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Six Lagos politicians found unconscious, rescued by citizens

Unlikely saviours: Okada men in Lagos

On 29 July, six men, identified as politicians, were found unconscious and foaming from the mouth inside a minivan, along Deeper Life Road in Gbagada area of Lagos State. They were rescued by motorcycle taxi operators (known locally as Okada men) and other citizens, while police arrested the driver of the minivan to assist their investigations.

The victims were said to be ward chairmen (grassroot leaders) of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in Bariga Local Council Development Area (LCDA) of Lagos State. Police sources said they were returning from Ibafo, Ogun State, where they had been scheduled to hold a meeting with the chairman of Bariga LCDA, Mr. Akeem Omoyele Sulaimon. But the chairman had reportedly phoned them to say the meeting had been called off, as he was attending another important meeting at the same time.

It is not yet clear what happened thereafter, but the ward chairmen appeared to have been either drugged or poisoned, before they got unto the minivan in which they were found.

However, the tide bagan to turn towards their rescue, when the minivan (a Nissan Quest van marked LT 286 AAA) knocked down an Okada man at Gbagada roundabout.

As the man who was driving them sped off, showing no concern for the Okada operator he had hit, other motorcyclists gave him a hot chase until a commuter service bus eventually blocked him. Scores of the ubiquitous Okada men and passersby quickly gathered around the two vehicles and soon noticed that six of the seven men in the back of the Nissan van were unconscious. Only one, later identified as Elder Emmanuel Otekaye, was still conscious.

The Okada men, widely notorious for their rough and ready ways, forced the driver to take his van and strange passengers to the Ifako Divisional Police Station in Gbagada. Once there, the unconscious men were given emergency medical attention from a nearby clinic. Some of them reportedly threw up as they regained consciousness, suggesting they may not only have been heavily sedated but probably poisoned.

Some of the men told the police that they were all ward chairmen from the Bariga branch of the ACN, the ruling party in Lagos State. They were able to recollect that they were coming from Ibafo after a cancelled meeting. They could not, however, explain at what point and in what circumstances they lost consciousness, how they got into the van from which they were rescued, and how they ended up at the police station. The driver was detained by police to help in the continuing investigations.

The victims were still in hospital late in the day. Medical staff barred family and friends from getting to them, insisting they needed to be stable before receiving visitors.

As news of the incident spread, a large crowd converged on the police station, apparently trying to catch glimpses of the victims. Fearing that the swelling crowd could eventually storm the station to lynch the driver of the minivan, the police called in Mobile (anti-riot) policemen to disperse the crowd and keep the peace. The anti-riot men, who arrived letting off shots into the air, caused a stampede in which some fleeing citizens sustained injuries.

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