Before Dr. Isola Oyenusi, there were armed robbers. In fact, before he was shot at the Great Bar Beach Show on Saturday, September 8, 1971, not less than 33 armed robbers had been killed. But none among the dead robbers was celebrated as the “Doctor” himself. Not even Babatunde Folorunso, who wore the most expensive lace material to the execution ground on April 21, 1971.
However, the shootings on Saturdays had made the Lagos Bar Beach to become so popular and both young and old, men and their wives, women and their children, the poor and the rich, would always rush down with a pack of food, find a secure place or rent a seat and wait for the day’s process. A lorry would soon arrive with about 20 soldiers; then a Black-Maria, carrying condemned robbers and in the full glare of spectators, the robbers would be tied to the stake.
After they had been tied, the spectators would be watching the mouth of any of the robbers for whatever they did or said at that moment became the bald cliché for the month or months to come. It was while they were on this that a Land-Rover would be driven in with about 12 soldiers. You won’t see their faces, for they would arrive as if in the war front, facing the enemies. But despite the fear their presence represented, the crowd, on seeing them, would burst into a long cheer.
Then an officer would arrive, followed by an Imam and a Pastor. The officer examined the stake, while the clergymen prayed for the repose of the souls of the men about to die. Then everybody moved away, while officer began his rituals. He ordered the soldiers to take position and aim their targets. From him came the last order: Fire! And the guns would boom, the crowd would cheer and jeer and the show would end. It was called the Great Bar Beach Show!
But there was a confusion. The more these robbers were killed, the more their attacks became bloody and fatal. No one was safe and government could not explain why facing the firing squad would not deter the old robbers and their new entrants. And it was difficult then for the military government to know that the civil war was the cause of the surge in armed robbery. Why?
On January 14, 1970, the Nigerian civil war ended at Obodo Ukwu near Owerri, in the present day Imo State. But the end of the war started another internal war: that of the armed robbers. The problem evolved naturally and this was no one’s fault for that matter.
When the war was on, virtually all able bodied men in the East joined the Biafran Army because it was the best patriotic move of the period. When the war was stopped and Biafra returned to the national fold, there emerged a serious problem for its soldiers. Of course, the Federal Government absorbed all its soldiers who fought in the war and distributed them to the barracks but the Biafran soldiers were left on their own, most especially recruits who carried guns, stayed in the battlefield, killed several and witnessed several being killed.
The result was that this group of ex-soldiers started to fend for themselves, using all they learnt during the war. They began to snatch the properties of others and before professors and analysts could draw up a chart to trace the cause and consequence, armed robbery had become so rampant that the military government could not wait for any ‘Don’ to propound a theory. The war ended in January and by May, armed robbery incidents were a daily occurrence, most especially in the Eastern part of Nigeria.
Then the East Central State Government took the initiative. It quickly set up a tribunal in May 1970 and decreed that anyone found guilty of armed robbery in the state would be killed by a firing squad. Some of the robbers immediately burrowed their way into other states of Nigeria and continued their operation.
This prompted the Federal Military Government to follow the path of the East Central State and on August 15, 1970, it decreed that anyone who was convicted of armed robbery anywhere in the country shall face a firing squad. It was announced to be part of the stern measures in the Robbery and Firearms Special Provision Decree No 47 of 1970, enacted by the Federal Government to deal with the storm of robbery throughout the country.
That was how military governors in states started to set up armed robbery tribunals and anyone caught anywhere in Nigeria would definitely be tied to the stake and shot. There was something though, many robbers operating, most especially in the West and Lagos, were not coming from the Army, neither did they fight the civil war. They just chose armed robbery as a carrier. “Dr.” Isola Oyenusi was one of them.
Oyenusi was from Araromi Ilaje, in Okitipupa Local Government Area of Ondo State. His full name was Oluwasegun Olufemi Isola Oyenusi. A son of a fisherman and native doctor, he had been known as a truant from his adolescent age. He lied; he stole and was full of pranks. His mother had died before he was 10 years old and because his father had other wives, he was almost left on his own. As he grew up, those bad characters grew with him, becoming almost a terror in the community, even in his teens.
Then, a cousin of his, who resided in Lagos, came to town and after hearing all ugly tales from different sides about Femi, he took him to Lagos and he became an apprentice mechanic on Lawani Street, Mushin. He quickly grasped the attitudes of his new environment and chose to nurture his budding criminality. While an apprentice mechanic, Femi added pilfering of motor parts to his learning. This developed into small-time burglary and he initiated one or two boys to operate with him; Babatunde Folorunso was one of them, for they worked in the same workshop.
