Lagosians watched in awe and consternation yesterday evening at the Leventis bus stop in Marina, Lagos, when a ministerial nominee, Mr. Al-Mustaim Alade Abaniwonda, aged 56, dived into the lagoon under mysterious circumstances about 3pm.
He eventually drowned in the lagoon. Abaniwonda was the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senatorial candidate for Lagos East in the April 9, 2011 National Assembly election. According to Abaniwonda’s driver, simply identified as Wasiu, the senatorial candidate, who lost to the incumbent Senator Tunde Ashafa of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and whose name was among the list of 10 nominees sent to President Goodluck Jonathan for consideration as minister from Lagos State, was coming from a bank on Lagos Island when he told the driver that he was pressed and would need to use the toilet. Wasiu added that all his entreaties and persuasions that his boss should wait until they get to his office, at the CSS Bookshop building in Broad Street, fell on deaf ears.
Wasiu said: “He ate his food after we left the bank and he told me he was going to use a toilet down there. That was all until I heard people shouting. He was still struggling to get out when I got there but he later went down inside the water.” Wasiu was promptly arrested by police officers attached to the Marine Police Division at whose backyard the incident took place. He was not allowed to talk to people afterwards and when National Mirror attempted to talk to the DPO, he bluntly said he was not position to brief the press on the matter.
Eyewitness account has it that when the politician jumped into the river, he was still able to stand upright but he deliberately walked into a deeper portion of the lagoon. A toilet operator, who does not want his name in print said: “We didn’t know what happened in the vehicle before he came down. But when he got to us, he told us he wanted to use our toilet. We were still looking for the key and water when he walked towards the river.
“He took off his jacket, wristwatch, wallet and made for the lagoon side. We were even telling him that is not the toilet, he insisted on going towards other direction. We called him again and he answered in Yoruba saying: Ani mo fe se gaa, meaning, “I want to defecate”. All of a sudden we just saw him in the lagoon.
“I saw him dive into the water. We threw a floater and a tyre at him but he wouldn’t use them. Instead, he struggled to a deeper side of the river. “He was there still floating for about three minutes and luckily a flying boat was on sight. We waved at the boat to help rescue him at the point he was still floating but when the boat arrived, he swam and hid under the last pillar; when the people saw that they went there.” Another eyewitness account said Abaniwonda slipped and fell into the lagoon while going to the toilet. But she confirmed that he obviously frustrated all attempts at rescuing him. She, however, blamed the marine police for their inability to rescue the drowned senatorial candidate, saying they didn’t do anything special to help him.
Her words: “I am disappointed in the marine police. They had their flying boat and swimming jackets in the station, why can’t they jump into the water and pull the man out? At least that is their duty; instead, they were throwing tyres and floaters like ordinary people. Things like this could never have happened in civilised country.” Abaniwonda’s son, who rushed to the scene with some other siblings barely an hour after the incident, told National Mirror that there was nothing in his father’s mood or attitude to suggest he was not happy or was worried about anything. “My mother celebrated her birthday yesterday and he was there happy.
We celebrated together with other family members. If he is still in the water up till now, and you told me it happened about an hour ago, then he must have died because he is diabetic. There is a limit to which his lungs would be able to hold him under water.” Abaniwonda drove in a Toyota Camry car with registration number MU 555 AAA while his son and other siblings who came in two jeeps one of which has the Federal Government registration number FG 527 A52, could not stop crying but were not willing to talk to the press. The Police Public Relations Officer, Lagos State Command, Mr. Jinadu Samuel, who spoke to National Mirror on phone, said he was not aware of the incident but promised to contact the Marine Divisional Police Officer to get adequate brief on the incident.
The Epe-born politician, was a senatorial candidate for Lagos East under the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and the ACN before crossing over to the PDP in 2003 after he sought to contest the senatorial district’s ticket on ACN’s platform but was asked to step down for the eventual winner of the ticket, Hon. Olorunnibe Mamora, Abaniwonda holds a first degree from the University of Ife, (now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife). He is the founder and managing partner of Alade Abaniwonda & Partners, an investment company, with offices at the CSS Bookshop building, Broad Street, Lagos. The question on the lips of sympathisers was: “What could have made a supposed millionaire leave his family and wealth to commit suicide by jumping into lagoon?”
The answer to this question could only be answered by Abaniwionda himself. Meanwhile, as at the time of filing this report, all efforts to retrieve his corpse from the lagoon have not yielded any positive result as all the searchers have retired for the day, with the intention to continue today. Speaking on the development, the Lagos State PDP Secretary, Mr. Olatunji Shelle, told National Mirror that he was yet to confirm the authenticity of the story, adding that he doesn’t believe that Abaniwonda for any reason could jump into the lagoon.
He said that he was on his way to the police station where the complaint was lodge, adding that until he confirms the incident, he cannot make any comment. The state chairman of the PDP, Setonji Koshoedo in a telephone chat with National Mirror declined comment, saying: “I have no comment. The search is still on, but I cannot comment on that incident for now.”