George Akinyemi Iwilade, fondly called Afrika, 21-year old 400-Level Law student, who was then the General Secretary of the Students’ Union Government (SUG), Eviano Ekeimu, 400-Level Medicine, Yemi Ajiteru, an extra year student, Babatunde Oke, 100-Level Philosophy, and Godfrey Ekpede, were killed in Blocks 5 and 8 of Awolowo Hall on July 10, 1999.
They were shot dead in Blocks 5 and 8 of Awolowo Hall of the university allegedly by members of Black Axe Confraternity, alleged to have been sponsored by the then university vice chancellor, Prof Wale Omole.
Prof. Omole was accused by students of aiding campus cultism, alleging he did not show seriousness in fighting the menace; but that, rather, it was commonplace for cultists caught by students to get their way back to the university without reprimand.
Even though he denied the allegations several times, Prof Omole was relieved of his appointment on the recommendation of a panel of enquiry set up by the federal government through the Ministry of Education then headed by Tunde Adeniran, a professor.
One of those who believed in Mr Omole’s complicity is the then Students’ Union president, Lanre Adeleke. A survivor of the attack himself, Lanre Legacy as he was fondly called then on campus, said victory lies in justice. Like Mr Adeleke, Tayo Iwilade, a lawyer and brother of one of the victims, also yearns for justice for his brother.
Several days later on the 18th July 1999 Prof. Roger Makanjuola was appointed Vice Chacellor and as replacement to Professor Wale Omole. He promised the students of Obafemi Awolowo University he would do everything in his power to bring the perpetrators to justice. Firstly he visited the Commissioner of Police, Mr. J.C. Nwoye, in Osogbo who raised the issue that the university still hadn’t officially reported the murders despite what he said had been repeated requests. Prof. Roger Makanjuola summarily wrote and submitted the required paperwork officially reporting the murders.
About 20 years after, their blood has continued to water the flower of freedom on the campus.
The unsuspecting Mr Iwilade was said to have led the parade of nine members of the Black Axe Confraternity that same year.
A parade on OAU campus is a shaming act of taking culprits round the campus as a deterrence. It is mostly done to cultists, thieves and others who have committed grave offences against university rules.
The paraded cultists were Evimori Kester, Dele Aromoloye, Larry Obichie, Uche Obichie, Ikechukwu Mordi, Mayowa Adegoke, Olakanmi Ogundele, Bruno Arinze and Lanre Ajayi. Four months after the parade, suspected cultists launched a reprisal attack on OAU campus.
“The apprehended cultists (alleged) that they were sponsored by the then University Managements led by Prof. Wale Omole”, Mr. Adeleke, who escaped being killed by jumping from the third floor of Block 8 of the Obafemi Awolowo Hall where his room was, told the reporters.
The attack was carried out in the wee hours of the fateful day. The late George, it was gathered, had returned to his room 273, Block 8 in Awolowo Hall after a ceremony at Awo café around 4:15 am. Thirty minutes later, the assailants, led by a student from another university, struck, using machete to leave a deep cut on George’s head before shooting him in the forehead.
The second victim, Yemi, was asleep when he was shot in the stomach. He died instantly. The killing of other victims was no less gruesome as they were attacked on different locations of the campus before the assailants took to their heels.
AN ACCOUNT OF THE MASSACRE ACCORDING TO PROF. ROGER MAKANJUOLA
Prof. Roger Makanjuola gives the order of events as been:
“They first entered Room 184, where they shot and killed Efe Ekede, a Part II Psychology student. In Room 230, they shot Charles Ita, a Part II Law student. A group of the attackers then shot Yemi Ajiteru, a Part II Religious Studies student, through the head in the corridor outside the Kegites’ headquarters. In Room 273, they found George Iwilade (Afrika), the Secretary-General of the Students’ Union and a Law student, and shot him through the head, along with another occupant, Tunde Oke, a Part 1 student of Philosophy, who was shot in the abdomen. When the attackers got to Room 271, the room allocated to the suspended Students’ Union President, Lanre Adeleke (Legacy), they found that he had escaped. Legacy was in his room when he heard the first gun shots….. The band of thugs proceeded to Fajuyi Hall on foot, where they shot and killed one more student. That individual, Eviano Ekelemo, a medical student, was certainly not a student activist, but they shot him anyway.”. However the order in which the victims were killed varies in various testimonies by a number of witnesses.
