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Shina Rambo is dead! Pastor who claims to be Shina Rambo is fake!

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  • Shina Rambo is dead! Pastor who claims to be Shina Rambo is fake!

    For those who follow radio and television evangelism of Pastor Samuel Abiara, the name Evangelist Oluwasegun Raji aka Evangelist Okuta may not be strange. Okuta, a big time robbery kingpin until he repented in 1998 at Pastor Samuel Abiara’s CAC Agbala Itura Church, Lagos and surrendered all his ammunitions and charms, is in the news again. This time, he is debunking claims by a certain Lagos pastor, who has been going about parading himself as Shina Rambo, whom Okuta swears is no more. He also spoke on his advent into crime in Jos during the Gowon/Gomwalk days and his numerous exploits. He spoke to Gboyega Alaka and Muyiwa Omobulejo at his Abule-Egba residence.
    HE is 72 and now lives with a pelvic injury sustained not too long ago from a power bike accident. As a result, he now walks with the aid of Foshan crutches. Absolutely nothing in his soft manner of speaking or now ageing frame suggest he is a former notorious and dreaded armed robber much sought-after by the law. But, Olusegun Raji aka Okuta, before he was arrested by the holy ghost and converted by Apostle Samuel Abiara at the CAC, Agbala Itura, Abule Egba, Lagos, was as big as they come in the underworld. Talk of Monday Osunbor of the notorious Lawrence Anini gang of the 1980s, Mufu Oloosha Oko, whose story Nollywood Yoruba actor, Odunlade Adekola replicated, and the inter-border robber, Shina Rambo; Okuta knows them all. They were his contemporaries and they even frolicked together.
    Of Monday Osunbor, who was executed along with Lawrence Anini and ASP Iyamu in 1985, he said: “We were together at the site where we now have Computer Village in Ikeja today. When he wanted to go and join Anini, I remember telling him not to go, that Lagos was lucrative, but he was adamant. His departure and death was a big loss to me because he was a sharp-shooter.”
    Of the daredevil Mufu Oloosha-Oko, he said, “He was my friend and I can tell you, Odunlade got his story right.”
    And speaking of Shina Rambo, he said, “He was my friend and used to come here in the early 1990s before he was killed in 1993.”
    When reminded that a certain evangelist pastor has been parading himself as a repented Shina Rambo, Okuta shouted, “Laye! (Impossible!). Shina was killed in 1993 by a team of policemen from Pedro Police Station along the Odo-Iya Alaro bridge in Ojota.
    “What I am telling you, I have said it before. I know for sure that he was killed because we were close enough. He used to park his pathfinder at Ona-ara and come and see me here; so let nobody hoodwink Nigerians. One of his right-hand men who escaped told me the story and I know he wasn’t lying. I first met him at a herbalist place in Ajashe (Cotonue), where he had gone to do fortification charms. After that, we became friends and I took him to my brother, who was a stronger herbalist in Ajashe there. We were close and knew of each other’s operations. Sometimes, we even met en route our operations. Look at this mark on my finger, it is an incision for sharp shooting and we both made it at my brother’s place at Ajashe. It was made with a bottle. There is this other mark on my palm, it is a birthmark; he has it. I learnt IBB also has it. The late The Nation journalist, Dada Aladelokun told me. So it was normal that I know when he was killed. Besides, I have not set my eyes on him since then. So when I started hearing that a certain pastor was claiming to be Shina Rambo, I felt this is one of fake prophets that the Bible is talking about in Mathew 24:4-5 and 11. Shina is from Ile Pako in Abeokuta and not Itoko as is being claimed by the pastor. What even surprises me the more is the ‘pastor’s’ claim that himself, Pastor Kayode Williams and me were contemporaries. I don’t know him from Adam.
    “I challenge him to come to your newspaper and make his claims. Better still, we can both meet at Alagbon Close in Ikoyi, where I’m sure the police have Shina Rambo’s finger-prints. Even the kind of gun you’ve ever shot will show on your trigger finger. So my take is he was never an armed robber. He just devised the story to win congregations. We know Kayode Williams converted at ArchBishop Benson Idahosa’s church and I converted at Baba Abiara’s church, which church did he convert that nobody heard?”
