The year 1969 is one the people of Ogbomoso will never forget. More than half a century later, elders still shudder whenever they remember the incident. For those who were not born at the time or who were too young to know what happened, the story has been told over and over again till today and it has become almost a folklore
It is doubtful if there is anyone of Ogbomoso descent who has not heard of the story. After all, bí ọmọdé kò ba ba ìtàn, yóò ba àrọ́bá, àrọ́bá sì ni bàbá ìtàn. [if a child did not meet an event, the child will certainly grow up to meet its narration, and narration is the parent of an event.] The story you are reading now is therefore the parent of that fateful event of 1969.
Of course, you know that in 1969, Nigeria’s federal force was in the thick of the civil war with the Biafran soldiers. The war which had started two years earlier had not shown any sign of abating. In the South West of the country, another local civil war of epic proportion was being fought. It was the revolt of the peasant farmers. Although it has been variously described as a riot, it was more than a riot. It was as bloody and as tragic as any war. According to the author of The Politics of Peasant Groups in Western Nigeria, more than 80 people in Ibadan lost their lives between 1968 and 1969 as a result of the crisis. In Abeokuta, the casualty was put at 36, Ijebu and Ogbomoso were not left out as they also recorded several deaths. It was Ogun Agbekoya.
The economy of Western State in the late 60s was in dire straits. You recall that the creation of Lagos State had led to the excision of the former Colony Province from the old Western Region and this resulted in diminution of the state’s revenue. As a result of this, and coupled with the Nigerian civil war and its attendant cost, it became necessary for the government to generate revenue not only to finance the war but also to ensure that the regional economy was not destabilised. One of the ways the government decided to generate revenue was to increase the rate of personal income tax payable by the citizens. Hitherto, the rate of tax payable by an adult worker was £3 [Three Pound] per annum. Onigegewura hopes you know that we are talking about Nigeria of 1969 when pound was the legal tender.
Suddenly, the people of the Western State were informed that a new tax rate had been introduced. Citizens would now pay £6 per annum. One could thus imagine the impact and effect of the new tax regime on the farmers. As you are aware, farmers were already challenged by drastic shortage of labourers to work on the farm as most of the able-bodied men had been conscripted to fight in the Eastern part of the country. Coupled with the inclement weather experienced in Ibadan, Ile-Ife, Ekiti, Ondo and other major cocoa producing towns between 1968 and 1969, it appeared that farmers considered the new tax as a death sentence.
In Ogbomoso, the new tax was not the only challenge confronting the people. There were other simmering issues between the Soun of Ogbomoso and his subjects. According to the duo of Akinjide Osuntokun and Tunde Oduwobi:
“It was therefore akin to pouring petrol on fire when the government in Ibadan imposed the tax and further declared that June 30 was the deadline for payment of the tax. The government had announced that the war on tax defaulters and tax evaders would be launched on July 1. According to the government, those who failed to pay their taxes would be “blacklisted as human parasites and saboteurs and treated as such.” People were further informed that the penalties for defaulters would include “public arrest and prosecution.”
There was palpable tension in the whole of Ogbomoso on the eve of the deadline. This was more so that people started observing increased police presence on the streets of the town. It appeared that the government was determined to enforce the deadline. Messages were quickly sent round the town by words of mouth that there would be a meeting with His Royal Highness first thing the following morning.
People started gathering at the palace as early as the break of dawn. By ten in the morning, more than a thousand people had gathered waiting to meet with the king. Many of the waiting crowd were members of the Agbekoya. There were also members of Tepamose (Hard Work) Society as well as ordinary Ogbomoso citizens. They did not wait for long before Oba Emmanuel Olajide Olayode appeared. He was accompanied by Mr. Oyewo, a lawyer; and two of his brothers as well as a couple of royal attendants. Prayers were offered to the ancestors and libations were poured as traditions demanded.
