How Oba Samuel Adeniran Asusumasa Atewogboye II was sentenced to death for killing a baby for ritual in 1944
By Deji Oke first published on March 20, 2018
On a Monday morning that started out like every other day, the 10th of January, 1949, something unbelievably nasty was to occur. An event so brutal it shook the helpless community to its very core. In the rustic compound of Mr. Ojo was a 15-month-old baby girl whom he and his adorable wife joyfully named Adediwura (meaning royalty or crown has turned to gold). Not bothered with any problem in the world, she was busy playing.
Unknown to the family, the crown of the Efon-Alaaye was soon going to turn their own crown into a calabash of blood. All of a sudden, someone noticed the little girl playing within the compound was nowhere to be found. It was as if she just vanished. Ha!
What type of a bad joke is this, the father must have mused. But it was no joke. After checking every plank and crevice in the compound, the parents knew something terrible was amiss. Their child was gone! Just like that!
By that moment, the mother was already on the edge of lunacy. As the sun became hotter and the day entered afternoon with her daughter nowhere to be found, the frenzied woman burst into full-scale madness. She just could not bear it anymore. She heaved her whole body in the air and landed on the ground, throwing herself all over the place several times with hot tears streaming down her face, her non-stop wailings attracted bystanders, neighbours and sympathizers. Who was playing this crazy joke with a child?
Her hormones boiled, the maternal instincts kicked in, she ran out of the house into the sun and she let out a piercing cry:
My child has been kidnapped!
Confused and equally worried, her husband and other concerned members of the compound and family quickly mobilized a small army, had a swift meeting and they all agreed the next thing was to approach the number one person in charge of their welfare, their beloved king – the Alaaye of Efon Alaaye. After all, the king is the father of everyone and if any child in the community is missing, it is the king’s child who was missing.
With the speed of light, the chaotic party was soon at the palace. With pitiful tears in their glassy eyes, hot mucus meandering down their nostrils and glistening sweat covering their dark tropical skins now utterly covered with dust and worry, they outlined exactly in weak voices what happened to the king. With the crown of his ancestors perched on his head, the Alaaye listened with rapt attention to the tragedy that was unfolding before his very throne. He told them to return home that the issue will be looked into.
After several hours, the Alaaye of Efon-Alaaye, Kabiyesi Oba Samuel Adeniran Asusumasa Atewogboye II, organized a search party to sniff out the missing child. But it was all a waste of time. They searched every nook and corner of the kingdom, called for help from the villagers and police but nothing that remotely resembled the child was even found. Exasperated, the colonial representatives and police messaged Lagos for further help from the Central Investigations Department (CID).
BUT WHERE WAS THE CHILD?
Well, you will recall that the girl was playing in the compound while her parents busied themselves with house chores. It was in an instant that an herbalist pounced on the girl and kidnapped her. He must have been surveying the compound to know precisely when to attack. He hid the tiny child under his a flowing traditional garb called an agbada (see photo) and whisked her off to his house.
At night, he then told his wife to carry the child on her back to the house of another person. The next day, while the parents of the child could not sleep, the kidnappers took the child straight to the palace. The girl was brought before the king, Kabiyesi Oba Samuel Adeniran Asusumasa Atewogboye II. With a wave of his authority, the poor girl was butchered right in his presence.
After the bloody slashings, the king then brought out kolanuts and made everyone present to swear to an oath of secrecy. Anyone who leaked the secret was expected to die, according to the useless covenant they had. The corpse was then mutilated and dismembered, her eyes were gouged out of their sockets and put in a container carried by a first individual. Then her tongue was sliced off and put in another container held by a second individual. Both individuals then ferried these body parts through a door that led to the living quarters of the Oba To Ba Lori Ohun Gbogbo (king). What evil can be greater than a leader betraying his own people?
After completing this phase of their criminal operation, they took what remained of the lifeless body of the girl to the forest around the Christian Missionary Society (CMS) Church and buried it there.