Prof. Roger Makanjuola’s account of the cultist’s escape is:
“The murderers left Fajuyi Hall on foot and went through the bush path behind the Hall back to their vehicles. They drove to the Students’ Union building, which they ransacked. They returned to their vehicles and drove out of the University through the main gate. The security staff, having heard gunfire, fled for their lives. Thus the exit of the marauding thugs was unchallenged.”
“President Adeleke presided over an assembly in the enormous amphitheater of Oduduwa Hall; he demanded the immediate resignation of Wole Omole, the loathed vice chancellor who impeded student efforts to eliminate cults (Omole, for example, failed to expel the previously apprehended eight cultists). An award of 10,000 naira ($100 U.S.) was offered for Omole’s capture and hundreds of students occupied the administration building, refusing to leave until Omole was fired.”
Prof. Roger Makanjuola writes of what followed the massacre:
“In the aftermath of the attack, the whole university was enveloped in fear and there was chaos in the halls of residence. However, within a short time, the President of the Students’ Union, Lanre Adeleke, was able to restore order and mobilise his colleagues. The students went to the town searching for the perpetrators in locations where cult members were thought to be living. They “arrested” three individuals and brought them back to Awolowo Hall. These were Aisekhaghe Aikhile, a Part I student of Agricultural Economics, Emeka Ojuagu, and Frank Idahosa (Efosa). Efosa and Ojuagu were arrested in a public transport vehicle that was about to leave Ife.
The students exhibited black clothing, two berets and two T-shirts, that had been found in Ojuagu’s bag, which was claimed to be the uniform. Efosa was a known member of the . He had been expelled from the University of Benin and was later admitted for a diploma programme in Local Government Studies in Ife. The three of them were savagely beaten and tortured in the Awolowo Hall “Coffee Room”, the traditional venue for such events. The inverted commas have been employed because coffee had not been known to be served there for many years. Efosa and Oguagu are said to have confessed to participating in the attacks during their “interrogation”, and Efosa is said to have gone further to state that the attack was organised to avenge the humiliating treatment of the members who had been arrested in Mr. Mekoma’s house on 7 March.
In the course of the interrogation, Aisekhaghe Aikhile died, and his body was taken to the hospital mortuary. The interrogations also yielded the information that 22 members were involved, six from the University, four from the University of Lagos, four from the University of Ibadan, and eight from the University of Calabar. There was also a separate claim that more students from the University of Benin were also involved.
The VC, Professor Wale Omole, had been out of the country on 10 July 1999, the day of the attack and in his absence, the Deputy VC (Academic), Professor A.E. Akingbohungbe, was in charge. Soon after his arrival, the VC was summoned to Abuja to give a report of the incident the day after he returned to campus. On 14 July, his suspension was announced by the Government.”
THE ARREST AND TRIAL
The following day, the cultists were apprehended through the effort of an informant, a commercial driver, who drove them to a hotel at Ile-Ife after the attack. The cultists confessed to the crime and claimed their sponsor was an insider in the university.
The then Vice-Chancellor, Prof Wale Omole, was relieved of his appointment after a recommendation by a panel of enquiry headed by Prof Tunde Adeniran set up by the Federal Government.
Despite the fact the judicial enquiry under the administration of Olusegun Obasanjo asked that the VC be tried, no government has made effort. No government has the morals.
The Bursar at that panel of enquiry confirmed what one of the cultists said; that they were given over N300,000 two days before the incident to buy ammunition for security reasons. It was established. The money was given to them on July 8 through one Kazeem Bello who was not even a student of Ife but a student of UNILAG. They arrested Kazeem then and he made confession.
Mr Adeleke said despite evidence of identification by a witness who claimed to have seen Mr Idahosa, one of the suspects, with arms on the morning of the murder, and the confession of Kazeem Bello, the court held that he had no case to answer.
However, many are still bent on getting justice for the deceased.
On October 29, 2002, a state high court discharged the accused because the prosecutor could not prove their culpability beyond reasonable doubts.
The students were reportedly killed because of the anti-cultism crusade they championed on campus. Before their death, the victims publicly disgraced top nine members of the Black Axe confraternity in March 1999, who were arrested at the university quarters. The cultists’ colleagues from other campuses launched an attack on the students on July 10, which coincided with the Kegites Day.
On July 20, the remains of the slain students were interred at the university cemetery. Thousands of mourners including lecturers, parents, journalists, market women and students attended the funeral. A philanthropist donated coffins for the burial.
As a mark of honour, the victims are remembered every July 10.
In the absence of the Students Union, the Kegites’ Club in conjunction with Students’ Security Committee, Man O’ War and other students’ movements, held a rally to commemorate the murder of the students penultimate Wednesday.
