By Bankole Shakirudeen Adeshina
THE death of Alhaji Shakiru Alabi Balogun, a popular politician in Igando/Ikotun Local Community Development Area of Lagos State, on Friday, July 19th, 2017, has ignited heated controversy and serious acrimony in the community.
Popularly called SAB, Balogun, a two-time former Chairman of National Union of Local Government Employees of Nigeria (NULGE), died in curious circumstances which his supporters believed must have been orchestrated by his political rivals’. His associates claimed these faceless opponents were not satisfied with forcing SAB out of contention during the just concluded local elections, but decided to end the man’s life.
Like such things, SAB’s death was sudden and tragic. After dropping his last daughter off at his wife’s shop on that fateful Friday morning, around 10:50am, SAB drove away with the intention of going to his office. Little did he know that the agent of death was lurking around, to snatch him away from his beloved family and friends.
Barely few minutes after leaving his wife’s shop, SAB encountered a serious traffic logjam at a notorious spot at Oko-filling section of the Isheri-Igando expressway – an annoying and regular nuisance caused by the waste collection trucks of the Lagos State Waste Management Authority, who indiscriminately block the road in their bids to dispose the collected waste at the dumpsite located in the area.
After navigating the gridlock, SAB was said to have parked to make some calls. Then suddenly, a driver struggling with his car from the opposite end of the road ran through the median and crashed into SAB’s SUV.
Official statement said SAB died on the spot. But investigations revealed something contrary. Our reporter found out that SAB, who sustained a broken bone on his left hand and few bruises, actually managed to get to the Alimosho General Hospital at Igando. But he was left unattended to, until death came calling!
His death appears to have been another costly price paid for acts of lawlessness in the country and the seeming failure of government to address simple challenges.
A witness, who identified himself as Daddy David, attributed the cause of the accident that claimed SAB’s life to “the indiscriminate parking of vehicles on the road by the waste collection trucks, thereby obstructing the expressway.”
Mr. Abiodun Adeagbo, a Landlord within the neighborhood who was at the scene of the accident, gave vivid details into how the accident happened:
“The LAWMA truck had parked, covering half of the road. A bus going to Igando suffered brake failure and its driver manoeuvred to the median, unfortunately bumping into the second lane going to Isheri. The driver tried to further manoeuver the bus but while struggling to avoid the truck that blocked the road, he ended up crashing into SAB’s jeep parked by the roadside,” he said.
“The activities of the truck drivers are not regulated. This has caused series of accidents on the road, leading to deaths and permanent injuries by the victims. As if that wasn’t enough, the scavengers who feasted on the waste deposits in search of recyclable items have made matter worse, turning the whole environment into a mad land.”
Attempts to speak with the management of the Alimosho General Hospital, Igando over the allegation of negligence proved abortive as the Medical Director was not available as at the time of enquiry.
One of the truck drivers interviewed at the scene of the accident, Qodri (surname withheld) absolved his colleagues of wrongdoing.
Amidst the cacophony of indiscriminate parking on the roadside, Qodri, a 43-year-old father of four, said: “our parking by the road sides is not regular or deliberate. They are caused by the bad state of the access roads into the dumpsite and incineration unit. The delay is not favourable to us as it wastes our valuable times. Coupled with that is the toll it takes on our trucks.
“The situation gets worse during the rainy session. We go through hellish experience to perform the simplest task of offloading dirt at the dumpsite. This is frustrating to us as a people. And fixing the bad roads is the job of the government. So, we need the government to help us.”
In its response to the death of SAB, the Alimosho Youth Development Association of Nigerian (AYDAN) told this reporter that his group had “petitioned the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni over the indiscriminate obstruction of traffic by truck drivers at the Oko Filing and Lanre Bus Stops, giving them the ultimatum of one month to vacate the area or face the wrath of the youth of the local government.”
Comrade Abdulateef Olawale, President of AYDAN said the group also staged a one-day peaceful rally in honor of the departed.
“SAB was a rare human being. He was a good human being. Religious, diligent, passionate and extremely compassionate, he can do anything to put smile on the faces of the poor. Given his political clout and popularity, he aspired for the Chairmanship of the Igando-Ikotun LCDA in the just concluded poll. But he was forced out of the race by conspiracy of the political gladiators, the godfathers who handpicked candidates.
“He was robbed politically and as a member of AYDAN, a group of young and dynamic individuals committed to the development of the LCDA, we will not keep silent while this is going on. SAB would have been a great leader. He was the chairman of the people. I spoke to him on phone a day before his death and he confided in me that he spent well over N20million on the aspiration.”
High emotion at the home
At exactly 2:35pm, Thursday, July 27, this reporter arrived at the deceased’s home. His popularity would make navigating his abode a seamless task for a first time visitor. “You know am. The house Alhaji I die ko?” the Minna-born Okada rider mumbled in broken English, responding to this reporter’s enquiry.
At the street in Afolabi area of Akesan, Igando LCDA of Lagos state, the modest three-bedroom bungalow of the late politician lies enclosed within a barely-there fence. On entry, his freshly built cenotaph greets visitors. It was surrounded by family members, siblings and relatives, all still relishing their bewilderments and agonies by the sudden departure of the man.
