Metamorphosis of ills in our society: Historical excursion and way forward, By Bernard Balogun

Posted by News Express | 29 March 2021 | 909 times

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•Bernard Balogun (BenPino)

 

 

Never worry about those who will be offended if you speak the truth. In fact you should worry about those innocent people who will remain uninformed or misled or deceived and possibly destroyed if you do not BenPino                                                          

This is not an article to defame or bring into disrepute the name of any family in Nigeria or elsewhere. That is not the intention here. The intention of this article is to bring into historical focus the various unhealthy events that culminated into the situation we now find ourselves in Nigeria as regards robbery, Boko Haram terrorism, cattle rustling, kidnapping and, of course, cultism. I am, in a nutshell, trying to live out the four pillars of communication, namely, to inform the people, to educate the people, to enlighten the people and lastly to entertain the people.

In the mid-60s and until recently, cult activities were essentially confined to the university and the polytechnic communities. Cultism was never a threat to the larger society as it is, sadly, today. Kidnapping was a rarity. Cattle rustling and Boko Haram banditry are new entrants to our daily conversation. These engagements were little known during the military era. This is not, however, to suggest that one prefers military era to civilian rule. That will be repulsive to a sound political-minded person.

Highway robbery operations – as it was known in those days, not armed robbery as it is called these days – happened on the highways, hardly in homes or banking premises, etc. This was at a time the society had some element of shame, honesty and decency. The sanctity of family values were proudly protected and promoted. Elders in the community, man or woman, helped to train the child. It was a collective responsibility. That was my experience as a child growing up in the early 60s in an ancient and sprawling town, which early settlers called Ilu koju  (meaning a collection of towns), but which was corruptly pronounced Lokoja by European staffers of UAC and John Holt of old. All of those fine values now belong to the past. Shame, honesty, decency and the cherished family values have all given way to crimes and criminalities. Robbery incident was also a rarity before the Nigerian civil war. If it happened at all, it was far, far apart.

The robbery escapades of Babatunde Folorunsho (alias Baba Oni Lace}, Ishola Oyenusi (also known as Dr Ishola) and Chief Samuel Taiwo Oredein readily come to mind and I will give a brief background.

Babatunde Folorunsho was a notorious highway robber and a hardened criminal who threatened the peace and security of the country in the 1970s with his group of bandits. During his reign of terror, he topped the list of the most-wanted criminals in Nigeria. He was hotly hunted by the police and the local hunters and this man-hunt for Baba Oni Lace did not produce any result. Babatunde Folorunsho seemed invincible. However, one day in 1971, he was arrested while trying to dispossess one Mr Alfred Marshall of his car. Babatunde Folorunsho and his gang’s reign of terror happened shortly after the end of the civil war. He was publicly executed at the bar beach along with his cohorts, namely Joseph OIobo and Williams Alders. Babatunde was reputed to be the first robber to be publicly executed in Nigeria.

Ishola Oyenusi was a Nigerian known for his notoriety as an armed robber in his time, who was criminally active during the 70s. His modus operandi was car-jacking, bank robbery and hold-ups on Lagos roads. After a judicial trial, Oyenusi and six members of his gang were publicly executed at the Lagos bar beach on September 8, 1971. However, a drama occurred during the execution of Ishola Oyenusi; but that is a story for another day, God willing.

Chief Samuel Taiwo Oredein (called simply as ST Oredein) was an Ibadan-based influential and prosperous politician in his days. Chief ST Oredein was a member of the Action Group. Action Group was a political party which held sway in the old Western Region, whose leader was the renowned Chief Obafemi Jeremiah Awolowo, SAN. Media reports had it that ST Oredein spearheaded the robbery that took place at the Bacita Sugar Company in the old Kwara State. During the operation, two foreign workers of the Barclays Bank, the precursor to Union Bank Plc, and two members of the Nigeria Police were injured. One of the injured later died. The robbers made away with a box containing Nigerian pounds belonging to the company. It was at a time the currency of trade in Nigeria was in pounds.