In 1962, at the heart of the Western Region political crisis, Oyenusi joined politics and became one of the strong armed men at Mushin.
It was during the peak of the political crisis that he earned the title ‘doctor’- wetting political opponents with petrol and setting them ablaze or setting homes of political opponents in the then West ablaze. His friends then nicknamed him “doctor” and he, too, chose two of his names, Isola Oyenusi.
It was also during that period that he began to indulge in occultism and black magic. He grew powerful and became a very ruthless man. A source said he was a fast guy on the draw and could hit a bull’s eye even if blindfolded.
On December 18, 1967 when the President of the Customary Court, Chief Victor Ilori, sentenced him to a jail term, he laughed and confided in a colleague that he was not going to serve the term.
True to his word, Oyenusi hatched an escape plan while in the same cell with Babatunde Folorunsho, who was then serving a 16-year jail term for robbery and before the warders knew what was happening, the two men had climbed the wall of the Maximum Security Prison yard and escaped into freedom, leaving behind a splitting headache for the police. His second escape from the same yard under different names.
“Doctor” Oyenusi was re-arrested in an attempt to rob an Army officer of his vehicle at Aborishade Street, Surulere, on April 24, 1968. But luck ran against him as the officer foiled the robbery by firing at Oyenusi on the left thigh.
Back to court again, the “doctor” was sentenced to 10 years jail term for robbery and escaping from lawful custody.
Before the magistrate sentenced him, he had pleaded for leniency, adding: “I did not know that I committed an offence until I found myself in hospital. I drank myself stupid because it was the night of my birthday.” The magistrate wished him happy birthday and sent him back to prison.
Again, Oyenusi was returned to the Kirikiri Prison and later transferred to the Jos Prison from where he escaped again with Babatunde Folorunsho.
Both of them returned to his house at Aderibigbe Street, Surulere, from where he began his terror operation on peace loving citizens of Nigeria.
But the operation that was to spell his Waterloo came on March 26, 1971 and from this day, Oyenusi was gagged and not to be seen in any robbery operation again. On his own volition, he even talked to the police about his life of crime.
Oyenusi had confessed
Yes, I am a robber. I organised 10 armed robbery operations.
“I entered robbery in 1965. I started in February 1965 to be precise. The first operation I did was at Ikorodu Road, near Palm Grove in the house of one European, though we were unable to remove anything from the house. We were five who committed the robbery at that time and the five men are: George Ghana, who is now at Ajegunle; Legba, who is now in prison in Lagos; Henshaw Bassey, now in Lagos and one other black Henshaw.
“We were later freed in the court. I am the one who led the robbery operation at that time.
“Robbery at the Stationery Stores, Apapa, took place in March 1965. This involved the sum of £1,400. The following people joined me to carry out the operation: Willy, who is now in Lagos or Owerri; Patrick Oduduka, who is now dead; Karimu, who was the driver on that day is also in town, and Olu, who is my friend serving terms in the prison now was there. I was the only person arrested and was sentenced to two years imprisonment.
“The robbery operation of £14,000 at Standard Bank of West Africa, Yakubu Gowon Street, Lagos, was by our gang, in May 1967. We were only four who committed the robbery. Myself, Effiong now a soldier, Mr. Lase, who was my brother, he later died after the operation and Mr. Sango of Ilaro, who also died later. The case was not detected at all.
“The robbery in the North was at Maiduguri Rest House and the money found in the rest house was £2,850. We were only two who performed the operation in October 1969.
“One Mr. Amadi was my second in the operation. Two of us, myself and Amadi, shared the money. The case of that Maiduguri Rest House was not detected by the police at all.
“Robbery operation at Casino Hotel, Apapa. I remember the operation was done along Alhaji Masha Street, Surulere. I mistakenly fired at Appolus instead of the owner of the car. We robbed the car and I used the very car to carry Appolus to the house of one Bassey Ekpo, who is friend to Appolus, at Surulere.
“We were only four who wanted to do the robbery operation before but when I shot Appolus he was unable to go for the operation.
“Three of us then went for the operation of the Casino Hotel, Apapa. The people who took part in the robbery were myself, Ezeh and Jimmy, who was our driver.
“The operation was done in the night. I carried my SMG automatic gun with ammunition and I gave Ezeh my rabbit automatic SMG gun to operate. We went to the show and the operation was carried out successfully.
