By Ismail Omipidan
On that fateful day, the then-Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of Osun narrowly escaped an orchestrated assassination attempt by known assailants who, to this day, have not been apprehended and made to face justice. My choice of words is deliberate; the assailants are known because video evidence has exposed the identities of some of those who carried out the attack.
Apart from a prominent politician who is also a former governor in the State who had his known associates as part of those who carried out the attack, there are people whose political affiliations are well known and who took part in the attack.
It was a day my belief in destiny was reinforced. We miraculously survived the attack, though how we did remains a mystery till date. It was that singular event that made me lose all respect I had for Davido, the popular singer and cousin to the current governor of the state, Senator Ademola Adeleke. Davido was far away in Lagos, yet was the first to falsely claim, via Twitter, that the then governor, who had narrowly escaped a life-threatening incident, had killed two individuals. I hope he will one day, apologise for this barefaced lie and sincerely seek forgiveness from God.
My Principal, Adegboyega Oyetola was a guest of honour at an event in Lagos. We arrived in Lagos on October 12, ahead of the conference, organised by the Committee of Wives of Lagos State Officials, COWLSO, chaired by wife of Lagos State Governor, Dr. Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu. The event took place between October 13 and 14, 2020, and our original intention was to return to Osogbo after its conclusion. However, after the event, the Endsars protest, which had been on for days, had taken another dimension. Therefore, we could not return to Osogbo that day. In fact, my Principal could not access his private residence from Eko Hotels where the event was held. So, we had to remain there until we decided to leave on October 17 to brace all odds.
Before leaving for Osogbo, we had a strategy meeting. During this meeting, we agreed that, given the intelligence indicating that the protest had been infiltrated by armed youths, it would be unwise for Mr. Governor to go to Olaiya in Osogbo, venue of the protest on that day.
Upon our arrival in Osogbo on that fateful morning, I proceeded directly to my quarters and fell into a deep sleep. I woke up around 2pm and noticed several missed calls from our Chief Security Officer (CSO), Dauda Ismail, a dedicated and fine gentleman officer of the Nigerian Police. I immediately returned the call, and he requested my presence at a strategy security meeting to discuss how to infiltrate the protest grounds with plainclothes security operatives from Sunday ahead of my Principal’s visit to the place on Monday.
I arrived at the Government House for the scheduled meeting but was taken aback at what I saw. My principal was set for an outing. I asked where. They said Olaiya, the protest ground. I asked again, when did we change our minds? At what point was the decision taken? No one could provide an answer. I walked to my principal, and said “Sir, when did you change your mind? What happened?”. He said, he had been persuaded by a superior argument to attend. It was then I remembered I had not said my Zuhr prayers. And the satanic thought crept in, I did not know when I said ‘it won’t be nice to owe a debt of prayer to heaven.’ I immediately said ‘Ahuzubillah mina Shaitani Rojim (I seek refuge from Allah against Shaitan, the accursed).
I proceeded to perform my ablution. I had hardly rounded off my ablution when they called the final zero for the Mr. Governor’s convoy to take off. In my mind, I said since I already had my ablution, I could say my prayers in the moving vehicle. But I hardly commenced when one of the leaders of the protesters told us we must alight from the vehicle at Alekuwodo and trekked to Olaiya junction.
Imagine the governor trekking more than a thousand metre without an initial recce (the process of visiting and quickly surveying an area to gather information about it). There are some high-rise buildings in that vicinity, and a snipper could just sniff out life from anyone, including my Principal. We never thought about this and it was purely by the grace of God that the daredevils did not think of employing such a strategy as well.
Anyway, we got to Olaiya junction, singing solidarity songs with the youth who had gathered for the protest.Before we got there, Mr. Governor was informed of an accident involving one of the protesters. He was asked to sympathize with the protesters and promise that the government would undertake his hospital bills. He did that.
At the barricade, he was asked to apologize 10 times for not visiting the protesters before the day he visited. He did as instructed like a teacher-student kind of interaction. Everything went on well until I began sensing we were staying too long there. I approached one of our security aides to express my fears. He shared my sentiment. So, I began looking for where to seek refuge as I became convinced all was not well. As I approached the first vehicle, I realized the driver too was apprehensive. As I made to leave, I saw two guys with a short rifle each. My heart skipped. I left the area. Then, a distraction happened. That was when I sneaked into our CSO’s vehicle.
From the vehicle, I saw how they began throwing sachet water at my principal. At that point, I knew that something was amiss. In less than five minutes, the true attack commenced. Stones, cutlasses, axes, and guns were unleashed with abandon. Here, I must commend our security operatives. The governor’s ADC then, Jimoh Akinloye has yet to explain to me how he managed to secure my Principal without firing a shot. It was at this point the youths blocked the governor’s vehicle from moving. All the drivers on that convoy were spectacular on the day. They could have run into the protesters, but they did not.
The vehicle I was in was behind the DSS lead car. The driver of the vehicle did a yeoman’s job. I know him, Allah knows him. I don’t want to mention his name for security reasons. They came with an axe to demobilize the vehicle. He went right, left and middle dodging the axe without hitting the man carrying it. He saw an opening and he climbed the median separator, hitting a street light pole. That was how we escaped from Olaiya. But the attack continued.
Three years later, no one has been brought to book. What role did the police play? What about the cyber bullying on my person for posting the picture of the lady who, if we had given in to her provocative attitude, we would have been accused of causing the eventual attack against us at the protest ground? What about the story of Olawale Bakare, known in the local parlance as Mandate, who after provoking the attack on my Principal went into hiding and lied that he was abducted by the DSS? Well, wait for the details in my upcoming book: ‘MY STRUGGLE FOR A PLACE IN JOURNALISM, POLITICS AND POWER‘.