July 10: A Fateful Day On OAU Campus We Can Never Forget, Its Happenings

Afrika: What Really Transpired On July 10, 1999

Story by Eaglepostnews (Gideon Ajose)

The Obafemi Awolowo University Community experienced a very great transformation right after the incident of July 10, 1999 wherein Dare-Devil cult members stormed the school and left an everlasting scar in the hearts of students and lecturers with the gruesome murder of 5 of its students namely George Yemi Iwilade, (fondly called Afrika); Eviano Ekelemu, Yemi Ajiteru, Babatunde Oke, and Ekpede Godfrey. This incident was never intended to have its effects but history has smiled on everyone who played a positive role in the incident and it continues to hit hard on those who played a negative role in the incident.

It is impossible to reminisce the incident of the July 10 massacre without mentioning the incident on March 7 wherein a group of individuals were driving roughly on the road 1 of the school and were accosted by ‘union guys’ leading to the kerfuffle, this issue was further compounded when the students’ union learnt they were cult members and were lodging at the staff quarters. The students led by George Yemi Iwilade apprehended the cultists and handed them over to the police alongside the ammunitions caught in their possession which includes a submachine gun, a locally manufactured gun, an axe, a bayonet and the black clothing and regalia of the Black Axe cult.

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Nigeria has always turn out to be a country that has a legacy that is passed on indirectly by nature from generation to generation till date – corrupt nature is a factor in the governance of the country. The Nigerian factor came into play as the cultists were freed by the magistrate as recounted in the book published by Prof Roger Makanjuola “Water must flow Uphill”, Makanjuola documents and raises concerns over the way the matter was handled by both the police and court system who broke from protocols, common sense and destroyed evidence and how this led to the failure to be able to prosecute the Black Axe members involved in the incident. Prof. Roger Makanjuola writes: “The case was heard on 31 March, and to the utmost amazement of everyone, the Chief Magistrate discharged and acquitted the arrested individuals. The students who had apprehended the cult members were not called as witnesses.” The investigating police officer, Corporal Femi Adewoye, claimed that the witnesses could not be located and actually stated in Court, “I tried to contact the complainants in this case, all to no avail.

Till date, there is no complainant in the case. Since all the accused persons denied the allegations against them and there is no complainant, there is no way the allegations can be proved.” This was the submission of the prosecuting police officer! Usually, in such cases, witness’ summons were served through the University Administration but this wasn’t done. The trial was concluded in two court appearances in eight days. The Chief Magistrate also ordered that the submachine gun be sent to the police armoury and the other exhibits be destroyed, thus eliminating all the evidence, and making it impossible to re-open the case.

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The students had done their bit to keep the school safe but little did they know that the incident will be a precursory into a more ugly incident as we saw and read about on July 10, 1999 where Black Axe cult members from various institutions including UNIBEN, UNILAG, UNICAL, UI and others stormed the school on an assassination mission targeted at the Union and Kegites leadership as the rallying cry of the assailants were orders to the leaders to come out and face them. It should be remembered that the periods leading to this event were myriad of controversies from the end of the VC tenure to an attempted increase in school fees and other administrative issues.

We can pretend and hide under the banner of objectivity to cast aspersions on clear historical events. However, it is a clear historical fact that the German concentration camp in Auschwitz were killing people in gas rooms and they were eliminating people in their thousands, while it is inglorious to say Hitler wasn’t directly involved, it will be simply foolish to deny his involvement or knowledge. “Having being in government I can say for sure that the government knows all and sees all but only acts in matter of Interest.” While Prof Wale Omole has gone ahead to be the pro chancellor of Lautech as far back as 2013, OAU still remains a no-go area for him due to the unpopular role he played throughout his administration as the Vice Chancellor and some administrative impropriety which includes allege falsification of age to stay longer in the system.

It is a historical fact that 5 students were murdered in cold blood in the early hours of July 10, 1999 and the Government did nothing to bring the perpetrators to book even after the indictment by the judicial enquire. It is also a historical fact that N300,000 was missing from the School’s account which couldn’t be accounted for by the bursar and was claimed to have been given out to Kato by the same person. Although, he later denied the statement and claimed it was obtained under duress by the union leaders during questioning and a police officer was with them throughout the whole process.

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Another historical fact is that the case was thrown out in 2002 after the magistrate was transferred to Iwo and all evidences were muddled up to ensure the cases didn’t make any more sense regardless of the input of the Union leaders to ensure they got justice for their slain colleagu. Up until 2017, there used to be a visit to George Iwilade’s family house on condolence visit but the tradition was stopped on request by the family.

Relieving the Moments

On the night of 9 July 1999 a number of student groups held a party at Obafemi Awolowo University. “members of Kegites Club on the campus, Man O’ war members, and various other student leaders— both former and incumbent, gathered at the open ground between Angola and Mozambique Halls.” Later in the night many of the party-goers began occupying the cafeteria of Awolowo Hall whilst others returned to their halls of residence to sleep.

Between 3:00am and 3:30 am (now 10 July 1999), a large number of cultists (reported to be between 22 and 40) of the Black Axe confraternity arrived to carry out a preplanned assault on the university with the intention of carrying out the assassinations of several prominent members of the student union. Allegations that these assassinations were sponsored by the university’s vice chancellor, Wale Omole, remain till this day but it is unclear if such is the case. It is said “one of the cultists, Kazeem Bello, aka Kato, confessed that Wale Omole had a hand in their July 10 dastardly operation.”

