Remembering ‘Governor’ Salimonu, the robbery kingpin killed in students’ riot on Nov 16, 1993

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Femi OGUNLANA
Tuesday, November 16, 1993, will ever be remembered in Ogbomoso as the day that triggered the nights of the long knives against suspected armed robbery kingpins. On the day, Salimonu a notorious armed robbery linchpin, nicknamed “The Governor,” was hacked to death and burnt during a riot started by students of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso. What followed was heartrending, earth-shaking and blood curling as “Operation Kolekodoti” was launched in the city in which other suspected armed robbery kingpins were mowed down too.

The remains of the house of the famed late ‘Governor’ where he met his doom. It was never repaired, it was never occupied since the misfortune that befell him.


Back in time
Ogbomoso had been under the yoke of organized armed robbery attack. Armed robbers had field day terrorizing the populace with no standard raised to curtail their nefarious activities. The ironical thing however was that the people who were the victims knew quite well the kingpin who sat at the top of the cartel, the godfather of the men of the underworld in the city, but who no one including the security agencies could look in the eye or bring to his knees. Salimonu acted above the law; he operated mafia-like, collecting “protection fee” on vehicles newly bought and this he received from the low and the mighty. Salimonu walked the streets of Ogbomoso with the assurance and confidence a fully-fed lion has as it strolls the savannah. If Salimonu went into a supermarket, beer parlour or a restaurant, he sauntered in and out picking and eating whatever caught his fancy; no owner dared request payment from him. He was the ultimate terror that he earned the nickname “Governor” in Ogbomoso and environs. Those who refrained from paying him “protection fee” over their belongings suffer loss of such item whatever it was.


“The Governor” trod the land like a colossus; he was fear personified, but the period he reigned at the head of the criminal world in Ogbomoso soon came to an end as he lost his life in an uprising fronted by students of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, LAUTECH, Ogbomoso on this day, November 16, 1993. It happened that a don of the institution was robbed of his newly bought car and this don was a beloved of the students. The miffed students on November 16, 1993 hit the street early in the morning in protest to mete out judgment on him, he whose long arm of the law could not contain. Justice was served by the students on that day. Meanwhile, there were reports that their rank was swelled by some traditionalists who served as spiritual guide and guard to the protesters. They chanted war songs which conveyed their intention to end once and for all the nefarious activities of the “The Governor.” They trudged to the Owode Police Station and to Soun to register their displeasure and to ginger the authorities to find a lasting solution to his reign of terror. As they sang through the city their numbers persistently soared and soon headed to his residence located behind the Oyo State Hospital – General Hospital (now LAUTECH Teaching Hospital) in the northern end of the city. The protesters stormed his one-storey house where he couldn’t be found initially; of course his friends in the city had alerted him of the impending danger but he stayed put perhaps over-confident of his invincibility on account of his powerful juju for he could have made his escape, his confidence proved false, nonetheless, the gods had purposed his decimation for that day – November 16, 1993.
The courageous among the protesters invaded the quiet building but he was invisible to his assailants; the house was devoid of a single soul. His belongings were then gathered in the living room and set ablaze. A lot of legends had been woven round the final hours of this most notorious armed robber to have terrorized Ogbomoso. It was said that the building on initial attempts proved resistant to fire until a town’s man produced local eggs which were subsequently hurled at the building aftermath of which the house caught flame. Then a cat strutted out; it was caught and flung into the raging inferno, roasting it on the instant, but still the target remained elusive. It was shortly after however that a shriek broke that he had been discovered. This moment was the most important as those who were not brave enough earlier and stayed in hiding immediately found their pluck, surging forward to catch a glimpse of the ‘Scourge of Ogbomoso,’ gravely cornered like a beaten dog desperately tucking its tail irredeemably into its hind legs. All the while he had been hiding in the ceiling until that time the licking flame made it impossible for him to still linger there. In the kitchen verandah be bore down from the ceiling, where he had taken refuge, this was an unsightly sight, a dreadful moment for a gangster who had believed in his eternal invincibility and thought he would hold sway forever; as he landed in the floor of the kitchen balcony, darkened from head to toe, his bleached skin already scoured; and terrified, the typically ebullient, effervescent and assured man, he began to frantically plead; but his time was up, he was doomed, his assailants had risked so much to come to that point where they had him where they wanted, and so were impassive to his beseeching. Then, a student placed a ladder by the balcony, mounted it to speak with him in his last minutes but what they discussed might never be known but it was believed by the crowd that he reeled out names of some other robbery kingpins in the metropolis. The moment the young man who spoke last with him dismounted the ladder, the beleaguered don of the underworld, at his wits end, hauled himself over the balcony’s railing, his massive build notwithstanding, and into the ground of his besieged house he landed with a loud thud, he could do no less for the burning rafters of the house had started falling on him and howls of flame dancing dreadfully over his head. The crowd further rushed forward to behold the man whose notoriety made him to be regarded as “The Governor” in the city. No mercy for him as someone walked up to him with a keg of combustible fuel and poured the content on his prostrate body and another lit the rumpled mass. As the fire whizzed and roared from his body a shout of ecstasy rang through the crowd. The song “O se, o se o, O se Baba…” sprang to their mouth, and many were jumping in joy. That was the sad end of Salimonu. But that was not all, it was determined he would never have a burial site; after his remains burned and burned till the evening, his massive body fat serving as spark for more fire. The place he fell became a tourist site; because as the news spread, thousands of people thronged the place to behold the spectacle and in the evening the skeleton remains was evacuated to the trunk A road connecting the northern and western parts of the country that meandered through Ogbomoso. The skeletal remains were put on the road for heavy duty vehicles to drive over and grind it out of existence. The city heaved a sigh of relief and ever since, the community has never been held in the throat by such organized crime; the rate of armed robberies drastically abated and people have ever slept with their two eyes closed since he was dissolved in the anger of the people. But what happened next in the community was an Armageddon on the society that is the underworld which made the Salimonu’s episode a child’s play. Only in Ogbomoso could such occur, of course, of course!
Hs assassination was significant in the history of Ogbomoso as it only became a prelude to a seres of event more far reaching. it marked the beginning of “Operation Kolekodoti,’ in which other suspected notorious armed robbers in the city had attacks launched on them at nights by the town’s people who organized themselves into viglanttes. Operation Kolekodoti was a euphemism for ridding the community of men with suspicious sources of income. Armed robbers and their kingpins were the prime targets however and those nights from the November 16, 1993 till the turn of the year could best be described as the nights of long knives in Ogbomoso as many of the targets fell. The strategy adopted was for the vigilante of a neighbourhood to storm an area other than theirs. This was executed concurrently, each “battalion” armed with a list which included addresses of those penciled for extermination. It was judgment time for the bad boys/men. Many of the victims did not go down without a fight with fierce confrontations ensuing many nights. But in the end the people purged the city of suspected armed robbers.
His house has been abandoned and his family disappeared into thin air.

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