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ThrowBack Thursday: Umaru Dikko and the Tale of a Bundled Human Cargo

It was a subtle reminder of the famous Umaru Dikko incident recently when a news medium reported that Alhaji Lai Mohammed threatened that the Israeli government should release the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, or face consequences. Thirty-four years after the government-sanctioned Umaru Dikko kidnap attempt, one wonders which tide turned in history.

Only that on July 3rd, 1984, it was the intelligence officials from the Nigerian government who colluded with some Israeli ex-Mossad to illegally ferret Dikko, a former Minister of Transport in the upturned government of Shehu Shagari, away from the United Kingdom.

Dikko had always rubbed off negatively on other northern elites who saw him as arrogant and a threat on their own dominance. Of course, Dikko graduated with a first class in Mathematics and he began working with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). He succeeded even in other unrelated field before joining Shagari’s government; and there began a collusion to clip his excesses.

After the coup and Maj. Gen. Buhari’s assumption of power on New Year’s eve of 1983, Dikko felt unsafe and sneaked out of Nigeria quietly with his secretary, Elizabeth Hayes, who later became his wife, into the UK via Benin Republic. This must have met General Buhari’s administration unprepared and so Dikko was declared ‘wanted’ for allegations of having embezzled monies up to the tune of $1billion. Umaru Dikko on his part did not allow the charged political climate lose momentum as he began criticising the government from the comfort of his UK hideout.

And so on that fateful day in July of 1984, a retired Mossad agent, Alexander Barak, in company of a few other Israeli and Nigerian agents, drove to Dikko’s apartment in London, kidnapped him, tranquilized him and sealed Dikko and a companion up in a crate and another two co-kidnappers in a different crate; making it two crates of human cargo ready for transporting back to Nigeria in a Boeing 707 plane flown by other participating Nigerians.

But a British Customs officer, Charles Morrow hatched the plans in a stroke of luck for Umaru Dikko. If Elizabeth Hayes, Umaru Dikko’s wife, had not hinted the British security authorities of the kidnapping which she witnessed, perhaps the Customs officer may not have been keen enough to successfully foil the plan to fly Dikko out in the diplomatic bags which the crates had now been wrapped in.

The cargo was de-planed and Umaru Dikko got freed. The participants in the failed mission were arrested, prosecuted and jailed while the ensuing repercussions culminated into a diplomatic row between the British and the Nigerian government.

If Umaru Dikko had been successfully brought back to Nigeria in one of the most embarrassing missions ever, who knows what would have become of him. Perhaps he would have been made a scapegoat of the lapses in the government of his brother in law, Shehu Shagari. Maybe he would have been executed in the extra-judicial manner military administrations were renowned for. Who knows if that would have set the pace for a more severe breakdown of law & order as well as an unending wave of coup d’etats, civil wars or genocides in a nation just pulling along from the pains of the abruptly ended civilian government dream which some leaders past arduously worked on.

That the carefully planned operation to kidnap a ‘rogue’ ex-government official  failed because of the tenacity and diligence of an ordinary customs officer is a lesson for the rest of us in keeping our own end of governance right as good citizens.

The family of Umaru Dikko, though may continue to remember this embarrassing national event as a reason to be unpatriotic, but they will also have it sunk in their minds that the sometimes-detested efficiency in government service once saved the life of their patriarch from mob justice.

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Adedoyin Tella

Adedoyin is mostly a farmer in the day who also dabbles into technology at night, in search of other cutting edge intersections. He's on Twitter @i_fix_you

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