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As I Walked Through The Valley Of The Shadow Of Death By Kayode OLAGUNJU

It was around 20:20hrs, fifteen years ago, on the 13th of July, 2002 to be precise, then I was the Lagos Sector Commander of the Federal Road Safety Corps, Nigeria.. My wife entered the bedroom and asked what would be my dinner. In my subconsciousness, i said "nothing" . She had in fact interrupted my sleep. She moved into the bedroom bathroom while I tried to resume my sleep. About two minutes after, I heard a loud bang as the bedroom door was flung open. As I opened my eyes, I saw a guy with a gun pointed to my head and he shouted, "" pulsing as if struggling to breath after each "you". Obviously, he wanted to talk to me, but he needed to create fear in me and make me freeze on the bed.
I noticed my right knee was raised as the heel was on the mattress with my right hand on a spare pillow on the bed. My mind raced to my arms training in the United States in 1992 , While going through the Firearms Training on "Performance Under Duress", the major thrust of the training then was "in a gun fight, when you lay to die, you will definitely die". We were taught to master firing ten pistol shots from the holster in twelve seconds. The idea is that you need at least twelve seconds to die if the bullet pierces through your heart which is the most dangerous. So, with that if you are determined to fight, you can still kill your assailants by releasing sporadically ten shots before you depart. It was a law enforcement gun fight training. You still wonder why we sometimes find the corpses of both the attacker and victim at crime scene?
Something also happened that might be divine.

When I saw the gun on my head, rather than being afraid, I was so annoyed. It was like, what a hell, how can somebody bang into my bedroom like that? I was ready to die fighting rather than allowing somebody to hold me hostage and kill me slowly after tormenting me. I also observed that the gun slightly shifted from my head as the intruder appeared not stable. May be drunk or he had taken some drugs. Within seconds I made up my mind as I knew I had no much time. I grabbed the pillow and fiercely jumped at the attacker with the folded right leg serving as a spring. His hand was on the trigger as he released a shot meant for my head but now caught me in the stomach as I jumped up. Surprise was the game. He did not bargain for my reaction, so I still met him where he stood. He was knocked down and while we were struggling on the ground, another shot, not sure if it was intentional, was released . I was caught in my right thigh, but the two of us shared the pellets. I did not feel any pains as adrenaline would have been pumped into my bloodstream. I took a gamble that could have also turned fatal but I felt if I had not done that, I would have been killed anyway.

I later learnt that four of them entered my apartment. One entered the room opposite my bedroom where my late mother in law (Mrs Kayo Idowu-Aruwajoye) and sister in law (Sister Tola Oyeshomo) were and held them hostage. The others were with my younger brother, Supo and Ifeoluwa, Seun's brother in the living room and they asked them to lie face down. Another divine thing I believe is, all the other three armed men rushed out of the house probably thinking that the two fired shots must have silenced me, not knowing the main attacker was sweating under me in the bedroom. The guy was able to free himself and ran after others. I ran after him with bloody steps till we got to the gate. I was expecting him to attempt to make a turn to shoot me with the shot gun again and a shove would have put him off balance and I could have used the opportunity to disarm him. He did not make that mistake. I also did not make the mistake of pursuing him outside the building. That would have provided an opportunity for others to finish me off. I slammed the gate, rushed back to the house and spoke to my wife through the window that I was still alive. She watched the bedroom events in the bathroom peeping from the dark. They left the surrounding with a Peugeot 505 parked outside waiting for my sister in law.

My heavily pregnant wife was courageous enough to pick my phone to inform the family doctor, Dr Oghogorie and the Commissioner of Police Young Arebamen that I had been shot. The Rapid Response Squad (RRS) Commander, then ACP Tunde Sobulo (late Commissioner of Police) and some other persons in government were contacted. Within few minutes, about twenty RRS vehicles from different directions stormed my house. The deafening sirens probably made the attackers to abandon the get away vehicle as the policemen brought the vehicle back to the house. The teams were led by the RRS Commander Tunde Sobulo, a friend too. I had left for the hospital before their arrival.
I knew I needed to get to the hospital as quickly as possible as I could not stand erect again. The pain was unbearable. I started walking with my body folded. I came out of the house when I was sure they would have left. The surrounding was deserted and I met a man that parked in front of the house struggling to start the engine of his car. I jumped into the back seat while Sister Tola moved into the front passenger seat. The man was afraid and he did not want to move with us. Mrs Oyeshomo pleaded with him and assured him there won't be any problem and that my life must be saved. He decided to assist. We met the ambulance from the hospital on the way but I told them not to stop the ambulance and that they should be talking like a couple in order not to attract any attention that I was in the car. I did not want anything to do with my official car or an ambulance because I felt the attacker could ambush the vehicle conveying me to the hospital to finish the assignment. My wife drove after us, about six vehicles away in the traffic.

