Kidnap victim, Gbenga Owolabi: The ultimate disconnect


May 2, 2023

By Suyi Ayodele

I love how Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, described our present situation. He was very clear in his assessment of our circumstances in Nigeria. He declared, matter-of-factly: “We are in a war situation, let no one deceive you”, in his October 2, 2022 message to his congregants. He illustrated the parlous sitch of our security with the impunity with which felons, known as kidnappers, operate in the country. The clergy man said even the inner recesses of our palaces are not spared. Monarchs are kidnapped with their full paraphernalia on their thrones nowadays. That can only happen in a war situation. How I wished that the leader of one of the largest congregations had found his voice earlier than now. He asked us to pray for our leaders because we, the masses, suffer the consequences of the mistakes made by those ruining us while pretending to rule us. Prayer? I don’t believe that is what we need now. We have prayed enough. Our leaders don’t need our prayers again. They need our whipping; they deserve to be called  out and challenged for  their lackadaisical attitude towards governance and the governed. Don’t ask me if I did not join in the “corporate prayer” called by Daddy G.O. Our problems are not spiritual. They are purely man made; caused by wicked and grossly insouciant leadership. The killing of Owolabi and Opadele had and has nothing to do with spiritual matters. Someone was elected to provide security. If he is not doing that, we should interrogate him. I know prayer works. I equally know, as taught in the various Sunday Schools, that “faith without works is dead”. This is the time to work. If at all Nigerians need to pray for their leaders, the prayer point should be blunt and direct. “Oh God, visit Your wrath and anger on all bad leaders in Nigeria”, should be the prayer point. If Daddy G.O. calls for that type of “corporate prayer”, I will add tongue blasting to mine. Enough is indeed enough of the mindless killings.

The story of Olugbenga Owolabi and Rachael Opadele is a story of Nigeria. Owolabi left the shores of Nigeria for the USA in his early twenties. He laboured and toiled in the God’s Own Country. He raised his family over there. He made fortunes and was comfortable. He had all the good things of life. Then he remembered his fatherland. He was a member of the older generation who believed in the “ilé ni àbò simi oko” philosophy – every farmer returns home to rest. Against all protestations by his immediate family, Owolabi decided to come back home and invest in Nigeria. He believed so much in the axiom: “East or West; home is the best”. That was his mistake.

The  54-year-old patriot who had lived  and made his mark extensively in America elected to return home to better the lot of his people by building a hotel in Ogbomoso, his biological roots. Racheal had no business working at Owolabi’s hotel. She was a final year student of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, LAUTECH, Ogbomoso. Buhari and his gang of conscienceless leaders pushed her to work. Due to the lack of fidelity with signed agreements, the government pushed the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, to embark on an avoidable strike action. Determined not to be idle, Racheal applied and was engaged as a worker in Owolabi’s hotel. Their’s like the Nigerian story ended as a monumental tragedy. The duo were abducted by yet-to-be-apprehended assailants who cruelly terminated their lives in spite of having collected ransom on their heads.

The duo represented the crop of diligent but silent Nigerian patriots whose dreams  the nation asphyxiated in their prime. And you all know, Nigeria kills its very best. So the country killed the two patriots. Like the other litany of deaths that preceded their’s, Nigeria has since moved on; looking for who to kill again. A nation that kills its best cannot rise above the ashes of backwardness. The last eight years have brought that to the fore. Elders in my native Ekiti homeland have a saying. A man’s phallus, they quip, is his most cherished possession. So, they condemn a situation where a man hates his most cherished possession. They ask why a man should hate his phallus “Ki okó Ará  a se hi b’Ará nínú” – why should the phallus of Ara be its object of irritation? Such an act is an anathema to them; they find it incomprehensible for a man to kill his own future. But not so with Nigeria.

 Nigeria is not making progress because the nation kills it’s best. We need no diviner to tell us why we are at this low level. General Muhammadu Buhari, in his independence day speech said he had “built a New Nigeria”. I cannot agree less with him. It is gratifying that the lethargic leader has chosen the twilight of his eight years of rudderless leadership to speak truth to himself. If not a new Nigeria, has it ever happened before that when a Nigerian died on the soil of Nigeria, his corpse is flown abroad for burial. It is happening in the “New Nigeria” of General Buhari. This is the story of Owolabi whose family and friends abroad flew back to America to be interred.  It is not only the living that are jumping ship and migrating in their thousands. The dead are also leaving Nigeria. The Daura General has shown in all facets of governance that he is the opposite of Midas touch. Everything his administration touches dies. Our currency died the moment the tooth-picking General came to power. A Dollar today exchanges for N740. Someone said the target is N1000 to a Dollar. I agree too. That will happen very soon and our president will not bother. We are in for the worst of times as we grind towards the general elections. 

