Ishola Oyenusi : The rise and fall of the romantic armed robber in the 70s

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Ishola Oyenusi, Nigeria's first celebrated armed robber on his way to the firing squad to be executed. Lagos, 1971

In the early 70s, Ishola Oyenusi terrorized Nigerians with car jackings, armed robbery and murder.

Nigeria has had its fair share of daredevil armed robbers who both stole money and headlines.

Shina Rambo and Anini readily come to mind as Nigeria's most famous armed robbers. In the den of robbers, there lies another armed robber that tormented Nigerians.

The first celebrated Nigerian armed robber

He was known as Ishola Oyenusi (or notoriously known as Dr Oyenusi). Ishola Oyenusi was a terror. He and his gang carried about operations in Lagos city and neighbouring states.

In the criminal books, Dr Oyenusi was the first celebrity armed robber in Nigeria in those days.

His full range of crimes included armed robbery, car jacking, and murder. He robbed banks and looted stores. It is safe to say Ishola Oyenusi was a menace. He called himself Dr Oyenusi just to be fancy. He was far from a medical doctor.

 

Information on his background is sketchy. We do not know when he was born. It is however known that he came from a poor background which ultimately led him to a life crime. His parents couldn't afford his secondary school education so he had to drop out.

The love doctor

His first noted criminal act would be an act of love. His girlfriend needed some money badly so Oyenusi went ahead to snatch a car. He killed the owner of the vehicle. He got N400 from stealing the car and gave it to his girlfriend.

This is the reason why he was sometimes said to be the romantic armed robber. He had a mean streak in him also as he was hot headed and very arrogant even to the law.

Reign of terror

His professional criminal career started after the civil war in 1970. Dr Oyenusi and his gang of robbers went on a spree robbing banks and killing people in cold blood. His knack for killing his victims made people call him "Doctor Rob and Kill."

Ishola Oyenusi's reign of terror would come to a quick end the following year. On March 27, 1971, the long hands of the law caught up with the criminal doctor who had killed so many people.

The Nigerian Police Force caught him during an armed robbery operation. Unfortunately, a police officer was killed in the shoot out. Justice was swift for the daredevil killer. He was sentenced to death.

Day of judgement

During those days, a death sentence was followed by public execution by a firing squad at the Lagos Bar Beach. It was a regular occurrence in Lagos. People will come out in their thousands to watch soldiers publicly execute criminals. The sands of the Bar Beach has soaked the blood of so many of Nigeria's criminals. Today it has made way for Eko Atlantic.

 

On the day of Dr Oyenusi's execution, it was reported that 30,000 Nigerians showed up to see his end. They were happy to watch the end of his terror. Civil servants reportedly showed up at the beach with a fake coffin to mock the armed robber.

At 10 a.m Oyenusi and his gang were brought in trucks. People booed them as they slowly got down and marched towards their death.

According to Old Naija, Oyenusi was "sweating profusely but managed to smile all the way to the stakes. He kept smiling, smiling and smiling but could still not hide the agony and terror written boldly on his face."

 

After journalists interviewed the criminals, the soldiers pointed the gun at them and fired. That was to be the end of Ishola Oyenusi.

In Pop Culture

Six years later, veteran Nigerian filmmaker Eddie Ugbomah decided to shoot a movie about Ishola Oyenusi. Actors did not show up for his auditions. They feared that the remaining members of Oyenusi's gang will hunt them down and kill them.

When no one was forthcoming, Eddie Ugbomah played the role of the armed robber in the movie titled " Rise and Fall of Oyenusi" released in 1979.

 

Eddie Ugbomah got some blow back for his action. Because the movie also revealed secrets of officers of the military and Nigerian officials who allegedly backed Oyenusi, his life was threatened and his store was looted.

 

In 2015, popular Yoruba movie actor Odunlade Adekola starred in a movie called "Oyenusi" an action film about a notorious armed robber.



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