The Commissioner of Police in charge of Kwara State Command then was Sunday Adewusi, a no-nonsense super-cop in his days, who later became the Inspector General of Police during Shagari’s presidency. The Inspector-General of Police at the time was a gentleman called Kam Salem of northern extraction, who ordered that the robbers must be smoked out. CP Adewusi, as he was then known, rose to the occasion. Investigation revealed that some top police officers of the old Oyo State Command based in Ibadan were involved. One of the police men fingered ST Oredein as their ringleader. Oredein vehemently denied this and so did his witnesses too. The witnesses claimed they were with Chief ST Oredein in his hometown in Ogere in present day Ogun State at the time of the robbery.

The case was tried by a newly-appointed brilliant judge by name Honourable Justice Moradeyo Adesiyun, an indigene of Offa in Kwara State. It was a celebrated trial as it generated interest across the country at the time. Permit me to restate that Oredein was already prosperous in business and influential person in the political turf before Awo’s appointment as Federal Commissioner of Finance and member of the Supreme Military Council, an equivalent of today’s Federal Executive Council in Gowon military government. In spite of this, Chief Awolowo kept his distance in the matter, especially during the trial in Kwara State.

The long and short of the trial was that Oredein and his gang were sentenced to life in prison by Justice Adesiyun, who later became, if my memory serves me right, the first High Court Judge in Lokoja judiciary and, consequently, the Chief Judge of Benue State for many years. Justice Adesiyun had since transited to glory.

At that time in history, Appeal Courts had not been established and so the matter was appealed at the Supreme Court. Justice Coker, who heard the appeal, upheld the judgment of the lower court and subsequently dismissed the appeal. In  2019 , one of Chief ST Oredein’s children, by name Dr Babafunmilayo Oredein, granted a press interview and denied emphatically that there was no way their dad, a prosperous man by every definition, could have been an  armed robber, concluding that the robbery case against their father was indeed a vicious political vendetta.

The Babatunde Folorunshola and Ishola Oyenusi trial cases happened, back to back, and ended in 1971 shortly after the painful Nigerian civil war. After this there was respite in the land for some time.

Then in the mid-80s, Lawrence Nomanyagbon Anini, a notorious armed robber, terrorised Benin City and the old Bendel State with his gang of armed robbers. The old Bendel State was made up of the present Edo and Delta states. Anini was a taxi driver before he took to crime and quickly became such a dreaded personality in the crime world. The gang specialised in car-snatching, bus and bank robberies. They operated in Benin and its environs. One Monday Osunbor was Anini’s second-in-command, a ruthless guy during operations. Media reports had it that Anini was on a reprisal onslaught against the police; because one or two police officers in Benin, then, betrayed the mutual agreement they had with him regarding two members of his gang, called Kingsley alias Baba K and Kele. These two robbery members had been arrested and were about to be prosecuted. This ran contrary to the earlier “under-the-table agreement” with the police to destroy evidence against the gang members. This did not happen and that provoked Anini. Anini and his gang’s despicable exploits became an open embarrassment to the military presidency of Gen Ibrahim Babangida. On one occasion after the Armed Forces Ruling Council {AFRC} meeting at Dodan Barracks, IBB rhetorically asked IGP at the time, Etim Inyang, “My friend, where is Anini?” A bewildered Inyang looked askance.

During the trial of Anini and his gang, Anini was confined to a wheelchair. This was because one of his legs was amputated due to gun-shots he received during his arrest. Anini and his gang were tried and sentenced to death by Honourable Justice James Omo-Agege of the Benin High Court. Incidentally, I need to add that Justice James Omo-Agege is the father of current deputy Senate president, Senator Obarisi Ovie Omo-Agege.

After the arrest, trial and execution of Anini and his robbery gang in old Bendel State, there was another round of respite.