One by one, the representatives of the assembly addressed the king on the burning issues. Paramount among which was the new tax regime the people flatly considered prohibitive and exorbitant. Kabiyesi was informed that the new rate was above what they could afford. Oba Olayode asked them what he should tell the government that they could afford and he was told that they were willing and ready to pay £1.10/ per annum per person.
They also raised the issue of police presence in the town. The Agbekoya members pointedly accused the Kabiyesi that they had it on good authority that the Oba was hiding some policemen somewhere in the town for the purpose of using them to molest the citizens. Kabiyesi listened patiently to the grievances of his people. He assured them that he was not unaware of the difficulties the people of the town were facing. With regard to the issue of taxation, he told them that he would personally discuss the matter with the Governor in Ibadan as well with his brother Obas to ensure that the issue was revisited.
He also addressed the perceived police presence in the town. He denied that there were policemen in the town beyond what they had before. He even invited them to come inside the palace to verify his claim. He told them that although he was not the Commissioner of Police or the Chief Security Officer of the town, he would discuss the matter with the Governor and other top functionaries. He gave the people the assurance that no citizen of Ogbomoso would be arrested or molested until the issues were resolved conclusively.
Mr. Oyewo, the legal practitioner, also addressed the gathering on the legal aspects of the issues raised and pleaded with the populace to bear with Oba Olayode who had promised to speak with the government on their behalf. At the end of the deliberations, Kabiyesi gave the crowd £5 as a present for their visit.
It was on this note that the meeting came to an end. People who had been anticipating that violence would break out heaved a collective sigh of relief. Although the issues raised were not fully resolved, the people were nonetheless satisfied with the response and assurance they received from the king, particularly with respect to the fact that they would not be molested.
Oba Olayode himself was pleased with the outcome of the meeting. As you know that Onílùú o fẹ́ ko tú, abánigbé lo ń se e [the owner of the town does not wish it to break up, it is the doing of the sojourner]. He had been worried that the people could become violent if their demands were not met. It was therefore a relieved king that returned to the first floor of the palace accompanied by his brothers, Oladipo Olayode and Oladiran Olayode, and his royal attendants; Bello Okeyiola and Tijani Akanni.
It could not have been more than two hours after the meeting ended when there was a thunderous noise from the city centre. Three trucks filled to the brim with armed policemen, in an apparent road show of force, were sighted by the townspeople. The police convoy passed by the palace from the direction of Owode facing Osogbo. If the intention of the authorities was to intimidate the people, the objective was more than achieved. In an instant, all the roads became deserted as men and women fled the streets, taking refuge in any house or compound they could find. Mothers could be heard screaming at their children to come back into the house in the manner a mother hen gather her chicks from a rampaging hawk.
But you know that bi Sàngó ba n pa àràbà, ti o n fa ìrókò ya, bi ti igi nlá nko [when the thunder strikes at araba, and smashes the iroko tree to smithereens, the mahogany would remain unscathed]. Whilst the people of the town were running from pillar to pole for their dear lives, members of the Agbekoya were unperturbed. They were not scared of police or soldiers. They trusted in their charms and arms. Instead, they were angry and disappointed with the king. They believed that the king must have been lying to them when he denied the presence of the police in the town. Where then did the police surface from? They asked themselves.
In a moment, another set of messages had gone round the members. They were told to assemble in the house of the chairman. Passing from compound to compound, and from house to house, members of Agbekoya began to find their way to the house of Jimoh Adisa, the Ogbomoso chairman of the group. In a matter of minutes, the compound had been filled. It was a totally different gathering from the one earlier. Almost everyone this time around was in a war mood. Those who did not have guns, had machetes. Those without machete had cudgels. There was even a man who was sporting a sharp spear which he was brandishing like a magician. Many of them had abandoned the customary buba and sooro they were wearing earlier in the day. Now, they were decked in traditional short sleeves heavily decorated with charmed cowries, small gourds, and blackened feathers of agbe, aluko and akalamagbo.
Incantations were rolling off their tongues the way school children recite the national anthem and the pledge. People were sharing local schnapps and atare [alligator pepper] generously with their fellow combatants. You of course know that you need to chew alligator pepper and swallow a mouthful of hot drink if you want your incantation to be effective.
