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SHINA RAMBO IS DEAD! (II): My life as underworld kingpin

Oluwasegun Raji aka Okuta speaks of his exploits down south, after escaping from a prison in Jos; his arrest by the holy ghost and conversion and more. He spoke with Gboyega Alaka and Muyiwa Omobulejo.

AFTER escaping from the prison in Jos, Oluwasegun Raji aka Okuta found his way down south, precisely his home-town, Ogbomosho. On arriving Ogbomosho, Okuta said he went to settle in Sango, an outskirt of the town, notorious for the bad boys. He knew that news of his travails would have spread, so he chose to avoid attention. One thing he was sure of, though, was that no one would squeal on him.
” Ogbomosho people had one thing going for them – they would never squeal on you (their compatriot),” he said. It was at Sango that Okuta fully transmuted into big time robber, this time, fully aware of his actions.
First, he started carrying the chained masquerade, which was very popular among the bad boys. In no time, he assimilated into the core of the group and one day, they approached him with a ‘job’ offer.
“They told me there was a job; some traders would be traveling up north with huge sums of money and they wanted me to team up with them to rob them in Ilorin. This was in 1977. We succeeded in the robbery alright, but we were all rounded up and arraigned. But for my grandfather, I probably would have been killed then. Through his connection – he reached out to the magistrate who was his classmate, and my case was commuted to stealing and I was sentenced to three months in prison in Ilesa prison. The others were taken to Ilesha to face robbery charge. I don’t know what became of them till date.
“At Ilesha Prison, the comptroller, we used to call them authority, Mr. Wura, told me clearly he had information about my whole story in Jos and how I escaped from Jos Prison. He however said he had my age-mate as son at home and would not turn me over. I finished my sentence after 60 days and relocated to Lagos. The shame had become too much.” He said.
By the early 1980s through to the late 80s, Okuta had become really  ‘big.’ It was in the late 80s that he met and became friend with Shina Rambo. It was at about this time in 1990 that he moved to his present abode in Abule-Egba, after soldiers from the nearby Ipaja Military Command Barracks laid siege at his house at Ona-ara for four months. As a result, he relocated outside Lagos, and it took the intervention of one of his brothers, to get the soldiers to vacate the premises before his mother sold off the house.
During that time, between 1988 and 1989, Okuta said, “We operated in Kwara, Oyo, and Moniya in Ibadan. All the operations were announced on the radio, but the police never knew the gang behind them.”
The robbery at Ile-Epo, Abule-Egba
“In the early ’80s, we were the ones selling igbo (marijuana) at Ile-Epo market in Abule-Egba. Of course it was a cover, as we were also committing other atrocities. The igbo business was founded by artillery soldiers, and men of the Nigeria Customs used to come and relax with us after every fruitless chase of smugglers. It was while there that we went to operate at Ile-Epo, the filling station right behind Agbala Itura compound.  During the robbery, one of the attendants made to run away with the proceeds of the day and was gunned down by one of our men. To our surprise, he was the same person who came to give us information for the operation. The day I was giving testimony after I repented, the owner of the filling station came out  and said ‘So you’re the one. I forgive you.’
“Interestingly, what the petrol attendant who got killed tried to do wasn’t new. Many a times, even bank managers would give us information to rob a bank, and at the end, we would make away with N20million, and the managers would tell the police that N80million was stolen. That kind of discouraged us from robbing banks because it was as if the bank managers were using us. We took all the risk, they took all the money. We also used to snatch cars at gun-point, but the final sales, usually, weren’t worth the effort. For instance, Jibiti, one of our main buyers across the border in Cotonou – he too has been killed by the authorities there – usually beat the price ridiculously low. If we offered Jibiti a car of one million naira for N500,000, he would start citing all sorts of excuses, like non-existent dents and claiming they were accident cars until he had beaten it down to some ridiculously low price, knowing fully well that we couldn’t take the cars back. These were cars that when we’re taking them across the border, we usually faced the security men in gun battles, just so, bullets didn’t touch them.