Upon arrival at the university, the Black Axe cultists “drove through the main gate and proceeded to the car park next to the Tennis Courts in the Sports Center. They alighted there and went on foot along a bush path to Awolowo Hall, where they violently interrupted the gyration, firing guns and also wielding axes and cutlasses.”

Although the order of the events that followed vary from account to account (in terms of who was killed in what order). It is clear that following the assault, 4 people were left dead. Another died from gunshot wounds later, one survived from a gunshot wound and “Twenty-five others received minor injuries, which were sustained during the stampede out of the Awolowo Hall cafeteria and later on during the attack.”

“The victims, which included the then Students’ Union Secretary General, George Yemi Iwilade (popularly called Afrika), a 400 level medical student, Eviano Ekelemu; a graduating student, Yemi Ajiteru; 100-Level Philosophy student, Babatunde Oke, and Ekpede Godfrey were gunned down by the “marauding beasts” in Blocks 5 and 8, Awolowo Hall.” Prof. Roger Makanjuola writes: “Tunde Oke was still alive but died on the operating table. Four others, George Iwilade, Yemi Ajiteru, Efe Ekede and Eviano Ekelemu, were brought in dead. Eviano Ekelemu bled to death from gunshot wounds to the groin and thigh. The other three died from gunshot wounds to the head.”

Several accounts stated that the Black Axe members were heard “shouting, “Legacy, come out!”” during the attack, referring to the suspended Students’ Union President, Lanre Adeleke. Additional targets of the attacks are described also. Prof. Roger Makanjuola’s account states the same and he also writes: “During the course of the incident, the attackers also shouted the names of “Afrika”, George Iwilade, and “Dexter”, the Chief of the Kegites, demanding that they come out.”

Of the targets of the massacre, Lanre Adeleke (Legacy) managed to escape by jumping from a balcony after hearing the gunfire. “Dexter”, the Chief of the Kegites, also escaped unharmed. George Iwilade (Afrika), the Secretary-General of the Students’ Union and a Law student was not so lucky. Upon entering his room the Black Axe “shot him immediately in the head. Then they smashed his head with their axe to make sure he was dead”.

It is reported George Iwilade (Afrika) was the only successfully assassinated victim. “Afrika, who was said to have carried out the arrest (relating to the incident on Saturday, 7 March 1999), was mercilessly butchered while the other four were just unfortunate victims”

Prof. Roger Makanjuola gives the order of events as being: “They first entered Room 184, where they shot and killed Efe Ekede, a Part II Psychology student. In Room 230, they shot Charles Ita, a Part II Law student. A group of the attackers then shot Yemi Ajiteru, a Part II Religious Studies student, through the head in the corridor outside the Kegites’ headquarters. In Room 273, they found George Iwilade (Afrika), the Secretary-General of the Students’ Union and a Law student, and shot him through the head, along with another occupant, Tunde Oke, a Part 1 student of Philosophy, who was shot in the abdomen.

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When the attackers got to Room 271, the room allocated to the suspended Students’ Union President, Lanre Adeleke (Legacy), they found that he had escaped. Legacy was in his room when he heard the first gun shots….. The band of thugs proceeded to Fajuyi Hall on foot, where they shot and killed one more student. That individual, Eviano Ekelemo, a medical student, was certainly not a student activist, but they shot him anyway.”. However, the order in which the victims were killed varies in various testimonies by a number of witnesses.

Prof. Roger Makanjuola’s account of the Black Axe cultist’s escape is: “The murderers left Fajuyi Hall on foot and went through the bush path behind the Hall back to their vehicles. They drove to the Students’ Union building, which they ransacked. They returned to their vehicles and drove out of the University through the main gate. The security staff, having heard gunfire, fled for their lives. Thus the exit of the marauding thugs was unchallenged.”

This event led to the mother of all congress that was held at the Afrika Amphi Theatre around 5am on the morning after the attack and the subsequent tracking and arrest of the masterminds and perpetrator of the incident spearheaded by the Union leaders.

Now and Then: What Changed?

Unlike what was obtainable in 1999, the University has become more committed to the fight against cultism as some students who were fingered to belong to a cult groups were suspended and handed over to the state CID for investigation with their details being published by the school management. Although this efforts have done its bit, it cannot be compared to the presence of a Union on campus to constantly raise awareness amongst its members. The ban placed on Students’ Union activities by the Vice Chancellor in 2017 has not really helped, although the move to restore the Union has began as promised by the school management that the union will be reinstated in 2019/2020 academic session – OAU Fulfils Promise on Students’ Unionism, Inaugurates Students Electoral Body.

Have you been to OAU campus or its environs before and you were told that you can moved or walk on campus at anytime? Yes, that is absolutely true. The above story is the tale behind the success of such safety on OAU campus. Obafemi Awolowo University is known to be one of the safest campus in Nigeria and it is so till date.

Has this article exposed you to the things you didn’t know about July 10th in Obafemi Awolowo University? Drop your comments below and don’t forget to share with friends, family and siblings who aspire to know about OAU.

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