 I still remember Sister Tola suggested I should be taken to Eko Hospital and I said No, that I would not be able to make it through that distance.
At the hospital, the nurses could not carry my heavy frame. So, with the last energy in me I came out of the car and walked bent and holding my perforated stomach, straight into the theatre. Incidentally, I had been to the hospital earlier in the afternoon. I was on my way from Ibadan where the Acting Corps Marshal, Engr Abakyari Wakilbe, now late had asked me to go to the Bishop house in Bodija ibadan to receive the then Ekiti State Governor Otunba Niyi Adebayo who was to visit the family of a colleague Segun Osuolale, who had lost children and mum in a vehicle crash early in the week. The convoy of Otunba Adebayo was the first to arrive at the scene, the Governor stopped and assisted victims to the hospital and also left money for their treatment in the hospital. He was due to arrive the Bishop house by 12 noon . He could not make it down by the time I left as I had to rush back to Lagos to be on "Security Watch" a live television program on African International Television (AIT), anchored by retired Commissioner of Police Frank Odita.

 I had assured the Producer, Patrick Agbambu, that I was going to make it to the studio before the start of the program. I was on the Lagos-Ibadan express when a call came from Dr Oghogorie, my family doctor that my brother, Supo was rushed to his hospital, Alheri Hospital in Ojodu and was on admission. I decided to check on him at the hospital. I was told Supo would be discharged by 6pm and I promised sending the driver to pick him up as I would need to rest when I got home. After seeing him, instinctively I asked the doctor if his hospital had a well equipped theatre. Though he was surprised with the question, Dr Oghogorie informed that he had just equipped the theatre with state of the earth equipment. He took me to inspect the theatre, not knowing I was going to return a victim in a matter of hours. That was why it was easy for me to locate the theatre unaided.
I came into the theatre and lay on the bed. Calls were made to Dr Olu Agunloye, my former boss and the then Minister of State (Defence) Navy and my Zonal Commander Femi Bamgbala that I was shot. With someone holding the phone, I spoke to them in few words. Dr Oghogorie rushed in from my house. Blood everywhere! The doctor and the wife, also a medical doctor commenced activities to save my life instantly .

They called Dr Charles, a Consultant to join them, surprisingly, he came in less than ten minutes as he just finished a surgery in a nearby hospital. He came in with an anesthetist whom I think was with him or also in a nearby hospital. It was as if they were placed on standby for my surgery. In about five minutes, I was induced, after the painful exercise of passing a very long tube through my nostris to my stomach. I however gave an instruction to the doctors as I had a strong belief that I was going to survive. I told them to take two shots of my "lifeless" body after opening my bowel that I would like to see the picture of me while I was "dead" and jokingly stated that it won't be a bad idea to see how my internal organs look like. That wish was granted. I still have the precious pictures of my "death". The operation lasted about eight hours. A lot of people who learnt of the incident rushed to the hospital. Dr Raymond Dokpesi, my wife boss then, led some other AIT staff to the hospital and With Engr. Yemi Agoro, (now retired Deputy Corps Marshal) and other officers, they kept vigil in the hospital throughput the long night. The surgical operation was successful. The pellets in my stomach were extracted. Learnt a part of the intestines was cut off and the Omentum was damaged.

May be the attack would have come earlier in the day. At the AIT, after the live program, I granted an interview to the News crew. The report was on, on the station while I lay on the theatre and some who felt I had died, just like it was reported in the news the second day that my faith was not known, christened the interview as my last interview. Yes, I could have been shot in the traffic earlier and that could have been passed for robbery or actions of fleeing smugglers as the Lagos -Ota road was then a major smuggler's route. After the AIT engagements, I was on my way home, going through the newspapers when I heard the siren of the escort vehicle. There was a heavy traffic as the road was gridlocked. The escort vehicle conveying the Public Enlightenment Officers and other aides had moved to the freer opposing carriage way. In anger, I called and directed they should return to the blocked road and pulled over. We spent over one hour controlling the traffic. Here, I was exposed to all sorts of risks. I came home tired, had my bath and went to bed. Then the attack.
Was I expecting an attack? My response may be a surprise. Yes, but I did not know it would come that quick and it would be to kill me. I took things for granted. I was thinking of other forms of harassment. Few weeks earlier, my office, the Lagos Sector Commander's office had been broken into in the night through the ceiling. The intruders carted away some documents, scattered the office and put some fetish materials on my chair and table.

