BY OLA AJAYI, IBADAN
Several indigenes of Ibadan still wonder why the kidnappers, who stormed the Akobo residence of the Otun Balogun of Ibadanland, Oba Lekan Balogun, zeroed in on his children as their targets. Due to his involvement in the raging crisis within the Ibadan traditional institution, it is insinuated in many quarters that the kidnapping may not be unconnected with his role in the crisis.
But as numerous well-wishers thronged the Alarere residence of Balogun to congratulate him on the release of his children who were abducted by yet-to-be-identified kidnappers, the monarch has said the abduction of his children should not be linked to the crisis in the Ibadan Traditional Council.
He told Sunday Vanguard in a telephone interview that there could be differences on some issues but Ibadan people would not be so mean to the extent of kidnapping his children. Balogun, who is next-in-hierarchy to the Olubadan of Ibadanland, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Saliu Adetunji, is one of the new kings installed by Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State after the recommendation of a judicial commission of inquiry led by Justice Akintunde Boade.
Sunday Vanguard learnt that the twins, after regaining their freedom, are undergoing medical tests in Lagos and that Balogun appears not to be in a hurry to bring them back to Ibadan.
Following the release of the twins, the monarch is not willing to discuss the ransom paid before their release but he is full of thanks that his children have been freed after days in kidnappers’ den. Prior to the release of the children when he was asked if he was not bothered by the ransom demanded, he simply said all he wanted was the safe return of his children. He said, “All I want is for my children to be brought back to me unhurt.
“What is paramount to me is to have my children back and I’m not bothered about all the niceties of where, when and how you journalists are concerned about”. While commending security agents for their role so far, he clarified that they were not part of ransom negotiation, noting that they are using their expertise to secure the release of the kids.
Oba Balogun said, “I’m very much optimistic that my children will join the rest members of the family very soon by the special grace of God and, when they arrive, all of you will be in the know. I thank Nigerians, both at home and in diaspora, for the massive support my family received so far and which we are still receiving.
“I’m also grateful to the state government and once again to security agents for their efforts in ensuring the release of the kids just as I want to thank my tormentors in advance for the care given to the innocent children. May anything called sorrow be far away from all of us. I will say more when the kids reunite with family members”.
And while confirming the release of the children, the Otun Olubadan said the ransom paid (sources put it at N50million) was incomparable to their safe return.
The monarch said the mother of the twins, Mrs. Funmilayo Balogun, had gone to Lagos to monitor the medical check-up of the children and bring them back to Ibadan.
He stressed that the on-the-spot assessment by his wife showed that the children were released unhurt and they could have possibly reunited with the rest members of the family today (yesterday) but for the results of some of the tests carried out on the twins being awaited.
In a telephone interview with Mrs Balogun, she was happy seeing her children.
“To say that I was happy and I’m still happy now is an understatement and I can’t be thankful enough to God Almighty for protecting my children during the period just as I thank everybody involved in the release”, she said.