“We carried the money after firing many shots and drove away but unfortunately for us, police were trying to pursue us and we hit our car against an electric pole along Iganmu Road, Ijora.
“We were in a hurry on that day. We carried some of the money and left some with my SMG gun and one pistol in the car.
“We shared the money in the following way: I, the commander, took £1000, Ezeh took £600 and Jimmy took £600.
“I then gave £335 to the following people who brought the business of the robbery: Mr. Appolus, Lucky and Sunday Nweke (alias Olorunsogo) as their own share.
“This operation was also not detected because the people arrested were not the people who committed the robbery.
“Robbery of a car along Sir James Robertson Street, Surulere. This was done by me in January, 1970. Mr. Robinson was the person who told me that he got a friend who could buy a Peugeot car and pay us cash, if I can get a Peugeot car to rob.
“On that day, I had no money. I then promised Robinson that I would go and rob a car. I then told him to meet me at Empire Hotel, Idi-Oro, at about 10 p.m.
“I left for Surulere area. Luckily for me, I got a Peugeot 404 saloon car owned by one black man. I didn’t fire the man at all because he did not resist the release of his car to me.
“Mr. Robinson was at Empire Hotel, Idi-Oro and exactly at 10p.m. I arrived at Empire Hotel. Mr. Robinson carried the car away to one Calabar man who gave him £50. And Robinson gave me the £50.
“They promised to pay the balance of £400 the following day, because it was night and he had no money in the house on that day. Since then, Robinson has been running from me.
“I visited his house at Bariga many times but I didn’t meet him. Robinson didn’t balance the money up till today. The case was not detected by the police at all up till date.
“Car robbery again at the end of Bode Thomas area at Adeniran Ogunsanya Street, Surulere. I was the one who robbed one young man and a lady of their Peugeot car. The boy was said to have just arrived from England, this happened between January and March 1970.
“We were only two in this operation. Myself and Jimmy, my driver, who later went to sell the car at Ijebu-Igbo, his home town. I fired the owner of the car and the girl that was with the man ran into the house before we drove the car away.
“I later read in the papers, that the owner of the car was one Mr. Osisanya and that he died of bullet from my gun on the day of the ‘show’.
“The car was a new model Peugeot 404; the buyer gave us only £80 for it. We organised that car robbery operation that day because I had no cash at hand. The car was later recovered by CID at Ijebu-Igbo where it was sold and Jimmy was arrested and he is now at Ikoyi Prison awaiting trial.
“The last robbery I did in Lagos involved £10,000 at Ikeja WAHUM factory on March 27, 1971. I didn’t know anything about other robberies in Lagos State and my gang members in Lagos are Ogbolumani Henshaw, Ossai, Appolus and Ade, who always drive us.
“The robberies that I did in the Western State are as follows: In November 1970, we carried out a raid at Ibadan on a house along Ring Road where Mr. Suara Sobo was killed by us.
“The robbery operation was in the night and the people who took part in it were myself, George Ghana now in Lagos, Femi, also in Lagos, Balewa now in Ibadan at Omitowoju Compound at Inalende, Lati, who is now in custody at Agodi Prisons Ibadan, Down Bloker an ex-soldier now in police custody in Kwara State for the robbery of £20,000 that happened in that state.
“Balewa was the person who brought the business of this very robbery. He told us that Mr. Suara Sobo had about £50,000 in his house on that day but unfortunately, we didn’t take any money away from the house, but Mr. Suara Sobo was fired by us and he died immediately.
“This case was not detected because police arrested the wrong persons and not the actual person that committed the robbery.
“The robbery of tyres at Felele in Ibadan: I got no money on that day when Balewa brought the business. I was so broke that day that my eyes were dimmed. I then organised my gang to carry out the operation on that day.
“Myself, Femi, Down Blocker and Lati who drove us, took up the operation of this raid. We did the operation of the robbery very well.
“Only one person was injured by bullet and the tyres were carried away by us. The case was not detected at all by the police.
“My gang in the West are: Lati, now in custody in Agodi Prisons, Ibadan; Femi, now in Lagos, Down Blocker, now in custody in Kwara State for robbery offence.”
I remember that I heard about the killing of one man chasing the wife of Ossai at Ajegunle along Ojo Road, sometimes this year. I heard that there was a terrible argument among them on the matter on that day. I cannot actually say who shot the man dead between Ossai and Ogbolu because Ogbolu was in support of Ossai. That was all I heard about the killing of the man. The case was not detected up till now by the police.