When it was clear that the crowd was becoming restive, Jimoh Adisa addressed them briefly. He told them that the king had betrayed the people and must be made to pay the supreme price. He commanded the baying mob that he wanted only one thing from them! They should go and bring the head of the Kabiyesi! The crowd yelled with undiluted joy! They broke out in war dance and trooped out of Adisa’s compound. Their destination? The palace of the Soun Ogbomoso!
Kabiyesi was on the first floor of the palace with his brothers and attendants when he heard the noise from a distance. He could hear them before he saw them. The sound was deafening. Then he saw them. It was a terrifying sight. He was not the only one who saw them. His brothers and the royal servants also saw the menacing crowd as they made straight for the palace. The police were nowhere in sight. Kabiyesi attempted to make one or two calls on the telephone. But there was no dialling tone. Oladipo and Oladiran tugged at their brother.
You might have heard from Iya Agba that àléèmú ó yẹ àgbàlagbà, àgbàlagbà kii se ohun àléèmú [to be pursued does not become an elder, an elder does not cause himself to be pursued]. It does not appear that Iya Agba’s saying was applicable on this day. Kabiyesi did not need any prompting from his siblings before running down the flight of stairs. The brothers followed his royal highness. The attendants, Okeyiola and Akanni did not wait for any royal command before they followed their principal. It was everyone for himself. Eni ori yo, o dile! On the ground floor, the fleeing party turned towards the backyard, as the entrance of the palace was already under attack by the mob.
The first objects of attack of the rampaging mob were the doors and windows of the palace which were soon reduced to rubbles. Someone must have torched the palace, as the frontage of the building went up in flames. Shouting and screaming, the charging crowd stormed the interior of the palace. Doors were flung open and every container turned upside down. They had only one mission and one objective, Oba Olayode was their target!
They ransacked the entire palace in a twinkle of an eye. Oba Olayode could not be found. Where was the Oba? Has His Royal Highness disappeared? They asked one another.
The king had actually not disappeared. Seeing that the main palace had fallen into the hands of the enemy, the five-man party ran to the room of one Abudu where they fearfully took refuge. It turned out to be a temporary sanctuary as the crowd soon suspected that they must be hiding in Abudu’s room and that was where they turned to in their rage. By then the main palace was on fire. At a point, Kabiyesi asked his messenger, Bello Okeyiola to see if he could make his way to the Police Station at Oke-Ora to inform police of what was going on. Okeyiola was however recognised by the mob and he was about to be summarily sacrificed to Ogun, the god of Iron, when Olayiwola rescued him.
Oba Olayode himself did not wait a moment longer. Abudu’s room was connected to another room which belonged to Orijenpe. They bolted through the door and barricaded the door behind them. The crowd was however like a tsunami. There was no way to stop the roaring flood. No one knew what was used to hit the door of Abudu’s room. It could have been a pestle or a kick. The door shattered on impact revealing its empty content. Where was the king? They noticed the connecting door. They made for it! In a matter of seconds, they had burst into Orijenpe’s room. To their shock, it was also empty! Kabiyesi was not there!
What the crowd did not know was that as they were breaking Jenpe’s door, Kabiyesi had once again escaped. This time, the three Olayode brothers and Tijani Akanni had jumped from Orijenpe’s room and crossed over to the house of Olayiwola, though a different house, it was still within the palace precinct. Panting, scared and terrified, the four of them entered the house through the back door and hid in one of the rooms there. They however did not close the door of the room in order not to alert the crowd that someone was in the room. By now, the crowd had guessed that the only other likely place Kabiyesi could be hiding was Olayiwola’s house and to this they rushed with uncontrolled fury.
