were generally seen as united and coordinated.
A concealed fissure laid bare
But what unfolded following a rash of detentions which saw Mr Adeyanju spend all but one week as a free man between November 28 and March 1 appeared to cast the activists’ general public approval as a facade.
After Mr Adeyanju was arrested and rearrested for leading a protest against growing indications of bias amongst security chiefs, he was finally picked up on December 13 on a more serious allegation of murder, which he said was calculated to send him months behind bars.
Even though the matter for which Mr Adeyanju was arrested had been concluded by a competent court since 2009, he was transported to Kano after spending five days in Abuja without trial. He was arraigned before a chief magistrate in Kano, who admitted lacking jurisdiction to try homicide cases but nonetheless handed the activist an extended time in remand at Kano Central Prison.
As a campaign for Mr Adeyanju’s release intensified amongst his associates across the country, Charly Boy was notably missing.
PREMIUM TIMES has now been told by members of the movement that Charly Boy’s decision to stay away was deliberate. For one, Charly Boy, 67 and leader of the pack, was accused of shirking accountability in his handling of finances of the agitators.
They said Charly Boy allegedly mismanaged a huge grant that came from a prominent international development foundation. The group’s members told PREMIUM TIMES they preferred keeping the funders’ name away from the media to avoid undue ridicule from the public, but this newspaper learnt that the funding was approved to enhance the group’s activities.
Prior to his prolonged incarceration, Mr Adeyanju was amongst the top-level members who mounted pressure on Charly Boy to be more transparent and accountable in his handling of the fund, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
When asked why he was reluctant to call for Mr Adeyanju’s release, Charly Boy was said to have complained bitterly about Mr Adeyanju’s conduct towards him but said he would open a back channel to communicate with government officials and demand for Mr Adeyanju’s release.
It was through the channel that Mr Keyamo was contacted by Charly Boy, and the pair later met to discuss the matter.
Mr Keyamo himself had faced criticism from Mr Adeyanju’s supporters on social media for not maximising his role as a spokesperson for President Buhari’s re-election campaign to mount pressure on the police to free Mr Adeyanju. Mr Keyamo informed PREMIUM TIMES the night of Mr Adeyanju’s arrest on December 13 that he represented him in the murder trial during which Mr Adeyanju spent four years in remand from 2005 until 2009.
The senior lawyer said the police did not appeal the Kano State High Court verdict at the time because they were satisfied that Mr Adeyanju was indeed not involved in the killing as the prosecutor alleged.
But his silence afterwards placed Mr Adeyanju’s friends on the edge, with many of them suggesting that Mr Keyamo colluded with the police to deprive the activist of his freedom to bolster the ruling party’s chances at the looming presidential poll.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that Mr Keyamo described the attacks from Mr Adeyanju’s friends as ” a blackmail” during a discussion with Charly Boy and urged him to call his men to order.
“Charly Boy then confronted us later and asked us why we were blackmailing Festus Keyamo online,” one of the group’s members said. “It was a shocking statement that we least expected from Charly Boy.”
Subsequently, contacts between Charly Boy and other members of the group deteriorated and the 67-year-old was kept out of further efforts to free Mr Adeyanju.
Mr Adeyanju was briefed of Charly Boy’s activities while still in prison, but he was unable to do much about it.
“It was when he got out that he started gathering evidence of Charly Boy’s betrayal of the movement and its ideology,” another source said. “He confronted Charly Boy and he admitted that he was indeed in touch with Festus Keyamo during which money exchanged hands as could be gleaned from the viral audio.”
Mr Adeyanju specifically said Charly Boy collected money to feature in a video excoriating Mr Abubakar, Mr Buhari’s main challenger, a few days to the election in apparent furtherance of the deal between him and the ruling party.
PREMIUM TIMES could not independently confirm the allegation. Mr Adeyanju was unavailable for comments on Thursday morning.
In response to PREMIUM TIMES’ enquiry, Mr Keyamo said he was uncomfortable publicly discussing what transpired between him and Charly Boy.
“It is too laughable, too infantile, too inconsequential to deserve a response. With respect, there is nothing to which I should respond. I only join issues publicly on national issues, not on private issues.
“You can only question people about such alleged or purported transactions when they involve public officers or opposition political parties. I really have better things on which to spend my precious time than respond to whether I actually helped a friend of mine who purportedly solicited my private support (that is assuming 1. it ever happened at all and 2. assuming there is anywhere anyone admitted even giving or receiving money and 3. assuming the purported recording is real or is not playacting).
“Both individuals reportedly quarreling are my long-time friends and very close friends, so I have a duty to reconcile them privately,” Mr Keyamo said.
Charly Boy told PREMIUM TIMES he would not comment immediately by telephone but would call a press briefing later to defend himself against the allegations and present facts that would exonerate him and indict Mr Adeyanju as the villain.
Quelling the rage
Multiple sources within the movement told PREMIUM TIMES Thursday morning that the fallout, while it could not have been entirely avoided, could have been mitigated had Mr Adeyanju not been detained.
“It was the arrest and long time that Mr Adeyanju spent in prison that aggravated the disagreement over the funding for our group,” a source said.
“But let me also admit that it might be difficult to entirely prevent the matter from breaking out even without the detention aspect.”
In the meantime, Ariyo-Dare Atoye, an activist with close ties to the embattled pair, admitted that serious damage had already been done, but said efforts had commenced to prevent the fallout from worsening.
“I want to urge Charly Boy and Deji Adeyanju to sheath their swords on the raging controversy and allow well-meaning Nigerians who have intervened to settle things,” Mr Atoye said in a statement to PREMIUM TIMES. “The damage is done but there is still much to fight for in terms of public confidence.”
“I am distraught about what is going on, but hopefully it can help correct ourselves as individuals. Nothing is hidden forever so we much live each day very well,” Mr Atoye said, urging Nigerians to disregard the “ongoing setback” and remain confident about the good intentions of the movement.