DAY LIGHT ASSASINATION OF BAYO OHU: THE MAIN ISSUES INVOLVED
DAY LIGHT ASSASINATION OF BAYO OHU: THE MAIN ISSUES INVOLVED
Segun Sango, General Secretary, Democratic Socialist Movement
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) deeply condoles with the wife and young children left behind by Bayo Ohu, the Assistant News Editor of the Guardian Newspapers Limited, who was murdered in broad day light at his residence in Egbeda, in the Alimosho Local Government Area of Lagos State on Sunday 20 September, 2009. For record purpose, Bayo Ohu was not be the first journalist or media practitioner killed in similar circumstances. For instance, since 1999 when the present pseudo-democratic dispensation started, journalists like Godwin Agbroko (Chairman, editorial board, ThisDay), Omololu Falobi (former features Editor, The Punch), Abayomi Ogundeji (Member, editorial board, ThisDay), Tunde Oladepo (Assistant News Editor, The Guardian), Chinedu Offoru (Correspondent of The Guardian simply disappeared) have been killed in similar circumstances. This same period had also witnessed cold-blooded murder of ruling class elite members like Bola Ige, former Attorney General of the federation, Funso Williams, Chief Layi Balogun, Henrry Marshall, Dikibo, Suliat Adedeji, Tejuosho Bisola, Toyin Onagoruwa, etc.
Characteristically and normally, all these assassinations were severally deplored and denounced by virtually all strata of the society when they happened. Just like the current murder of Bayo Ohu, the government and its various security outfits had always made promises to track down the culprits and bring them to book. Ostensibly to protect lives and properties, all tiers of the government had always and still continue to appropriate huge funds for “security” purposes. Sadly however, all these supposed efforts had not been able to prevent the cold-blooded murder of Bayo Ohu.
However, for a number of reasons, Bayo Ohu’s cold-blooded murder, in broad daylight, has provoked a serious sense of revulsion and outrage across the country. Bayo, who reports said had been a reporter for the Guardian Newspapers for the past 18 years, was by no any means a rich person. As at the time of his assassination, Bayo was living, in a rented 3-bedroom apartment, in a working class area. In fact, the apartment, like most others in Lagos, did not have water. Reports said that some of late Ohu’s children had earlier gone to fetch water elsewhere when the assassins that killed their father came knocking. Therefore, who killed Ohu and for what motive? Can this kind of brutal killings be prevented from happening again?
The police in its characteristic manner of passing judgment before investigations and trial had already opined that Bayo Ohu might have been killed by suspected armed robbers! Simultaneously, they have been making promises to nap Ohu’s killers, even though, none of the killers of the several elements previously killed in similar circumstances to that of Ohu has ever been caught! Now, Ohu is dead and buried, how would the totally young family he left behind survive in the kind of “everybody” for himself social system in existence?
WHO KILLED OHU?
From all reported accounts, Bayo Ohu’s cold-blooded murder bore all the characteristics of deliberate assassination. To start with, Bayo was living in a building with about four flats apartments. Those who killed him simply went to Bayo’s apartment, killed or left him for the dead. Apart from his laptop and mobile phone handset, nothing else was removed from Bayo’s apartment. Besides Bayo’s apartment, his killers did not make any attempt to attack the occupants of other flats in the building. In fact, story has it that Bayo’s landlady who unfortunately ran into Bayo’s killers while in operation was not attacked or harassed in any special way. She was merely instructed to keep quiet, as they had no business with any other person in the premises.
Against this background, insinuation by the police that Bayo may have been a victim of an armed robbery operation stretch credibility to its limits. Sadly too, this inference only brutally confirms the fact that the police, for all practical purposes and intent, had foreclosed all possibilities of ever finding Bayo’s killers. Of course, in a country where the armed robbery phenomenon is a constant menace, no one could hold the police guilty for not being able to apprehend all robbery suspects. Most unfortunately however, the proposition that Bayo may have been killed by suspected armed robbers also help to shift focus from investigating the possibility being raised that Bayo may have been another victim of suspected political assassination like Dele Giwa, the then Editor-in-Chief of Newswatch Magazine who was killed with a parcel bomb under Babangida’s military regime. Therefore, all the promises being made by the police hierarchy to find Bayo’s killers, just like similar promises made in the past to find the killers of those killed in similar circumstances may, as usual, turns out to be nothing but empty proclamations.
WHY WAS BAYO OHU KILLED?
As noted earlier, Bayo Ohu’s murder was not the first of its type in Nigeria’s recent history. However, Bayo’s murder was one death that has provoked a widespread sense of revulsion and outrage across the country. This response of course, could not be divorced from the fact that Bayo, at the time of his assassination, was the Assistant News Editor with The Guardian Newspaper, a leading and respected media journal in contemporary Nigeria.
