May be we will do Susanne Wenger the upper week, but with my experience last saturday, I am inspired to talk about the genesis of contemporary banditry in Nigeria.
In the history of crime in Nigeria, Ishola Oyenusi, also known as ‘The Doctor’, a cold blooded armed robber who held sway in the early 70s, stands on a very special threshold that none can ever dream of attaining.
Before he was executed on Wednesday, September 8, 1971, at a famous Bar Beach show in front of 30,000 Nigerians watching, no one believed that ‘The Doctor’ would be captured, as he was famed for ‘disappearing’ or his body capable of being pierced by bullets.
In fact, he must have had so much faith in his charms that he smiled all the way to the stake and even as soldiers aimed their rifles at him and his co criminals, Oyenusi still radiated an aura of invincibility.
The phenomenal armed robber rose from the ashes of the Nigerian-Biafran Civil War that spanned three years, from 1967-1970.
Oyenusi was a charismatic, cocksure gangster whose lordly disdain for the law cast the terrifying portent of social breakdown, and had come to be celebrated as the quintessential bandit of his time.
Legend has it that Ishola Oyenusi got into active robbery back in 1959, but he committed his first major robbery when he snatched a car along Herbert Macaulay Road in Yaba, Lagos, and killed the owner in the process, just because his girlfriend was broke and needed money to buy her make-up.
He eventually sold the car for £400 (Nigeria’s currency then), and handed the money to the lady. He actually snatched the first car he saw on the road. Such was the ferocious nature of his audacity.
By the end of the Civil War, Oyenusi had metamorphosed into a cold hearted robber who took delight in causing pains to his victims.
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.’
Join filmmaker, broadcaster, historian Dotun Taylor on faaji 106.5fm 4.30pm on sunday July 31st for more about this history.
Dr Oyenusi opened a door which will never close again, armed banditry..