Olayiwola who was the Abesinkawo Oba [the Stable Attendant] met the mob in the passage of the house. The first person to enter was Momodu Oladele. He demanded that Olayiwola should hand over the visitors in the house. You know that bí ojú onílé bá mọ tíntín, tí ojú àlejò to gbòǹgbò, onílé ni ọkọ àlejò [even though the eyes of the landlord are tiny and the visitor’s eyes are huge. It is the landlord who holds sway over the visitor]. But on this occasion, Olayiwola knew that the people who entered his house were his masters.
Kabiyesi and his entourage were happy when they heard Olayiwola denying the presence of any visitor in the house. However, they were shocked when they saw -from their hiding place – that whilst Olayiwola was telling them that there was no one in the house, he was pointing his thumb backward indicating where Kabiyesi could be found.
Oladele got the message and in the next moment he had jumped into the room. He saw the king and screamed “Owó tee!” [The king has been caught!]. He asked others to join him. As you are aware, kò sì àbùjá lọ́rùn ọpẹ́ [there is no shortcut on the palm tree]. Kabiyesi Oba Emmanuel Olajide Olayode was cornered. He was fished out by the crowd who danced and screamed with the unbridled joy of a primitive hunter who had trapped his prey. Oba Olayode was dragged out of the house by Salami Akanji.
Then the madness started. The crowd descended on the hapless and star-crossed king with all the fury they could muster. Onigegewura will not bother you with the details of what happened next. When they were through with the evil mission, only the trunk of what was once the king remained. The stomach of Kabiyesi had been ripped open and its gory content exposed to the elements. Garba Oyeniyi had apparently not forgotten the directive of their chairman. He decapitated the king who was already dead and triumphantly ran off carrying his ‘trophy’.
It was at this point that Asifatu Ishola who was among the mob said that he took pity on the condition of the king and do you know what he did? Onigegewura will tell you. He brought out £1 and went to buy petrol with which the remains of the Kabiyesi was burnt.
At the end of the carnage, Oba Olajide was not the only fatal victim of the rampaging crowd. According to our revered Professor Toyin Falola, “[F]ive of his chiefs suffered a similar fate, in addition to two innocent people, the king’s wife and child, the latter being stepped upon by the crowd.”
I hope you have not forgotten Oyeniyi who carted away the unspeakable trophy. After they had succeeded in setting the remains of the Oba on fire, the crowd took off with Garba Oyeniyi at their head. Chanting and singing, they trotted back to the compound they started from. Jimoh Adisa was waiting for them as they made their triumphant entry. He could not hide his smile as he collected the trophy from Oyeniyi and after reciting some incantations, he spat out saying: “ẹni tí ó dalẹ̀ a bá ilẹ̀ lọ.” [A betrayer must pay the supreme price]. It was reported that Jimoh Adisa carried the Oba’s head to Laogun’s house. However before taking the head there, Jimoh Adisa and three other people took pictures with the severed head.
After the crowd had dispersed, it was the lot of Ladipo Olayode, the Oba’s brother who had witnessed the whole transaction from where he was hiding, to come back to cover the trunk of the deceased monarch with mat and plank.
The news of what happened in Ogbomoso reverberated throughout the Western State. It shook the whole of the former Western Region to its foundation. Ogbomoso had never witnessed anything that dastardly in its entire history. It is not that a Soun had never been removed from the throne before. History had it that “two unpopular Baales [as Souns were addressed before the throne was elevated] who had reigned in the eighteenth century -Baale Ologolo and Baale Olukan – were eased out of office, not eliminated.” This was however the first time that a Soun would be murdered on the throne. The murder of Oba Emmanuel Olajide Olayode therefore had no precedent in the history of the town since its establishment by the legendary Soun Ogunlola in the 17th century.
The Government immediately imposed a dusk to dawn curfew on the town from 7pm to 7am. Governor Adebayo directed that everyone who was connected with the sacrilegious act must be made to face the wrath of the law without delay. The Western State Commissioner of Police, SP A. B. Adefemi, needed no prompting. Crack detectives and police officers were quickly dispatched to the town. Once again, the whole of Ogbomoso went into panic mode as the police began to pick the suspects one by one.
First to be picked was Lamidi Akangbe, a 21-year-old army corporal who was fingered to be one of the arrow heads. The detectives also located Asifatu Ishola who had bought the fuel with which the body of the deceased king was incinerated. It appeared the suspects were not limited by faiths as Solomon Ige, a prophet, was picked along with two priests of Sàngó -the god of thunder: Aremu Sangotola and Ogunesan Agbaje. Three of the suspects were also named Jimoh; Jimoh Atanda Atufata who was 50 years old at the time; Jimoh Adisa who was said to have ordered the mob to bring back the head of the king; and Jimoh Ajao Olojukan, a 28-year-old man who said to be carrying the spear that was used to attack the king. He was purblind, hence the sobriquet, Olojukan.
Other arrests were to follow in quick succession. Salami Akanji Onimoto who was a transporter was picked up. The police arrested Ezekiel Oyebanji who was 25 years old along with his age mate, Momodu Oladele. Others include Shittu Olayiwola, James Akinlabi, Sholagbade Ayinde, Ladipo Akande, Akangbe Adakeja, and Bello Alamu. Two of the suspects arrested however stood out on account of their status and gender. When a senior chief of Ogbomoso, Chief Samuel Olafunmi was picked up, not many a people wondered whether a mistake had not been made. The second surprise suspect was the only woman and also the oldest of the lot, Madam Deborah Oyeronke whose age was put at 80 years. On and on it went, from Ogbomoso the suspects were transported to the State Capital.
Finally, forty-three days after the death of Kabiyesi, 17 suspects were arraigned before the Magistrate Court in Ibadan for the murder of His Royal Highness. Eleven of them were represented by the same counsel, Isaac Dokun Babalola who was called to the Bar in 1963. The prosecution was represented by M. A. Aina, an Assistant Superintendent of Police. The ASP read out the charges preferred against the accused persons. Onigegewura has already told you in the Dawodu Brothers’ story that a magistrate court has no jurisdiction to try a murder case. Chief Magistrate Arukunku Olumide Lapite who was enrolled at the Bar in 1949 therefore did not allow the accused to take their plea as that would have been wrong.
Nonetheless, ASP Aina applied to the court for an order that the accused be remanded in custody indefinitely pending conclusion of investigation. Babalola of Counsel of course objected to the prayer for indefinite detention, after which the Chief Magistrate who later rose to become the Chief Registrar of Western State ordered that the accused be detained and adjourned the matter to the following month.
At the conclusion of the police investigation, only eight of the suspects were found to have participated in the commission of the offence. However, the police were not able to arrest one of the eight, Alade Ayantoyinbo. The charge against him was subsequently withdrawn and struck out. The remaining seven suspects: Momodu Oladele, Jimoh Ajao Amoo alias Olojukan, Jimoh Atanda Atufata, Ezekiel Oyebanji, Salami Akanji alias Onimoto, Asifatu Ishola, and Jimoh Adisa were arraigned before the High Court of Western State.
The trial Judge was His Lordship Hon Justice Akinola Aguda, a cerebral jurist who was called to the Bar in 1952 and who came to the Bench with a Doctorate degree in Law from the famous London School of Oriental and African Studies. Has Onigegewura told you that His Lordship’s PhD Thesis was on the subject of mental element in criminal case? Of course you remember that the issue of mental element was the game changer in Gaji’s case.
The DPP of the Western State, Mr. Akinola. O. Apara appeared for the Prosecution. Chief David Ojo Abiodun Oguntoye who was the Aare Owa of Oke-Mesi appeared with Mr. Jeremy Awomolo for Momodu Oladele, Jimoh Atanda Atufata and Asifatu Ishola. Mr. Richard Akinjide was the counsel for Jimoh Ajao, Ezekiel Oyebanji, Salami Akanji alias Onimoto and Jimoh Adisa.
On 10 November 1969, the seven accused persons were formally charged with the murder of Oba Emmanuel Olajide Olayode, the Soun of Ogbomoso contrary to section 254 of the Criminal Code of the Western State. They all pleaded not guilty when the charges were read out to them.
