Politics

Leader of June 12 plane hijackers, Ogunderu bedridden

By Tunde Joshua, Politics Editor

  • Father calls for assistance
  • How 4 teenagers attempted to revalidate Abiola’s mandate

Twenty nine years ago, four brave Nigerian youths, The young Nigerians, Richard Ogunderu 19, Kabir Adenuga 18, Benneth Oluwadaisi 20 and Kenny Rasaq Lawal 18 placed their lives on the line in an attempt to protect Nigeria’s nascent democracy by restoring the mandate freely given to the late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola as elected president of the Federal Republic during the June 12,1993 general election.

The four daring youths on On October 25, 1993, stunned the entire nation and the international community as they in a commando – like strike hijacked a Nigerian Airways Lagos – Abuja bound airbus A310 and diverted it to Niger Republic.

Their grouse, was that they wanted the annulled June 12 presidential election result reversed, the Ernest Shonekan – led Interim National Government disbanded and the winner of the election, Bashorun MKO Abiola sworn – in as President- elect.

Though they made a statement, the hijack attempt was foiled, the four alleged “terrorists” were arrested and languished in prison in, Niamey, Niger Republic for nine years.

Since then, nothing was heard about them again as the heroes of democracy were left unsung and regretted sticking their necks out for what they think was “for the survival and unity” of the country.

Today, the arrow head of that revolutionary quartet, Richard Ogunderu, is bed-ridden.

It was gathered that Ogunderu was, in April this year, attacked by some youths in the French School area of Badagry, Lagos State, after an argument.

He sustained injury which left him infirmed with little or no medical attention. His medical condition then becomes the burden of his family.

His father, Mr Yemi Ogunderu who confirmed Richard’s ill- health said the family needs financial assistance to help him out of his predicament.

The father bemoaned political leaders and activists for abandoning the Richard and three others who made a major sacrifice for democracy.

“He needs the assistance of whoever can help to get better treatment. His knee-cap was broken by the attackers. We have exhausted all we have, but his condition is still bad.”

“It is true that the step they took was in the extreme. That must have been a product of exuberance. What is also bad is that those who backed them and the larger pro-democracy community and beneficiaries of democracy ought not to have abandoned them,”

” The action of the four boys, now men, was ‘meaningfully desperate,” said Mr Yemi Ogunderu.

Richard Ogunderu told reporters who visited him on his sick bed that they were “dissatisfied by the annulment of June 12 elections by the military Head of States, Gen Ibrahim Babangida.”

The Revolutionary Account as it was told.

On October 25, 1993. Four dissatisfied Nigerian teenagers hijacked a Nigerian Airways airbus A310 that was flying from Lagos to Abuja and diverted the plane to Niamey, Niger Republic.

They all unassumingly boarded the flight at MMA alongside other passengers. About 16mins before landing, they waited until the pilot announced that passengers should fasten their seat belts and prepare for landing. Next thing the passengers heard was:

“Ladies and gentlemen, this plane has been taken over by the Movement for the Advancement of Democracy. Remain calm, we will not harm you. You will be told where the plane will land you. You do not move or you die”.

The leader of the hijackers, Richard Ogunderu a 19 was said to have walked into the cockpit and seized the process, and then one other followed. Two remained to watch over the passengers. When he got to the cockpit, the pilot knew immediately this was an attack, so he had to obey instructions given to him.

Ogunderu then asked the pilot to divert the aircraft straight to Germany. The pilot convinced him the plane did not carry sufficiently fuel to crossover the Atlantic and then suggested they divert to a nearby country, Niger or they will crash and everybody dies.

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The two hijackers told the pilot what they wanted was where they could give publicity to their reason for the hijack. They told him they wanted Germany, because they could have a good press coverage that would support their democratic cause for Nigeria. But that couldn’t happen because of the fuel shortage.

They agreed to land in Niamey, Niger Republic. Upon landing the hijackers found themselves surrounded by hundreds of armed Nigeriène soldiers at the airport. They had earlier distributed their demands in a pamphlets among the passengers calling on the Nigerian government to overturn the annulment of the June 12 election. They gave the government 72 hours to meet their demands or else they would set the plane ablaze.

To show they were not ready to kill anyone so long govt listen to them, they released 34 of the 193 passengers, among whom were top Nigerian government officials.

The leader of the hijackers spoke to a BBC correspondent. The correspondent asked what they were fighting for, and he told him, they wanted to actualize the mandate given by the Nigerian people to M.K.O Abiola.

Nigerian government sent 24 delegates to come and talk to the hijackers, but none of them entered the aircraft to talk to them, instead they were in the hotel, asking them to come down.

The Nigeriene soldiers did not storm the plane because..the hijackers claimed to have rigged the plane with explosives, and so began negotiations, keeping the remaining passengers hostage. For three days, the hijackers and the passengers fed on coffee & biscuits.

At some point, they ran out of water for coffee, one passengers demanded for water. Under the guise of bringing them water and food, the Nigeriène soldiers eventually realised the hijackers were not armed, and under the cover of darkness, they stormed the plane.

The four teenagers were arrested, cuffed hands behind their backs and taken straight to a prison cell. The hijackers spoke neither Hausa nor French and nobody made any attempt to question them in English. They were denied food for days.

The hijackers were remanded in a Niamey prison for 9 years before they were released in 2001. The Nigerian government didn’t even brother requesting for them to be extradited.

They wanted them away from Nigerian soil, to prevent them becoming a symbol of resistance to Nigeria’s youths.

As the country marked the 29th anniversary of the June 12 election annulment, these patriots remained unsung.

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