At 7pm, the Anglo-Moz Car Park hosted the regular students, who did not go on semester break. Candidates, who came to write entrance examination, watch in awe as a procession of students moved round the campus amid drama and chanting of solidarity songs.
A massive crown gathered on Sports Centre field chanting:
Oro nla le da, eh eh oro nla le da (great loss you’ve bestow on us)
eyin te pomo wa te je o dagba (those who killed our children, devoid of growing old)
oro nla le da (great loss you have caused)
The remembrance kicked-off with melodious songs by the Kegites’ members. The Man O’ War cadets also thrilled the crowd with their paramilitary stunts around a bonfire.
The event took a different turn at 8:30pm during the candle-light procession. The students, who were initially lively, became moody as they moved from the Anglo-Moz car park to the Students’ Union Building (SUB), which they took as a symbol of resistance against cultism.
The crowd moved slowly through the school’s health centre to the stretch which connects Halls of Residence. Notable student-activists and personalities that graced the event included Hassan Taiwo, National Coordinator, Education Rights Campaign (ERC), Oluwatobi Sofowora, a Botany graduate, Kingsley Ogunne, Wale Owolabi, Aderemi Ojekunle, President, Association of Campus Journalists (ACJ), OAU chapter. They all extolled the doggedness of the slain “comrades”, while urging their colleagues to keep the spirit alive.
DENIAL OF JUSTICE
For the family and friends of the late Mr Iwilade, the then Secretary General and one of the victims, the long wait for justice continues.
The victim’s brother, Tayo Iwilade, a legal practitioner and rights activist, said that the pursuit of justice is never over until justice is served and seen to have been served, no matter how long it takes.
“In 1999, the family presented a detailed memorandum to the Judicial Commission of Enquiry set up by the then federal government. Our father personally presented and gave oral testimony to support the memorandum before the commission. Unfortunately, all that we saw were mere recommendations which the government that set up the commission did absolutely nothing about.
“There were more than enough information and pointers to assist the authorities track and bring every single one of the criminals that assassinated sleeping students on that night at Ife to justice; but as with everything wrong with Nigeria, the then authorities never bothered.”
Mr. Iwilade said the family also monitored the criminal trial of three of the suspects, which ended in “circumstances we consider strange to date.”
When Mr Iwilade was asked if his family still has trust in the judicial system on the matter, he spoke on how the system has betrayed his brother and other victims.
“The answer to that is blowing in the wind. Our judicial system has a whole lot of growing-up to do to be able to really meet the aspirations of the society; and to be able to recognise and deliver what true justice really is. However, it’s important that we know that courtroom criminal trials are just a subset, though a very critical one, of the administration of criminal justice system. Among others, there are the investigative and prosecutorial arms of this system which the judicial arm has almost no control over.
“In the case of the July 10, 1999 Ife assassinations, a key question you want to ask is whether the investigative arm of the criminal justice system have delivered well on its duty towards the search for justice? Obviously, it hasn’t.
“Or how else do you explain that over 30 to 40 band of criminals invaded a university and shot down defenceless sleeping students for well about or over an hour, yet society hasn’t been presented with a list of who these criminals are? Thereafter, the same band of criminals drove out of the university unchallenged. More than enough leads and pointers to who the marauders were have been supplied to the authorities yet those responsible for investigations when such dastardly crimes occurred appear to have left the victims to their fate.
“Difficult as it is, as investigative journalists, you may wish to find out why the few trials ended in strange circumstances so the public can appreciate how clumsy the road to justice for the defenceless citizens killed on OAU campus on July 10, 1999 has been. But we will get there.”
“Afrika fought for a just cause before he was murdered. We should not take this sacrifice for a ride but be quick to point out injustice and always stand for what is right,” Oluwatobi urged the students.
Kingsley, a former Assistant General Secretary of the SUG, explained how Afrika went to classes as a Law student in native attires, ignoring the white and black legal uniform made compulsory for Law students.
A former student, Oluwaloseyi Babaeko, urged the Inspector-General of Police, Muhammed Abubakar, to re-open the case to ensure justice is done to the slain students.
Their killers are roaming free today, enjoying fresh breath while the victims lay cold, deep in the ground. Will there ever be justice for the “OAU 5”, Will there ever be closure from the past for the parents and relatives of these martyrs?
Time will tell!
By Johnson Okunade
I’m a Writer, Humanitarian, Historian, Computer Scientist, Lifestyle/Travel Blogger, Web Developer, Web Content Creator, Culture Activist, Proudly Bowenian, and a friend-to-all. Feel Free to Contact me.
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