Trial in the case started on 18 November 1969. First to be called to the witness stand was Ladipo Olayode, a senior brother to the deceased king who was with him on the fateful day. He testified that he saw Momodu Oladele, Jimoh Ajao, Jimoh Atufata and others who attacked the palace and set it on fire and how they were among the people who dragged out the king and killed him. According to him, Momodu Oladele was the first one to machete the king. Akanji hit Kabiyesi with a club, and Jimoh Olojukan pierced his body with a spear. It was Oyebanji who cut Oba’s wrists whilst Jimoh Atufata took away part of the king’s flesh.
He was grilled on cross-examination by Chief Oguntoye and Mr. Richard Akinjide but he remained unshaken. He denied any imputation that he ran away and that he only ran for a couple of feet before coming back to where he hid to watch the mob.
The prosecution then called the king’s second brother, Oladiran Olayode whose testimony also corroborated that of his sibling with regard to the role played by the accused persons. He testified that whilst they were with Kabiyesi, they saw one Ayanwole on a motorcycle calling people to come out with guns, cutlasses and clubs because the Oba had sent for the police.
You remember that two attendants of the late king were with him the day he was murdered? The prosecution called the two of them. Tijani Akanni and Bello Okeyiola painted graphic picture of what happened at the ancient palace the day the blood of the king was spilled on the throne. The eighty-year-old Bello was comprehensively cross-examined by both Chief Oguntoye and Mr. Akinjide. According to Bello, there were about three hundred people in the mob that ransacked the palace.
Three of the witnesses, Oladipo Olayode, Oladiran Olayode and Bello Okeyiola, testified that they saw Momodu Oladele carrying a cutlass and that he was one of the people who rushed to the house of Olayiwola to drag out the king. Oladipo stated further that he saw Oladele stabbing the king with his matchet.
The three witnesses also testified that they saw Jimoh Ajao who was carrying a spear which Oladipo Olayode said was used to stab the king. Oladipo Olayode and Bello Okeyiola further testified that they saw Jimoh Atanda Atufata among the crowd. They stated that although he was not carrying any weapon, he was wearing a ‘juju dress’. The witnesses testified that he was the one who cut part of the deceased’s flesh and went away with it.
The prosecution witnesses also testified that Asifatu Ishola was among the people in the crowd. In fact, Tijani Akanni stated that Asifatu was one of the people who pursued them to Abudu’s room that fateful day.
The police officers who investigated the cases and recorded the statements of the accused persons: ACP Bolarinwa Adefemi, ASP Moses Aina; Sgt. Isiah Fariyibi of the State CID; PC Lana Ladejo, PC Muibi Kadiri, and Corporal James Fabiku, also testified to how the investigation was conducted. They also informed the court how they investigated the alibi of the defendants and found them to be untrue. ASP Aina in the course of his testimony informed the court that Jimoh Atufata took him to a stream where the head of the king was allegedly buried. The police searched the vicinity but could not find the head.
It was when the 8th witness was called to the witness stand that the people in the court began to hear, for the first time, the gory condition, and the indignities the body of the king was subjected to. The witness was Dr. Ladi Alli-Balogun who conducted the post mortem examination of the body of the deceased. According to the medical practitioner, there were no hands and there were also no legs on the body at the time of the examination. Also missing was the head of the king. The stomach was open and the internal organs had spilled out. He further testified that there were machete cuts on the body mostly in front of the chest and at the abdomen. He concluded that the body was also badly burnt.
Upon conclusion of the case of the prosecution, Chief Oguntoye made a no-case submission in respect of Momodu Oladele, Jimoh Atanda Atufata, and Asifatu Ishola. The senior counsel argued that of the prosecution witnesses, the 3rd and 4th were not eyewitnesses, and that the 2nd witness had been convicted of perjury. Mr. Akinjide also made similar application in respect of his four clients.