There is however, another fact, which possibly provoked the widespread condemnation of his assassination. Unlike many elements that have been killed in similar circumstances, Bayo stood out like a sore-thumb. As at the time of his brutal death, Bayo was, by all parameters, never a rich person. He was living in a rented flat apartment, without water facilities in a working class dominated area in Lagos State! He left no personal property, either in Lagos or in his hometown in Oyo State at the time of his untimely death.
Also, unlike Dele Giwa, Bayo held no substantive post in The Guardian that could give him so much power to publish or not to publish a story. Similarly, those who argued that Bayo may have been killed as a result of a private business deal with others who felt cheated by his alleged conducts would also have serious question to answer, especially given the fact that Bayo, whom reports said have been working with The Guardian Newspaper for the past 18 years, did not acquire any wealth that go beyond his legitimate incomes. In this respect, Bayo’s murder may easily be seen as another Nigerian factor where, the more you look, the less you see. Nonetheless, Bayo’s murder, like other elements killed in similar circumstances, has once again revealed a fundamental, murderous character of the prevailing capitalist order.
According to the newspaper reports, those who killed Bayo, came in a posh car and all dressed in flowing, expensive Babanrigas, mostly preferred by the ruling capitalist elites. This seemingly factual detail should be frightful enough for all those who can read between the lines that there already exists in abundance a pool of professional assassins, who try to meet their own basic needs and aspirations of life through assassinations of anybody wanted dead, by those who can pay and or have enough social clout to instruct such. Therefore, even where the killers and the motive behind the killings of elements like Bayo Ohu may never be known, one worrisome fact is now known, and that is that this country is presently so diseased that it flourishes with nest of killers in and outside government circles.
Again, assuming but not conceding that Bayo Ohu was murdered because of his alleged fast business deals, this fact, if true, equally amounts to a grave indictment to the present socio-economic order. That a generally acclaimed gentle and hardworking journalist, who had worked for 18 years with The Guardian, (usually called the flagship of Nigeria’s media), would have to resort to “fast deals” in order to make ends meet, sharply underline the necessity of social transformation that would enable all citizens to be able to achieve their basic means and aspirations without having to do any under-hand deals.
However, beyond the motive(s) behind the killings of Ohu and others like him, all genuine change seeking elements especially the working class people need to urgently fight for a fundamental change in the way society is presently being run. This is the only way to arrest the worrisome phenomenon wherein able bodied men and women, increasingly educated ones at that, readily live on crimes, including assassinations, kidnappings, big time robbery, etc.
BAYO OHU’S MURDER: CAN WE PREVENT A FUTURE RE-OCCURRENCE?
In the wake of Bayo’s assassination, the police, as usual, has been making all sorts of promises to find Bayo’s killers. In fact, the new Inspector General of Police Mr. Ogbonnaya Onovo, had reportedly summoned a meeting of officers covering all the zones of Nigeria with a view to enhance and safeguard lives and properties. However, anyone that is well familiar with Nigeria’s history and especially, that of the police force, will never base any hope of an improved security activity in this respect.
To start with, the police in its present form, is totally incapable of handling the epidemic proportions which crimes have assumed in Nigeria. Besides, its ranks is mostly made up of self-serving and corrupt officers while most of its rank and file routinely engage in acts of extortions and repressions, in their desperate individual struggles to make ends meet. Largely, for Nigerian police, security of lives and properties primarily means the setting up of checkpoints where law-abiding citizens are routinely harassed and intimidated in the course of their normal duties. Of course, it should be underlined that this painted picture of police as an institution applies largely to other institutions like the legislature, executive, judiciary, army, etc.
As known by all, Nigeria is a stupendously rich country. But very calamitously, Nigeria remains in the first rank of societies or countries where nothing works as it supposed to. While millions of Nigerians youth are yearning for opportunity to be educated, hundreds of thousands of educated elements are roaming about the streets with nothing to do. While most people live in shabby and extremely dehumanized conditions, those trained for constructions and buildings are roaming the streets without jobs. While youth are begging for any job to be done, most roads across the country are in decrepit and undrivable conditions. Suffice to stress, this fundamental social economic imbalance will first and foremost have to be corrected before we can have a society free of professional assassins, fake drug makers, kidnapers, armed robbers, dupes, corrupt politicians, etc.
