by David Nnaji
The sudden and unnecessary deaths of young people in and around Unilag were not naturally caused and so should be mitigated. A few weeks ago, social media sites were abuzz with different stories, all of which were unpleasant tales about the sudden and painful death of a young female student of the University of Lagos whose body was reportedly found near the bridge in Ikeja on the morning of January, she was later taken to the hospital but did not survive. Initially people assumed that the she was the victim of blood thirsty ritualists, but upon careful medical examination and investigations, it was clearly diagnosed that she might have been the victim of some silly games played by an immature and selfish male friend/acquaintance who spiked their drinks to have carnal and unlawful knowledge of her. End of story, Ella, 18 years of age, is dead, a rose stupidly plucked off before her bloom, leaving loving family and friends bereaved and inconsolable. Pains have since saturated their lives and a potential asset to our nation is lost – carelessly and avoidably too. The perpetrator(s) has not been brought to book.
The day was February 14th; a day set aside for the show of love to loved ones by their lovers, vice versa. This mood was prevalent in the University of Lagos as people trooped out en masse to wow their friend and show some love. By late evening, in the otherwise serene and lively atmosphere of the University of Lagos, a loud gunshot was heard. Students scampered into hiding, the usually bustling New Hall area that houses some dormitories and several thousand pupils became deserted in seconds. The gunmen casually took their leave and a young man lay in the pool of his own blood – dead. At the entrance gate area another young man was felled. Many ascribed it to the activities of rival cult groups, the perceived cause ranging from superiority battles to issues of girlfriend snatching. All before any police report was out, many on social sites, even celebs, journalists, on air personalities and role models – those who should know better – bandied theories that the deaths should be dismissed as a cult related issue. The police in Yaba were called in, regular patrols started and an uneasy calm returned on campus.
The question remains unanswered, who killed the boys, why, and where are they? Are the other several thousand students on campus safe? The parents of the slain and maimed mourn and struggle with shame, for their slain children’s memories are tainted with the nauseating term of cultist! Again, potential saviours and tools for our development as a country have been crassly wasted. And we continue as if all is well, we dismiss the deaths of our young, the youths, the future of our proverbial tomorrow, without exhaustive investigations, inquiries and decisions as ”one of those things…”
…18th February night was windy, the heavens wept as it rained heavily, perhaps for the ill to come. I could not make the date I had with a dear friend on the island for 9.30pm. So I stayed home and watched the rains fall while listening to great ballads from my father’s veranda. Meanwhile in far away Akoka, three young men decided to hang out outside the University of Lagos’ back gate. Ayodeji Babatunde Sonoiki was the youngest of the trio, with his older cousin and a friend. Ayodeji had complained about tiredness, the rain and his need to get home early. The others thought the rain would be mild, and thought to remain for a bit, ordering for one more rounds of drinks. Ayodeji rejected the offer and choose to bow his head in slumber on the table till his cousin and friends were done. Oral reports from a witness claimed a shirtless man of about 5 ft 11 walked in scanned the sit out and left. The fellow wearing shorts returned with a double barrel gun and fired twice at the friend on Ayodeji’s table. Both times the gun disobeyed. He ran to the back of a bus apparently to recheck his evil instrument and fired another ‘warning’ shot. All this in a jiffy, I was told. Everyone scampered! Ayodeji’s cousin too, but not without slapping him on the wrist to wake him up and to find his square root. Ayodeji did awake and must have seen the chaos and tried to run into the bar owners house but it was shut at him. Turning to run away towards the road, he was faced by the muzzle of a double barrel gun pointed directly to his heart. Ayodeji stood no chance as the bullet tore into his heart from close range, creating a hole the size of a big battery. He died on the spot. The police were there in five minutes, I was told, but ‘Baba trigger happy’ had disappeared before their arrival! Family and friends, colleagues of Ayodeji in the University of Lagos and beyond are grieving, just as the rumour mills are spinning.
The father I saw on Sunday the 20th is grieving and stricken by the tragic loss of his first son who was 23. A fine boy; a fine gentleman; a good student; all who knew him knew he was a dove. Ayodeji Babatunde Sonoiki abhorred trouble. He was ‘a jolly good fellow’, who always wanted to know what the ‘P’ at any point in time was. He would not hurt anyone; he could have been a member of any cult! I pray the investigation by the University of Lagos and the Nigerian Police Force will be exhaustive, convincing and concluded.
Ayodeji Babatunde Sonoiki and the others are not here to tell us what happened and why. They also cannot defend themselves anymore. This does not mean we are any better, or the hasty tag of nuisance, loose and cultist should be tagged on them. The corpse of a dear friend Ayodeji Babatunde Sonoiki, colleague and former classmate lies in the morgue waiting to be committed to mother earth soonest. I pray the good Lord receives his soul and give him rest, same with the others.
David Nnaji is an actor and historian