“There was a time we went to waylay and rob an Ekenedili Chukwu luxurious bus at Alaguntan. Elere Police Station was in charge of that case and the police officer Kuye was the IPO in charge at Panti. Gambo was still alive and his office was at Lion Building. In our gang, I was the only civilian; all other gang members were military men and police.”

Okuta’s many tricks
“Whenever I was operating, I had a way of disguising that usually left people and the police confused. I would inscribe my face with different kinds of tribal marks, usually before day break, and apply a special kind of water that would make them look one hundred percent real. That way, those close to the scene of operation, would swear it was not Okuta because they knew I didn’t have such tribal marks, while those  from afar, who only saw my stature, would swear it was me. This, usually, was the first point of controversy, because the testimony of those close to the scene were usually considered stronger. Aside that, I had a charm that would make me appear at some other area, even if briefly; and that usually served as my alibi. So it was usually hard to nail me.
” I also had a charm that when I’m going to a place of danger, something would nudge me and I would just turn back. If I was in the thick of operation and things were getting too tough, all I need to do was find a way to land on the floor with my back, and I would find myself in the room where I was born.
I was such a thorn in the flesh of the police that they usually came to arrest me with two patrol teams, sometimes, more. Yet, they were never successful.”
Turning point
“I was sitting here, awaiting information to go and rob at Atunrase castle in Ijebu, Ogun State. One of his domestic helps, a Ghanaian by name Koffi had tipped us that the man had N3.2million at home, he also pleaded that we should give him just N500,000, that it was enough for him to relocate to Ghana and start a new life. N3.2million in 1998 was a lot of money, so we were excited. The boys were already polishing the weapons; Kalashnikov, Guitar-boy,  and getting set. I never knew we would not be able to go. As we were awaiting the final go ahead, Mr. Kehind Shittu came and said it was time to go to church. He had known me right from the days we were selling Marijuana at Ile-Epo. Then, he was still in the world and used to come and smoke. He had earlier come to invite me to church but I didn’t follow him and agreed for another day. On the day he first came, he came directly from a prayer retreat on Ikoyi mountain in Ikire, Osun State, where he was mandated to go and preach to anyone of his choice and that God would be using such person. When he told me, I laughed. He said, ‘The height you cannot attain in ten years, God said He will take you there; but if you refuse, you will perish.’ When he said that, I got enraged and called out Igbin and the boys (Igbin too has been killed) to beat him up. Igbin was into gbee’le gbe (car stealing). He was expert at accessing any parked car with master keys. With him, alarm or security was a waste of time. But on a second thought, I remembered how my friend Mufu Oloosa Oko was killed over such a flippant matter and told them to spare him.
“When I told my wife that Baba Alajo wanted me to go to church with him, she said ‘Go with him now, shebi you’ll be back soon.’ Somehow, God also used her on that occasion. Just before he arrived, I had already taken three wraps of marijuana and was fully stoned and blood-thirsty, so on a second thought, I agreed to go with him. I had a deadly waste charm that I usually wear when I’m in a killer mood. If I tied the charm tight on my navel and sit with anybody on the same seat, that person, after 15 minutes, would start having stomach ache and die in no time. So I thought, ‘Why not go and use it on these funny people?’ I became more excited when he told me the church was Ajala Itura and that it was a special day to celebrate mothers and children. This was also a charm that must not loosen on its own once tied on the waste, otherwise, the person would fall sick, dry up and die after 91 days. However, I was the one who was put to shame. After sitting on the same bench with some of the church leaders for about 30 minutes, including Mrs. Grace Adeyanju, who now owns a church in Itele area of Ogun State, and Baba Esa, Pastor Ayoola and co, I asked “Excuse me ma, I hope you are okay?’ She said ‘Yes’. I was surprised.  To make matters worse, the charm suddenly loosened from my waste. I was alarmed.
“Shortly after that, I heard a voice calling out, ‘Segun!’ The voice called a second time. In my confusion, I spoke out, ‘Excuse me sir, somebody is calling me.’ They told me to just listen to the voice if it called again, which I did. The voice called a third time and said, ‘Do you think you are smart? Or that it is your charms that have been preserving you? You go on an operation and they kill three out of four of you and you think it’s your charms. I am the one who has been preserving you because I have a purpose for you.’