    Background and lure into the underworld
    Born in Igbogila, Ogun State, Okuta’s parents were indigenes of Ogbomosho in Oyo State. He never set out to live a criminal life and therefore started out, earning daily living from his bricklaying skill, which he said he inherited from his father. Aside that, he also learnt a bit of auto mechanic, architecture and draughtsmanship. During his spare time, he also learnt boxing, which together with his hatred for cheating, later turned out to be his Achilles heel. Before his numerous apprenticeship, young Oluwasegun had attended Baptist Day School, Oke Oyinbo in Igbogila and later CAC Commercial Secondary School, Ilesa, when Mr. Bello was principal but dropped out midway due to financial constraints. He recalled that he wasn’t such a bad student and could have gone all the way (he later attended an adult tutorial and obtained his school certificate). In the meantime, Okuta relocated to Jos, Plateau State.
    “In 1972, I was working with Plateau Construction Limited, PCL as a mason. I had earlier worked with Benue Plateau Company, BEPCO; where I acquired a reputation as a boxer. One day, while working for PCL, I went to toilet at a place called Gengere, not too far from a dam where the ATMN (Amalgamated Tin Mining of Nigeria) people dumped their wastes. On my way, I saw two people fighting, with one visibly having an upper hand. Because I naturally hate cheating, I tried to separate them, but rather than listen, the one with the upper hand asked if I wanted to fight for the other man and challenged me to a fight. I tried to warn him, but he was adamant and started setting amateur boxing posses. I warned him again that he would regret it, but he got more aggressive, apparently because of his size, so I stepped forward, parried his punch and landed him three punches and an upper-cut. Within minutes, his face was bloodied and he sat down, panting. “I warned you!” I told him.
    “Seeing what I had done, I took to my heels and jumped over the fence into our company. Unknown to me, he knew me well, but just didn’t know my house. The following day, as I was strolling, I saw him pointing me out to three plainclothes policemen; quickly, I took to my heels, with the policemen in tow. One of them had tribal marks, possibly from Ogbomosho; he it was who told me not to stop. I got to the bank of the dam and in my desperation, I jumped in, even though I couldn’t swim. Unfortunately, it was very deep and I immediately started drowning. Fortunately, I was rescued and taken to the General Hospital, where I escaped through the toilet window in the middle of the night. I was afraid, the policemen would come for me at dawn.
    “I stayed under for a while and the following Friday, I saw the fellow and went to him. Before he could scream, I told him I was sorry, begged him with the name of Allah, and he immediately forgave me. But he told me I would have to help him beat up a guy that night. He said he had a girlfriend, who had been collecting money from him and giving it to this other guy; so he wanted us to teach him a lesson. We agreed to go at nightfall.
    “All the while, I did not know that a certain group of guys, led by one Umoru, had been observing proceedings, me in particular. He beckoned on me, but my new friend told me not to go, that they were a bunch of unfortunate beings. But after he persisted, I begged him to let me go and hear them out. Umoru shook my hands, told me he liked me and that he saw the way I beat up the guy the other day. I told him I was a bricklayer and a boxer; he nodded in admiration and told me he wanted me to join their group. He asked whether I smoked marijuana and gave me some wraps and one pound. Mind you, one pound at the time was a lot of money. I was later to know him as Umoru Mesaje, leader of the most dreaded robbery gang that was terrorising the whole of Benue-Plateau as far as Zaria. In the meantime, I didn’t know who I was toying with.
    “Meanwhile, I had my own group of three other guys; we were all boxers and our little pastime was to practice Iskanchi (thuggery) and generally intimidate people. We were all boxers and believed in our skill. The management of the four cinema houses in Jos at the time, Kararafa, Rex, Skala and New Era, knew us as trouble makers and with time, adopted us as unofficial guards or bouncers and stopped collecting tickets from us. I told my guys about my new friend and showed them the weed, which we smoked and the money, which we also shared. They insisted I took 10 shillings, while they shared the remaining ten shillings. Free money is always good.
    “That evening, I met my new friend as agreed, to beat up his rival, but the moment the girl saw me, she begged her boyfriend not to go into a fight with me. She knew of my boxing prowess and iskanchi and knew her boyfriend stood no chance. But he wanted to prove he was a man, and I gave him a little beating. Then I commanded my new friend to go into a room with the girl. After an hour, they both came out holding hands and smiling; he said he had done two rounds with her. Mission accomplished, he took me to his mother who gave us tuwo and some money. His father also gave me money.
