By Taiwo Alabi
Today marked exactly twenty-one years now since a dreadful cult group stormed Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, in Osun, and killed the then General Secretary of OAU Students’ Union, George ‘Yemi’ Iwilade (Afrika) alongside four other students in one of the most gruesome cult attacks in Nigerian Universities.
According to reports, the attack which took place in the early hours of 10 July 1999 was perpetrated by 40 masked members of the Black Axe Confraternity believed to have been sponsored from within the university.
The slain students were George Iwilade, a 21-year-old 400-Level Law student and General Secretary of the Students Union Government (SUG), Tunde Oke, a member of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), Efe Ekede, Eviano Ekelemu and Yemi Ajiteru. The students were shot and clubbed to death.
Reports have it that George Iwilade (Afrika) was the only successfully assassinated victim. He was mercilessly butchered while the other four were just unfortunate victims.
Lanre Adeleke, the then President of the OAU Students’ Union and a member of the DSM, escaped by a whisker, quickly running out of his room having heard gunshots apparently aimed at Ajiteru who slept a few rooms away.
The attack led to students’ action, calling for the removal and prosecution of the then Vice Chancellor Wole Omole. His suspension was announced by the Government.
Three of the suspected cultists believed to have participated in the attack; Aisekhaghe Aikhile, a Part I student of Agricultural Economics, Emeka Ojuagu, and Frank Idahosa (Efosa), were also arrested.
Unfortunately, after almost four years of trying to get the supposed perpetrators punished, all the accused persons were released. These evil souls are still with us probably; walking freely on the streets.
The horrific incident will be later known as “Obafemi Awolowo University massacre”, according to Wikipedia.
Iwilade Yemi George (Afrika)
Afrika was the youngest among the Union executives but the most vibrant, true activist, well known for his radicalism belief for better education system and a better country for all of us. One of the great leaders thwarted in his prime. He was shot on the head as his head was also smashed with axe just to make sure he was dead.
Afrika was an exceptionally brilliant lad, a crusader of African culture and ideals. As a Law student, he was against the conventional white and black outfits; the dress code for law students in tertiary institutions.
He always wore an Afro haircut and tailored Ankara buba and sokoto to lectures and you can quickly spot him among his colleagues. He was reported to have questioned his lecturers on many occasions on the existing order – white on black outfits.
What led to the incident?
Prof. Roger Makanjuola in his book ‘Water Must Flow Uphill (Adventures in University Administration)’, gave an account of what led to the massacre.
Makanjuola writes about an initial incident and its aftermath that occurred in the weeks before the murders: “On Saturday, 7 March 1999, a group of Black Axe members held a meeting in Ife town.
After the meeting, they drove back to the campus. On the main road, Road 1, leading into the campus, they were overtaken by some students in another car. For whatever reason, they were enraged and gave chase to the students. The students, seeing them in pursuit, raced hastily to the car park outside Angola Hall and ran into the adjacent Awolowo Hall for safety.
The Students’ Union, which had also received information that secret cult members were gathering in a house in the senior staff quarters, mobilised in response to the incident.
Led by George Iwilade (Afrika), the Secretary-General, a group of them drove to the house, officially occupied by Mr. F.M. Mekoma, and forced their way into the boys’ quarters. They found nine individuals inside, eight of them students of the University, with a submachine gun, a locally manufactured gun, an axe, a bayonet and the black clothing and regalia of the Black Axe cult.
The University authorities were informed, and the members of the secret cult were handed over to the Police. They were held in police custody and taken to the Chief Magistrate’s Court where two weeks later they were granted bail.”
Makanjuola documents and raises concerns over the way the matter was handled by both the police and court system who broke from protocol, common sense, and destroyed evidence and how this led to the failure to be able to prosecute the Black Axe members involved in the incident.
Prof. Roger Makanjuola writes: “The case was heard on 31 March, and to the utmost amazement of everyone, the Chief Magistrate discharged and acquitted the arrested individuals. The students who had apprehended the cult members were not called as witnesses.
The investigating police officer, Corporal Femi Adewoye, claimed that the witnesses could not be located and actually stated in Court, “I tried to contact the complainants in this case, all to no avail. To date, there is no complainant in the case. Since all the accused persons denied the allegations against them and there is no complainant, there is no way the allegations can be proved.”
This was the submission of the prosecuting police officer! Usually, in such cases, witness’ summons were served through the University Administration but this did not happen. The trial was concluded in two court appearances in eight days.
The Chief Magistrate also ordered that the submachine gun be sent to the police armourer and the other exhibits be destroyed, thus eliminating all the evidence, and making it impossible to re-open the case. The Judicial Enquiry recommended that the Magistrate be reported to the Judicial Commission for appropriate disciplinary action. Nothing came of this, as nothing came of all the other recommendations of that Panel.”
Prof. Roger Makanjuola recalls following the failed prosecution the Black Axe cultists returned to the university to study. Much to the dismay and concern of fellow students. Under pressure from students the university’s authorities moved to suspend the cultists involved by issuing a ‘release’ but failing to send the specific students official letters informing them of their suspension.
