On Thursday, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) paraded Olusegun Abiodun Bolarinwa, a civilian who had called himself a military general to access a N270 million loan from Kodef Clearing Resources, a transportation company in Nigeria.
Bolarinwa had told the company that President Muhammdu Buhari shortlisted him for appointment as Chief of Army Staff and he needed a quick grant to process the appointment. EFCC said he forged a letter of appointment bearing the signature of the president.
In several pictures circulating in the media following his arrest, Bolarinwa appears in military uniform with the full insignia of a General. In one picture, he is surrounded by three flags of the nation, the military and the army. He also appears in different variants of the Nigerian military camouflage.
Many wonder how a ‘bloody civilian’ could have access to such privileges. But Bolarinwa is not the regular fraudster. He took salutes from senior security officers and bossed them around. He handpicked soldiers and used them as aides. He lived as a General, and many, even in the military, thought he was, but he was never a soldier, FIJ learned. He was many other things: Aare Akogun of Omo-Ijesa, Osun State, self-acclaimed International Security Expert and President General of Yoruba Youth Forum, among others.
WHO IS BOLARINWA?
Little is known about Bolarinwa’s early life, save his humble beginning. His mother was an akara seller in Lagos, and he ventured into shady deals early, FIJ learned.
In an interview with Yoruba Tooto TV in May 2021, Bolarinwa said he was born on January 1, 1966, and attended African Church Primary School, Ifako, Agege, Lagos. A source, who asked not to be named, revealed Bolarinwa once worked as a middleman between relatives of accused persons in police cells and the police. He would take some money from desperate relatives and engage the police to facilitate the release of suspects.
Decades ago, he paraded himself as a close ally of Ibrahim Babangida, a former Nigerian head of state, to scam politicians, a source, who is a politician in Lagos, told FIJ.
“Bolarinwa promised to enlist you into Babangida’s political family and organise a telephone conversation, putting someone who could talk like Babangida at the other end,” said the source.
“That person would ask you to pay an amount into Bolarinwa’s account if you were serious about joining his (Babangida’s) family and benefiting from it.”
In the Yoruba Tooto interview, Bolarinwa, who failed to mention the secondary school he attended, said he went to the Nigerian Military School, beside the Nigerian Army Depot in Zaria, Kaduna State, where he passed out as a Lance Corporal.
”So, I was subsequently posted to Birnin Kebbi, at the Tank Batallion,” he said.
Bolarinwa said he returned to the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Zaria, Kaduna State, where he was a cadet of the 32 Regular Course.
“Mustapha (Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, Chief Security Officer to General Sanni Abacha) – I met him – he was a far senior to me. Mustapha was [in the] 28 Course. Fadipe (Major Seun Fadipe, Chief Security Officer to General Diya, Abacha’s deputy until his arrest for treason in 1997) was also a senior colleague back then; he was in the 30 Course. That was how I started my career,” he said.
Bolarinwa, who was referred to as a retired general in the interview, did not mention how he rose through the military ranks.
‘ASSIGNED TO ASSASSINATE ABRAHAM ADESANYA’
“Of a truth, I was with Abacha, working with him, alongside some of my other bosses, including Air Vice Marshal Edi Musa; Lt. Colonel Yakassai; Gen. Bichi Mogaji, who is working with Buhari today; Kagash, the Guards Brigade Commander; and Arugugu. Those were the Abacha boys,” Bolarinwa told Yoruba Tooto.
He said Abacha assigned him to assassinate Abraham Adesanya, a foremost Yoruba leader and pioneer member of the Afenifere, a pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group. Adesanya was a lawyer and major critic of the Abacha military regime. Although he died peacefully aged 85 in 2008, there was an attempt on his life during the Abacha years.
“When I got the assignment, I asked myself, why should I be the one to go and murder a prominent Yoruba leader, being a Yoruba person myself? I did not immediately tell Abacha that I would not carry out the order because that would lead to my execution,” Bolarinwa said.
“What I did was visit him (Adesanya) at his office. When I eventually met him, I told him I was sent to kill him. I also told him to be careful, especially about his movements and dealings.
“He was grateful for the information and even gave me some dollars in appreciation. After getting the money, I could not return to Abacha in Aso Rock, so I ran to Cotonou in Benin Republic.”
