The night of 9th July, 1999 was a jolly night, the Obafemi Awolowo University campus was thrown into frenzy. A number of student groups held a party, the Kegites club; Man O War and others converged at the open ground between Angola and Mozambique halls. The party began to fizzle out as the students began to tire; they all had the time of their lives. Some proceeded to the cafeteria at Awolowo hall to revitalize, while some called it a day – they headed for their halls of residence.
The party was over. Most of the party people were fast asleep in their various halls of residence. They never anticipated what would befall their highly-bragged-about campus.
At about 3- 3.30am (now 10th of July1999) dozens of cult members belonging to the ‘black axe’ confraternity trooped into campus. The pained cult group infiltrated the campus with a mission to obliterate the Student Union Government (SUG) of the school. Their major targets were: George Iwilade popularly called Afrika, Eviano Ekilemu, Yemi Ajiteru, BabatundeOke, Ekpede Godfrey and Lanre Adeleke.
Prior to the attack the SUG almost destroyed the Black Axe confraternity. On March 1999, the Student Union was informed through some students that secret cult members were having a meeting in a house in the senior staff quarters. Enraged at this development, the SUG led by George Iwilade (Afrika), the Secretary General drove to the house, they found nine students inside, with a submachine gun, a locally manufactured gun, a bayonet, an axe and a black clothing(the uniform of the axe gang). The SUG informed the school authority, the cult members were subsequently handed over to the police. They were held in police custody before they were granted bail by the Magistrate Court two weeks later.
The magistrate discharged and acquitted the arrested persons to the amazement of the students and the SUG. The students who apprehended the cultists were not invited to the court to bear witness. Corporal Femi Adewoye, the prosecuting police officer said, “I tried to contact the complaints (the students) in the case, all to no avail. To date there is no complaint in the case. Since all the accused persons denied the allegations against them and there is no complaint, there is no way the allegation can be proved”.
The University administration didn’t serve the SUG witness’ summons hence they could not appear in court as witness. The Chief magistrate doused future hopes of reopening the case by ordering the submachine gun to be sent to the police. He also destroyed other exhibits caught in the cultists’ possession.
After they were granted bail, the black axe gang returned to the campus to study, the students became uneasy. Succumbing to pressure from the students, the school authority decided to suspend the cultists but never sent them official letters of their suspension.
The school was shut afterwards for four months due to a student crisis. The cultists were once again found on campus after the school had resumed, the students protested again. OAU then reaffirmed the suspension of the cultists through letters of suspension dated 8 July 1999.
Forward to the wee hours of July10, 1999. The Cultists had made up their minds to deal with the big-guns in the SUG for making them (the cultists) go through public humiliation. They drove into the campus through the main gate. On reaching the car park they disembarked and followed a long bush path to Awolowo Hall.
They first entered Room 184 where they shot and killed Efe Ekede, a 200 level Psychology student. In Room 230 they shot Charles Ita, a 200 level Law student. Yemi Ajiteru, another 200 level Religious Studies Student was shot through the head. Tunde Oke was also killed. In Room 273 they killed George Iwilade (Afrika), the SUG Secretary General, who was a pivotal figure in the fight against cultism. When they got to the room of the SUG president, Lanre Adeleke aka Legacy, he had escaped. Legacy was in his room when he heard the gunshots; he escaped by jumping off the balcony. They proceeded to Fajuyi hall where they killed Eviano Ekelemo, a 400 level Medical student. The security men fled for their lives on hearing gunshots. The cultists left the campus unchallenged.
In the aftermath of the attack, the whole university was enveloped in fear and there was chaos in the halls of residence. Lanre Adekunle, the SUG President, who narrowly escaped death the previous night mobilized his colleagues. They demanded the immediate resignation of Wale Omole, the Vice Chancellor. They also went into the town in search of the cultists. They arrested three persons and brought them to Awolowo hall. They were: Aisekhaghe Aikhile, Emeka Ojuagu and Frank Idahosa. Efosa and Ojuagu were arrested in a public transport as they were about to leave Ife. Several days later on 18th, July 1999, Prof Roger Makanjuola was appointed Vice Chancellor, replacing Prof Wale Omole.
The suspected Black Axe confraternity members were charged to court. After about three years of hearings and adjournments in the Oshogbo high court. The judge upheld a “No Case” submission by the defense on 5th November, 2002. To the amazement of all, the three accused persons were released never to be seen again.
Today, sixteen years later, the blood of George Iwilade aka Afrika and the other 4 martyrs still seek justice. They poured out their lives for their Nation, they poured out their lives to fight cultism. Novel Afrique celebrates you our martyrs. You live on in our hearts.
Aluta Continua (The struggle continues)