While Adeboye was talking about kings being picked up in their palaces as an indication of how terrible our situation has deteriorated, I had a clearer picture of our dilapidated and completely ruined county in mind. On the very day Nigeria celebrated its 62nd independence anniversary, Nigeria (spirit, soul and body) was buried in the far away United States of America. The funeral of Owolabi in Timonium, Maryland, USA on October 1, 2022, was a funeral of Nigeria. The funeral was iconic and emblematic. The family of the murdered Owolabi  sent a semiotics message to all of us. Though we are walking, we are all dead. The nation, Nigeria, is buried under the clay feet of Buhari. It has never happened before. The burial of Owolabi in the US should teach us a lesson. There is nothing more left. The practice before now had been for Nigerians, who died abroad, to be flown in for funeral rites. But the Owolabis changed that ancient landmark in the most significant way. They knew that Nigeria killed their breadwinner. They decided that the country would not be allowed to dance on the grave of the departed. Owolabi’s family members knew that Nigeria would never investigate how their husband, son, father and relation was murdered. An Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Chief Bola Ige, was murdered in his home on December 23, 2001. That was almost 21 years ago. Till date, there has been no information about those who perpetrated the murder of the country’s chief law officer. Many other political gladiators including Alfred Rewane and Funso Williams had their lives snuffed out. Their killers are still walking free! Then who was Owolabi? The family decided to fly his corpse alongside other living-dead Nigerians shipping themselves abroad, to America. Then they did the most evocative. They returned Owolabi to Mother Earth the very day Nigeria marked her independence and General Buhari told us that he had “built a New Nigeria”! What a sad tale!

 Owolabi forgot that the Nigeria he left 30 years ago was long buried and forgotten. More fatally, he forgot that the “New Nigeria” of Buhari is the most brutish ever in history. If Owolabi had taken into consideration how everything has nosedived under this regime, he would have stayed back in the USA and lived. He returned home, set up a business: hotel and farm; and told his soul to rest. He employed workers. One of them was Rachael Opadele. Owolabi, on his part, thought that he would be safe in his hometown of Ogbomoso. He flew back to Nigeria on 29 July, 2022 and went straight to his Tana Suites. Then the agents of darkness, the very ones the Nigerian nation has been pampering in the last seven years, came calling. Owolabi and Racheal were kidnapped and taken to the bush. His family, home and in the Diaspora, swung into action. They negotiated with the kidnappers and a ransom of N5 million was paid. Hopes were high that the duo would be released. Owolabi’s immediate family members in the USA kept vigil. The news they received jolted everyone. The motorcycle rider, who ferried a family member of Owolabi, who took the ransom to the kidnappers, was also  killed. The family member has been between life and death. Owolabi and his worker, Racheal, were also wasted. The ransom money, a whooping N5 million was taken by the felons, who were said to have counted the money to ensure that they were not “cheated”. They then disappeared, never to be apprehended and brought to justice.

That is  the “New Nigeria” of Buhari for you. Kidnappers now have the luxury of time to count ransom in order to ensure that the money is correct. That can only happen in a “New Nigeria”, where the dregs of humanity, known as bandits or kidnappers have the liberty to count a whole N5 million unchallenged. Pastor Adeboye said that in the Nigeria of his younger days, “except you are one of the special people, they don’t allow the king’s dress to touch you”. But in Buhari’s “New Nigeria”, “kidnappers can go to the palace to kidnap the king”. Nigeria is indeed at war. The country is at war with spineless leadership. It is at war with a badly hegemonic leadership that sees a section of the country as deserving to live while the rest can go to  Hades. Nigeria is at war with wicked leaders, who have brought it to its knees and have made life to be short and brutish. If not a nation at war, how do you account for the number of Nigerians in captivity of bandits? What about the number of children that have been kidnapped? How many of our schools in the North-East and the North-West have been under lock because terrorists threatened to attack them? Is it not in a war situation that felons would threaten to kidnap a sitting president and months after, nobody has been arrested?

This is what the Nigerian leadership has done to the Owolabis of this epoch. The sad news here is not that Owolabi was taken back to the USA to be buried. The real sad news for the nation is the realisation that the four children of Owolabi in America will never believe in Nigeria; they will never trust the nation. Every seed of patriotism their father planted in them died and was buried, the very day Nigeria looked the other way while felons wasted the soul of their father, who left his comfort zone in Maryland, USA,  hale and hearty only to return lifeless and ensconced in a glittering box to be buried. And sadder still is the fact that it is not the corpse of Owolabi alone that was interred in the red soil of Timonium, Maryland, USA, but the very soul of Nigeria. The saddest news for all of us is that as long as we keep electing soporific elements as leaders, their inertia will make Owolabis of all of us. As the news of Owolabi’s murder and funeral spread, the seed of patriotism in Nigerians in the Diaspora begins to diminish. His neighbours and non-Nigerian associates and friends abroad must wonder what kind of country ours is. No wonder this nation has failed to attract the much-needed foreign direct investments in spite of the government’s continuous gallivanting round the globe in search of the elusive FDIs. Which investors will leave the comfort of their countries to invest in a nation where sums are tacitly allowed to deplete the race of patriots without consequences? That is the “New Nigeria” Buhari “built” and was gloating about the very day Owolabi was buried in a foreign soil. How do we write the history of this epoch without a commemoration of the waste the government has made of our lives!  If I were Owolabi family member, I would cause to be written on his grave: “Owolabi: Murdered kidnap victim’s divorce from Nigeria” as a memento of Buhari’s ‘New Nigeria’. Adieu, Patriot!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *