Footballer Kazeem ‘Kaka’ Tiamiyu was on the verge of a promising move to Sweden when he was pushed to his death on a road by police officers.
For Abubakar Sanni, the death of his best friend, Kazeem Oluwaseun Tiamiyu, widely known by his nickname: Kaka, on February 22, 2020, was the second most traumatizing event for him, after his dad’s demise many years back.
While Sanni played as a winger for Remo Stars Football Club, Kaka played in defence for the same team. Two jolly friends on the pitch and at Kaka’s parents’ home where they both lived.
Everything about him showed that Kaka was going to be great. A Swedish club had invited him for a trial, and the preparation for his trip was in the offing before his untimely death.
At the house of the football club manager, Oluwaseun Oyesanya, on February 21, 2020, the three men, Oluwaseun, Sanni, and Kaka chatted till midnight before dozing off in the sitting room. Kaka’s mum called early on February 22 to come for breakfast, and Sanni and Kaka drove back home for the meal, listening to pop songs as they drove.
At the Ita-Oba roundabout in Sagamu, Ogun state, they pulled over, with Kaka getting out to buy engine oil for the Lexus car they were riding in.
Before Kaka’s return, a SARS officer approached Sanni in the car. Another came with Kaka, dragging him by his belt. Without stating their offence, the police officers arrested them. Seeing a gun on the thigh of one of the officers, they did not make a fuss. The officer with the gun took over the wheel of the car while the other officer detained Kaka in their Sienna car.
After passing the police station near Sagamu Centre of Pepsi Football Academy, both officers pulled over and had a brief chat.
For two reasons, Sanni suspected something foul at that point: if their arrest was legal, they should have been booked at the nearest police station, the one they had just driven past. Secondly, throughout the short conversations between the two SARS officers, the bonnet of the Lexus car was up so neither boys could follow what the officers were discussing.
Whatever the conversation they had, it seemed to Sanni that his life and that of Kaka was at risk. The officer holding Sanni hostage returned but had not turned on the car when Kaka was pushed out of the Sienna.
That next event happened quickly. The SARS officer pushed Kaka onto the road and a moving car hit him.
“My friend must not die,” Sanni told the officer beside him as they both ran towards Kaka. A good samaritan also came to their rescue.
“Drive your friend’s car,” one of the officers instructed Sanni, as others carried the brutally injured Kaka into the Lexus. For the first time since our arrest, Sanni flouted that order to drive. If he yielded to that order, he thought, the officers would run away before they get to a nearby hospital.
One of them eventually drove. Sanni watched his friend bleeding and fighting hard to stay alive. Kaka did not deserve to die like that.
“Stop giving out too much at your own detriment,” Sanni often told Kaka whenever he emptied his account to help any of their stranded colleagues. Other times, Kaka would vow to recharge their mobile lines if they won important matches. Shortly after they both joined Remo Star football club, Kaka earned the assistant captain’s position of the team.
The good old memories came like a flash!
As they entered the General hospital at Owode, still in Ogun state, the police’s Sienna car was no longer behind theirs. They had run away. So, the officer that drove Kaka into the hospital was the only culprit Sanni had to keep an eye on until Kaka’s parents arrived.
Even when the doctors advised Sanni to go and make a statement at the nearest police station, he saw the last-standing culprit heading for the hospital gate. Sanni grabbed him as Jack Bauer would grab Habib Marwan in the popular tv series 24. He was no longer scared, but sad and angry. It was after Sanni gained possession of the officer’s firearm that he realized the gun they had been intimidated by was fake.
The police officers who followed Sanni back from the nearby station also confirmed this.
They would later learn that the police officers who arrested Sanni and Kaka that morning were not drafted to be on duty that day.
‘One death too many’
To Kaka’s father, Fasasi Tiamiyu, his son’s death was tragic beyond measure. “His death was a big blow,” Fasasi says. “I lost the appetite to eat any food after his death, which resulted in an ulcer. Even his mother is now hypertensive.”
According to the elder Tiamiyu, his son, Kaka, inherited sportsmanship from him. Fasasi bought Kaka his first pair of boots when he got into Pepsi Academy in 2009. “Mummy, I just got another award,” Kaka would jubilate over the phone. “He made us proud when he won the cup for his Smart City in Lagos before he joined Remo Stars,” Fasasi remembers.
Kaka’s death was one of many that led to protests across many cities including the state’s capital, calling for the end of SARS.
What next with justice?
Abimbola Oyeyemi, state police’s spokesman, initially denied that the Nigeria Police had killed Kaka, but Inspector Olaniyi Ogunsoro was later found culpable and dismissed. Thankfully, Abubakar Sanni was a principal eyewitness.
Although justice is slow, Fasasi Tiamiyu says, “I won’t rest until justice is fully served.”