I called my deputy, Bisi Kazeem, the present Corps Public Education Officer and my Personal Assistant/Staff officer Wunmi Fashakin to report the incidence to the police and the office was cleaned up and I resumed my duties. Definitely, the intimidation did not work. But why the attacks? It had to do with the sanitization of the acquisition of the vehicle number plates system as there were syndicates perpetuating frauds . We were producing five thousand and then raised to ten thousand sets of vehicle number plates per week for the Lagos State government at two thousand five thousand Naija to be sold for five thousand Naira to vehicle owners, excluding registration and related fees. The plates were being mopped up immediately after collection from FRSC, as some people were buying off the plates to create artificial scarcity, thereby raising the selling price. The plates were then made available to the vehicle owners through the black market arrangement at exorbitant prices . People were making as high as twenty to thirty thousand Naira on each pair of plates. It was a billion Naira scam. The public was being fleeced . Attempts were made to involve me and I resisted being dragged into the illegal deal. Rather I promised to break the syndicates .

I met the then Lagos State Governor, His Excellency, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who was genuinely concerned and wanted a quick solution. He did not want the citizenry go through such hardships and rip off. The then Honourable Commissioner for Transport, a gentleman and highly cerebral Barrister Muiz Banire was also not happy with the touting in the system. Touts were making money in many folds than the government and the people were complaining seriously. So many strategies were put in place to checkmate the activities of the touts. We started seeing great results with the plates getting more available in the official quarters and also at the official costs. That brought threat and it culminated in my shooting.

The saddest day in the hospital however came when one of the police officers guiding me in the hospital, ( there were six mobile policemen in the day time and another six for night) came to my room one very early morning to inform me that those that were on duties the previous night while on their way back ran into an ambush of armed robbers at Dopemu area of lagos and they were all killed. Robbers were operating in an estate and they innocently drove into the firing line oblivious of the massive robbery operations. I cried profusely and felt for them and their families. That also made me to understand how huge my own survival was.
I kept thinking how I would be able to live a normal life after the attack. At the hospital, I had a police patrol van permanently stationed with at least six armed men and other undercover operatives around me at any point in time. I began to plan some strategies . Dr Ogogorie had told me after some weeks that my tenancy at the Alheri Hospital would soon expire. I was also advised not to return to the house where I was shot once discharged from the hospital . I planned my "escape " with the doctor. He should keep my discharge date a top secret. A week to the date, I told the Security operatives to stop entering my room, that their presence, especially with the gun was giving me psychological problem as I kept remembering the attack. That was for them not to discover I would soon be missing from the hospital .

 Then I could take a walk to the front of the hospital to take fresh air, a plot for anybody not to be suspicious when I finally moved out . A day to the d-day I sent for the tinted FRSC ambulance, that I needed the ambulance driver to deliver some samples to a laboratory. After waiting for an hour, inside the hospital compound, I asked the driver to return to the office. That also, not to attract any suspicion when the ambulance returns the next day. The CP, Lagos Young Arabemen was to visit me in the hospital with DCP Haruna John on the day I was due for discharge but they did not know I would be discharged. I asked them to wait until I called them . My Zonal Commander Femi Bamgbala knew of the plan and that I was actually moving to his house.
On the day, the ambulance came and parked in the hospital compound. I came out in a short and tee shirt, perambulated around the tinted ambulance and I entered the vehicle unnoticed and directed the driver to drive out. The policemen and the nurses did not notice and so I was discharged from the hospital . The police patrol van and the men were still there till the second day . Getting to the ZCO house, I asked the driver to return to the office as the ZCO's vehicle will return me to the hospital. I called the CP and told him where I was.