THE POLICE SWINGS IN AND A DRAMATIC TRIAL ENSUES
The parents remained traumatized and on the 10th of February, 1040, a team of police detectives (Chief Inspector Aruah, Sergeants Sule Agbabiaka and Olawaiye and Police Constable Ariyo) stormed Efon-Alaaye. They commenced work without wasting time and within 48 hours, they were able to establish that the cute Adediwura may have fallen a victim to the antics of ritual murderers.
On Monday 14th February, 1949 (a day of celebration of love), the Daily Times newspaper blew its trumpets as it reported the criminal case nationwide. The people of the British protectorate of Nigeria shuddered with terror and recoiled with shock at such brutality. But unknown to them, the worst was yet to come.
Not long after the detectives arrived, three suspects linked to the murder were rounded up and arrested. They were Enoch Falayi, Gabriel Olabirinjo and Daniel Ojo. Falayi was the native doctor and herbalist mentioned earlier, he was the personal spiritualist and consultant to the Alaaye (king), he was the one who kidnapped the girl as she was enjoying her play. The other two suspects were his messengers.
In early April, the coroner inquest to the murder opened at the Obokungbusi Hall in Ilesha under Magistrate WO Egbuna, he was the one in control of that particular jurisdiction.
But then, something very interesting happened. The case assumed a new twist when one of those in police custody decided to leak everything and damn the consequences of the covenant they had. He confessed and nailed the royal coffin as he mentioned the name of the king as being the brain behind the whole violent crime. Kabiyesi Oba Samuel Adeniran Asusumasa Atewogboye II was immediately arrested. I want to repeat here that at this time, there was no country called Nigeria, it was a protectorate of the British Empire under King George VI but the justice system was incredibly efficient and it was obvious no one was above the law – not even the king, the second-in-command to the gods. Representing the Crown at this trial was Mr. Lloyd Crow.
As the people of Efon-Alaaye were trying to recover from the shock that their arrested monarch could be the brain behind the most savage killing in the land, the case was then transferred to Akure High Court. The stage was set for the trial of the decade.
Justice NS Pollard was the trial judge and before him were 21 witnesses ready to vomit all forms of evidence. One of them was Aina Ola and she wasted no time in revealing that it was Enoch Falayi the herbalist who grabbed Adediwura and stuffed her under his agbada.
To make things worse for the ritualist masquerading as a herbalist and native doctor, his own wife, Owomobi, also provided further evidence saying the child was kept in their house and in the cover of darkness, she was forced to carry the child on her back to the residence of the second accused, Gabriel Olabirinjo.
In a testimony that added more nails to the royal casket, Ojo Olofa on his own testified that the child was taken to the palace the following day and it was in the presence of the king that the innocent kid was murdered with brutal cuts. He also gave further details of what happened to her body parts and subsequent burial, all mentioned earlier.
Once all the witnesses gave their evidence, the Crown counsel, Mr. Crow proceeded to submit that the statements of the three principal witnesses – Aina Ola, Owomobi and Ojo Olofa were more than enough for the conviction of Falayi, the crooked herbalist.
But the legal drama was just starting. The defence counsels launched their own counterattacks as they insisted that the three witnesses were accomplices and therefore, their evidence needs to be corroborated.
However, the trial judge, Justice Pollard, ruled that he was satisfied that Aina Ola could not be considered as an accomplice and as such, her evidence was enough corroboration of the concealment of Adediwura at Falayi’s house and the subsequent transfer of the child to the palace. Thus, Falayi was pronounced guilty. Gbagam!
That was not all, the Crown counsel Crow also submitted that the confessional statement provided by Gabriel Olabirinjo and Ojo Olofa’s evidence was a total corroboration of the second accused person’s guilt. And it gets more interesting as his lawyer, Bode Thomas, argued that his client made the statement under duress and so it should not be accepted as evidence. But again, Justice Pollard disagreed. He stated that he was satisfied that the accused evidence was made voluntarily and freely. And without wasting time, the judge slammed him with a guilty verdict too. But Daniel Ojo was lucky, he was acquitted for lack of substantial evidence again him.
