A viral video showed a visibly-terrified police officer being dragged away by a furious mob, which later turned out to be DCP Kolawole Okunola, a Deputy Commissioner of Police on election duty. Daily Trust Saturday spoke to him on his experience on that day, and how he, in his own words, escaped death.
Deputy Commissioner of Police in-charge of Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) in Bayelsa State, Kolawole Okunola, was abducted by armed thugs during the just-concluded presidential and National Assembly elections, in a harrowing incident that had the officer reveal that he was almost killed by the mob that violently tried to drag him away to an undisclosed location.
The officer, who was on election duties at the time he was dragged away, said he was seriously assaulted, and was at the point of being beheaded when succour came. “It was like what happens in an action film. They manhandled me, and I was attacked severally with clubs and was at the verge of being beheaded when I was rescued,” he told Daily Trust Saturday.
Sources revealed that it was the timely intervention, and efforts, of a Nigerian Army captain that saved Okunola, in the nick of time.
DCP Okunola, who had served in almost all the parts of the country, said that he was invited to the scene after armed hoodlums in large number attacked INEC officials who earlier arrived the community with electoral materials, in Bassambiri community, of Nembe Local Government Area.
Okunola said the hoodlums had reportedly hijacked – and allegedly carted away – electoral materials meant for seven wards in the area, and took them to a popular hotel in a bid to manipulate the results. It was learned that after they brought back the alleged fake results to the INEC office, another opposing group who were alerted of the development, started protesting.
Okunola said while the group was protesting, the armed thugs that earlier hijacked INEC materials arrived at the jetty accompanied by a great number of armed youths and insisted that INEC officials must authenticate the manipulated results before leaving the community. “Since I was on duty in the area, I was alerted to the scene after hearing loud noises coming from the INEC office. I later got to know that the noise was voices being raised by INEC Officials and party agents who were having had disagreement over election materials and results which was escorted by party agents from Bassambiri to INEC office. While the party agents were arguing that there were no elections in Bassambiri, and wondered why the results came from, I tried to calm them down, and ask that they write their petition to INEC, but all efforts proved abortive.”
Okunola said the number of the youths grew, and the INEC officials felt unsafe and demanded to be escorted to Yenagoa with the election materials. “Then in order to avoid imminent breakdown of law and order by the thugs around, I informed the Commissioner of Police of Balyesa and he directed that both officials of INEC and the materials should be moved to the state capital, Yenagoa, for safety. This was agreed with the military officers on duty,” he added.
It was however learned from another officer that it was in that process that party candidates led youths in a large number, and attacked Okunola, dragging and assaulting him with threats to kill him if he failed to direct the INEC officials to go back to the office and continue collation of results. “The INEC officials were forced back to continue with the collation of results under a very tense condition with sporadic shootings all over,” the officer said.
The officer also told Daily Trust Saturday that as soon as the thugs abducted Okunola, they dragged him to an unknown place where they subjected him to threats, torture, and severe beatings. In the process, his uniform, including its accoutrements, were torn to pieces. The youths were chanting war songs, and saying that the police officer must die. They later sat him down in a wooden box and brought out daggers and other dangerous weapons, in preparation of a beheading, in spite of pleas, and the intervention of an army officer.
While the army officer pleaded, it bought Okunola some time, said a source. “Luckily, while they were waiting for the final order by their leader to carry out their threat, mother luck smiled on Okunola, as a message came from one of them that INEC officials have gone back to authenticate the manipulated results. That was how they left the police officer and trooped to the venue to complete their mission,” he said.
Okunola, who reportedly regained his freedom around 11:00am that same day, was rescued by one of the police marine units that was already dispatched to comb the creeks for the missing officer, on the orders of the Inspector-General of Police. He was rescued and taken to AGIP by the Police Marine Unit, after which he headed back to his station.
It can be recalled that the Nigeria Police has, in the past few days, placed adverts in some national dailies praising Okunola as a hero, as the initial narrative was inaccurately portraying the situation.