“I got my weapons in the following ways: I first bought two SMG automatic machine guns and two pistols with eight packets, each containing 25 rounds of 900 calibre ammunition from one soldier boy called Fredrick. I bought the arms from him when he came from the war front.
“I gave Fredrick £50 for the purchase of the two SMG guns and their ammunition and I paid £70 for the two pistols and their ammunition to the same Fredrick.
“Fredrick is a Mid-West boy and he was introduced to me by Mr. Williams, who is an Ibo boy. Mr. Williams has gone back to the East a long time ago, but I don’t know his address there.
“I cannot say the whereabouts of Fredrick himself because he came on leave when I met him and bought the guns from him. This was during the war but I don’t know whether he has gone back to the East or not. He brought the guns to me at Empire Hotel, Idi-Oro, during the time of our negotiation for their purchase.
“I didn’t know his house or the battalion he belonged to. I bought my rabbit automatic SMG gun from one Army man whose name and address I don’t know.
“We met at Empire Hotel, Idi-Oro and it was Ezeh who went to the man and negotiated for the purchase of the rabbit automatic SMG gun and its ammunition. I gave £11 to Ezeh for the purchase of the new rabbit SMG automatic gun and kept it with him, while the other SMG and one pistol was kept with Stephen Ndubuakwu (alias Ndiokpa) after the operation of Ikeja in March 1971.
If police see Ezeh now he will be able to give them my new rabbit SMG automatic gun and ammunition while Stephen Ndubuakwu will also produce the other SMG and pistol with their ammunition.
“That is only what I can say for the meantime.”
Oyenusi’s last operation
In Nigeria of early 70s, WAHUM was one of the leading companies. It was named West African House Utensils Manufacturers by the promoters, but Nigerians preferred to call it WAHUM. It employed hundreds or more staff, and so good was its income that it was paying more than £10,000 as salary every month. In those days, it was good to work in WAHUM.
Now, in early 1971, the Personnel Manager of WAHUM, Joel Amamieye, met a palm-wine tapper, Samuel Odudu, in his shop at 15, Kayode Street, Mushin. He became a very reliable customer, registering his presence on a daily basis at Odudu’s shop, drinking palm-wine and buying for others. It was this relationship that the manager built on and he told the tapper he had a job for the boys.
Amamieye was looking for a way the salary of WAHUM’s staff could be snatched without killing anyone. Odudu felt he had those who could handle the job and he took the manager to Stephen Ndubuakwu, alias Diokpa. He was an addicted pools player, but was also in the underworld. He was known as the brain-box because of his brilliance in strategic crime planning.
Well, Amamieye met Diokpa and they agreed. He wanted the job done quickly and that posed no problem to Brain-Box. Immediately the manager left, he sent for Isola Oyenusi. The planning had started. But that was the first wrong step, since any robbery operation involving Oyenusi would end in blood-letting. And the manager did not want anyone dead.
Oyenusi quickly gathered his boys together: there was Phillip Onuora Ogbolumain called Alhaji or Ogbolu by his friends; Joseph Ossai Osemedike also came, so also was Appollus. Ade, the Ijebu boy, was invited last and Oyenusi told them about the job.
They chose end of February for the operation and Samuel Odudu, the tapper, insisted he had to go with them. He was then instructed to wake them up early in the morning. But they drank themselves to stupor on the eve of the D-Day, and when Samuel tried to wake them, no one stirred. When they eventually woke, they blamed Samuel and his bad-luck for the failure and vowed not to take him to any of their robbery outings again.
Because that month was gone, they agreed on another date: 27 March, 1971, since the manager had told them it was the day to pay workers’ salary. On 26 March, 1971, the operation began. On this day, Oyenusi and four of his colleagues went to Itire Road in Surulere area and snatched a new Peugeot 404 car from its owner. He pointed the gun at the man, his boys dragged him down and floored him. They then drove away the car in preparation for the following day’s WAHUM robbery.
At about 8 a.m. on March 27, Ade, the Ijebu boy, drove the Peugeot car to the entrance of WAHUM, the car stood a few metres away from the gate. In the car were Oyenusi, Ogbolu, Appolus and Ade, who handled the steering. Earlier, Ossai had met the Personnel Manager at a filling station in Ikeja, where he collected the number of the car bringing the workers’ salary.