On 12 December 1969, His Lordship delivered ruling in respect of the applications. In the ruling, the Court agreed with Mr. Richard Akinjide that that none of the prosecution witnesses testified to the role played by Jimoh Adisa who allegedly ordered the head of the king to be brought and who was said to be the chairman of Agbekoya in the town. The Court therefore held that there was no evidence linking him to the killing.
Adisa was discharged. He was a free man!
My Noble Lord then turned to the remaining six accused persons and asked them if they had witnesses in defence of the charge they were standing trial for. They all refused to give evidence in their defence. Instead, Chief Oguntoye called a police officer, Sergeant Titus Olaleye to the witness stand to testify for the 1st accused.
I hope you recall that all the accused persons had given written statements to the police upon being arrested and charged with the offence of murder, after being cautioned. The statement proved very crucial during the trial as they were tendered by the prosecution and accepted as exhibits by the Court.
Momodu Oladele, in his statement, told the police that he was not in Ogbomoso on July 1 when Oba Olayode was killed. He told the police that he was in Jos with his brother, Amos Ajala. If only he knew how efficient the Nigerian Police was. On 20 August 1969, the Police took him to Jos. On getting there, he was asked by the officers to show them the house of his brother. Oladele was looking at the police like the statue of the Olokun Head at the entrance of Ile-Ife. His case was like that of alágbẹ̀dẹ Ìfọ̀kọ̀, wọn fun ni ìrìn, ó ní ajá gbe. Se ajá a má jẹ ìrìn bí? [the proverbial blacksmith of Ifoko who was given an iron rod to work on, and he claimed that dog ate the iron. Does dog eat iron rods?] The next thing he did was to prostrate and beg the police officers to forgive him.
On his own part, Jimoh Ajao admitted that although he came out of his house with a spear when he heard that police had entered Ogbomoso and were beating people, he denied ever using the spear on the late Kabiyesi. He however admitted that he went to Kabiyesi’s palace with the spear. The efficient police left no stone unturned in their efforts to find the spear. It was a very diligent policeman, PC Lana Ladejo who was able to find the spear and it was tendered in court as exhibit.
Jimoh Atanda Atufata also denied being in Ogbomoso on the day, notwithstanding that he was sighted by the prosecution witnesses wearing a juju garment. In his statement to the police, he told the investigating police officers that he was in Ilorin Afonja that day to collect a debt from one Okanlawon Alao of Alanamu Compound and that he was there for 8 days. He too must have underrated the police. Corporal James Fabiku took him and off they went to Ilorin. At Ilorin, he took the officer to a house on Lagos Street. There was no one in the house. The officer went to inquire about the house from neighbours and they told him that the house had been empty for more than 5 years. Atufata then took the officer to another compound where the people denied knowing him.
To compound his problem, when he was arrested a month after the incident on the ceiling of his house where he was hiding, he was found to be wearing a juju garment, a case of àjẹ́ ké làná, ọmọ ké loni. Tani kò mọ pé àjẹ àná lo pa ọmọ jẹ [when a witch squeals on the eve of a child’s death, it is crystal clear that the witch had already announced her intention to take the life of the child]. A loaded pistol was also discovered by the police on the ceiling.
On his own part, Salami Akanji’s statement is to the effect that his vehicle was commandeered by the Agbekoya who forced him to take them to the house of Jimoh Adisa and forced him to drive them to the palace. He denied being part of the mob that killed the king.
Asifatu Ishola also did not go into the witness box. However, in his statement he admitted that although he had a cudgel and a whip, he did not use either of them on Kabiyesi as the king had been murdered before his body was dragged out of Olayiwola’s house. He however admitted that he bought £1 fuel to burn the body of the king.
On Monday, 5 January 1970 – six weeks after the trial started, Justice Aguda delivered judgment in the case that had rocked the whole of South West to its foundation. His Lordship reviewed the evidence before the court very carefully. The Court found that the prosecution had not proved its case against the 25-year-old Ezekiel Oyebanji beyond reasonable doubt. His Lordship held that it was only the first prosecution witness who testified that he saw Oyebanji cutting the wrist of the king and that it was not safe to convict the accused as charged based on such uncorroborated evidence.
