The family of a Nigerian student who was stabbed to death in the US has cried out to the Federal Government to help them get justice for their son, writes ARUKAINO UMUKORO
From the age of 11, Jamal Oladapo had a lifelong dream. The 21-year-old Nigerian student who was born in the United States wanted to become a producer. He also wanted to make his loving mother, Kari Jolaoso, who raised him up as a single parent, proud by achieving the goal and attaining academic success.
And he worked hard at it. “I have been working as an inspiring producer for the past nine years. I have had the pleasure of working with Top Dawg Entertainment and other local artistes. On my journey to learning my craft, I had a chance to volunteer for Warner Bros and experience how it creates music,” Oladapo gushed with pride on his LinkedIn page.
While he pursued his dreams, Oladapo, who lived with his mother, helped her with the family grocery shop business.
The young man focused on his dream until he was cut short by a cruel death.
Oladapo, a graduate of Birmingham High School and student of the Los Angeles Film School, was stabbed to death by unknown persons on Sunday, July 24, while jogging in his neighbourhood in Northridge, Los Angeles, California.
An autopsy report revealed that the deceased, who was the only son of his mother, died from severe stab wounds to his chest.
Prior to his death, he was said to have had an argument with three men around 1:30 pm that fateful Sunday.
Jolaoso, who is physically challenged, having contracted polio in childhood, said her world revolved around her two favourite subjects: Jamal and her business.
Noting that Jamal always came first, she added that death rudely snatched him away from her when his assailants, attacked him.
She found out about his death in the most crushing way. She bade him goodbye that Sunday, expecting to see him in a few hours.
Jolaoso stated that she later went to sleep with crushing anxiety and trepidation in her heart and then woke up the next morning to see her son’s clothes and belongings on her doorstep.
“I saw his clothes, headphone, house keys, wallet, jacket, and his cell phone wrapped in his jacket, at the door the next morning. He was my only joy, my happiness; he was what I lived for. He helped me with everything. He was a wonderful boy,” the distraught mother said to SUNDAY PUNCH.
Oladapo’s family have cried out to the Federal Government to help them get justice for their son.
The deceased’s aunt, Mrs. Opeyemi Soetan, told our correspondent that the family is still grieving from the devastating loss.
Soetan said, “It is a great loss. I cannot bear the grief I feel. Up till now, the whole family is devastated. I saw him last in March when I travelled to the US. Jamal was the one who always assisted his mother to run her small business.”
She further stated, “Jamal was born in the US. His mother, my sister, is a single parent and had struggled to educate her son. She did everything possible to help him grow into a fine young man; unfortunately this tragic incident happened. He was an only child. Jamal was a wonderful boy. He was level-headed and ready to assist anyone. He was ever smiling, playful and friendly. His dream was to become a film producer.
“We don’t know what really happened. Jamal told his cousin that he was going out jogging and that he would return in another 20 minutes. When he did not return home that day, the mother reported to the police and he was declared missing. We got to know that he was missing that Sunday night when the mother called, and asked us to pray for his safe return. Unfortunately the next morning, she called us to say they had found his dead body. Detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department went in search of him and found his lifeless body in the underground parking garage of the Merridy Village apartment building.
“Homicide detectives from the LAPD said they were still investigating the incident, and that they don’t want anybody to jeopardise their investigation. But according to what we gathered, there was a surveillance camera around the area which picked up two people that had walked up to him, and an argument ensued. An unknown third person in a red top then showed up. Their faces were not visible because they were not facing the camera.”
Soetan further said two days before Oladapo’s death; he had told his cousin that someone had thrown an egg at him. “In the US, from what I know, according to some customs, if someone throws an egg at one, it is a bad omen,” she said.
“We don’t want his case to be treated with levity. We want President Muhammadu Buhari and the Nigerian government to intervene. My sister is handicapped and I don’t know how she would cope with the loss of her only child. We can only pray to God for the fortitude to bear this loss,” she added.
Similarly, Oladapo’s uncle, Mr. Moyo Jolaoso, said he was pained by his nephew’s death. “Jamal had told his cousin that he recognised someone in the car, when the egg was thrown at him, but not the person that threw the egg. He was not that sort of person to react angrily when provoked. He lived with me for about three/four years when he was in Nigeria. He is a very quiet boy and could not hurt a fly. His basketball trainer said he was one of his hopefuls,” he said.
Jolaoso claimed that the LAPD was not doing enough to unravel his late nephew’s killers.
“The area where Oladapo lived is full of Mexicans; and the LAPD has many Mexicans. I don’t think they are really doing enough in this regard. But I hope the police can fish out his killers soon. We plead with the Federal Government to help us,” he said.
A number of Nigerians have been killed in foreign countries in similar circumstances. In February, 2014, 19-year-old Toba, the only son of renowned sports broadcaster, Aisha Falode, was killed in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in questionable circumstances.
The late Toba, popularly known by his friends as “Tyler,” was a student of SAE Institute, Dubai, in the UAE, where he was studying Audio Production until his death.
He was said to have fallen off the balcony of the 17th floor of the Manchester Towers, in Dubai, where he resided.
However, Falode said her son was pushed to his death by a Saudi national and his British girlfriend, after an altercation had ensued. She had pleaded with the Federal Government to prevail on the Dubai authorities to re-open the investigation into the murder.
“No American or British citizen can be slaughtered anywhere in the world without their government asking questions. We cannot call ourselves the giant of Africa if our citizens are killed in other countries, and yet we have not heard of any single investigation by our government. It is indeed very sad for me. This is one murder too many,” she told our correspondent.
Like Jolaoso, the Falodes are yet to get justice, as the alleged killers of their sons are still at large.
For Oladapo’s mother, life can never be the same again with the murder of her son, whom many, like his basketball coach, said held so much promise.
“He was my only son; I don’t want any mother to go through this. Please, whoever has any clue to the murder of my son should let the police know,’’ said the devastated mother.
Also, in July, a Nigerian businessman, 35-year-old Ikejiaku Chinedu, was allegedly beaten to death in Limpopo Province of South Africa.
The News Agency of Nigeria quoted the President of the Nigerian Union in South Africa, Mr Ikechukwu Anyene, as saying that 15 Nigerians had been killed in South Africa since the beginning of the year.
The killing of Nigerians overseas is something the Federal Government should be worried about, noted a lawyer, Fred Agbaje.
Agbaje wondered why the US police authorities were yet to unravel Oladapo’s killers.
According to him, the US police authorities will ensure they find the killer if it involves a white person.
The lawyer further decried the silence of the Federal Government when Nigerians were killed abroad.
He said, “They know that the Nigerian government would not do anything at the end of the day; that is why they take Nigerians for a ride. If there was a reaction from the Nigerian government, at least to show their unhappiness about the situation, then those foreign countries won’t dare Nigerians. Only last year, some Nigerians were killed in South Africa and it keeps happening. That is why Nigerians cannot die for this country.’’
When contacted on the telephone, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Monsurat Sunmonu, said she could not respond to the issue because she was out of the country.
Sunmonu asked our correspondent to direct the matter to her office.