    “The following day, I went to meet my new friend, who was settling into a new life with his girlfriend, they offered me Shokora (pounded yam), which I gladly gulped. Again, Umoru was watching from his corner, and beckoned on me. After a brief chat, he again gave me one pound. Now, that is how men of the underworld initiate people into crime; they would be giving you the kind of money your parents could never give you, so that by the time they would introduce you to their kind of job, you would be too far gone to pull out. Stupid me, I still didn’t in my wildest imagination thought he was an armed robber. At worst, I thought he may want to drag me into a bigger iskanchi (thuggery) racket. It wasn’t until I saw them emerge from a neat Sepa saloon car, one of the choice automobiles of the time, at the cinema, that I began to understand how big they were. Again he gave me one pound to purchase tickets for them, even though a ticket cost just one shilling. Later, he told me to meet him on Friday, to go with him to Bauchi; when I told him Friday was when we closed our voucher at my workplace and therefore not a day to be absent, he asked how much was my salary; I told him 26 pounds, and he said he would give me much more. Friday, I quickly went to submit my voucher and begged to be excused from work. I also bribed the guy in charge, who agreed to take care of everything. Umoru took me to a big Alfa in Zaria, who lived inside a deep well. He asked him to consult and check if I would make a suitable partner for him – I still don’t know what work he did. That one told him we wouldn’t last long together. Nevertheless, he told the alfa to make me some fortification, which he did and told me right there that I would live long and would not die of gunshot. The following day, he took me to another woman; that one also told him we wouldn’t last long together. He asked her to prepare some protective charms for me, but she refused.
    When we returned, he gave me five pounds and we parted to meet at an agreed date. I met him and his gang as agreed on the set day and we got into a car and drove towards Governor’s Road. There we laid in wait in the car; suddenly he handed me a pistol and snarled in Hausa, “Dan Yorubawa (Hey Yoruba boy), you’ve been collecting money as if your forefathers gave me money to give you; if you don’t follow my instructions, this is where I will kill you and nothing will happen.” I was wet in my pants. True I was expecting something big, but not this big. I never in my life thought I would one day handle a pistol; and certainly not in this circumstance. He told me a car would approach and all I needed to do was step forward and shoot into the sky three times to scare the driver and force him to stop.
    “Within minutes, the car approached, a whiteman behind the wheels; they signaled me to take action; I stepped towards the road and shot three times in the sky as directed. Umoru moved forward three steps and issued the last order: ‘You move, you’re a dead man.’ But the whiteman wanted to pull a fast one and reached for something, possibly his gun. In a jiffy, they rained him with bullets and he died instantly. Swiftly, they dragged out the box, got into their car and accelerated, I had to wake myself from my trance and dive into the car, else they would have left me at the spot.
    “When we got to their hideout, they shared the money amongst themselves and threw the last two bales of ten pounds each at me. As if on a second thought, two of the guys grabbed the two bales again. I was stunned. Then they asked how I was going to spend the money, that their fear was that I would go on a spending spree, which would draw attention to me. I promised it wouldn’t come to that, that I would be spending five shillings, maximum ten a day. That put their minds at rest and they told me they were leaving town to return the following Sunday. At that time, it didn’t occur to me that the pattern was to rob in one state and go and cool off and monitor proceedings from another state.
    Unknown to me, the company that owned the money we robbed was BEBCo, owned jointly by the then Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, Dr Alex Fom, the then paramount ruler of Jos, Fombot and the governor of Benue Plateau State, Gomwalk. News had also gone round and they had infiltrated all joints with CIDs. To cut a long story short, I went to a popular hotel in the city centre, Indu Hotel and ordered Heineckens beer. I had five pounds crisp notes in my pocket and felt on top of the world (I hid the remaining in between clothes in my room). In between bottles, I ordered for cigarettes. I called a fine Fulani girl that was parading herself and ordered drink and cigarettes for her. Unknown to me, some guys, I think about three, were watching me. Suddenly, one of them called out to me; the girl told me not to go, but I went anyway. They asked me to buy them drinks, which was the least of my problems; I obliged. But one of them told me he didn’t want to drink, that I should just give him the money. Again, I obliged. I didn’t know it was a gimmick to obtain a specimen of the note and check the number. He went out (apparently to crosscheck and make calls); by the time he came back, I didn’t know what hit me. He jacked me from behind and said ‘You are a bandit. You are under arrest.’ I tried to wriggle free and apply my boxing skills, but his grip was tight. Within minutes, I was cuffed hands and legs and driven to the police headquarters in Tudun Wada. I did a quick reflection of my life; within a few days, I had transformed from a mere local boxer and iskanchi to a big time armed robber.