Unfortunately however, under the present political dispensation, things will only continue to go from bad to worse. Instead of adopting a public oriented and collective approach towards meeting the basic living standard of the people and economic development, the Yar’Adua government has adopted, hook line and sinker, the anti-people, neo-liberal policies, often advocated by the few capitalist rich. This is what is responsible for the grotesque absurdity of a land flowing with milk and honey, but its inhabitants permanently living in misery and oppression. Against this background, even if the police authorities mean well and are truly dedicated, there is little they can do to arrest the developing rots and crimes which threatens to engulf Nigeria in an unimaginable acts of barbarism in the coming period.
SEEMINGLY PERSONAL ISSUES RAISED BY BAYO OHU’S ASSASINATION
Deservedly, the high and the mighty including the President, Senators, Governors, Captains of industries, Council chairpersons, Labour leaders, clergies, faith-based organisations, etc, have all in unison condemned Bayo Ohu’s gruesome murder. Many dignitaries including highly placed executives of corporate bodies have paid personal condolence visits to Bayo’s rented flat to commiserate with his wife and children. In fact, his assassination has provoked a rare show of love and empathy by diverse elements across the country. The media, Bayo’s primary profession, for once put less premium on advertisers’ preference by given lavish coverage to the reports of his dastardly murder and his burials activities. Yet, a most fundamental issue that is not being raised or properly discussed is how, henceforth, will Bayo’s young family survive in the kind of “everybody for himself” society that presently exists. From all reported accounts, Bayo left behind five children, the oldest of who is said to be about 15 years old. He lived and was killed in a rented 3 bedroom apartment in a working class dominated area. Apart from that, Bayo was said to have acquired a yet to be developed plot of land (most likely given to him free of charge) in his home village. Bayo, throughout his life time never had the luxury of sending his children to schools abroad as is now common among moneybags, most of whom are plain treasury looters. In fact, his rented flat had no functional pipe borne water, such that some of his children were said to have gone to fetch water outside the premises in the early hours of the day when Bayo was murdered. Now, the germane questions are: How would Bayo’s family be able to afford decent accommodation? Who would be responsible for their education now that their father had been brutally killed and the ruling elites have virtually killed public education from primary to tertiary levels? Even if these children are able to scale through, by acquiring one form of education or the other, who will subsequently give them jobs without godfathers, now that the government has engaged in full blown implementation of privatisation and deregulation policies that would only yield job massacres where massive job creations are needed?
Around the period of his burial, a newspaper had reported that one public-spirited lawyer had offered to give scholarship to one of Bayo’s children. There is no doubt that this commendable gesture that would be surely needed by Bayo’s family in this their great period of tribulation. However, this report itself did not provide many pertinent details concerning the alleged scholarship offer. There is no mentioning of which of his children is the beneficiary of this offer. What is the worth of the offer? Does it include the cost of fees, feeding and books of the beneficiary of the offer? If the oldest child left by Bayo is 15 years old, what will be the duration of the scholarship offer in issue? Assuming that the lawyer who made this offer is so kind enough to make his scholarship to cover all the educational and relevant needs of its beneficiary, what then will happen to the remaining other children not covered by scholarship offer?
Frankly speaking, the more questions like this are critically evaluated, the more cloudy becomes the prospect of the socio-economic survival for the young family left by Bayo, whom by all standard was at best, a lower middle class person. This of course means that when Bayo was alive, the entire family must have been permanently engulfed in an almost permanent struggle for survival. Now, without their breadwinner, it is better to imagine rather than actually experiencing what life in Nigeria promises the family and numerous millions others in their category. Of course, nothing and no one can ever be able to fully replace Bayo’s role as a husband and a father. However, their collective privations can be seriously relieved if the society is run in such a way that the basic needs of everybody is seen as a collective vision and mission, a primary reason for the existence of government and governance.
Unfortunately, what presently obtains is a social disorder wherein to have a semblance of civilization, you have to have enough money to build your own house, generate your own water, electricity, own jeeps because the roads are always in bad state, have enough money to provide the best health care and education for your immediate family, etc. Unless Bayo’s assassination and debate is conducted and raised within the above framework it will fail to have positive impact on those he left behind as well as the generality of society that are permanently trapped in misery in the midst of super abundance. In other words, all those who truly and sincerely regret the brutal murder of Bayo Ohu and genuinely desire to have a society free of such heinous crimes, must of necessity raise their voices against the self-serving, individualistic, neo-liberal economy strategy in favour of a paradigm shift that will ensure that societal wealth and resources are used to cater for the development and needs of all, not only that of a few rich.
This is what the DSM has been fighting for since its inception and we sincerely urge all those yearning for a positive change in Nigeria to join the struggle to put in power a truly working peoples government that would always put the people first at all times. Without this, the expressed goodwill messages in the wake of Ohu’s murder will be nothing but hollow and hypocritical sentiments.