1914: Seven retreating Frenchmen, with surprising results 1817: James Lane

1971: Ishola Oyenusi, smiling to his death

September 8th, 2014 Headsman

On this date in 1971, the Nigerian robber Ishola Oyenusi — “smil[ing] to his death,” in the words of the next day’s paper — was publicly shot with his gang at Lagos Bar Beach.

Dubbed “the most dangerous criminal of this decade” even though the Seventies were barely underway, “Doctor” Oyenusi — as he liked to style himself — sprang out of the wreckage of the 1967-1970 Nigerian Civil War, a charismatic, cocksure gangster whose lordly disdain for the law cast the terrifying portent of social breakdown.

Beyond Oyenusi loomed a systematic collapse of order that long outlived him. In years to come, other celebrity crime lords would follow; eventually, armed robbery proliferated into a frightfully ubiquitous feature of life in Lagos. Maybe the Doctor smiled at the stake because he foresaw his legacy.

Disturbingly unable to combat the plague systematically, authorities would resort to occasional high-profile executions instead, provided, of course, that the culprit’s misappropriations were of the retail street-crime variety, rather than the fruits of wholesale corruption.

Oyenusi was never in the same universe with such exalted impunity as enjoyed by the masters of the state. He got into the robbery business back in 1959, boosting a car (and murdering its owner into the bargain) to make it rain for his broke girlfriend. While he eventually expanded his operations into a brutal syndicate, he was still just a hoodlum; the infamy that packed the Bar Beach with 30,000 fellow humans who booed and jeered Oyenusi to the stake was merely enough to make him worth the quashing. (He was condemned to death specifically for a raid on the WAHUM factory in March 1971 that also claimed the life of a police constable.)

Six members of Oyenusi’s crime ring went with him to the stake on the same occasion. An eighth man was also shot in the batch for an unrelated armed carjacking.

There is a 1977 film by Nigerian director Eddie Ugbomah based on this flamboyant gangster’s life, The Rise and Fall of Dr. Oyenusi.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Mass Executions,Mature Content,Murder,Nigeria,Pelf,Public Executions,Shot,Theft

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59 thoughts on “1971: Ishola Oyenusi, smiling to his death”

  1. Victoria Amamieye says:

    But one man was innocent, he was framed by his best friend and he was the only one talking that God’s will must prevail on his enemies: which the Government later found out that he was innocent but it was too late! His name is Joel Amamieye.
    In my opinion….what the Government did was wrong and nobody till date asked for the well being of his family.

    1. Peter Oyeti says:

      You share the same surname…may his sould rest easy. Atleast he was cleared of the crime.

  2. Toromade moruph says:

    Dr. Ishola oyenusi is a notorious armed robber

  3. Baba'Na says:

    Oyenusi was actually a real medical doctor cum armed robber according to a new film where actor Odunlade Adekola played Oyenusi.

  4. SEUN AYOADE says:

    in nigeria of today robbery is an option many would have taken if not for yahoo. there was no yahoo in 1971

  5. Biggie says:

    I read some of the comments and I have seen future thieves and armed robbers. How would you support this guy (oyenusi). All he did was kill kill and kill, you blame politicians some of the people he killed were not politicians at all. And we want our dear Nigeria to move forward smh I don’t think so. Some of you who say oyenusi as a hero, you are all daft. If those killed were related to you am sure you wouldn’t talk shit like this.

  6. BLACE says:


  7. Shut up says:

    He is a great son of Ibadan land, the land of thugs

  8. Emmy says:

    A very Interesting story.. especially the smilling to death aspect…greatness in the Field of crime…

  9. don says:

    A very notorious armed robber..

  10. Sunday says:

    I love dis story we just want more abourt other people

  11. Yissa says:

    To Me, He Was Smart Enof To Use Wat He Has To Get Wat He Want At His Right Time, But Too Bad 4 Him To Kill Is Father,

    1. Stevo says:

      You are a demented cow. Maybe you should have been one of his victims or a victim of his kind, then you could appropriately profess your love for him.

    2. Jibril says:

      Like seriously, too bad to kill his father but good to kill other ppl father…is dat wat u are saying…if it is I tink u re d worst kind of human being..I wish u are one of his victims..but don’t worry, u will be a victim for another gang…its not a curse but that is wat will happen to ppl who are like u.

  12. zeez says:

    why are people so stupid in commmenting……oyenusi was and thief was stole wat people worked hard for and yet some people claim to love him and even wanna be like him….and also…u cant judge THIEF with politician…..a thief caught during operation is different from politician embelzling money…..dont get me rong im not saying politician emblezling money are doing good infact they need to be probe charge to court and be jail.but for a theif who steal and even kill people on the properties,….I think he should be killed again…TO HELL WITH HIM!

  13. PAYLOADER says:


  14. chrisbowin says:

    I love this guy like madt,Infact.. I really love this guy a lot.. But i wish he is still alive.. He ‘ll help us to rule this country because of this useles politician… But may his mighty soul rest in peace…

  15. bimco says:

    hw i wish dis man should’ve been used to track our corrupt and rogue leaders to recover our lootf public funds but they did it wrongly….o ma se o!

