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Wole Soyinka: How broadcasting station in Ibadan was invaded at gunpoint

In 1965, Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka was declared wanted and subsequently arrested over the invasion of the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation in Ibadan in 1965.

The incident occurred on October 15 of that year when the then premier, Chief Ladoke Akintola was scheduled to address the western region at 7:14pm. The NBC building was heavily manned by security operatives.

A few minutes after 7pm, the broadcasting technician, Akinwande Oshin, entered the continuity room with a Yoruba and an English tape containing Akintola’s speech. He was about to play the tape when a man later suspected to be Soyinka, aged 31 at the time entered. He was described thus:

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Omoruyi described it thus: “The man was tall, a little over six feet, light complexioned. His hair was luxuriant, his sideburns and moustache shaved but he had a beard that shot out aggressively from his chin. He wore a pair of blue jeans and a smock of traditional Igbira cloth.

“He produced a Bereta pistol and held it to the technician’s head. “Give me those tapes. GIVE ME THOSE TAPES OR ELSE……!” His voice was neutral, educated but not foreign, clear but not menacing.”

At first, Oshin wanted to offer a feeble resistance but soon changed his mind and handed over the tapes to the gunman. The latter then handed over another tape to the technician and asked him to play it in its place. This time, Oshin tried to resist the order but with the menacing gun pointing at him, he slotted the tape in and played it. After a few minutes, the gunman was gone.

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Chief Ladoke Akintola

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The premier, Akintola, was in shock when he heard what was playing on radio. Instead of his address, a booming voice said: “Akintola Go! Drop your stolen mandate, leave town and take your reprobates with you. Let them leave now before the people decide to wash the streets with their blood.”

There was pandemonium as people wondered who the masked gunman was. A few weeks later, Soyinka was declared wanted and arrested for holding the radio station to ransom.

During his first appearance in court, Soyinka appeared disheveled with thick bushy hair. This did not go unnoticed to the judge, Justice Kayode Eso.

On the prosecution side were was T. A. B Oki who was a World War veteran and later Senior Advocate) and his deputy, Thomas Gomez who later became Justice Gomez.

On the defence were: “Oladele Ige, his brother, Bola Ige (later Oyo State Governor; Minister of Power & Steel and Attorney General of the Federation); Olajide Olatawura (later Justice of the Supreme Court; Omotayo Onalaja (later Justice of the Court of Appeal); and Moronfolu Olakunrin (later Senior Advocate). The team was later to be led by Michael Odesanya (later. Justice Odesanya of the high court of Lagos state).”

While the case was going on, the premier was reportedly unhappy with the development and called for a private meeting with the judge expressing concern over his seeming arrogance and independence.

Soyinka’s defence was that he was not the gunman and that he was instead in Enugu as “a guest of one Okwonah of the Eastern Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation.”

ALSO READ: ‘We made a mistake’ FG should apologies to Igboho, Wole Soyinka

The prosecution called one of its witnesses, Professor Axworthy who was Soyinka’s head of department who testified that he attended a departmental meeting where Soyinka was present at 5pm that same day in Ibadan.

When questioned by prosecutor to describe his appearance, Axworthy said Soyinka was cleanly shaven. This dealt a strong blow to the prosecutor’s case.

The judge in his pronouncement said: “All the eyewitnesses, including Oshin, were positive that the man who held them up was not masked. The gunman, they all said, was bearded. Professor Axworthy told the court, and it was the DPP who led him to give this evidence, that ‘Wole Soyinka, whom he saw two hours earlier, was clean-shaven’. While I can understand a bearded man at 5 pm in the evening becoming cleanly shaven at 7 pm, I cannot unravel the mystery of a clean shaven man at 5 pm becoming bearded at 7 pm, except he is somehow masked. And the overwhelming evidence placed before the court by the prosecution itself was that the gunman was not masked…with this sharp contradiction in the evidence of the prosecution, I am bound to give the accused person the benefit of the doubt. I, therefore, found him not guilty and he is, accordingly, acquitted and discharged.”

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About Victor Ojelabi

Ojelabi, the publisher of Freelanews, is a professionally trained mass communicator, who writes ruthlessly about pop culture, religion, politics and entertainment.

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