There are so many offences that could warrant someone going into the bad book of some bad people. These offences may not necessarily be negative in the general overview of issues, bur to the group administering punishment, it could well be.
As a result, when on Saturday, July 16, 2016, the monarch of Iba Town, Oba Yushau Oseni, was kidnapped, a good number of people believed that the action was spontaneous while another cross section agreed that there was nothing spontaneous about the affair, stressing that what happened was a product of series of intrigues involving the monarch and a group of people, culminating in his abduction and unfortunate killing of three other people.
After about three weeks in captivity however, the monarch was voluntarily released by his abductors when about N15 million exchanged hands in ransom. Shortly after however, the press was inundated with the news that the abductors have been arrested, just a few hours after the ransom was paid.
It would be recalled that around 8pm on Saturday, July 16, 2016, as narrated by the wife of the abducted 73-year-old abducted Lagos monarch, Nofisat, over 15 mask-wearing gunmen stormed the town and took the monarch when he was about taking his bath.
She narrated that while six of the kidnappers entered the palace, others stood at strategic locations, including the waterways. This was happening as policeman attached to the palace had closed from duty earlier at 4p.m.
It was gathered that while four of the gunmen took the monarch through the back door, the other two left through the main entrance.
“The oba was about to take his bath when we heard the children in the sitting room shouting. We were both in his room, and we left to caution the children. But we met the gunmen at the entrance of the parlour. They asked him if he was the monarch and he answered in the affirmative. Immediately, they left the children alone and took him. I tried preventing his kidnap, but one of the gunmen hit me in the neck and I fell.”
It was learned that the young wife went after the abductors, begging to spare him. The gunmen shot her and the 60-year-old palace security guard, Mr. Sunday Okanlawon, who was also trying to prevent the kidnap. They took him to join the rest of their colleagues who were waiting at the entrance of the creek in a boat.
According to earlier reports, a resident, who simply identified himself as Biodun, said that while the kidnappers were escaping with the monarch, they shot sporadically to scare people away.
“In the process, bullets hit two residents, a-yet-to-be-identified commercial motorcycle operator and commercial bus driver, Hakeem Lalupon, who was shot in the stomach while refuelling his vehicle, with number plates AGL-658 XL.” Biodun said the okada rider died the following day, while Lalupon is battling for survival. He disclosed that Lalupon was rushed to three hospitals before he was referred to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, Ikeja, where the doctors battled in vain to save him. In the same vein, the ‘young’ wife who was shot in her efforts to rescue the oba has also given up the ghost.
As the search for the monarch seemed to have hit a brick wall one week after, his abductors purportedly explained the reason behind their action through a message in which they demanded a ransom of N500 million before his release. It will be recalled that the 73-year-old monarch was abducted by gunmen, last Saturday, 16th July, 2016 and shot five persons including the wife of the monarch in the process.
The kidnap of the first class oba drew sympathizers from far and wide to the Iba Palace home of the monarch, who continued to throng the residence to console the family and pray for the safe return of the Oba. A palace source who disclosed that the abductors have contacted the family also revealed that they demanded N500 million before he would be released.
The source further claimed that during the conversation the family and the abductors agreed that the monarch will remain unharmed until the ransom is paid. The kidnappers had insisted that the person of the oba as well as the presence of dignitaries including the Deputy Governor, Dr. Idiat Adebule who had visited the family, is a clear testimony that the ransom is affordable.
“They said that the Oba is highly influential in the Governor Akinwunmi Ambode administration and the administration recognises his contribution to the development of the state,” said the source. It was also gathered that the abductors claimed that they abducted the monarch as a warning to the Federal Government and to attract the attention of both the Federal and state governments.
In a related development, one of the monarch’s palace staff was quoted as saying that “the kidnappers during the conversation argued that they could not continue their pipeline vandalism because President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has intensified security around the pipelines, hence, the option of kidnapping,” thereby laying claims that the kidnappers were actually pipeline vandals who see no more future in pipeline vandalism. This therefore brings to question of if there were no kidnappings side by side with pipeline vandalism in the past. It also pointed accusing fingers against the faceless Niger Delta Militants, who were said to have invaded Lagos recently.
