I do not remember clearly what we did as a family on the night of Wednesday 24th July 1985, but it being a week-day in the middle of the long holidays in July 1985, I can very well imagine what we must have done. Ate, watched the Network News, and prayed – in that order. However, it is what happened in the early hours of Thursday, 25th July 1985 that I now know quite well. Because that was the day our family was robbed by armed robbers.
By July 1985, it was already five full years since our family moved to our own home, on that very quiet street in one of the growing districts of my father’s hometown. I have been told that it was about 1975 when one of my father’s Uncles advised my parents to not waste time in buying some land to build their own house on. Building started not long after, but their careers kept them away from Osogbo for the five years between ’75 and 1980. When Nigeria returned to democratic governance in 1979 and a new populist government was installed in Oyo State, one of the very first things the new Governor did was to relaunch the Free Education Programme. Under this audacious programme, four hundred new secondary schools were started within one year, and within four short years, a massive four hundred thousand increase had been recorded in secondary school education enrolment in Oyo State. That was how my Mum, who was already a Vice Principal in nearby Iwo became the founding Principal of one of those new “Bola Ige Schools” in 1980.
So we hurriedly moved into this six-bedroom mansion I was to call home for most of my childhood. And we all loved that house. It was not the fact that it had six rooms that was most exciting. Not surprisingly, the street was unnamed when my parents started developing the land, so they sought and got the government’s permission to name it. And I have been immensely proud of that singular fortune that the house I grew up in was on Bayo Adepoju Street, Osogbo.
That fact, that the street our house was located in was named after my Dad, must have given other people that impression as well, that we were very wealthy. Or at least that we were rich. We had to be. We ‘owned a whole street’. Hahaha…I was so very proud of that address that it never mattered how I felt; once I wrote that address down (in school especially), I instinctively felt proud of my heritage. I lived on Bayo Adepoju Street, in Bayo Adepoju’s house. And I was Bayo Adepoju’s son. What could be better?
Apparently, the unimaginative armed robbers must have gotten the same impression. Or what in the world were they doing in the home of two teachers?
Whatever the information (or misinformation) they had about our wealth status, the robbers came anyway. In their numbers, arriving at about 2:30am. Some estimates say they must have been at least forty in number, surrounding the whole building and filling up half the street.
They wore masks, or more appropriately, they wore scarfs over their mouths, like cowboys in a bad Western movie. Their guns were menacing but thankfully did not need to be shot at anyone. Once they gained entrance, they herded everyone into one room, and started their search, from room to room, asking for specific things, like the rent my Dad had helped a neighbour collect from his three-storey building while the man himself was resident in Ilorin. And they asked one my uncles (Booda Sam) where the money he brought back from his Youth Service Corps was. Booda Sam calmly showed them the furniture he had just gotten made with the money (as per my Dad’s advice to a young man starting life on his own).
Oh, they searched every room, becoming especially frustrated in the room that served as the Library, which had a full wall of books in their shelves, then cartons in front of those shelves. Carton after carton, box after box, more and more books. “Na so so book book these people sabi? Shi-or” was their exasperated remark. They ended up in the room we were gathered in, and turned everything upside down, fruitlessly searching for those expensive jewellery they were sure my Mum had hidden somewhere. They had no idea that my dear mother’s biggest asset was the large-sized brain that God had given her, and being of the conservative Pentecostal persuasion, she wore no jewellery or make-up.
So they left, at about 5 in the morning, harming no-one…simply taking the little cash they could lay their hands on, and making away with my Mum’s wedding ring. But they left the room in a lot of disarray. Much more disarray than I had ever known it to be in.
When my parents were sure they had gone, we set about liberating ourselves from the room. As you can imagine, the news had travelled remarkably fast, and we soon had hordes of people, seeking to console, or gain first hand information about how it all went down. We were warned to beware of well-wishers. “Those robbers could come back disguised as well-wishers to see if you are going to volunteer information that could help in catching them o”.
However, before all that pre-breakfast drama could start, I should point out here that I slept through the whole ordeal… So I woke up, looked around, and asked the most natural question an eight-and-half year old boy could ask, given the circumstances:
“Mummy, what were you searching for, that you scattered the whole room like this?”
Shebi i told you i was writing my memoir? LOL…
I will keep you posted o… Follow on twitter @adechuks