The Run Away Republic of Nigeria, by Owei Lakemfa


Read Time: 2 minutes

THE cumulative 29-year military rule left the country in ruins. In the Civil War alone which was triggered by military coups, over two million Nigerians lost their lives. 

In the post-war era, thousands more were killed by military regimes, including through seasonal purges in the name of coups, attempted coups and assumed coups.

In the anti-Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP, protests, many were killed. In the protests against the military annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, hundreds were murdered by the military, including the 118 Nigerians shot dead on July 6, 1993.

Today, 24 years after military rule, the country continues to suffocate under the culture of impunity developed by the military  regimes.

So, you can imagine the tension in the media when news went round that armed men, with at least two in military uniform, had barged into the Lagos home of FirstNews Editor, Segun Olatunji.

The nightmare began at dusk on Friday March 15, 2024 when the Editor was watching television with his seven-year-old son. Suddenly, armed men barged into his home with his wife, Mrs Oluwatosin Olatunji, and one year old son who had earlier been abducted. The abductors had forced Mrs Olatunji at gun-point to take them to her home.

The panic in the media was not because it was uncommon for armed bandits donning military uniforms to abduct people. But because under military regimes, journalists had been abducted and simply disappeared. The most prominent case was that of Bagauda Kaltho, abducted without trace, three decades ago. He was being hunted by the military gestapo and had fled his Kaduna home. I had met him in a safe house in Lagos and, with another journalist, Dapo Olorunyomi, who was also on the run; we had agreed that his plan to go underground in Abuja was a brilliant one. We thought the military gestapo would be out looking for him in Kaduna, his Billiri, Gombe State hometown and Lagos, not right under their noses in Abuja.

So, when Olatunji was abducted and disappeared without trace, there was palpable fear. 

The thought of his abductors being bandits was virtually ruled out. First, the abductors had been patient enough to allow Olatunji, who was in his boxer shots, to go into his bedroom and pick a trouser and a shirt. Usually, bandits do not display such patience or civility. But the second and main reason was that bandits call relatives of their victims to demand ransom. But in Olatunji’s case, his abductors made no such call.

 However, this also raised other fears. Since the Presidency, the office of the National Security Adviser, the State Security Services, Military Defence, Army, the Police and security services denied holding him, could his abductors have been hired assassins?

After the Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Musa, and the Chief of Defence Intelligence, Major General  Emmanuel Undiandeye, had denied holding the journalist, the Nigerian Chapter of the International Press Institute, IPI, gathered irrefutable evidence that they were holding the Editor. 


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