More than two weeks have passed since the cold-blooded killing of Bayo Ohu, assistant news editor and political reporter for the Lagos, Nigeria-based The Guardian. The 45-year-old, soft-spoken workaholic opened the door to his home early on Sunday, September 20, as he prepared for church. According to eyewitnesses and local reports, five gunmen and one female ringleader shot Ohu repeatedly in his doorway while his children hid inside. One of his children told The Guardian that from her hiding place she heard one of the men shouting in Yoruba, “Olori Buruki e ti ku”—“The fool is dead.” Curiously, the killers took only Ohu’s laptop and cell phones.
Bayo had joined the private daily Guardian in 1991 as the correspondent for Katsina State, where President Umaru Yar’Adua was the former governor. An astute political reporter, Ohu was soon promoted to assistant news editor, Guardian Chief Editor Emeke Izeze told CPJ. Izeze is still baffled by the motive behind murder. “Bayo’s balanced stories did not usually attract inordinate attention,” he said. “He was a soft-spoken, likeable person. I can’t recall his ever having a problem with anyone within or outside the company.”
The president of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Mallam Garba Muhammed, said he strongly suspects Ohu’s murder was an assassination rather than a violent robbery. “Journalists have become targets for assailants who perceive journalists as threats to their political and economic interests,” Muhammed said in a public statement. According to local reports, Ohu’s assassination may have been linked to his reporting on a rerun of council elections in Ekiti State.
The southwestern Nigerian state is no friend to journalists. During the April state elections, Peoples Democratic Party members beat three journalists and confiscated their equipment within the Ekiti State Government House. The journalists have filed a court case against their perpetrators and actually have a video recording of the incident.
For now though, Nigerian police say they are keeping all avenues open and are “investigating a case of murder and robbery,” according to local news reports. The inspector-general of police in Lagos told reporters a team of police detectives was set up last week to investigate the murder and that a reward was available for anyone with useful information pertaining to Ohu’s murder. An autopsy report is also expected to be released next week. While President Yar’Adua directed federal police in late 2007 to renew investigations into all unresolved assassinations, chances for justice in Ohu’s case remain slim. None of the recent attacks on Nigerian journalists have been resolved.
Yet even in the face of such violence, the profession has a new journalist working in the field: Baho Ohu’s widow. Ohu Blessing told the Daily Sun that her husband’s passion for journalism had convinced her to join the profession. “I am going into full-time journalism,” she told the Daily Sun. “I pray to God to give me a mouth to speak, so that I will continue from where he stopped.”
Ohu’s tragedy reveals that wherever people want to silence the truth, there are always others who continue to strive for it.