There was a thorough division of labour in this, for Diokpa had already been detailed to the bank to monitor when the car carrying the money would leave there. He was to follow it until it got to the gate. Meanwhile, at the gate, there was Ambrose Nwokobia, the gateman. But Amamieye, the Personnel Manager who employed him into the company had instructed him that he should not immediately open the gate for the van coming with the money. He should remain there, pretending to be struggling with the locks.
At exactly 8.30a.m. the company’s van arrived and the driver, Olufolahan Moses, signalled to Nwokobia to open the gate. But the gate would not open. Then Oyenusi flew out of the car and the machinegun in his hand came alive with its chartering noise. Everybody ran!
Ogbolu and Appolus opened fire from their revolvers too. And there was a heavy cloud in the air. Oyenusi ordered the company’s cashier to lie face down, while Ogbolu seized the police escort, Gini Nwigbarani. The escort was just two months in the force and was afraid of the consequence if the money should be taken away and he tried to resist. Oyenusi shot him, killing him instantly. Then, Ogbolu took the gun of the dying policeman and pocketed it.
Meanwhile, Ossai had taken the money from the van, after which he signalled to Oyenusi that the loot was secured. Oyenusi gave orders and they all rushed into the Peugeot 404 car, leaving the dead police and unprecedented commotion in the area.
Ade, the ijebu boy drove like a mad person and came out on Ikorodu Road close to a Bata shop at Somolu. From there, he drove into a bush, inside Abule Okuta, in Bariga area. It was there the loot was shared: £1,200 was for Joel Amamieye, the Peronnel Manager of WAHUM who brought the job, £250 was sent to the gateman. Diokpa took £1,250, Oyenusi got £1,600, Appolus was given £1,600, Ogbolu got £1,300, Ossai took £1,200 and Ade, the driver, also got £1,200. The remainder of the money were coins and it was left there in the bush while they dispersed.
THE GREAT MANHUNT: Oyenusi ran, but was overtaken
The robbery incident shocked not only Lagos, but the whole of Nigeria. No gang had been so daring to snatch a whopping sum of £10,000 workers’ salary in front of their company, with a police escort! Besides, no gang killed a policeman in such broad-day light. It was unheard of. And the police were furious. The nation, too, was traumatised.
The Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, breathed down on the Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Kam Salem, who in turn mandated the Lagos Police Commissioner, Joseph Adeola, to arrest the robbers immediately. The public, through the media, continued to tease the Police: “Shame on you if you could not get the killer of one of your own!” And the police came up with a rapid response.
It raised a team from the “C” Department at Onikan Police Station, Awolowo Road Ikoyi, with the only instruction: “Get these robbers at all cost!” The head of this team was a crime burster, Superintedent James Oyebisi. Others were Inspector A. Jubril, Inspector Onime, Sergeant Samuel Nathaniel Oloyede, Constables Samuel Ozolua, Macgregor Ediobon, Joseph Ogodo, Benjamin Olu, Alexander Omoruyi, Sunday Cleopas, Sabaina Oladapo, Eugen Okhiria, Samson Olukotun and John Oyomoh.
All police formations and stations were also put at alert while the media were also used by the police. Road blocks were mounted and there were various efforts to get to the dangerous gang. But all proved abortive.
Though, on the day of the robbery, the DPO of Somolu Police Station, Mr. Jubril, impounded an abandoned car in the area with number LO 1047 and was later discovered to be the car used by the robbers, it led to nowhere, because it was a stolen car. The leader of the police team, Oyebisi, was invited to search the car but all he got was a copy of the day’s Daily Times newspaper, on which a number, LR 5444 was written. Nothing more to lead them to the robbers. After they had shared the money inside the bush at Bariga, Diokpa and Ogbolu walked out from the bush there and mixed with the crowd. Ade drove the car out, while Oyenusi was sitting with him in the passenger seat and Ossai sitting at the back. At the Onipanu junction, Oyenusi dropped and fled to Ibadan. Ossai dropped at Palm Grove and travelled home to Mid-western State. This was part of their plans as they had taken oath in Diokpa’s house on the eve of the robbery that everybody must lie low immediately after the operation.
Because of this precaution earlier taken by the robbers, the police could not get any clue and they had nowhere to go. In desperation, they announced huge reward for anybody who could give useful information that would lead to the arrest of the robbers.