He was discharged and acquitted.
Ezekiel Oyebanji was a free man!
What of the remaining five defendants? After considering all the evidence adduced before him, His Lordship Justice Aguda held that he had not the slightest doubt in his mind that Oladipo Olayode, Oladiran Olayode, Bello Okeyiola and Tijani Akanni were in the palace when it was invaded and that they witnessed what they had told the court. The court therefore convicted the remaining five accused persons. They were found guilty.
They were accordingly sentenced to death.
You are of course by now familiar with the provisions of section 370 of the Criminal Procedure Code. It is the section that provides that after a judge had sentenced a person to death, the judge must send a report of the trial to the governor with his recommendation and observation. In accordance with this provision, Justice Aguda sent his report to the governor in respect of the trial wherein His Lordship observed as follows:
“The murder that was committed by the convicts in this case is one of the most gruesome and brutal in recent years in this State. There are no extenuating circumstances and the murder of an Oba on political grounds is one that no one can condone. In the circumstances it is my view that the law be allowed to take its normal cause.”
The condemned prisoners were swiftly transported to Abeokuta Prisons. As you already know, the convicts had a right of appeal and they promptly appealed to the Western State Court of Appeal. Onigegewura has already to you that at the time, Western State was the only State that had a Court of Appeal in the country.
At the appellate court, the Appellants were again represented by the duo of David Oguntoye and Richard Akinjide. Michael Ogundare who had been appointed the DPP of Western State appeared for the Respondent.
The appeal was heard by my Noble Lords Justice Moses Olatunji Oyemade, Justice Edward Adegboyega Ademola, and Justice Kayode Eso.
The appellate court considered the appeal of the five appellants. It was at this court that fortune smiled on Salami Akanji alias Onimoto. On 3 June 1971, the Western State Court of Appeal delivered its judgment and held that Onimoto’s appeal had merit. It was held that the trial court should have given him the benefit of the doubt the same way it did in the case of Ezekiel Oyebanji. His conviction was therefore set aside and he was discharged.
Onimoto was a free man.
With regard to the remaining four convicts, the appellate court held that their appeal was unmeritorious and same was dismissed.
The four of them were not ready to give up. They immediately instructed their Counsel, Morohunkeji Onalaja who was called to the Bar the year Nigeria gained independence, to proceed to the Supreme Court to further challenge the decisions of the two lower courts. Mr. Onalaja later became His Lordship Justice Onalaja upon his elevation to the Bench of Lagos State in 1980 and was further elevated to the Court of Appeal in 1993.
The appeal at the Supreme Court was heard by my Lord Justices Adetokunbo Ademola, GBA Coker, Ian Lewis, Udo Udoma, and Atanda Fatai-Williams. On 11 February 1972, the five Noble Lord Justices of the apex Court dismissed the appeal as being without merit. According to Justice Fatai-Williams:
“Before us on appeal, learned counsel for the appellants was unable to urge anything in favour of the appellants. Having regard to the overwhelming evidence which the learned trial Judge rightly in our view, accepted, we were also of the view that each of the appellants was rightly convicted of murder as charged. We therefore dismissed their appeals.”
With their appeal to the final court dismissed, the four convicts: Momodu Oladele, Jimoh Ajao alias Olojukan, Jimoh Atanda Atufata and Asifatu Ishola, had nowhere else to turn.
They eventually paid the supreme price.
May the soul of His Royal Highness Oba Emmanuel Olajide Olayode rest in peace.
The year 1969 is one the people of Ogbomoso will never forget. More than half a century later, elders still shudder whenever they remember the incident. For those who were not born at the time or who were too young to know what happened, the story has been told over and over again till today and it has become almost a folklore. It is doubtful if there is anyone of Ogbomoso origin who has not heard of the story
Winner, British Council Professional Achievements Award