    “Even before I got to the Police headquarters, they had cleared the cell of petty thieves and notified them that a big time robber was coming. So I arrived in a hail of ‘rankedede! rankedede!! ovations from the inmates. Not long after, they came to whisk me and I found myself in the presence of the Governor of the whole of Benue Plateau State, Joseph Gomwalk. He asked, ‘Are you going to tell me the truth?’ I said Yes, but on one condition… If you let me smoke Marijuana.’ He was stunned but agreed all the same. In truth, it wasn’t that I was such a deviant but I just wanted anything that would take me out of his well-guarded office and give me a chance to escape like I did at the hospital. I soon realised it was a mission impossible. Officers were everywhere and they escorted me to a big lounge, where I guessed top officers indulged in such things, but no room to try anything funny. Meanwhile all the soldiers on watch were just looking at me in wonderment. I was just 22 and could even pass for a teenager. One of them, a Yoruba stepped closer to me and said, ‘Looks like you have gone mad. What do you know about robbery that you have the mind to ask the governor for smoke? Do you know the magnitude of the crime we’re talking about?’
    Before then, I had struck a deal with the governor not to announce that they had arrested one of the robbers, else they won’t get the others. Immediately he called them to announce on the radio that the person they arrested was a wrong person. Back in his office and now sober, I told him amidst sobs, ‘My mother and father are separated, I am a bricklayer and it is a set-up; I am not among them.’ I told him everything; how I met them, how the man, Umoru started giving me money and courting my friendship…. They also did their investigations, spoke to my friend and his girlfriend, through whom the whole episode began, who corroborated my story. When I mentioned the name Umoru, the governor screamed, ‘That is Umoru Mesaje. We have been looking for him for years.’ That was when I knew the level of the character I was frolicking with. The governor agreed to help me but said I had to play along and help them arrest Umoru Mesaje.”
    Arrest of Umoru Mesaje
    I told them when he would return and we went to his house amidst tight security and a well-marshaled plan to arrest him. I cajoled him out, having agreed that the men would swoop on him after my third cough. A thorough professional, even as he came out to see me that early morning, you could tell that he was suspicious, as he only put one step out, looking left and right. Later he relaxed and we sat together to a drink and smoke. when I coughed the first time, he asked what kind of cough was that. By the time, I coughed the second, he got up fully alert. I knew it was then or never, so I coughed the third and the gallant officers stormed the scene. He wanted to lean on the wall (one of the myths around him was that once he leaned on the wall, he would disappear), I quickly kicked away his chair and blocked him. At that point, he knew the game was up. Swiftly, he was cuffed and arrested. He took two looks at me and said in a tone full of regret, ‘Kai! And they warned me about you this boy.’
    “By this time, news had spread among the Yoruba community that I had been caught with big time armed robbers and that I had disgraced the Yoruba race. Some, who had heard the full story tried to educate them that it was a set-up, but others insisted that if I hadn’t been moving in the wrong places, I wouldn’t fall victim. My compound then was Ile Ayetoro on Galadima Street, it was owned by the head of the Yoruba community in Jos, DL Okunade. Like me, he was also from Ogbomosho. Meanwhile, my younger brother who was living with me had cleared out the remaining money and landed down south. In fact, I can still point to what he used that money for.
    The case came up for hearing and Umoru and his gang were sentenced to death by firing squad. It was a case that drew huge crowd both amongst the Yoruba community who wanted to catch a glimpse of this Segun, who had tainted the Yoruba race, and those who wanted to catch a glimpse of the dreaded Umoru Mesaje. I was tried separately and sentenced to ten years imprisonment. The governor, in fulfillment of his promised had told me to claim I was 17 and that the law would be lenient on me. Even Umoru and co had testified that I was not part of them, that they were just trying to bring me in. A couple other guys, who had come to sleep in Umoru’s house that night were also arrested and sentenced to 20 years. They were also robbers but were not part of the operation. That is why I would advise young people not to go and sleep in any friend’s house, especially those whose source of livelihood they don’t know.”
    Just the beginning.
    But rather than serve his sentence quietly, it turned out to be a lunch-pad for Okuta into the grimmer tunnel of the underworld. Life in prison toughened him and he became emboldened. Recounting the episodes that followed, Okuta said, “I didn’t spend the ten years, even though it was a concurrent sentence. I spent only two years and escaped. I took advantage of the fact that I was in the kitchen, escaped through the well and ran down south.