Prof. Roger Makanjuola says: “Shortly afterwards, the University was closed as a result of a student crisis. When it re-opened three months later, the cult members returned to the campus and were seen attending lectures. The students raised an alarm once more.
In response to this, the University issued a release on 2 July re-affirming the suspensions of the cult members. The letters of suspension were dated 8 July and it is doubtful whether those affected actually received them before the tragic events two days later.”
The Vice Chancellor at the time of the massacre, Wale Omole said to have taken no action, aside from perhaps protecting, known campus cultists. A source sated,”his (Vice Chancellor Wale Omole) administration created an enabling atmosphere for the attack. For the eight years he spent in office, Omole did not show any seriousness in fight against campus cultism, rather it was commonplace for cultists apprehended by students to get their way back to the university unscratched.
While student activists were expelled for leading students in various demands, it was on record that no cultist was punished by the Omole-led management.”
10 July 1999
Following a get-together party held on the night of 9 July, 1999 at the open ground between Angola and Mozambique Halls by members of Kegites Club on the campus, Man O’ war members, and various other student leaders, many students began occupying the cafeteria of Awolowo Hall whilst others returned to their halls of residence to sleep.
Between 3:00 and 3:30 am a large number of cultists (reported to be between 22 and 40) of the Black Axe confraternity stormed the university’s Awolowo Hall with the intention of carrying out the assassinations of several prominent members of the student union.
The Mirror Online reports “The victims, which included the then Students’ Union Secretary General, George Yemi Iwilade, (fondly called Afrika); 400 level medical student, Eviano Ekelemu; a graduating student, Yemi Ajiteru; 100-Level Philosophy student, Babatunde Oke, and Ekpede Godfrey were gunned down by the “marauding beasts” in Blocks 5 and 8, Awolowo Hall.”
Prof. Roger Makanjuola also writes: “Tunde Oke was still alive but died on the operating table. Four others, George Iwilade, Yemi Ajiteru, Efe Ekede and Eviano Ekelemu, were brought in dead. Eviano Ekelemu bled to death from gunshot wounds to the groin and thigh. The other three died from gunshot wounds to the head.”
During the attack several accounts state the Black Axe members were heard to be “shouting, “Legacy, come out!”” referring to the suspended Students’ Union President, Lanre Adeleke. They also shouted the names of “Afrika”, George Iwilade, and “Dexter”, the Chief of the Kegites, demanding that they come out.”
Of the targets of the massacre Lanre Adeleke (Legacy) managed to escape by jumping from a balcony after hearing the gunfire. “Dexter”, the Chief of the Kegites, also escaped unharmed. George Iwilade (Afrika), the Secretary-General of the Students’ Union and a Law student was not so lucky. Upon entering his room the Black Axe “shot him immediately in the head. Then they smashed his head with their axe to make sure he was dead”, Prof. Roger Makanjuola writes.
After the attack
The day after the attack it is reported “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).
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.
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 Black Axe members who had been arrested in Mr. Mekoma’s house on 7 March.
The interrogations also yielded the information that 22 Black Axe 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.
There was a serious allegation that these blood-thirsty campus gangsters, members of the Neo-Black Movement (Black Axe), were sponsored by the then Vice-Chancellor of the university, Wale Omole.
Omole had a serious running battle with the Students’ Union, led by Lanre Adeleke, over independent student unionism, welfare conditions, financial recklessness and the reinstatement of Anthony Fasayo and other student activists who had been politically victimised since 1995. Indeed, one of the cultists, Kazeem Bello, aka Kato, confessed that Wale Omole had a hand in their dastardly operation.
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 Federal Government.
Prosecution of suspects
A total of 12 individuals were arrested and charged to court over the three weeks following the murders, including Efosa Idahosa, Kazeem Bello and Emeka Ogwuaju, were arraigned in court but later discharged and acquitted on 29 October 2002 by Justice Rabiu Yusuff of the State High Court, Iwo, Osun State.
The presiding judge upheld a “No Case” submission by the accused persons. The ruling, which was a clear case of travesty of justice, runs contrary to the finding and report of Okoi Itam Judicial Panel of Enquiry set up in 1999 by the Federal Government to investigate the killings.
The report strongly suspects the involvement of the three freed gangsters in the massacre and recommends immediate arrest of those that are at large among the culprits.
21 years passed, the relatives and associates of the victims as well as students of OAU are still crying out for justice because the marauding beasts that murdered these souls are still with us; walking freely on the streets as the culprits were not brought to book.
Afrika and others were murdered by the powers that be, because of their struggle against hike in school fees, victimisation of students’ leaders and cultism. We lost these promising Nigerians because of their radical belief for better education system and a better country for all of us.
Lives of brilliant young leaders were cut off in horrific manner. Iwilade and others were robbed of existence by this evil group, not one person has been brought to justice for the act. The victims blood continued to water the flower of freedom on the campus.
We are yet to be freed from these beasts as they are still having field day in tertiary institutions across Nigeria killing and raping innocent students, as well as engaging in larceny coupled with other ant-social behaviour.