‘INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EXPERT‘
On Bolarinwa’s complementary cards obtained by FIJ, he does not identify as a retired soldier, but a security expert and security officer to Olusegun Obasanjo, a former Nigerian president.
FIJ’s independent investigation revealed that Bolarinwa actually had a relationship with the ex-president and had also posed as one of his children to swindle people in Lagos, but the nature of their relationship is yet unclear.
In a 2018 interview where he discussed the security challenges facing Nigeria under Buhari, Nigerian Tribune described Bolarinwa as ‘an international security expert who has worked with many security outfits within and outside Nigeria’. In the same article, he was also tagged an Olusegun Obasanjo loyalist.
In May 2019, Bolarinwa, as president of the Yoruba Youth Forum (YYF), a pan-Yoruba organisation he claims to head, publicly backed Obasanjo when the ex-president claimed that Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen were on a mission to Islamise Nigeria.
A month later, Bolarinwa cautioned Ayodele Fayose, a former governor of Ekiti State, and Garba Shehu, the senior special assistant to Buhari on media and publicity, for making disparaging remarks about Obasanjo.
During the October 2020 #EndSARS protests, Bolarinwa was caught on camera shooting at a crowd of protesters in the Abule Egba area of Lagos. Eyewitnesses said the ‘politician’ had tried to address protesters, but was denied the audience on the suspicion that he was trying to enhance his own political profile.
Bolarinwa opened fire on the protesters, and some of them allegedly sustained various degrees of injuries. Despite public outcry, the Lagos State Police Command said it would not investigate the incident because no one had officially reported it to the police. This seemed to validate claims that he was a well-connected chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) who could get away with anything.
To break the news of his arrest by the EFCC on Thursday, some news platforms described him as a well-known figure in the All Progressives Congress.
Perhaps the only true title Bolarinwa has is the Aare Akogun Omo-Ijesha, Osun State. PUNCH reported that Oba Michael Oluwaseyi Adejo, the Olomo of Omo-Ijesha, conferred the title on him on December 5, 2021.
“In the area of empowering the youths, Chief Bolarinwa has provided employment for many young Yoruba youths. He also has countless other youths he is giving scholarships,” the monarch was quoted to have said.
Listening to Bolarinwa narrate the events of the Abacha regime from an insider perspective could make one believe he was in Aso Villa as he claimed, but a careful examination of one of his many claims revealed he was just being a master of his con.
While speaking to Yoruba Tooto, Bolarinwa had brought out a framed photograph of Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, Bola Ahamed Tinubu and Abacha. He then pointed to a scarcely visible soldier behind Abiola in the picture as himself.
However, FIJ’s investigation revealed that the soldier in was not Bolarinwa, but Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, Abacha’s chief security officer.
“Before the time of the coup, something happened. There was a man called General Onoja. His mother died, and we were going to attend the burial,” Bolarinwa started, narrating Abacha’s attempt on Diya’s life over an alleged phantom coup.
“Then something came up: Diya, Arisekola Alao and Major Seun Fadipe were all there. The plane was ought to have been stationed at 6 o’çlock, so the boss (Diya) could board. All I noticed was that the plane was not there. The pilot had called the chief security officer to Diya that the plane had been stationed.
“The boss arrived and was about entering the plane. Two to three Mustapha boys had been stationed there. Fadipe told Diya that he could not enter the plane, that the boys in it were Mustapha’s boys: Jato and other people. Keshinro took Diya from that place. It was not long before there was a blast. I saw Arisekola with my naked eyes. He told Fadipe to ensure the perpetrators were arrested and then went away.”
While some platforms are accusing the federal government of persecuting ‘General’ Bolarinwa for speaking against buhari in the exclusive interview with Yoruba Tooto, FIJ understands Bolarinwa is not a General, but a scarcely educated con man who is different things to different people. But no one can deny his impeccable knowledge of the inner workings of the military, which was evident in his narration of the events of the Abacha regime, and his links to powerful Nigerians, including Obasanjo.
Moreover, the confidence with which he called out powerful Nigerians, including Abdusalam Abubakar, former head of state, whom he accused of killing Abiola, and the brazenness of standing as a General, even in military formations, and of opening fire on demonstrators in broad daylight suggest that he may have the support of some powerful Nigerians.