Offa robbery: Don’t crucify Opadokun for son’s involvement — Shittu
A lawyer, Mr. Wahab Shittu, shares his views on the circumstances surrounding the recent raid on some banks in Offa, Kwara State, and the arrest of Chief Ayo Opadokun’s son, Kayode, in connection with the attacks
What is your take on the recent robbery of some banks in Offa, your hometown, during which many people were killed?
It is an unfortunate, callous, crude and inhuman action which has brought a lot of sadness, anguish and pains to the people and friends of Offa town across the globe. It is a manifestation of a total collapse in the security architecture of not only the state but of our country. It is something that should be of great concern to every right-thinking Nigerian. This is because the security and welfare of the people remain the primary purpose of the government. If you observed what happened, armed men came to town, invaded the police station, killed police officers on sight and simultaneously robbed five banks in broad daylight, leaving in their trail, blood and tears. It is unprecedented in the history of robbery operations in Nigeria.
What lessons are there to be learnt by stakeholders?
Government at all levels should put greater emphasis on the elements of security and welfare of the people. It is the duty of government at all levels to protect the people because it is central to democracy dividends. Beyond that, our people must take proactive measures in order to guarantee their security. The security agencies on their part should intensify intelligence gathering while governors should ensure that security votes are used to protect our people. Apart from that, our youths must be fully engaged. If you look at the people who carried out the robbery operation, you will discover that they are mainly youths. To propel Nigeria to maximal height, our youths must be involved in keeping Nigeria safe and secure. They must avoid corrupt practices and other vices including armed robbery because it leads to ruins. What happened in Offa is a monumental tragedy of unimaginable proportion. It should be a wake-up call to our government at all levels, particularly at the state level, to rise up to their responsibilities. The Offa tragedy is not only the failure of the security apparatus or architecture, it also signposts the failure of the ruling elite. Those lives that have been wasted cannot be replaced.
What do you expect the state government to have done after the incident?
We have a governor who is supposed to be the chief security officer of the state. You may ask, has he lived up to expectations in this case? What is government doing to rehabilitate the families of the victims of these robberies? I have seen solidarity visits being paid to our traditional ruler, which is salutary but what of the victims of this horrendous and heinous crime? What are they doing to effectively reintegrate the families they left behind? What efforts are the government making to ensure that the entire security apparatus in Offa in terms of intelligence gathering and security of lives and property are protected? If people can come in broad daylight to perpetrate these kinds of atrocities, where is government? Where is governance? That is the critical issue! This is beyond politics. I am not a politician but I am a political animal and I am interested in the developmental process of my town. I feel ashamed that this is happening in the 21 Century. I must say that the government must not sleep until the perpetrators of this heinous crime are brought to book. And there should be no sacred cow, none at all!
Many of the arrested suspects are from Kwara State with a majority of them from Offa. How do you feel about it?
There is no way a crime of this magnitude can be committed without insiders’ collaboration. But that does not mean that the majority of those who perpetrated the crime are from Offa.
From the list so far released by the police, many of them are from Offa…
I do not want to pre-empt the police investigation. I am one of those who believe that the police should be allowed to do their work so that at the end of their investigation, we will be able to return a verdict. I will rather want to maintain an open mind. Let us wait for the outcome of the final investigation. It is an ongoing process. Some suspects are being rounded up from their hideouts and they are being interrogated. As a law officer, my attitude is to adopt, ‘wait-and-see stance’ and see the end of this process. At the end of the process, when investigations are concluded, then, we will be able to know whether the majority of those who perpetrated the crime are really from Offa or mere suspects. It will be very unfair of me, at this stage, to pre-empt investigations or pass any verdict of guilt or innocence on anybody. What I am concerned is that whether they are from Offa or from outside Offa, what is important is that those who perpetrated this atrocity are not human beings, they have behaved in a very callous and sadistic manner. And in such a situation, where they come from does not matter. Even if they come from my backyard, even if they are my relatives, the law should take its course because the law is no respecter of persons. So, it is not enough to say ‘oh those who have been arrested are from Offa or something like that.’ I believe it is an ongoing process. About 50 of the robbers invaded the town. Are all of them from Offa?
How did you feel when you got the information that a son of an Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Opadokun, is among the suspects arrested in connection with the robbery?