Now enter Oluwasina Oluwagbemiga, popularly known as Sina Rambo during his heyday as a robbery kingpin who terrorised the Southwest with his gang in the early 90s. He was a fetish-minded person and believed in rituals and human sacrifices. Media reports had it that Sina Rambo and his gang were involved in snatching of exotic cars on the roads of Lagos and parts of Ogun State. Their activities also included bank robbery. Lagos and part of Sango Ota were held to ransom by the infamous activities of Sina Rambo and his gang. Today, Oluwasina Oluwagbemiga, alias Sina Rambo, is a repentant armed robber and a convert, a born-again Christian. He now bears a new Christian name that extols his current Christian disposition – Matthew Oluwanifemi.

There were other cases of armed robbery but these four actually shook the country to its foundation. The Nigeria Police must be commended for their non-partisanship in handling cases that involved their officers and men in all the cases of armed robbery mentioned in this article. The Nigeria Police, as an institution, had demonstrated a high degree of discipline and responsibility in the manner it dealt with delinquent personnel.

The evolution of Boko Haram in the country is deeply saddening. Founded by one Mohammed Yusuf in 2002, its main goal was to “purify Islam in Northern Nigeria.” The Boko Haram group has been associated with deaths of tens of thousands innocent Nigerians and displaced about 2.3 million from their homes. The group has been known for its brutality, which has given the military high command sleepless nights since the killing of Mohammed Yusuf in 2009. Today, there are many cells of Boko Haram under different field commanders. These cells of Boko Haram are responsible for the regular kidnapping of school children across the northern parts of Nigeria.

CONCLUSION

In my candid opinion, the inability of government to decisively put a stop to the activities of Boko Haram has given birth to cattle rustling in parts of northern Nigeria and rampant kidnapping taking place in parts of North-west, North-east and South-west. The various governments at federal, state and local government levels must show strong political will to confront these ills in the society. It portrays the government as being weak, forever contemplating amnesty to characters who have killed, displaced and, in fact, almost crippled the economy of most states in the country. How do we explain to families whose loved one and bread-winners have been gruesomely murdered or in some other cases kidnapped and raped? What do we tell the families of Leah Sharibu and the Chibok girls? What do we tell the families of Internally Displaced Persons who have been forced into camps across the country?

Amnesty programmes as proposed in some instances by government is like romancing a national issue of calamitous proportion; and that is not the best way to go. It is, indeed, progressing in error. The issue of the #EndSARS protesters ought to indicate to government that there is the urgent need to create purposeful programmes, wealth creation programmes to productively engage young minds and, consequently, mitigate youth restiveness in the country, before frustration will lead them into crime and criminality as we currently experience.

The Federal Government should set up a proactive council that seeks to radically address all issues pertaining to youth restiveness, not just in the Niger Delta but every part of the country. The council should be known as Youth Empowerment Council under the presidency. The composition of the board of the council should be made up of Federal Ministry of Finance, Investment Ministry, Central Bank of Nigeria, a representative from each bank and oil companies operating in Nigeria and, of course, a radio station called Human Rights Radio/Television based in Abuja that has in the last ten years been committed to the empowerment of youths in Nigeria.

This station has gone ahead to establish an integrated “academy where youths are trained and sometimes empowered.” De-radicalisation programmes for the youths in parts of the country that emphasise positive human values as against criminal activities among our youths. In this regard, I respectfully call for the establishment of community radio that will be saddled with responsibility of de-radicalisation programmes, which will be transmitted in local languages where such community radio is established.

The Federal Government should seriously consider the establishment of a State Police. That will go a long way to mitigate crime and criminality in the society.

l leave you with these immortal words of Chief Obafemi Awolowo:

“I do not want the children of my drivers to be drivers to my children;

neither do l want the children of my cooks to be cooks to my children.

Nevertheless, l want free access to education for all children.”

(Historical references in this article, courtesy, Google.)

•Bernard Balogun (BenPino) writes from Abuja and can be reached via 0803,787.9275.


Source: News Express

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