By Tony Nwankwo
If information at the grapevine is reliable, Nigerians live in fear, as citizens, from some parts of the country, now go about armed and ready to use violence at the drop of a pin, and the government seems incapable of punishing those acts of violence across the country. No day passes without a report of armed herdsmen’s attacks on unarmed communities across the land; herdsmen with AK47 rifles, some say, a wing of Boko Haram. They started from the core North, killing, raping and maiming innocent people. Today, the killing spree has spread even to Lagos State. The irony is that none of these killer herdsmen has ever been prosecuted or jailed by the authorities. Rather, what seems to attract punishment from the authorities is cattle rustling in the North. And this shows in the shift in our values.
Meanwhile, unofficial figures show there are hundreds of thousands of Okada riders between the ages of 19 and 28 now in Lagos State alone. They live in inner city centres and in remote corners of the state like the far-flung Oke Afo, Ajangbadi, Ajegunle, Agege and pockets of disused spaces in A-list urban areas. In fact, ‘Aboki Okada’ riders and their cousins who buy disused materials are present in every remote community in the state. Aside other occupations, 80 percent of those coming into Lagos from the core-north Hausa Fulani enclave are from Chad, Niger, Somalia, Cameroun and far flung Sudan. For their violent disposition, other Nigerian tribes people have abandoned the act of Okada riding, to this group. They are unkempt, but tend to provide an essential service to the citizenry, considering the state of the ill-maintained roads of Lagos; especially to inner residential areas in the state. And they are taking advantage of the services they have monopolised to commit all sorts of atrocities that have led to loss of lives. The stories below are not isolated cases, yet, the more you tell the stories, the more many others come forward to relate the sordid experience they have had with these Okada Hausa/Fulani riders in Lagos.
On Tuesday, April 2, 2019, Ifii Anyanwu, a 32-year-old philosophy graduate of the University of Lagos, now an actress, had attended an audition at Abeokuta, Ogun State, and was returning to her home in Festac Town, Lagos. She arrived Festac around 10 p.m. Coming through Ikeja, she had taken a bus to Alakija, from where she hired an Okada, operated by a young Fulani man. Unknown to the passenger, the Okada rider was armed with a dagger. The passenger was going to 3rd Avenue, but instead of taking the straight route of 2nd Avenue, the Okada rider chose to take the more quiet and dark 7th Avenue.
According to the victim, it was like the Okada rider had rehearsed the route as he meandered through service lanes on 7th Avenue. Suddenly, according to the young lady, the Okada rider held on to the huge bag of the passenger, dragging the bag while shuffling his Okada as he tried to turn around to enable his passenger fall off the bike. The lady held on to her bag, as the rider tried to manoeuvre a U-turn. Sensing he had lost the bag, the Aboki rider pulled out his dagger and stabbed his passenger in the stomach. He zoomed off as the young lady held to her now bleeding abdomen and her bag. Her cries attracted residents in the area who ran to her aid. She was quickly moved to a hospital at 4th Avenue, from where her father was contacted on phone.
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Ifii’s injury was so massive that her case was rejected by the hospital authorities, citing inadequate facilities to conduct what was going to be a major surgery; instead she was referred to the nearby Navy Specialist Hospital at Navy Town. Again, doctors at the Naval hospital rejected the case, also citing inadequate facilities in the hospital to handle the matter. They rather referred the now unconscious victim to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, Idi Araba, where, according to the doctors, adequate facilities and manpower will be available. The journey to LUTH was no easy task, considering the state of the roads, with tankers and trailers occupying a sizeable portion of the roads.
And thank God for LUTH, as doctors battled for hours to save the life of the young woman. The doctors on duty quickly stabilised her condition before wheeling her into the theatre for surgery. The delicate and life-threatening surgery took hours but was successful in the end.
Although Ifii is recovering slowly, now introduced to solid foods after days of no water and no food, the life of the young lady was put in danger by a free-wheeling Aboki rider, an armed thief, who may have used his Okada as a cover to commit crimes, including murder, against those who hired him as a commercial motorcyclist. Today, he is still out there, preying on other innocent people who would want to patronise him for a ride to their early graves. The family says they thank God for Ifii’s life and grateful to LUTH doctors who battled to restore her to health
There is also the story by a senior journalist, whose wife is alive today because she quickly surrendered her new phone when accosted by an Aboki Okada rider on First Avenue, Festac. She, too, engaged the Aboki Okada rider, who, later on the journey, chose a dark spot and demanded the passenger surrender her new Android phone. According to the lady, the Aboki had said: “Your phone or blood will flow”, and she quickly parted with the phone to save her life. She lives to tell the story.
There was also the young doctor at LUTH who lost his life, a fortnight ago, daggered to death at LUTH gate. The doctor was with his girlfriend as an Aboki Okada rider made to snatch the lady’s handbag with a phone and other valuables in it. His defence of his girlfriend elicited the anger of the Aboki rider who turned around and stabbed him in the abdomen. The young doctor died on the spot. The stories are legion. Unfortunately, these are guys Nigerians must deal with in their everyday lives. You argue with them in error. In any altercation, his brothers swarm on you like locusts, and willing to maim, kill or destroy what they see as the obstacle to their individual and collective profit. They deliberately cause a problem, and, within minutes, their people assemble to attack whatsoever or whomsoever they chose to unleash their anger. It is like they have been schooled that other Nigerians are the enemy and could be killed or maimed at their caprice. They vandalise your vehicle, injure you, and disappear to thin air. So, no charges are ever brought against them. In most cases, when they are apprehended, the DPO, an Hausa/Fulani, lets them off the hook.
It is very clear that Lagos State government is not completely conversant with the criminal elements that have descended on the state, and they are occupying every open dingy space. They start by cart-pushing to sell tomatoes, okro, pepper, yam and carrot. Others serve as maiguards. Before you say Jack, they have established a territory and others will join in. They bring in their wives and cousins and you try to persuade them to leave at your peril. They are armed and they are above the law.
Those who know say northern politicians use motorcycles to empower their youths, and they are asked to come down South as operation ground. But it is unlikely that Lagos State government has adequate hold on the motives and fighting spirits of hundreds of thousands of violent kids leaving corrupt military dictatorships of poor Islamic African countries. Again, it is difficult to fathom why, despite the killings, maiming and raping happening across Nigeria from the ‘Change’ mantra of the APC government of 2015, and the current ‘Next Level’ mantra, there are no stories of killer herdsmen facing the wrath of the law, the Nigerian law.
Well, like young Ifii has realised to the detriment of her health, the fear of the Aboki on Okada anywhere in Lagos State, is the beginning of wisdom. They are the new sheriffs in town, and they operate with no regards to the law in Nigeria.