31 Years After June 12 – FUTA Former Registrar Clears Air on the 4 Students Accused of Plane Hijack

Elder statesman and former Deputy Registrar of the Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA), Pa. A. W. O Attoye, has recounted how four (4) student-activists from the university that were fighting for the enthronement of democracy after the annulment of the June 12 Presidential Election in 1993 were incarcerated at different times by the military that year on a trumped up charge that they were involved in a plane hijacking in faraway Niger Republic.

This was revealed in a recent interview on various events in 1993 when the election adjudged as the freest and fairest in the history of democracy in the country was annulled by the regime of former military dictator, President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida.

Pa Attoye, a quintessential university administrator reputed for his stern discipline and friendly attitude towards students was at the time directly in charge of the delicate matter. The institution’s then Vice Chancellor, Prof. Albert Ilemobade, nursed concerns that the school had to do something drastic to frustrate any plot of the agents of the military against any of the detained students. He assigned the sensitive duty to Attoye.

Earlier, the spontaneous public outcry that greeted the annulment of the June 12 election was a testimony that the people of Nigeria were yearning for democratic rule. There were thus various pro-democracy groups across the country that rose in unity to confront the military. Students across various campuses in the nation’s 6-geopolitical zones were not left out, especially from the Federal University of Technology Akure which was then a hotbed of radical idealism.

Pa Attoye revealed that there were four arrowheads namely Tunde Adeagbo, Tunde ’Darky’ Ibikunle, Tunji ‘Light’ Ariyomo, and Niran Kweminu. Their underground activities constituted enough menace to the military that they roped them into the plane hijacking plot.

Following the various anti-military rule actions which involved addressing peaceful students’ congresses by the likes of Adeagbo in many tertiary institutions as well as covert pro-democracy information dissemination and sensitization across campuses in the old Ondo State initiated by Ariyomo as part of an emerging campus journalism trend, the military beamed its searchlight on the students, and the quad was arrested and put in a detention camp somewhere in Oke-Eda in Akure the state capital.

They were alleged to have been part of the plane hijack plot despite each having a foolproof alibi that established and limited their daily routines to within the old Ondo State which included the present Ekiti State. Pa. Attoye has now confirmed to reporters that the youngsters primarily implicated in the plane hijack plot namely Richard Ogunderu, Kabir Adenuga, Benneth Oluwadaisi, and Kenny Rasaq-Lawal, all members of the Movement for the Advancement of Democracy (MAD), were not students of FUTA. Beyond the plane hijack incidence, the latter names had no known footprint in the pro-democracy struggle as were students of FUTA in those days.

Pa. Attoye narrated how he visited the students at Oke-Eda detention centre and delivered the message of the FUTA management led by the late Professor Albert Ilemobade who was then the Vice Chancellor and Mr. B. A. Adebayo, the then Registrar.

“I liaised with the Registrar. I was next to him. The late VC, Professor Ilemobade warned that no harm must come to any of the 4 students. I often drove to the detention centre near Oke Eda where they were incarcerated.”

“A very terrible place to go. Worse than a hospital. It’s a place one should not go to”.

“Our students were in high spirits, worried but unbowed. After concerted efforts, I recalled that they said since the university was interested in having them released, they would oblige but would place them on security watch.”

“Every protest in any country is an affair of the youth because they feel it more”.

Pa Attoye who remembered Tunji Light Ariyomo, the youngest of the FUTA Quad who was then in 100 level stated of the now famous engineer as a member of the then FUTA students’ anti-military rule resistance.

“I remember one of them, Tunji Light Ariyomo. He was an Adviser to late Governor Agagu and later worked with late Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu SAN.”

“All he wanted was justice. He was seeking to protect the future of the youths of the country. He wanted security and a guaranteed future for the youths.”

“They were not involved in cultism and championed their cause without violence while carrying out a peaceful protest to the government.”

It’s been 31 years since the event. Pa. A.W.O Attoye’s revelation is the first to clear the air about the identity of the four FUTA students and the fact that the actual culprits who were separately arrested in Niamey by the gendarmes at the prompting of the Nigerian military junta were not FUTA students.

Pa Attoye’s revelations explained the tightrope walked by FUTA leadership and the proactive measures of the school management to ensure that nothing untoward befell any of the students as had happened in the case of some other pro-democracy fighters across Nigeria.

One of the detained students, Tunde Adeagbo who was a student leader at the time in an interview stated that “being detained by the military was like being under a constant mental siege. Even after our release, I constantly encountered security agents right on FUTA campus. I knew them, they knew me. Other students had no clue what we had gone through or what we were going through. We nursed our experience in silence even though undeterred”.

“We were not plane highjackers. That would demean the level of our intellect and the courageous stand we took to peacefully organize and mobilize across the campuses in support of the quest for a return to democratic rule”.

“They asked us who was sponsoring us or our activities. To Jove, nobody sponsored us. We sponsored ourselves to take an uncompromisable stand against the most repressive force in Africa.”

Similarly, a retired Professor of English and Communication Studies in FUTA, Professor Bayo Aborisade who was reputed as the Leader of the FUTA anti-military rule intelligential at the time narrated how the students were mobilized for the advancement of democracy.

Professor Aborisade said it was unfortunate that “our students were framed up by the military as plane hijackers due to their stand as anti-military actors”.

While affirming that the four that were arrested in FUTA were bonafide students of the Federal University of Technology Akure, Aborisade provided hints into his roles in scrambling legal support to ensure that no student of FUTA was abandoned during the struggle. The erudite scholar further corroborated Pa Attoye that none of those arrested in Niamey was a student of FUTA.

Aborisade who led from the front during the dark era of military rule and has remained a mentor to many of the students till today is credited with inspiring them to be courageous and stand up for what is right in the overall interest of the country.

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