(Published In THE PUNCH Newspapers of Monday 25th June, 2018)
A thin white smoke swirled through the muzzle of the gun and the pregnant woman crashed face down, curling up like a beheaded giant millipede. One of the masked killers rushed into the banking hall and commotion preceded the ensuing graveyard silence as spines shivered, teeth gnashed, hearts skipped, sweat broke out on terrified faces tucked in trashcans and drawers…, the maniacal robber pulled the trigger and the automatic rifle began to sing another round of staccato dirge in Offa. Welcome to Kwara State, the land of blood.
Offa is an Ibolo-speaking Yoruba town of Kwara State steeped in the art of wrestling. If Ede had the great archer, Timi Agbale Olofa Ina, as its progenitor, Offa’s illustrious cognomen also affirms the proud archery exploits of its forefather, Olalomi Olofa gan-gan. It equally highlights the combative nature of its people in these words, ‘Ijakadi loro Offa,’ meaning – ‘wrestling is Offa’s tradition’. Were Olalomi a white man, his surname would have been Archer. Were Offa an English town, Arrow would’ve been its name. Offa is a Yoruba word for archery. That was the Ofa of 1000 AD.
Today’s Offa is an adulteration, its spelling, O-f-f-a, is corrupt and very wrong. Linguistically, the existence of two consonants in succession i.e ‘ff’ or ‘tt’ or ‘dd’ or ‘rr’ in some words is an aberration to Yoruba morphology. Thus, Offa, Ebute Metta, Iddo, garri, etc, are modern-day wrong influences in the Yoruba Language. The correct and orthographic spelling of the land of peacocks in Kwara State is ‘Ofa’ and not Offa.
Similarly, the railway terminus on sand-filled Lagos Island is at ‘Ido’ and not Iddo. Ebute Meta is the place of three shores linking mainland Lagos to the three main islands of Victoria, Ikoyi and Lagos – hence the name Ebute Meta, and not Ebute Metta. Yoruba’s staple food, gari, doesn’t need another letter ‘r’ on its journey to the stomach. Ewedu, gbegiri, eja, bokoto, ponmo, panla and saki would make good enough company. So, it’s not only rain and electricity that cannot exist simultaneously in Nigeria, double consonants such as ‘ff’, ‘tt’, ‘dd’ and ‘rr’ cannot exist simultaneously in the Yoruba Language, too.
Corruption, violence and impunity shouldn’t coexist in Nigerian politics. The unexampled Ofa bank robbery, which witnessed the killing of over 40 innocent Nigerians in broad daylight, was a spinoff of years of rudderless, corrupt and insensitive leadership in the country. I’ve read a thousand and one stories and reactions on the early morning madness in Ofa and grief enveloped my heart over the soullessness of our politics. In a country with a soul, a national mourning would have followed.
On October 1, last year, a 64-year-old American, Stephen Paddock, opened fire from the 32nd floor of a hotel in Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, killing 59 people in a crowd attending a country music festival. There was an instant national mourning and the attention of America shifted to the scene for several weeks to come. A blow-by-blow account of how Paddock hatched his killing was televised live daily. The police gave an accurate figure of the dead and the injured 515 persons in the most fatal mass killing in the history of the US. According to media reports, one of the Ofa suspects confessed that he killed over 20 victims. Another suspect said he killed nine, while a number of others confessed to killing over 15 people. How all these add up to 30 in the arithmetic of the police is inexplicable. While, the spurting blood of innocent lives meandered from Ofa to Abuja crying for justice, our leaders dip their paintbrushes in the blood, writing “Vote for me in 2019!”
Were Nigeria a sane country, the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, wouldn’t have twice failed to parade Kayode, the arrested son of Chief Ayo Opadokun, an Afenifere chieftain, along with other suspects. Also, Idris wouldn’t have failed to parade the arrested armourer and gang leader, Michael Adikwu, a dismissed policeman, whose confessions had allegedly been embarrassing to the force.
It’s not enough for the Kwara State Commissioner of Police, Aminu Saleh, to say that many people died in the robbery because of “intelligence breakdown”; Nigerians reserve the right to know the nature of the intelligence breakdown because effective policing in this age is neither achieved by alienating the public nor by churning out half-truths and falsehood. In a report published by The Punch on April 28, 2018, Saleh, who said the police had no foreknowledge of the attack, contradictorily added, “We had little information on the attack before it happened.” He woefully failed to disclose what the police did with the little information they got.
The shoddy police investigation into the robbery has left many questions unanswered. The questions include what the Ofa police did when it received ‘little’ information that some suspicious people were lodging at the Xontex Hotel along Igosun Road, Ofa, a night before the bloodletting. In a sane clime, police authorities would’ve made public the amount of money collected by the policemen, who stormed the hotel on investigation, the night before the genocide. As if those who died only went to the market and would return shortly, the police commissioner said, “What essentially went wrong is our response capacity. We’re going to correct all those anomalies and get our men to be more responsive.” In an ultimate verdict that exposes government’s utmost irresponsibility, Saleh said, “It’s true that we have a deficit of APCs in the state!”
But it’s by conducting a thorough investigation that the police will be seen as unbiased and not acting a nail-Saraki-at-all-cost plot. The trial shouldn’t be an extension of the power struggle between Buhari and Saraki for the Presidency in 2019.
In a sane country, Senate President, Bukola Saraki; Kwara State Governor, Ahmed Abdulfatah; his Chief of Staff, Abdulwahab Babatunde, would’ve resigned in ignominy for the fact that one of the leaders of the gang, Ayo Akinnibosun, openly established a connection between his group, Liberation Youths Movement in Kwara-South, and them. Akinnibosun, who stated that Saraki, Abdulfatah and Babatunde had no hand in the robbery, however, maintained that his group got two guns from Babatunde. He stressed that they got emboldened to participate in the robbery because some of them were political thugs to Saraki.
Akinnibosun said, “We’ve been working for him (since) when we were in the PDP, it has been long – when he was Governor of Kwara State. Where we can’t win, we scatter the election, the connection between me and the Senate President is that he’s the one that’s arranging everything for us. For example, this car was given to me by His Excellency (Abdulfatah) through the Chief of Staff as a gift from the leader, (Saraki).”
If a five-point resolution of the Saraki-led Senate could hold President Muhammadu Buhari accountable for the actions of his (Buhari’s) appointees, the Senate President, Abdulfatah and Babatunde, by the same token, should be held responsible for the killings of the Ofa robbery if it is proved that the arms or the ammunition they allegedly provided were used in the killing.
It is easy for some people to see the trial of Saraki as political victimisation because it wasn’t their relatives that were killed on Thursday, April 5, 2018. If it would take Saraki’s trial and imprisonment to stop this type of killings, so be it. With the recent jailing of two-term ex-governors and members of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Jolly Nyame (Taraba) and Joshua Dariye (Plateau), more members of the APC, including Abdulfatah and Babatunde, should be jailed appropriately if found guilty. Some argue that all notable politicians across the country maintain political thugs, and that Saraki and Abdulfatah shouldn’t be singled out. I ask, were Dariye and Nyame the only thieving ex-governors in Nigeria? Let’s begin from somewhere, please.
“The dead cannot cry out for justice. It’s the duty of the living to do so for them,” says American speculative writer, Lois Bujold. I agree with her, absolutely.
Tunde Odesola is a former Journalist with the PUNCH and writes from the United States. He can be reached on [email protected]