However, a close family source had punctured most of the reportage bordering the kidnap and release of the oba, saying that most of the press statements have no correlation to the actual issue on ground. The source, who would not reveal his identity, stressed that the oba could not have been totally innocent as regards the misfortune that befell him, noting that the first class monarch had been variously involved in land matters, many of which are either at the Police level and some at the courts.
“We can confidently say that most of the reasons deduced for the kidnap of the oba could be mere conjecture. The oba, like many other obas, especially in Lagos State, are busy meddling in petty affairs, bordering on land and the ‘omonile’ thing through which they siphon money unnecessarily from people. Presently, there are police cases regarding land matters here and there involving the oba. It is therefore not impossible that bad blood must have been flowing from various corners,” the source said.
The Boss investigation revealed as well that the Monday preceding the weekend kidnap, a bus load of people arrived the Panti Police station where the oba was supposedly billed to be for the settlement of matters bordering on land issues.
While it was alleged that the kidnappers were said to have threatened that it was the beginning of their operation, saying, ‘South-West states should be prepared for more,’ the source hinted that since there was no one who witnessed the phone call, the possibility of full grown propaganda is not ruled out.
“This is a case of giving a dog a bad name, and hanging it. Now, that the oba is back safe, he is in a position to explain exactly what happened to him,” it said.
But, while the whole world waited for the oba to describe his experience, the Police surprised everyone with the news that the kidnappers, who had been at large for three long weeks while the oba was in captivity, had been arrested.
While narrating how the septuagenarian found his way back home, his first son, Prince Saheed Oseni, who confirmed the release, said that the first class traditional ruler was released without the state government’s monetary support though he thanked both the Police and the government for their efforts.
Oseni, who is the Chairman, Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities (SSANU), Lagos State University (LASU) Chapter, said the traditional ruler returned through the waterways around Iba Expressway.
“According to my father, the kidnappers had put him in a canoe and asked him to paddle it to the other side of the river, which he did. On getting to the other side of the road and confirming the location where he was from passers-by, he discovered that he is on Iba expressway and that was how he found his way home,’’ he said.
But in a clear contradiction to the account of the Oba’s family, the Police as well as the Lagos State government, has claimed victory in the safe return of the monarch. According to the Governor Akinwunmi Ambode:
“The arrest of these suspects is a clear warning to criminal elements that we value and cherish our Yoruba tradition and will leave no stone unturned to ensure that it is protected from violation by those who have desecrated our values.”
On his part, the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Fatai Owoseni, said that “We have always reiterated that it is not about whether ransom was paid or not. If it is about ransom, suspect will not be arrested and what I will say is that the pressure by the Lagos Command and the Special Response Team of the Inspector General of Police from Abuja, the combined efforts and pressure paid off and the most important thing is that Kabiyesi is in his palace.”
However, a cross section of respondent have wondered why the ‘kidnappers’ were caught and paraded less than 24 hours after the monarch was released. This is considering the way the monarch purportedly described his released, which was devoid of any form of armed or intelligent rescue operation.
“What baffles me is the speed with which the abductors were caught, and not only that, paraded as well. This is because when suspects are arrested, the Police grills them thoroughly before presenting them to the public as not just suspects but those believed to have perpetrated the so called crime. The matter has to be looked into more,” said a security expert.
“When I even looked at the ‘suspects’; there is something about them that suggests that these people are not capable of asking for N500 million, which was the initial demand,” he added.
It will be recalled that the duo of Toba Foreje and Isaiah Ofodomu were paraded by the Police just a few hours after the monarch was reportedly released as the suspects in the abduction saga. Though the duo admitted to committing the offence, feelers from corners suggest otherwise.
“Has the oba identified the paraded suspects as one of those that participated in his travails, or were they masked. Somebody need to tell us why it was too spontaneous between the time of the oba’s return and the parading of the suspects?” Another respondent asked.
However, a Police source, who confided in the Boss said that the Police had followed events ever since the kidnap of the monarch, and had worked underground, adding that it would not have been easy for the Police to strike or act while the oba was still in captivity. To him, that would have been counter-productive.
“We must understand that the Police had not folded their arms ever since the oba was abducted. And so, they have been working underground, being discreet enough not to do anything to jeopardize the life of the oba. Consequently, when the news of the return was made public, it was easy for them to zero in and make arrests,” the source sad.
While conjectures on conjectures continue to be the other of the day, one thing though is worthy of celebrating, and that is the fact that the oba returned hale and hearty, having learnt one lesson or two.