The name Babatunde Folorunsho seems nice and pleasant to the ear, but its bearer in history was actually a daylight terror and a nightmare to Nigerians in the early 1970s.
Babatunde Folorunsho was an armed robber and a hardened criminal who threatened the peace and security of Nigerians in the 1970s with his ruthless group of bandits.
He reigned almost the same time as the kingpin of Nigerian armed robbers, Ishola Oyenusi also known as Doctor rob and kill. Babatunde Folorunsho was dubbed ‘Baba oni lace‘ (Mr. Lace) because of his strong love for lace outfits which he even wore during robbery operations.
During his horrific reign, Babatunde Folorunsho topped the list of the most wanted criminals in Nigeria. He was hunted by the police and local guards but all to no avail. During this time, crime rate was at its peak in the country as a result of the civil war that had just ended.
Babatunde Folorunsho alias Baba oni lace seemed invincible but unfortunately for him, he was nabbed by the police during a robbery operation on a fateful day in 1971. He was charged with robbing one Mr. Alfred Marshall of a car. The whole nation jubilated as Babatunde Folorunsho was finally caught in the web of the law.
On the 8th and 13th of April, 1971, Babatunde Folorunsho was tried and found guilty of highway robbery. The judge, James Agboola Ojomo, sentenced him to death by firing squad.
The execution day came; it was on the 24th of July, 1971. Thousands of Nigerians rushed to the popular Bar Beach in Lagos where the execution was to take place. That was the first of its kind in Nigeria.
It was around 1:00pm and the sun was shining earnestly. Babatunde Folorunsho and two other ‘criminals’ were conveyed to the execution ground in a lorry. There was anxiety and excitement in the crowd.
In chains, Babatunde Folorunsho who was dressed in lace and other criminals were walked to the stakes and tied up. The other two ‘criminals’ were Joseph Ilobo and Williams Alders Oyazimo. Joseph Ilobo unlike Folorunsho didn’t accept fate easily, he protested till his last moment.
At a point, he looked at the crowd and said, “are all these people here to see me die? Ah! This is a wicked world. I have not committed any crime.” Williams Alders Oyazimo was a sub-lieutenant in the Nigerian Navy.
He protested his innocence in tears. He said, “if you search your conscience, you will know that a naval officer of my status will never go in the dead of the night to steal. I’ll die today, innocent of the crime for which I am condemned.”
He was approached by the military chaplain, Col. Pedro Martins, and asked to pray for forgiveness but he said, “Father, I am innocent. My blood will cleanse my family and my children will prosper.” Oyazimo’s last words touched Nigerians. It was such a pathetic moment.
According to a source, Williams Alders Oyazimo could have been truly innocent. His execution was likely a result of personal feud with some officers of higher ranks. He and Joseph Ilobo were accused of robbing One Alhaja Taibatu Opene of a loud speaker and record player valued at the equivalent of N320. They both pleaded not guilty but were sentenced to death anyway.
However, Oyazimo’s words did not make the executors change their minds. A loud voice let out the command. Joseph Ilobo screamed “Make una go call that Alhaja, make she come see we die”. Then rain of bullets fell on the condemned trio’s bodies. Their lifeless bodies were inspected, untied and then taken away for burial.
The whole of Nigeria celebrated the end of Babatunde Folorunsho aka Baba oni lace but only to welcome more of his kind.
From early 1970s to the late eighties, during the military regime, Bar Beach was also the spot where many convicted armed robbers and coup plotters were executed by firing squad. It was always a public spectacle, with thousands of spectators, including television cameras and print journalists.
Other armed robbers executed there include Joseph Ilobo, Williams Alders Oyazimo, and Lawrence Anini and Dr. Oyenusi in the 90s. The convicted plotters of the coup of February 1976 that killed General Murtala Mohammed, including Major-General I D Bisalla and Col. Buka Suka Dimka, were also shot by firing squad on Bar Beach. See the video of Babatunde Folorunsho’s execution below:
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