By Frank Tietie
Ogacheko Atanu, an Idah born, world acclaimed and Saudi Arabia based drilling engineer was assassinated by unknown gunmen on Saturday, 9th of January, 2021 while holidaying in his country home in Idah, Kogi State of Nigeria. He was scheduled to travel back to Saudi on the morning of the next day before he was killed on that night in his hometown.
Ogacheko had such a brilliant career while he was at Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Nigeria. It was his sheer brilliance and distinction while at Shell that got him headhunted by Saudi Aramco, the world largest oil company based in Saudi Arabia, where he worked until his assassination in his house in his hometown of Idah.
Homecoming for Ogacheko has had a bad history. Some years ago, after he started work at Saudi Aramco, he decided to visit his hometown and in course of the journey, on his way to Idah, he had a terribly fatal car accident which broke his limbs. Saudi Aramco did not take chances regarding the treatment of one of its best executives. So the company flew a special air ambulance (a chartered plane equipped with specialised medical equipment) into Nigeria and evacuated Ogacheko for treatment in Saudi Arabia. That’s how valuable he was to the company. And it didn’t matter whether he was a Nigerian and a non-national of Saudi Arabia.
So why would Ogacheko choose to come to his hometown under the present circumstances and be brutally murdered in his country home in such a wicked manner? Reports say he was asked by the gunmen to say his last prayers and despite offering them so much money, probably in dollars, they shot at him several times and he died instantly. Why?
Shouldn’t Ogacheko have taken the state of affairs in local security seriously enough to stay away from Nigeria at this time? With his status, he had enough money to arrange armed private guards or special police protection but why didn’t he do that? He also had the means to obtain a licence to own guns with which he could have repelled the assassins or defended himself. Why would uneducated, barbaric, unskilled hoodlums just kill an expatriate of that repute just like that without any resistance? Ogacheko was helpless even in his hometown; he was murdered mercilessly in his country home. Why?
Some Nigerians in diaspora get so accustomed to their host countries which have secure environments that they underestimate the Nigerian security situation. These members of the diaspora should seek proper travel advisory before coming home for holidays and other purposes. But they are usually overconfident in their belief that Nigeria is their original country where they started. So they don’t feel so threatened as if things are not as bad as when they were once here. No! Things are no longer as they were. The security situation in Nigeria seems to be deteriorating by the day. Those of us who live here know the daily risks we face and we trust in God in unusual terms, everyday for our security. Why do you think many Nigerians say crazy prayers using terms like ‘fire and die’ and ‘Holy Ghost fire’?
The Nigerian government needs to do more to assure Nigerians in diaspora and indeed all Nigerians that there is enough security before certain travels can be made in our country.
In the meantime, all Nigerians in diaspora, especially the successful ones who are popular for their generosity, should weigh carefully all their travel plans to Nigeria. A direct advice is for them to stay away completely until the security situation improves or they should be prepared to learn and adopt the needed skills together with resources required to survive in Nigeria, in these precarious times of insecurity, whenever they visit.
▪︎ Tietie, Human Rights Lawyer, & Executive Director, Citizens Advocacy for Social & Economic Rights (CASER), writes from Abuja