Now, there was the palm-wine tapper, Samuel Odudu, on Kayode Street whom Oyenusi and his group had renamed “Mr. Badluck.” He did not know that the robbery had taken place and received no share, while the personnel manager of WAHUM had not visited his shed for a while. He went to Diokpa to ask for his share, but was slapped severally by the man and sent forth with force. So, from him came the first song and the police began to dance.
At about 3.30 a.m. on March 29, 1971, the third day after the robbery, the police stormed the Yaba home of Stephen Ndubuakwu alias Diokpa, the Brain-box. He was arrested with such ease that the police, led by Oyebisi, began to thank their stars, because by the time he spoke with them, they knew who they were looking for: Isola Oyenusi, the notorious armed robber.
It was not difficult to arrest Ade, the Ijebu boy. The police had gone to a hotel looking for another criminal and Ade was there. On sighting the police, he took to his heels and was about to climb the fence when he was stopped. Diokpa identified him to the police as the driver. The problem now was how to get the big three: Ossai, Ogbolu and Appolus. If they could get this three, the police believed they would get the leader, the “Doctor” himself!
Or better still, they could go first for the leader, who they also believed would lead them to his boys. They had gone to his residence at Aderibigbe Street, Surulere, but no one could help them. What they did not know then was that Oyenusi had two groups, one in Lagos and another in Ibadan. He also had two houses, one in Lagos and the other in Ibadan. After all hopes seemed lost, they went back to Diokpa. He told them the Doctor also had a group in Ibadan, but he knew nothing about it.
That was enough. Second day, Oyebisi and two of his boys set for Ibadan and lived as residents. From investigation among colleagues at the Agodi Police Station, Oyebisi learnt that there was a small-time criminal in Ibadan called Doctor, but he was not Oyenusi, because his real name was Oluwasegun.
Oyebisi was sure Oyenusi could not be a small-timer here, if he were the one and he was not Oluwasegun for a start, but since they called him “Doctor” too, he decided to have a look at him. He was shown a shop and monitored the movements of the shop owner from afar.
But there was a problem. Every policeman in Lagos knew the name “Dr. Isola Oyenusi,” but they did not know the man who bore the name, not even his picture. So, Oyebisi could not get it if this was the man they were looking for. Besides, this man did not look like a criminal. He was so punctual and business-like, always at his shop in Agodi Gate where he sold building materials.
Oyebisi was confused. One day, he trailed this trader to his home at E7/67, Old Oluyoro Street, Ibadan. When the man was about to close from his shop one day, Oyebisi went to his house, met his wife and asked for his husband. He was told the man had not returned from work, but if he could wait, he would soon come back. Oyebisi sat. Not long, Oyenusi entered. An unexpected confrontation began immediately.
Oyebisi accused him with an unfounded allegation and a quarrel ensued. It went thus:
Oyebisi: Why did you take my wife, my good friend?
Oyenusi: Who is your wife?
Oyebisi: Look, man, the one living with you now, she is my wife.
Oyenusi: I don’t know what you are talking about. She was never married before we met.
Oyebisi: I paid a dowry on her!
Oyenusi: What is your name and how dare you come into my house to talk this rot to me, please get out.
Oyebisi: You took my wife and I have warned you. I may be poor but you have no right whatsoever over her.
Embarrassed and stunned by the affront of Mr. Oyebisi who was dressed like a pauper, it was time to bring the dialogue to an end and Oyenusi ordered the bold pauper out of his castle! “My friend”, he warned fiercely, “I don’t know who you are and I don’t want trouble with you, please go in peace.”
Feigning anger, the policeman replied “You are playing with fire. We shall meet again soon.”
Then the bombshell: Emi Isola! (I, Isola) Emi Isola! (I, Isola) shouted Oyenusi. And the police officer got his clue: So this is Doctor Isola Oyenusi
After leaving Oyenusi’s house, Oyebisi went back to Agodi Police Station and the plan for Oyenusi’s arrest was arranged. The next day, two mufti-wearing policemen lurked around the shop of the building materials’ seller and when he arrived, one of them ran to inform his superiors. In no time, policemen encircled the area. Two men went into the shop and Oyenusi was still asking questions. When he looked behind them, coming in police uniform was the same man he fought with the previous day, Oyebisi.
Oyenusi knew the game was up and he attempted to make a dash for it. He took a saw from one of the racks in the shop and hit one of the policemen, Dauda Idowu. He collapsed immediately, his swollen forehead covering all his eyes. Even at that, the police arrested Oyenusi and took him to Lagos.
