By Evelyn Usman
PERHAPS, it may not be too inappropriate to describe the ill-fate that befell the Balogun family in Ikorodu, a suburb in Lagos as a generational curse.Â For the past six years, death has remained predominant in the family, stealing four prominent members of the family in quick succession.Â
So when on Wednesday this week, news of the sudden death of Mr.Owolabi Balogun, the bread winner of the family broke, it mystified the more, the cold hands of death running through the family.Â Â The 34- year-old motor cycle rider popularly called Okada was allegedly killed by a stray bullet fired by a policeman while chasingÂ a fleeing armed robbery suspect.
In the beginning
First,Â it was Madam Balogun, (the deceasedâ€™s mother) then Mrs Balogun (wife of the deceased) his father and now,Â Mr. Owolabi Balogun himself.Â These four members of the Balogun family died under mysterious circumstances within six years!
The pains of this inevitable end called death, as gathered, started with the deceased mother about six years ago.Â Two years after, the deceasedâ€™s wife also died;Â thereby saddlingÂ Mr. Owolabi Balogun with the responsibility ofÂ catering for the entire family including his two children
Just while he was smarting from the psychological trauma of the rude shock of the death of both his mother and wife,Â Osama, as he was popularly called by his colleagues, lost his father in October last year.
DeathÂ came calling again last Wednesday, after Osama, whose real identity was discovered to be Owolabi Balogun, had gone to give his children who were in a relativeâ€™s custody in Ikorodu their feeding allowance.
On his way back home, he reportedly ran into a team of policemen whose intension was to demobilize the vehicle of a purported fleeing robber but got hit right in the chest by a stray bullet. But the team of policemen whose main target was the fleeing robber, reportedly continued in the chase, apparently unaware of the ugly incident.
His death sparked off a protest by an irate mob who barricaded the ever busy road, thereby preventing vehicles from plying the only route which leadsÂ out of Ikorodu.
The situation said to have been hijacked by hoodlums, took a violent dimension after another team of policemen who apparently mistook the gathering as an accident scene and came to clear the wreckage, were attacked by the mob.
Some of the policemen were severally injured including passers-by.Â The patrol van with which the policemen came in, was also set ablaze.
But for the intervention of the area â€˜Hâ€™ commander, Prince Chi Anaekwe who personally led a detachment of policemen to the scene, there would have reportedly been a colossal loss of both human lives and property.
More pains as bread winner is felled by police stray bullets
The death of Osama threw the entire Olalusi residents in Owode into mourning as many described him as an amiable fellow who never engaged anyone in a verbal confrontation let alone fighting.
When Crime Guard arrived his abode at 31 Olalusi street where he shared an apartment with two other friends, same day, sympathizersÂ throng the building, describing the incident as the most unfortunate one they have ever experienced.
Balogun as gathered dashed off that morning with a promise to come back home to take his bathe, leaving behind a bowl of rice and beans which he coveredÂ on a side stool in a corner of the room. But that was never to be.
One of the sympathizers,Â a womanÂ who simply gave her name as Janet Olawole, seemed to be the most affected by the sad news, adding that she sighted him that morning at about 7am.
According to her: â€œ I saw him this morning on his motorcycle. He told me he was going to give his children their feeding allowance inside Okorodu. But I was so shocked to hear moment later of the sad news. At first I did not believe it but when they maintained he was the one, I rushed to the seen where to my shock, I saw him lying stone dead on the middle of the road. I called out to him, shook him several times but was dead.
At that point, people had gathered and when the police came they started shooting,Â asking everyone to leave the scene and thereafter made away with the corpse and the motorcycle. Osama was like a younger brother to me. In fact, for those who just packed into this area, they would not know that we were not blood relations.Â It is unfortunate that event took this tragic turn.
Two years ago, he lost his wife who left behind two children. Unable to take proper care of them and at the same time run around for their welfare , he had to take them to a relativeâ€™s place inside Ikorodu where he always went to give them moneyâ€
Other motorcyclists around the area gathered in groups, discussing the fate that had befallen one of their colleagues.Â Â When this reporter identified the deceased as Balogun, they chorusly corrected her;Â saying he was known as Osama .
But they all astonished when his identity card as a member of Owode Community Okada riders association was discovered to bear same name as Balogun OwolabiÂ It was discovered from the identity card that Balogun only started using his motorcycle for commercial purposes last year.
Community, colleagues demand for justice
Members of the quiet community therefore called on the state government to prevail onÂ police authorities to release the corpse to the bereaved family for appropriate burial, claiming that such action countered against Muslim faith.
They also , called on the need for caution among the rank and file, particularly in the area of handling fire arms. One of them who identified himself as Muyideen said, â€œ How can they just fire at an innocent and helpless man in the name of chasing a robber?
What image are they trying to project? That of incompetence or lack of training? Now they have taken the corpse away, without even any explanation to the deceased family. As I speak, there had not been any effort at locating the deceased family.
Osama was a widower who was struggling to take care of his two children only to be killed out of negligence on the part of an ill-trained policeman.Â Â Â The most annoying aspect of it all is that we learnt that the man they were even chasing was not a robber after all.
He was a mad man who fled from where he was being treated , in his brotherâ€™s vehicle. All we want is for justice to prevail and for the children he left behind to be catered for.
This is injustice. Nobody cares about the common man but if it had happened to a rich man you would have seenÂ the appropriate channel running here and there to ensure the right thing is done. If I may ask, is it wrong for someone to be poor?â€
A drive along Odogun Itowole road, revealed the heavy presence of both Mobile and conventional policemen stationed at different locations. An Armored Personnel Carrier was also stationed, in addition to over ten patrol vans.
Incident unfortunate, says Police
However on the side of the police, sources at the command headquarters described the incident as an unfortunate one, explaning that it was not intentional on the part of the policeman that pulled the trigger.
The Commandâ€™s Spokesman,Â Mr Frank Mba, a Superintendent of Police (SP) simply stated that the disturbance of public peace in the area was checked by policemen that were drafted to the scene.