My attitude is that of shock and disbelief because the elder statesman, Opadokun, is one of the most respectable, decent, and patriotic Nigerians that I have met in my life. He was my classmate when he came to take his second degree at the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, between 1983 and 1986. And I can confirm to you that Ayo Opadokun is a man of exemplary character and I can also confirm to you that his daughter, Bolanle Opadokun, actually practised in my chamber for nearly two years as a lawyer. She conducted herself very well. This fellow, called Kayode Opadokun, is unknown to me. I learnt he is the first son of Ayo Opadokun but there should be a distinction between Ayo Opadokun and Kayode Opadokun. Kayode, from what they said, is about 35 years old. Any child who is above 18 can answer for his activities, whether right or wrong.
I do not want to pass any judgment either on Kayode or on any other suspects until the final investigation. If at the end of the investigation, it was found out that the young man is guilty, let the law take its course because the law is no respecter of persons. If at the end of the day, it is found out that Kayode Opadokun is guilty, then he is a disgrace to himself and people of that orientation and the law should not spare anybody. Speaking on Mr. Ayo Opadokun, I can say it anywhere that he is very decent and he would not tolerate evil anywhere even if it occurred in his backward because he is a man who believes in patriotism, honesty, integrity and he believes in hard work. You will recall that Mr. Ayo Opadokun was one of the trusted allies of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and he served as NADECO secretary, one of the principal groups who fought for the democracy we are enjoying in the country today. So, Mr. Ayo Opadokun, as far as I am concerned, is exemplary. Kayode Opadokun is on trial today. If he is found guilty, let the law take its course. If he is found innocent, then he has to contend with his destiny. I do not want to comment about him; I do not know the fellow; I have never met him. But I prefer to maintain an open mind until full investigations are conducted. But I think we should not stigmatise the name of Mr. Ayo Opadokun because of this ugly incident. The old man deserves his peace.
But some people are already casting aspersions on Mr. Opadokun…
Those who are casting aspersions are doing so out of anger for what has happened. There is a theory in some quarters that perhaps he did not properly train his children. I disagree with that theory because as I said earlier, I know his daughter, who is of exemplary character. I also know he places high premium on discipline, integrity and justice and so, I will prefer to isolate or distinguish the person of Mr. Ayo Opadokun from Kayode Opadokun. I believe that Kayode Opadokun’s case should be treated separately. Kayode Opadokun is said to have attended several tertiary institutions at the expense of Mr. Ayo Opadokun. So, if Mr. Opadokun has fulfilled his obligations as a parent and it turns out that his son decides to take another route, his son should be held personally liable and not Mr. Ayo Opadokun. Even at that, we cannot pass that judgment yet until the outcome of the final police investigation. When murder is committed, we also know the consequences. If you kill by the sword, you should also die by the sword. But if he is found to be innocent, then he should be set free. That is my position. This incidence has not, in any way, diminished my esteem and respect for Mr. Ayo Opadokun. I will continue to respect him for life because I have known him for years for what he stands for. I have interacted closely with him and I can confirm to you that he is a distinguished gentleman and he feels very embarrassed with what has happened and the fact that his venerable name is being associated with this evil.
So, how is Chief Opadokun taking the whole issue?
His attitude is “let us wait and see.” He is eager to see the outcome of police investigation. He does not want to influence anything. He wants Kayode Opadokun to be treated just like any other suspect with all his rights guaranteed and his guilt is determined based on evidence. He would not interfere with the process. He would not deploy any influence. He is sad, naturally, that his son is in this kind of situation but what can he do? He has done what he has to do as a parent and all of us, what we can do in the lives of our children is to train them, whether they now decides to accept our training is entirely their own responsibility. Ayo Opadokun has done his bit as a parent; he has worked hard in his life to earn a very good name and today, he remains a sad man because his son has been arrested in connection with a heinous crime and he is waiting to see whether his son is actually guilty or not. The travails of Kayode Opadokun are one of the challenges of his (Ayo Opadokun’s) life and I really sympathise with the old man.
There is an allegation that Kayode has been displaying criminal tendencies…
I do not know him. I have never met him in life. I cannot speak for him. I cannot confirm anything about him, whether he is criminally-minded, whether he is guilty or innocent, I do not know. But I know Mr. Ayo Opadokun as a decent and elderly statesman who has made imperishable contributions to our nation building. I also know some of Mr. Ayo Opadokun’s children, including Barrister Bolanle Opadokun, who has distinguished herself creditably well and she is still distinguishing herself. But as for Kayode Opadokun, I prefer to leave the judgment to the outcome of investigation. At the end of the trial process, I will be able to make up my mind if the young man is innocent or guilty. I do not know anything about his criminal activities.Punch