‘Doctor’ Ishola Oyenusi is a name etched in the history of Nigeria as one of the most violent armed robbers, a criminal who unleashed boundless terror on many Nigerians. But who was he and what did he do that his name was associated with so much notoriety?
The last moments.
The Nigerian Civil War had just ended in 1970 but by the early 1970s, a stone-hearted(cruel or unfeeling) armed robber, Ishola Oyenusi (he called himself Dr.Oyenusi even if he never finished the secondary school), he was terrorising all of Lagos, Nigeria’s largest commercial centre. Before one tale of his daring exploits died down, another one had sprung up. Oyenusi was no ordinary pilferer(thieve), this snitcher(a thief who steals without using violence) was downright wicked and had all the self-confidence in the world to go with it. And you know something? He was quite romantic and chivalrous ( gentlemanly, respectful) .
There was a story of how he snatched his first car on Herbert Macaulay Road in Yaba, Lagos. Why? His girlfriend was broke. He eventually sold the car for N400 but the sad part was that in the process of stealing the car, the poor owner was shot dead. He actually snatched the first car he saw on the road. Such was the ferocious nature of his audacity.
Oyenusi’s arrogance was also legendary. In 1970, he was arrested and handcuffed by a police officer. As the policeman was ordering him around, Oyenusi blasted him and thundered: ‘People like you don’t talk to me like that when I am armed. I gun them down.’
In the 1970s, Oyenusi was no doubt the uncrowned emperor of Nigerian robbers and he is described as the ‘first celebrated armed robber in Nigeria’. He is regarded by some as the pioneer of conventional armed robbery in Nigeria. When Oyenusi reigned at the height of his regal confidence, he declared: ‘The bullet has no power.‘
In March 1971, Oyenusi was nabbed by the Nigerian Police after he organized a robbery in which $28,000 (value as at that time) was stolen. They killed a police constable in the process.
HIS EXECUTION DAY
On the day of Oyenusi’s execution, over 30,000 Nigerians trooped to the famous Bar Beach. While some in the crowd jeered and booed Oyenusi and his Gang of Seven, some of his friends and family members present could not hold back their tears. But for most of the witnesses, it was good riddance to bad nonsense. As for Oyenusi, he was smiling, smiling to the last but the agony on his face too was unmistakable. But just few minutes before his body was riddled with hot-leaded bullets from stern-faced soldiers of the Nigerian Army, he finally confessed saying: ‘I am dying for the offense I have committed.‘
The soldiers grabbed and tied him to a pole. Smartly, seven soldiers formed a lethal line in front of Oyenusi. A soldier let out a fierce command to the sharpshooters. All of them took aim at Oyenusi. The next voice:
Like an electrocuted being, his body shook vigorously as he slumped and went limp around the pole that held his remains.
For a man who said bullets had no power to penetrate his skin, he slumped in seconds, surrendering to the high-velocity missiles directed at his mortal vessel. His fragile human body could not withstand the pitiless hail of gunfire, amplified by the metallic drums behind them. Some others shouted their protests and defiance to the last as live cameras of the journalists sent the gory details to those at home watching the spectacle on their black-white television sets.
However, Oyenusi, who confessed that he joined the armed robbery business in 1959, was not to die alone. He was to end his journey on earth with six of his other gang members whom he had led to their last robbery at the WAHUM factory at Ikeja, Lagos on the 27th March, 1971.
Oyenusi, the man also known as ‘Dr. Rob-and-Kill’ and his gang met their brutal end at the hands of a 14-man firing squad on the serene Victoria Island of Lagos. According to one of his defence lawyers who visited him while in jail, Oyenusi was imprisoned for the first time when he was 21. He then escaped and was imprisoned again. He escaped AGAIN and was imprisoned AGAIN. He escaped about eight times and then he decided to become an armed robber and that gave him the cloak of invincibility for some time.
According to Ebenezer Babatope, former Minister of Transport in his book, The Struggle for Power in Nigeria, Oyenusi told journalists minutes before his death that he would never have become an armed robber if his parents were rich
enough to sustain him in the secondary school. He also confessed to taking part in ten major robberies and murders over a period of six years (Africa Research Bulletin, Blackwell, 1971).
Bi Omode o ba baatan,aba aroba baba itan