So what happened to the criminal king? As for Kabiyesi Oba Adeniran, the Crown counsel submitted that the evidence revealed clearly that he did not only have the intention to kill but also took part in the ritual murder of baby Adediwura. He then directed the court to the evidence of Ojo Olofa and Owomobi. The prosecuting counsel further prayed to the court to take into consideration the countenance of the Oba which he said, already showed him as someone with guilty mind. Okay, now wait for this.
The lawyer to the king, Chief Obafemi Awolowo (yes the same African chief on the N100 naira note) fired back. He argued that since the king rendered helped the parents of the deceased and the parents by organizing a search part. Awolowo said that alone was enough to wash the royal robe clean of all blood. He did not stop there, he said as an Oba, it was possible that some of the enemies of the king wanted to deal with him by involving him in the gruesome killing. Awolowo dismissed all the evidence presented against his client: he branded them as circumstantial.
However, to the disappointment of Awolowo, Justice Pollard did not agree with him. The judge said that saying some enemies in the town vowed to implicate the king in the murder was nothing but a baseless afterthought. In short, the judge gave Awolowo and legal park well. The worst was yet to come for Awolowo and his client. The stern trial judge dropped the bomb when he eventually found the king guilty. The king must have thought he was having a bad dream when Justice Pollard sentenced him to death. Also sentenced to the graves were the other accused persons.
NB: Also integrally involved in this case is a particular Mr. Oye, said to be a first-class criminal case investigator who made the success of the prosecution possible.
The accused persons were like laelae kole happen do you know who we are and so they marched straight to the West African Court of Appeal (WACA) where they appealed the decision of the trial court. At WACA, they stood before the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice John Verity who presided with two other justices.
The appellate court listened to their pleas and reached the following conclusions:
Although the disappearance of the child was reported to the Oba early in the afternoon, he as the head of the town did nothing until twilight.
Five days after the disappearance, the Oba sent for the constable to say he had information that the child will be found at the forest near CMS compound.
Upon the arrest of Enoch Falayi, he ordered his release because he claimed that Falayi was his ‘doctor’.
The corps found the mutilated body exactly where the Oba said the police would find it.
The court held that even though these findings were circumstantial, the statements of other accused persons, and the ones read to him by the police which he confirmed, have already proved his guilt. The court specifically quoted Gabriel Olabirinjo’s statement read to the Oba by Sergeant Agbabiaka which the Oba, the Alaaye of Efon-Alaaye did not deny. The statement went thus:
‘I was in the palace of Alaaye of Efon at night, I saw Enoch carry one girl under his gown into the palace. He placed the girl under the staircase in the palace…Enoch left to call Alaaye…Alaaye came and saw the girl. He said Enoch should do her as he said he would do her….He carried the cigarette tin (in which the eyes and tongue were contained) to Oba Alaaye…The following night Oba Alaaye asked whether the corpse of the girl had been cleared…’
Justice Verity then concluded:
‘With acceptance of that statement as evidence of tacit admission of the facts therein, there is not only ample corroboration of the evidence…it goes further and is evidence of admission of facts from which no other conclusion is possible than that the appellant counseled and procured the murder of this child and was rightly found guilty thereof.’
Upon this final pronouncement, Kabiyesi Oba Samuel Adeniran Asusumasa Atewogboye II, the 43rd Alaaye of Efon-Alaaye, his herbalist and one of his servants and Gabriel Olabirinjo, were all hanged to death. The year was 1949.
NB: John Verity (1892 – 1970) was a British expatriate judge who was Chief Justice of Zanzibar from 1939 until he was appointed the Chief Justice of British Guiana in 1941. He was appointed the Chief Justice of Nigeria in 1945. After the end of his tenure in Nigeria, he was Commissioner of Law Revision, Nigeria co-authored a report with Chief Atanda Fatai Williams (later Chief Justice of Nigeria from 1979 – 1983)
The heart of man is wicked and has been so wicked for a long time!
How Oba Samuel Adeniran Asusumasa Atewogboye II was sentenced to death for killing a baby for ritual in 1944