“To cut a long story short, that was the day I gave my life to Christ. Lest I forget, the charm that failed was my most deadly and that really proved to me the power of God over all things. It was a charm I inherited from my forefathers. History had it that it was three centuries old, having been passed down by the legendary Basorun Gaa of old Oyo Empire. For the charm to be handed over to anyone, a newly-born baby, who had not been christened would have to be sacrificed. After that, whoever is in its possession would be sacrificing a hen, a guinea fowl and a duck to it regularly. When I’m not wearing the charm, I usually hung it on the wall, and when it is hungry for the sacrifices, it would be swaying violently on the wall until it is appeased. Usually at such moments, a duck would just stray in from nowhere and I would look for the other two birds and sacrifice them to it.
“The day I was giving testimonies and the pastors were burning the charms, the charms got up and started chasing them. You can confirm this from the church pastors; most of them are still alive.
“During my confession, which was carried out live on radio and TV, many people, who had been victims of my misdeeds came. Aside the owner of the filling station we robbed at Ile-Epo, Atunrase came, George Adelana came; even Oba Orile-Agege came. I also convinced one of my boys, Lafe (Komolafe Oladele) to repent and surrender himself to Christ. It was together with him that we went to retrieve the alms from where we used to store them in Mafoluku and surrender at the church.”
Appreciation for Pastor Abiara.
“Let me use this opportunity to appreciate Baba Abiara. He took me like his son and treated me specially. I was always upstairs with him and he made sure I never lacked. He even made sure all the bricklayer jobs were given to me. As a new born-again, I was apprehensive for my means of livelihood, but two scholarships: one from CAN (Christian Association of Nigeria) to the Christian Life Seminary and the other, to the CAC Theological Seminary, meant I was fully empowered as a pastor. However I have not been earning a living as a pastor. In fact there have been times I have been tempted to backslide, but my bible learning held me back. It was later that I realised it was the various cults I had belonged to that were working hard to pull me back.
“When I had the bike accident that left me with a pelvic injury and condemned me to these crutches, Baba, despite my shortcomings, sent me N50,000. Although the money didn’t do much, I really appreciate the gesture. If not for my injury, I would have gone back to him like the prodigal son; he is a father true and through, I know he would take me back to the fold.
“I am also grateful to the late MO Senbanjo of President Paints. He is late now, but he was very supportive during my early days in Christ. When one of my former boys was caught and he falsely mentioned me as one of his backers, Mr. Senbanjo also stood in my support. That was a major trial moment for me. The boy later confessed that he mentioned me, so that all my big backers like Baba Abiara and co would step in to save his neck. In truth, that is one of the tricks men of the underworld use when they reach their wits end.”
Police clearance
“Through the help of Baba and his lawyer Mr. Kayode and Pastor Akintola, a former police officer, I also got a police clearance in 1998. And that is why I am free to talk about my past; not because I am proud of it, but so people may know it’s all vanity and those still in crime, could follow in my footsteps.”
On security
Okuta advises the police to maintain the check-points. The idea of canceling the checkpoints, he says, will only pave way for more criminal activities, because “criminals are always on the move with dangerous weapons and it is only through checkpoints that they could be apprehended. At most, they should put some checks on the corrupt tendencies of the officers.”
Appeal for help
“I will appreciate help from any quarter regarding my pelvic injury. It is hampering my movement and I cannot even propagate the word of God like I would want to. Besides, if I’m fully fit, I can work as a security officer for any organisation. I believe I have the experience. In my sober time as a younger man, I still did my bricklayer job. Some of my major works include a house at Super Bus Stop, Abule-Egba; its owner is a namesake, Segun. I was one of those who built Sholanke Building near Dopemu Under Bridge. That was in 1980; it was contracted to me by one Major Jackson. As a born-again, I was one of those who built Arena House in Redeemed Christian Church of God in 2000; it was contracted to me by Pastor Titus and Dr Akoni. I also participated in the building of Nazareth Block at Agbala Itura.

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