  16. Fredrick pius says:

    He is nt suppose 2 av been in existence at all.He is a disgrace 2 his family nd relatives

  17. Runs man says:

    When naija was talking abt oyenusi, why they are not talk abt government too, Anyway, they are not supposed to killed him, they supposed to put in life in jail bcos it may be use for tomorrow ( dis time ).. Anyway oyenusi, So, rest in perfect peace… But Omo niaji eje ki a se dada,ki Yoruba de ronuwo ooooo

  18. coded says:

    Hmmmm legend armed robber

  19. emeka says:

    May his soul rest in peace,let’s forgive him because jesus died for our sins on the cross of calvary.

  20. phardheke says:

    Why did u kill him…Awon apayan ole…ika oshi…mtcheeew
    Why did u kill him. he would have been useful if u had tried to convince him…he would have dealt with those thief-thief politicians

    1. Stevo says:

      Ode! Which thief can deal with the so called politicians? You just comment trash for the fun of it.

  21. mhiz fun says:

    Dey shudnt av killed him,I really pity him bcos for every bad deed dat happens der must be a particular problem sumwer,but dats wat pple forget n dnt even bring along wid d story.am v.sure if dis guyz wer to b born in dis century dey will bcom great soldier n finish boko haram,if he was throughly preached to am sure he will repent.

    1. Stevo says:

      Did you actually read your own comment? you sounded utterly idiotic. An armed robber deserves no mercy. Its because most of you are criminals that’s why you advocate leniency for these demonic savages.

  22. Adeleye David says:

    He Is Not A Thief If We Compare Him Wit Nowadays Politician If I Have Opotunity I Will Do More Than Him, Listen To My Story Am Woking In Ofn Nig Before Gething Wok In Crystal Specialist Hospital Akowonjo When I Was There Some Guys Are Stilling The Company Money Which Afect Me But I Told Them That I Can But They Look Me As Their Enemy And The Gang Aganst Me And Tell The Ed Of The Hospital That Am Rude To Him And Kunle Adeyemi Ed Of Crystal Hospital Akowonjo Sack Me Without Entiltilment Now If I Have Gun I Will Become Oyenusi

  23. olamide says:


  24. olamide says:

    Hez realy a armed robber

  25. samelo says:

    he is a legend Jonathan was is father I have somebody like him here

  26. Olay says:

    I wonder why his story is not on wikipedia.

  27. maxzy says:

    Washing is movie it looks gud but is story he is a dullard

  28. using the movie a judge i like/love him but using his real story he is a fool he shoul have been born in this century and steal those rich politicians money

  29. Bafirm says:

    His a great man and is a legend we rilly need sum1 like him in dis country imagine wen ur so call presidooo saying stealing is not a Corruption I wonder wht Corruption is den?

    1. Stevo says:

      You are a sick freak. Just imagine the ugly trash you spewing. ode!

  30. ifeanyimicheal says:

    does he has a family like wife and kids

  31. Basit says:

    I luv dis man is a notorous arm robber.i like too be like dis

  32. howells says:

    Oyenusi D great Gangstar..I just finished watching d yoruba version of ur notorious life..u are indeed a legend and a great armed man in ur Time…

  33. barmby says:

    I love them. ….

  34. still dre says:

    Love him but no mercy for sinners.

  35. amosun segun says:

    He does nt av d mind of forgiveness…….heartless…..

  36. Ejimma taiwo says:

    Wat a sad

  37. They shouldn’t have kill guy because our leader more than dis, but i know God will catch them by God grace

  38. Ridwan says:

    U guys shuld go nd watch d film nd u wuld kno who is oyenusi

    1. Ayobami adams says:

      They shouldn’t av kill dos guy coz dey may av sme important thg tu du 4 nigerians tumorow,we are jst judgin wat we dont knw wat abt u can u people says dat 4 sure u wi see d gudness of god wen u ar died,xo i cant judge him ooh az 4 me coz it only god dat can judge dat it government should remember dat if diz appun tu der family dey wil sentence doz guy tu death dat it coz our formal president wen boko haram kidnap his cousin,he dos even use one week wat am i sayin even three days dey brought d guy back nd dea even celebrate it dat dey see their family or wat ever dea cal it, xo wat ar we now sayin mtchewwww.

  39. Adebayo Racheal says:

    He may be notorous bt if probably, he was preached to he may repent. what a pity

  40. souqui jay says:

    He’s a legend in Nigeria Terrorist HIstory

  41. bashorun auyeleto says:

    This kind of notorious armed robber aint needed in nigeria of today cos he his jus putting the masses in more Pains..He his not robbing the right people may he die again,He his not notorious he his a dullard..

  42. ndubisi opanka ndukwe says:

    They shouldn’t HV kill dis guyz they might become usfull in the society
    This is on acceptable, our nowadays politician did wors more dan this guyz,our belove president says stealing is nt a corruption i wonther y dis guys were kiled lk ant

  43. Idowu segun says:

    Oyenusi u tried alot by orios

  44. Men We Need This Kind Of Guy In Nigeria Of 2day says:

    We Need Some 1 Like This In Nigeria Of Todayyyyyyyyyyyyy

  45. tunji says:

    a notorious armed robber

  46. Michael Fashogbon says:

    Quite interesting reading about this most notorious armed rubber of his time. Imagin a country who just lost about 3;000;000 souls to.civil war!

  47. Ekun Ajewale says:

    Does he have a family?……and re d pic above tru?

  48. idowu olamilekan daniel says:

    Is a notorious armed robber dat will must not see dat in nigeria again

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