Through Oyenusi, Ossai was traced to Ndemide near Agbor on 28 May, 1971. When he sighted the police, he wasted no time in confronting them. He opened fired on them and hit Benjamin Olu. He would have died but for a quick rush to a nearby hospital by his colleagues. And Ossai was brought to Lagos same day!
Ossai was the one who helped the police to arrest Ogbolu on Railway Line, Mushin on the evening of 29 May, 1971 and it was through Ogbolu they knew they should take the WAHUM gateman. He was arrested on May 30, and the following day, Joel Amamieye, the Personnel Manager was put inside the net.
Oyenusi sentenced to death
The crowds were still coming, yet the biggest hall inside the Lagos City Hall was full beyond capacity. And outside the hall, people continued to mill around. It was Friday, August 6, 1971, the first day of appearance of the Oyenusi gang before the Lagos Special Armed Robbery Tribunal. Every Lagosian wanted to catch a glimpse of the “Doctor” they had heard so much about.
On the raised platform in the hall was the Chairman of the tribunal, Mr. John Ojomo and with him were Lt.-Col. Ibrahim Bako of the Nigerian Army and Deputy Commissioner of Police, A. Osodi. Seven accused were lined up on the other side, though it had earlier been announced that they were nine and that one of the robbers, Appolus, had not been apprehended.
The charges were read and all the accused pleaded not guilty. The following Monday, the trial proceeding commenced fully. But for Oyenusi, Ossai and Ogbolu, all others denied that they were armed robbers. Ade, the driver, claimed that it was Oyenusi who hired him to take him somewhere and gave him another car to drive; he never knew he was participating in a robbery operation.
He was, however, asked why he collected such a huge amount, £1,200, from Oyenusi. He answered: “I thought he dashed me!”
Even the Brain-Box, Diokpa, denied having any knowledge of armed robbery. He said he knew when they were going and he warned them not to go. But when asked about the money he got, he said he was cheated, because that was not enough for his share, since he invited all of them!
The trial went on for two weeks, but had to be broken in the middle when Oyenusi was taken to the hospital. It was discovered that he was behaving funny in his cell. He was first caught crawling and reciting forceful incantations and the second time, he was monitored, he was seen putting one leg on the wall, raising his palms up, while he continued to recite what no one around understood.
Oyebisi, the man who got him arrested was promptly called and he shook his head because he knew of the magical power of Oyenusi. Next day, he whisked the fake doctor to a real doctor where he was anaesthetized and operated upon. In his abdomen, a lot of charms which included a small mortar and a gourd were found. When he woke up to find himself in such condition, he shouted: Eyin people yii ti get me (You have really got me)!
Ogbolu also attempted to make a bolt of it. One night, a policeman saw him walking about in his cell freely and wondered how he could do that. The policeman went back and reported to his superior. They saw Ogbolu was unfettered, his manacles cut off, while his handcuffs had dropped. Nothing held him again. They quickly removed him to a solitary confinement; he was there till the day of judgment.
On Thursday, 26 August, 1971, seven of the nine men, who had been standing trial on the charge of £10,000 armed robbery at Ikeja in March, were sentenced to death by firing squad by the Special Armed Robbery Tribunal.
The condemned men were the personnel manager of WAHUM, Joel Amamieye of 8, Balogun Street, Ikeja and the company’s gateman, Ambrose Nwokobia of 17, Araromi Street, Anifowoshe, Ikeja, as well as ‘Doctor’ Isola Oyenusi of E7/67 Old Oluyoro Street, Ibadan.
Others were Stephen Ndubuakwu alias Diokpa, described as a pool-staker of IB, Idalere Street, Ikorodu Road, Lagos; Philip ‘Alhaji’ Onuora Ogbojumain of 2, Idalere Lane, Ikorodu Road, Lagos; Joseph Osamedike alias Ossai of Okwuzu Village, Obiaroku, Kwale in the Mid-West and Ademola Adegbitan of Efon Alaye Street, Apata, Shomolu, Lagos.
Two others – Oluwole Philip, who was already serving a jail term at Kirikiri Prisons and Thomas Ede of 7, Idalere Street, Ikorodu Road, Lagos, were set free for “want of evidence.”
In a two-hour judgment, the tribunal chairman, Mr. John Ojomo, described one of the condemned men, “Doctor” Isola Oyenusi, as not only “a dangerous criminal but a hopeless and heartless criminal.”
“This notorious criminal had committed various crimes which are not relevant to this case but narrated by the prosecution and we are satisfied that he was the one who stopped the wages car on March 27 and started to fire,” he said.
