Fifty years after their patriarch was killed by a fellow police officer, the children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren of James Babatunde Babalola, former commander of the Mobile Police Force, MPF have bemoaned the injustice and deprivation visited on their family by the Nigerian Police Force. Babalola, who was the first police officer to command the then newly formed MPF in Nigeria, was murdered in cold blood by his orderly while on official duty in the then Maroko Lekki axis of Lagos on January 26, 1971.
Recounting the family’s experience in the aftermath of the dastardly incident at a thanksgiving service to mark the 50th anniversary of his death, Adebayo Jacob Babalola, a retired assistant director-general in the State Security Service, SSS, and second son of the late police officer, who represented his siblings who are based abroad, alleged a gang-up against their father by “a section of the leadership of the police” for his “fearless, honest, and courageous” disposition, as well as being “straightforward to a fault”. He lamented how his killer was allowed to go free, and the promise made to take care of his immediate family by the police high command, unfulfilled.
The thanksgiving service, held on Sunday at the Flaming Sword Ministries, Lewis Street, Lagos, where Babalola is founder and presiding Bishop, was also in remembrance of their mother, Victoria Oyeyemi Babalola, who died about 24 years ago.
The former SSS top shot, who wondered what would have been the lot of the six children left behind by their father after being abandoned by the police but for their mother who courageously rose to the occasion to give them good education, announced the institution of what he called HEROES FOUNDATION by the family which would sponsor the education of children of the police, the military and paramilitary forces, that have gone through this type of thing, to any level.
According to him, “We are having this thanksgiving for two reasons: one, I used to have a father. He died about 50 years ago and he was killed by a fellow police officer. You know that the first time the man died, I didn’t cry. Two months after, I resumed school – Christ School – I got to the school and I was told that my school fees had not been paid. I wept. Me that used to go to school inside a car, they now put me and my siblings on the elevated floor. Police promised heaven on earth that they would take care of every member of my family. Up till tomorrow, one kobo, they didn’t pay. Fraudulent people!
“There is too much fraud in the police and people cannot talk, and they will not talk because they are afraid of what will happen to them. If you will die, you will die, if you won’t die, you won’t die. But what is the point not saying what you have to say if you have to say it? It happened to me, Adebayo Babalola. It happened to my sisters, it happened to my brothers, it happened to us; korokoro, they stole our money”.
“The man who killed our father was a fellow police officer. They ganged up, and nothing happened to him. And I am now wondering; supposing I didn’t have a good mother that could take care of us, probably I would have been a frustrated person, and perhaps an area boy/person or an armed robber by now. And the police would have caused it”.
Calling out the Nigeria Police Force in their message, the family said “It is with deep regret that our father worked effectively and diligently without stain promoting the image of the Force locally, and internationally, BUT was rewarded by getting killed by those threatened by his rising profile, his family abandoned with not a single official promise fulfilled. Our mother was abandoned!!!”
In his sermon, Archbishop Segunlebi Augustine of Shalom Christ Restoration Ministries reminded the congregation that the only legacy one can leave behind on earth “is the lives you have touched – children that graduated from the university who are thanking God for your life; marriage that you joined to sponsor; men you raised from nothing to become something. When you appear on the street, you don’t need body guard.
“My admonition to you all hearing my voice today is live well. See the short time you got invitation to this thanksgiving and you came. If the man had not lived a good life, and the children have not lived a good life, even though they sent you invitation, you will transfer money into their account; you will not come. That we are all gathered here today is a sign that somebody lived at a time and the children have carried on their legacies. I’m looking forward that what we are going to do today will go beyond thanksgiving, to other monuments that we can establish that will become a blessing to humanity”.
Underscoring the need for Nigerians, particularly politicians, to live a life of service, Segunlebi, in an analogy, said “A servant served in the gate. He carried bucket of water; he was a slave, and he served the king so much that he came to understand the principles of operations of the palace; and after the king’s translation, even the princes that paraded with gold on their necks are not qualified to sit on the throne. The throne belongs to men and women who can serve. Service is a privilege.
“If you are paid to work for a man, serve him with all your heart. That man can’t pay you, that woman can’t pay you; that organization you are serving, cannot pay you. Whatever they are giving you is an encouragement. Take it with thanksgiving and allow God to multiply it. Whatever man gives you will finish; whatever God gives you is for eternity. You become a blessing to your generation; you will pass it to your children. They will pass it to their own children; they will pass it to their own children’s children. You become a generation of blessed people like father Abraham”.
Speaking further, the clergyman said “Look at these your politicians. After they leave office, they are useless. After their tenure has expired, no one hears of them again, including their investments; they just go down the drain.
“Listen, if you live well after you leave office, men will look for you, and God will take special interest in blessing you. God will take special interest in promoting you. Nigeria needs a servant-leader. Jesus said he that will be the greatest among you must be ready to be a servant’.
The thanksgiving service was attended by family members, clergymen, colleagues of Bishop Babalola in the secret service, and friends, including Kenny Martins, former chairman, Police Equipment Foundation, PEF, Bishop Oscar Ossai, founder and general overseer of City of Refuge Ministries International, Lagos, as well as Mrs. Mabel Amoni Okwuonu, retired assistant director-general of SSS.
Giving his impression of the event, Kenny Martins, a very close friend of Bishop Babalola, described it as an “Extremely memorable occasion”. Martins noted that “50 years after the man’s death, apart from the number being symbolic in terms of high number; in terms of spiritual interpretation, the fact also is that when you look at the history and the circumstances of his departure, and the fact that God stood by the family, just like He promised the Israelites, and Abraham, He is living up to the promise”. He said that today, every single child of the deceased is doing well, “is the justification of a man who died in service of his nation”.
Martins told TELL that “We need such men as dedicated as he was. And like Bishop Babalola has demonstrated, they say the fruit does not fall far from the tree. He has shown that he’s a true son of his father because when you look at his meritorious service until retirement in the State Security Service of Nigeria, and you see what he stood for all through that service, and the persecution he went through also, it shows that those who are chosen by God would always go through persecution. But one thing is certain; they must always be victorious and those around them would be the beneficiaries of their efforts”.
Also speaking to the magazine, Okwuonu who said she had known Bishop Babalola for over 30 years as colleagues in the SSS, said of him, “great family, outgoing, and we all have come together to stand by him today because what happened that 50 years back is something that we all must join hands to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. And all these various services must come together take care of their own. We have had situations when the children are neglected when their fathers and mothers are killed which is not the best. And since they have decided to set up a Foundation to help people in this situation, we all must join hands to support them too. Great occasion; short, sharp, and to the point. I just love it”.
Born February 8, 1920, in Igbara-Oke in the present Ondo State, late James Babalola joined the police in 1940, graduating from the Police College, Enugu as one of the best students and got posted to Ibadan for his first assignment in 1943. He was in 1958 sent to Scotland Yard, London in the United Kingdom, for a one-year training course after which he was deployed in the 60s to lead The Nigerian Police team on a United Nations peace-keeping mission to Congo Leopoldville.
Based on the success of his outing in Congo, he became the natural choice to head the newly formed Mobile Police Force, an assignment he handled with so much verve and professionalism until his life was abruptly terminated by a fellow policeman.
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