Doctor’ Ishola Oyenusi, A Notorious Nigerian Robber.
‘Doctor’ Ishola Oyenusi is a name etched in the history of Nigeria as one of the most violent armed robbers, a criminal who unleashed boundless terror on many Nigerians. But who was he and what did he do that his name was associated with
so much notoriety?
The Nigerian Civil War had just ended in 1970 but by the early 1970s, a stone-hearted armed robber,
Ishola Oyenusi (he called himself Dr. Oyenusi
even. if he never finished the secondary school),
was terrorising all of Lagos, Nigeria’s largest commercial centre. Before one tale of his daring exploits died down, another one had sprung up. Oyenusi was no ordinary pilferer, this snitcher was downright. wicked and had all the self-confidence
in the world. to go with it.
And you know something? He was quite romantic
and chivalrous. There was a story of how he
snatched his first car on Herbert Macaulay Road in Yaba, Lagos. Why? His girlfriend was broke. He eventually sold the car for N400 but the sad part
was that in the process of stealing the car, the poor owner was shot dead. He actually snatched the first car he saw on the road. Such was the ferocious
nature of his audacity.
Oyenusi’s arrogance was also legendary. In 1970,
he was arrested and handcuffed by a police officer.
As the policeman was ordering him around, Oyenusi
blasted him and thundered:
‘People like you don’t talk to me like that when I am
armed. I gun them down.‘
Hmmm, but that was not all. Oyenusi was so feared
that when the famed movie director, Chief Eddie
Ugbomah made a film titled The Rise and Fall of Dr.
Oyenusi in 1977, there was no one bold enough to
come forward to act the role of the armed robber
because they feared his members would show them
shege. Ugbomah had no other option but to act the
role himself with the feature film depicting the
senseless violence of armed robberies and the
absolutely atrocious manner by which lives of
innocent Nigerians were snuffed out. But there was
one interesting thing that happened: a medical
doctor by the name of Dr. Oyenusi was so mad at
the film producer that he headed for the court trying to stop the shooting of the movie.
Actually, Ugbomah was threatened. He received a
letter from thieves who invaded and looted his
provision store, carting away all they could. In the
letter, they promised to return his goods if he would
only stop shooting the film in which he exposed the
support received by the armed robbers from their
‘godfathers’ and even high-ranking officers in the
Nigerian Armed Forces. The stubborn Ugbomah
called their bluff and went ahead with the
16mm-flick (kindly send us a clip of this film if you have one).
Ugbomah would later produce many other films such
as Death of a Black President (1983), Esan (Nemesis),
The Mask and Vengeance of the Cult in 1985.
In the 1970s, Oyenusi was no doubt the uncrowned
emperor of Nigerian robbers and he is described as
the ‘first celebrated armed robber in Nigeria’. He is
regarded by some as the pioneer of conventional
armed robbery in Nigeria. When Oyenusi reigned at
the height of his regal confidence, he declared:
‘The bullet has no power.‘
As at that time, armed robbers were condemned to
death and thousands joyfully came out to ‘enjoy’
the grisly public executions before the firing squad on the pristine beaches of Lagos. Although Nigeria no longer has very ‘famous’ bandits and thieves like
Anini (at teh age of 26, Lawrence Nomayagbon
Anini was the most notorious robber in Nigeria),
Babatunde Folorunsho, Monday Osunbor, Shina
Rambo, Buraimoh Jimoh, Oyenusi, ‘Mighty Joe’,
‘Captain Blood’ and George Iyamu (a former Deputy
Superintendent of Police who was Anini’s collaborator), armed robbery is nonetheless a major
problem in the nation.
In March 1971, Oyenusi was nabbed by the
Nigerian Police after he organized a robbery in
which $28,000 (value as at that time) was stolen. They killed a police constable in the process. Although the first public execution of robbers had taken place in April 1971, that of Oyenusi and his criminal allies was a special case and the Lagos government took time to prepare the grounds at the Bar Beach.
By 8.am, officials were already at the execution
arena to check the whole place just to ensure that
everything went on ‘well’. A combined team of police officers and soldiers struggled to contain the surging crowd of thousands of excited spectators.
At about 9.15 am, a team of Lagos City Council workers came to the execution arena with empty mock coffins which they calmly laid behind the execution stand.
Obviously, they were there to make fun of a man
who had sent so much terror into their hearts.
About half an hour later, eight robbers were led to
the execution stand…
HIS EXECUTION DAY
On the day of Oyenusi’s execution, over 30,000
Nigerians trooped to the famous Bar Beach (armed
robberies were quite rare then and when it
happened, it was the gist of the town for months so the considerably high level of the people’s curiosity
can be appreciated). While some in the crowd jeered
and booed Oyenusi and his Gang of Seven, some of
his friends and family members present could not
hold back their tears. But for most of the witnesses,
it was good riddance to bad nonsense. As for Oyenusi, he was smiling, smiling to the last but the agony on his face too was unmistakable. But just
few minutes before his body was riddled with hot-leaded bullets from stern-faced soldiers of the Nigerian Army, he finally confessed saying:
‘I am dying for the offence I have committed.‘
Two army trucks and a black van conveyed
them to the firing spot. Oyenusi was in the black
van. In seconds, three soldiers flew out of the army trucks and proceeded to the black van inside which was Nigeria’s most dreaded armed robber.
The soldiers came to a screeching halt and stood at attention by the van. All of a sudden, one of them
let out a shrill command! The door was flung open and slowly, Oyenusi appeared from within the darkness of the Black Maria. As if the heavens were in. concert, dark clouds had formed over the Bar Beach. He was cloaked in a dark long-sleeved shirt and his hands were tied behind his back. He spotted
a pair of dark loafers and his trousers were wrinkled. Sweating profusely, he kept throwing fast glances around as if he was looking for someone as he surveyed the crowd who had thronged the beach to simply see him die.
As the soldiers grabbed and tied him to the pole, he
was still scanning through the crowd. One of the
giggling spectators in the crowd whispered to the
next ‘Who is he looking for?‘. Smartly, seven soldiers formed a lethal line in front of Oyenusi. A soldier let out a fierce command to the sharpshooters. All of them took aim at Oyenusi. The next voice
reverberated all over Nigeria:
Like an electrocuted being, his body shook vigorously as he slumped and went limp around the pole that held his remains.
Truly, it’s pays to have a good name rather riches rooted with bad controversy.