Bamise of the urban jungle
Lagos is an urban jungle of concrete and skyscrapers, of the dirty drainages and dirtier minds. Like in most jungles, there are always unseeing beasts crawling silently in the undergrowths. In the night, the urban jungle is alive with beasts of prey and beautiful reptiles with shining colours and deadly fangs.
In the dark recesses of this jungle, there are blinking eyes searching for preys. There are also innocent birds, looking for insects and the little things of life. They fall victims and life in the urban jungle goes on in its endless circle of life and death.
Lagos is surrounded by old and new cemeteries. In the city where Gani Fawehinmi fought for democracy, the rich and the poor are separated in death. The rich people are buried in gardens and marble vaults. The poor are buried in cemeteries. Some truly unfortunate ones were never buried. They disappeared and their loved ones continue to hope against hope that one day, they would arrive. Because they are missing, they would have no gravestone and no memorial service would be offered in their honour.
When the tired workers are returning home in the night, sometimes, they stop at those night joints to drown their tiredness and frustrations in two or three bottles of beer. Then men lose their guards and women of easy virtues prey on the men as they harvest their pockets. But then the night may also be bristling with old lives. It is the belief that at those unholy hours, ghosts too would vacate their vaults in the cemetery to join the reverie at beer joints and enjoy the company of girls who have no definite home addresses.
They would wine and dine and in the early hours of the day, they would disappear back to the cemetery. They would never appear in the same bar twice. Each time they come, they would spend money like it never matter and they prey on their chosen girls.
Even when you are careful and try to walk on the straight and narrow path, you can still fall victim for the jungle does not operate on any known rule. The truth is that anyone can fall victim. So, Bamise Ayanwole tried to be careful. She knew Lagos could be dangerous. That was what her parents told her. She was diligent in her chosen profession as a tailor and fashion designer. She was only 22 and had great hope for the future. She was the future.
On February 26, she closed from work at the Ajah side of Lagos and decided to visit her sister who was living on the other side of the city. At 7:00 p.m, she boarded a BRT bus at the Chevron bus stop going to Oshodi and from there she hoped to board another vehicle going to Iyanna Ipaja. It was late and she was not too surprised that there were not many people in the bus. She thought the bus would soon be filled when the driver stops to pick passengers at other bus stops. He did not stop at the next bus stop. And then the next! And then the next!! Then Bamise realised that she was face to face with the beast of the urban jungle. Her hairs stood erect. She was sweating. She was afraid. The bus hustled through the night and the echoes of the juggle played in Bamise’sears. Trouble!
Bamise had called her sister earlier that she was on her way home. She should be home around 10:00 p.m. Now recognising that she could be in danger, she decided to take action. She had a good android phone. She decided to whisper a voice note to her friend.
The interior of the bus was dark, which was unusual since BRT buses are usually lighted when they are in motion at night. She took a video clip of the dark bus, capturing the rolling banner light inside the bus indicating the identity of the vehicle.
Her camera captured the darkness, the sombre aspect of this moving coffin. She was helpless, but she would go without a trace. She braced herself for the horror that was to come.
On Monday March 7, the Lagos State Police Command announced that it had arrested the driver of the affected BRT bus, Andrew Nice. The police brought Andrew to the public; a well-fed man of 42, who looked well composed and unruffled. He claimed he was a victim of robbery and armed violence. He claimed that when Bamise boarded the bus, other people boarded with her. One of them pointed a gun at him and asked him to obey. He did. When the bus got to a certain place on the Carter Bridge, he was ordered to stop. Then the violent men dragged Bamise down the bus as she was screaming. He drove away.
The driver did not explain why he had quietly packed the bus as if nothing unusual had happened that night. He went home to his wife and children. He ate, slept and probably enjoyed the bosom of his wife.
To him, February 26 was just a day at work. Everything appeared normal to him. He did not tell his employers about the horror he allegedly witnessed. When the dragnet got close, he fled. It was only on Monday that he was arrested in Ososa, Ogun State, the town made famous by the iconic Chief Hubert Ogunde, the dramatist and playwright.
Bamise’s sister said the driver was only acting. Speaking in Lagos, she alleged that Bamise was a victim of ritual killers who was looking for fresh human parts to make charms for wealth and power. She said her sister was mutilated, possibly before she even died. She alleged that the driver was a member of a kidnapping syndicate that must have used the BRT buses to lure victims to their death. She said but for the vigilance and courage of Bamise in recording her last moments and sending same to her friend, it would have been very difficult to trace her.
This incident is a wake-up call to the Lagos State Government. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has promised to get to the bottom of the matter. “We will therefore leave no stone unturned in the investigations and arrest of everyone found culpable in the kidnap and death of Miss Oluwabamise Ayanwole.”
The police are also expected to ferret out other members of the gang so that each of them can face justice. Lagos is Nigeria’s prime urban area, but Sanwo-Olu must not allow it to be overtaken by the ethos and ethics of the jungle. There are certain things that the State Government needs to do. First is to install CCTV cameras in all the buses. They can also be electronically monitored while in motion so that unusual movement can be detected immediately and action taken. The police should also be given all necessary assistance in the discharge of its duty of keeping Lagos safe.
The most worrisome however is the Lagos judiciary where trials of suspects linger on for many years. It took more than 10 years to dispose of the trial of murder suspects who were allegedly involved in the assassination of Kudirat Abiola, wife of Chief M.KO Abiola, winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election. How many witnesses would still remain steadfast after more than a decade of trial? The trial of Evans the kidnapper took many years. This record is worrisome to say the least. The trial of criminal suspects should not be more than five months or maximum of one year.
What is even more worrisome is what is happening to our collective memory. In 2017, Gaskia Media Ltd had been approached by two distinguished Nigerians, Chief (Mrs.) Mobolaji Osomo and Engineer Oluwole Komolafe. They wanted us to collaborate with Justice Isiaka Ishola Oluwa, an eminent jurist and son of Lagos, who was approaching his 100th birthday, in preparing his autobiography. It was an exciting experience for my colleagues and me for we have never had a 100-year old author. We approached the assignment with gusto, for Baba Oluwa, despite his advance age, was an engaging personality.
One of the assignments that Oluwa handled while he was on the Lagos State bench was the murder trial of Jimoh Ishola, alias Ejigbadero, a wealthy industrialist and land speculator. Ejigbadero was accused of killing one Raji Oba in an area called Alimosho, a suburb of Lagos noted then for its cocoa farms.
On August 22, 1975, Raji Oba was killed. Ejigbadero was accused of the murder, was tried before Justice Oluwa and was sentenced to death. He appealed the sentence up to the Supreme Court and the sentenced was confirmed. It was finally carried out in 1979.
There is a short street named in honour of Raji Oba, Ejigbadero’s victim, in Alimosho today. There is a longer street not far from Raji Oba Street named in honour Ejigbadero. There is also an Ejigbadero Bus Stop. I don’t know whether the bus stop and the street are named in honour of the same Ejigbadero who appeared before Justice Oluwa. I don’t know what Justice Oluwa too would think of all these.
If we believe there must be justice for Bamise, then we must also have a fair sense of crime and punishment.