He came with his deputy and we charted extensively.
I told the CP, the DCP and my ZCO that I needed to shake off the security people around me as I tried to live a normal life. The whole situation was reviewed and I was comfortable with the arrangement made for prompt response in case of further threat. Though we also agreed that the bad guys would not believe I could be left without operatives around me and would believe that even when security operatives were not visible they could still be hanging around hence the criminals would not attempt to do any funny thing as that could also expose them and put them at risks. Then the joker, I told them I would be resuming duties the next day and that I was going to attend the Lagos State Special Marshals Workshop holding at the Lagos State Secretariat at Alausa in Ikeja. That was to also be a secret. The ZCO would be there and the CP also offered to be present. Commander Yemi Omidiji (retired as DCM) was to represent the Corps Marshal. All the Unit Commanders, the Acting Sector Commander Bisi Kazeem, all the principal officers in Lagos as well as special marshals and Road Safety Club members were to be in attendance.
I wrote my speech and called Wunmi Fashakin to type the speech detailing my shooting encounter and the reasons for the attack and my vow not to be cowed. That I did not regret the actions that led to the assassination attempt and that the attackers had failed. I told Wunmi to keep the speech to himself that I would direct on it later. Wunmi probably thought I was going to send the speech to the Acting Sector Commander to read on my behalf. After all I was still the Sector Commander. FRSC Management had toyed with the idea of redeploying me from Lagos out of concern for my security but I had a discussion with the then Director of Operations, ACM Boboye Oyeyemi, the present Corps Marshal that changing me would not inspire officers and that Sector Commanders after me would always be threatened with "if you don't want what happened to Olagunju that almost led to his death, but finally resulted in sending him out of Lagos to happen to you, be careful, succumb to our demands that you should cool down" The management showed that understanding but said that would be reviewed when I would be well.
Then I woke up the second day, after cleaning my body as I could not really have a good bath with my stomach heavily bandaged. It was emotional when I put on the uniform again. I had lost weight. I felt so proud of myself with a certain sense of fulfilment. It is not describable. I went to the office first. The staff that were around at first did not know how to react. They were shocked but sure they were not seeing a ghost. Then there was jubilation while some were praying. Some others were crying. I entered my office, sat on my chair briefly and I was getting too emotional. So I jumped up, entered the vehicle with another one as escort and headed for the State Special Marshals Workshop. ACM Omidiji representing the Corps Marshal was there, My new landlord, the ZCO ACM Femi Bamgbala and the CP Young Arebamen were expecting my arrival. So many other dignitaries were in attendance but did not know I would come since I was still believed to be in the hospital . Then the vehicles stopped and I came out. It was a triumphant entry. Shock and disbelief were the reactions. I was given a standing ovation and all were hailing and clapping. As if I timed it, it was time for the sector commander's address. I went to the podium, read my speech where I gave details of what happened, called for support and cooperation of all to rid the system of touting and corruption, thanked everybody for their support and prayers, informed that I did not regret my actions and I could not be cowed and would continue where I stopped. I concluded that those that attacked me had failed but more importantly I had forgiven them. The crowd stood again as tears came into my eyes. Sat down briefly and left the way I came. Of course, I resumed fully the second day and has since been living my normal life.

What happened to those that shot me? Police believed they arrested them. I was asked to come and identify them, but honestly I saw only the one that came into my room that shot me twice and I fought. I did not see the other three that came into the apartment and could not say if there were more waiting outside. I was not even sure I could pick the face of that particular one under the circumstances of a gun duel. I did not go to identify them more so I truly forgave them. So, I don't know what happened to them. Rather, I had a church thanksgiving at the RCCG, Solid Rock Parish and a reception at the Police Officers Mess, to thank God for sparing my life and also appreciate people for their wonderful support.

My organization, the FRSC, the Lagos State Government as well as the Federal government gave a lot of support. His Excellency, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Commissioner Muiz Banire showed a lot of support and concern. The Assistant Inspector General of Police Zone 2, AIG Adeoye (retired DIG) was in the hospital few hours after I was short. CP Young Arabamen and his deputy Haruna John (late DIG) made frantic efforts to track down my assailants. The security agencies built a protective network around me. The police attached a detachment to protect me in the hospital. The Department of State Security Services also played their own part . The show of love by the public through solidarity messages, gifts and prayers was great. I remember how I felt the day I got the money sent to me in the hospital from a Journalist friend and brother, Dele Agekameh, then of TELL. Fifty thousand Naira, the day after the shooting with some encouraging words. That came same time with a giant card and all sort of beverages from NYSC Road Safety Club. The Lagos Sector Command under the able leadership of Bisi Kazeem also rallied round me . I am sure the show of love of all strengthened me and removed any form of regrets in confronting the bad guys operating the syndicates . Supo was my "hospital assistant" as he was with me through out. He was always afraid I remember. (Laughing) .

My mother in law Mrs Kayo Ayoka Aruwajoye was truly a mother. My siblings Funmi (now late), Iyabo, Bukola, Eniola, Supo and Layi and their spouses, Ropo, Gbenga, Fola and Femi were wonderful . Mummy Ibadan, my aunty Mrs Comfort Oyewunmi was also there for us. My church RCCG Solid Rock parish also provided great support. Dr Olu Agunloye, FRSC Management and colleagues all stood by me. Seun, my wife showed so much courage, love and care. She was pregnant and was the unmoving rock I stood on through out the difficult period . She had a bed in the hospital and was with me through out my hospitalization . She had to also take care of our unborn girl Damilola and the little girl, Oyindamola Yewande who did not understand why daddy was no longer coming home. The Olagunjus, Olajuyigbes, Adesoyes, Oyewunmis, Aruwajoyes and many other families were with us in prayers and all sort of Support. Of course, there were several other people that I can't mention here. Thank you all.

I am sure there must be a reason for my survival and the God's purpose in my life shall be fulfilled. The struggle continues. So I say "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me" (Psalm 23:4).
God bless you all.

 Kayode OLAGUNJU (PhD) is an Assistant Corps Marshal, Federal Road Safety Corps, Nigeria.