“I still can’t believe that Shakiru is gone,” a lanky and dark-skinned man would muter rhetorically in a heavy Yoruba-Awori accent. He was later identified to be one of the deceased’s closest friends who had benefitted from his “kind-heartedness.”
“When I was having the challenge of still births, I have already attributed by dilemma to spiritual winch-hunting. But Shakiru, being an extremely religious man, would console me and enjoin me to accept the challenge in good fate and seek Allah’s guidance, forgiveness and mercy. Those words meant the world till today. I would never forget him.”
It has been a week since SAB died, but the atmosphere in his house was still one of grief and fear. The wife cried so much that she lost her voice and stamina so much that some sleeping pills had to be forced than her throat to force her have some sleep and subsequently regained lost strength.
Yet, people kept trooping in, seeking to convey their condolences to the bereaved woman. In this case, the agility and sense of organization of the immediate younger brother of the deceased, Alhaji Abdulwaliu Balogun, was to the rescue.
The children appeared stoic. The eldest son, Abdulhameed Balogun, a 23-year-old undergraduate of the National Open University, was seen feeding his late father’s pigeons, before attending to his friends who came visiting.
But such stoicism was soon be broken on the arrival of a delegation of the state governor, Akinwunmi Ambode.
The Governor’s team, which was led by his Special Adviser on Civic Engagement, Kehinde Joseph and his counterpart in the Ministry of Environment, Babatunde Humpe arrived at SAB’s parents’ home at Igando by 4:20pm.
His aged parents, in their grieving state, vent their grievances to the representatives of the government.
“The General Hospital that you erect there at Igando is nothing but a mortuary in disguise,” Chief Olabisi Balogun said. “If not so, how can a victim of automobile accident who was seriously injured and gasping for life be required to provide his identity card before he could be attended to. Why? What kind of a hospital is that? Isn’t their ultimate obligation to save lives?”
Chief Balogun is an high chief in Igando kingdom, with the traditional title of Opee of Igando land. He is equally a leader of the ruling APC, the same party that forced his son to step down for another candidate few weeks to the just concluded election. The candidate, Dr (Mrs) Morenike Williams was elected in the July 22 election as the Chairman of Igando/Ikotun LCDA.
SAB’s mother also expressed her annoyance in short, agonizing words: “They didn’t treat him. They didn’t attend to my son. They abandoned him till it was too late,” she said.
SAB’s brother, Alhaji Soliu shed light on events that led to his brother’s death.
“The general impression was that my brother died at the scene of the accident. But that was a blatant lie. The accident happened about 10:45am. My brother died 30 minutes later after being denied treatment by the hospital.
“In the accident, he only got his left hand broken, but he was seriously hit on his left chest. That may have ruptured his heart, causing serious internal bleeding. But he still walked down, with little assistance, to the hospital before I arrived later.
“But the whole episode was a painful experience. My brother was a very compassionate human being. He was a rare gem. He was always willing to sacrifice his happiness for others. Yet, he lived a modest. But how fair has he been treated? Allah knows best,”
Premonition of death
Relishing the last memory of his father, Abdulhameed said he had a premonition about his father’s death a day earlier.
He said, “I just wasn’t feeling good on that Thursday, a day before his death. I had to call him on phone. I rarely call him. He called all the time. But when he heard my voice, he inquired, Abdulhameed, so you need money again. I said no Dad. I just feel like hearing your voice. He said it’s okay. And we conversed. And ended the call.
“But on Friday, I just finished my papers when I received a call on his line. On picking it, a strange voice spoke to me, saying do I know one Alhaji Shakiru Alabi Balogun? I said yes, that’s my dad. He then said the man just had a ghastly accident. I thought he was a kidnapper and shunned him off. The call persisted until the reality set in.
“It was a devastating thing. My father was an angel, a cheerful giver. He was religious, honest, humble and very compassionate. These are the fine attributed I have learnt from him. His dream was to give us his children the best education there is. And everything has been going as planned until this happened,” he said, fighting back balls of tears from his eyes.
Abdulhameed is currently in second semester of 100 level at the department of Computer Engineering, National Open University of Nigeria. His dream is to become an ICT inventor.
Like Abdulahmeed, his younger sister, Hikman, a 14-year-old SS3 science student had a hard time coming to terms with the death of her father.
“He was my best friend. We talked a lot. I advised him most of the time. And he listened and heeded to my advice. And things worked out often time. I am like his mother,” the young teenager said.
Lost political battle
SAB, as a politician, was known to be a devoted Muslim, diligent professional, compassionate human being and a rights advocate who quietly fought for a just, fair and prosperous society.
These are said to be the hallmark of his political philosophy, which he struggled to entrench by becoming a public office holder.
In pursuit of this dream, he vied for the just concluded Local Government and Local Community Development Area’s election and was made to step down. Some of SAB’s associates called this, “a political armed robbery and denial of the people a very credible leader.”
Also on record was an alleged act of brevity shown by the late SAB in 2013 when he instituted a petition against one of his banks—Ikotun Branch of Stanbic IBTC Bank whose officials were alleged to have fraudulently debited his savings electronically to the tune of N250,000 without his authorization.
In the petition, dated September 27th, 2013, signed by his lawyer, G.O Olanusi Esq, the Principal Partner, Olanusi Gibson & Associate, and sent to the Lagos State Police Commissioner for investigation, SAB “expressed his disappointment to the bank” over the matter.
The case is still before the court.