Ojomo said the tribunal believed that Oyenusi took the police to Abule Okuta, in Somolu where the wages box and the rifle of the late police escort were abandoned.
That was how it went and the condemned men were taken to the Maximum Security Prison. There, ‘Ijebu boy’ sent for his pet, a dog named “Lucky” and he would not speak to anyone again. Oyenusi sent the police to his house to bring his “special goat.” The goat was killed for other inmates before the day of execution already fixed for 8 September, 1971, as signed by the Governor of Lagos, Mobolaji Johnson.
Then came this wonderful Wednesday, September, 8, when tears and jeers followed the execution of the master armed robber, Isola Oyenusi and his comrades in crime at the Lagos Bar Beach.
The tears flowed from a few friends and relations and those who could not stand the sight of blood. But thousands of their viewers of the Bar Beach Show booed in derision, apparently satisfied that a major victory had been won for peace, law and order.
However, the principal actor in the day’s show, Oyenusi, kept smiling –even on to his death.
Before the execution, Oyenusi gallantly owned up to his crime when he shouted: “I am dying for the offence I have committed.” That was a few minutes before he was executed along with seven others by a 16-man firing squad, at Victoria Island, Lagos.
And so the myth built around him as the “most dangerous criminal of this decade” and a notorious robber over who “the bullet had no power” was shattered. Within seconds, he slumped under gun fire.
The Execution Platform and Scene
Unlike the first public execution of April of that year, the great May Bar Beach show was perfectly planned by the Lagos authorities. The general arrangement was complete by 8 a.m.
The execution platform was cordoned off with steel fence behind which stood armed soldiers and policemen. Ten yards behind this first line of security wall, riot policemen on horseback trotted forwards and backwards, keeping back the advancing crowd.
The police and army preparations were so thorough that they inspired fear and, for a time, kept peace among the crowd – several thousands strong.
Added to this tense situation, the galloping waves from the deep sea which crashed repeatedly on the sandy beach seemed to give repeated warning that something ominous was about to happen.
Something macabre did happen. For at 9.15 a.m., a group of Lagos City Council workers walked into the execution arena carrying empty makeshift coffins which they quietly put down behind the execution platform.
Lamentation of robbers
And 30 minutes later, eight robbers stood erect, tied to a grim line of king posts. It was then the notorious armed robber, regarded in police circles as the underworld king for Lagos and Western states, “Doctor” Ishola Oyenusi, sent a message to his adherents through the Daily Times at about 10.12 a.m., shortly after he was tied to the stake.
Oyenusi called a reporter, Chinaka Fynecontry, and said: “Tell your readers tomorrow that I am dead. I have lived my own life- though a very rotten one. No one should emulate me. I am going to die today for what I have done, I am guilty. One thing you must tell the police though is that they should investigate their cases properly to avoid sending innocent persons to the firing squad.” With a little touch of emotion, he added: “Please, tell churches to pray for me so that God may forgive me. May my soul rest in peace. Amen.”
About 15 minutes after he ended his message, the Chaplain of the Lagos Army Garrison Organisation Lt.-Col. Mohammed, walked up to Oyenusi and appealed to him to confess his sin “so that God may forgive you” “Pray for my sins, so that God will forgive me,” Oyenusi replied.
Two others – Joel Amamieye, the former personnel manager of WAHUM and Philip Onuora Ogbolumain alias “Alhaji” asked the Chaplain to pray for their souls.
Ogbolumain told the chaplain in tears: “I hope God will forgive me and we shall meet on the resurrection day.”
Amamieye asked the chaplain to pray for his enemies as well as friends, adding, “as for me, I am innocent and I am dying innocently.
Joseph Ossaimedike alias “Ossai, wept as the Chaplain approached him and asked for God’s forgiveness. Ademola Adegbitan alias “Ijebu Boy” asked the police to tie a prayer book with the picture of Jesus Christ around his chest before he was executed.
The former gateman of the factory where the £10,000 robbery was carried out told the chaplain: “I know God is on my side. He will take me in because I am innocent of the whole robbery.”
Shortly after this, the loud order came and 16 soldiers marched out to take position – two soldiers facing each robber. Then another shout: Fire! And the staccato sound of guns rent the air, with pellets hitting hard at the once living bodies. None survived the first round! All were dead within seconds.
That was the end. The end of Isola Oyenusi. Oyenusi, the terror of the West!