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SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: Controversy Over KSUSTA Doctoral Student’s Death: Who Dunnit?

Ayo Adekunle Ajala, a Ph.D student at the Department of Crop Science, Kebbi State University of Science and Technology, Aliero (KSUSTA)

July 04, (THEWILL) – What could have led young and brilliant Ayo Adekunle Ajala, a Ph.D student at the Department of Crop Science, Kebbi State University of Science and Technology, Aliero (KSUSTA) to commit suicide? His family inisists he did not take his life. The school authorities and the police are keeping mum over the matter. ADENIYI OLUGBEMI reports from  Sokoto…

Sitting under a shade tree in front of his residence at the Shagari Low Cost Housing Estate in Sokoto and surrounded by sympathisers, late Ayo’s distraught father, Mr Ayodeji Ajala, was clearly lost in thought when THEWILL paid him a visit. The death of his beloved son had felt like a big, numbing blow too painful to be absorbed without a whimper.

Recounting how he received the sad news of Ayo’s demise, Mr. Ajala said, “Ayo left home in Sokoto for school on Tuesday afternoon. His older sister told us that he spoke with her in the evening of the same day and that he got to school safely.

“The following day, which was Wednesday, I called him on the phone. His phone rang severally, but he didn’t answer my call. That was very unusual. I kept calling till 1.30am, but in vain. I could hardly sleep that night.

“At dawn, I rushed to the pastor of the church where Ayo worshipped and shared my experience with him. Incidentally the pastor’s wife is a member of the university’s staff. He immediately called and spoke with her. She promised to contact Ayo’s supervisor and get back to us later.

“We waited for almost eternity to hear from the pastor’s wife. When I got tired of waiting, I decided to travel to Aliero with Ayo’s younger brother. On my way, I got a phone call from the pastor’s wife asking me to hurry up to Aliero.

“On getting to the university campus, we noticed that a crowd had gathered outside the hostel where Ayo lived. Some lecturers were already seated in the compound when I reached there. They gave me a chair to sit on and then, broke the sad news of my son’s death to me.”

The late Ayo Adekunle.

The lecturers told Ajala that when they entered Ayo’s room on Thursday morning, they met his lifeless body.

“I was dazed with the news and his younger brother was inconsolable,” Ajala continued, “Thereafter, they asked if I would like to see his corpse, but I politely declined. I was led to an office where I contacted my son-in-law, who later joined us from Sokoto. He was the one that summoned courage to see Ayo’s corpse.”

Mr Ayodeji Ajala, father of the deceased.

Two days after Ayo’s demise, somebody posted a statement on social media announcing the sad event. To the consternation of the deceased’s family, it claimed that Ayo “hanged himself to death..” and concluded that, “The cause of his suicide is yet to be uncovered.”

Miffed, Mr Ajala and other members of his family denounced the post, describing the author’s claim that Ayo committed suicide as baseless and false.

Ajala said, “The school never mentioned anything near suicide when they broke the news of his death to me. They only said his lifeless body was found in his room and the police had already started investigating his death. They also asked if I wanted his remains to be buried in Aliero and I replied that it should be taken to Sokoto.

“As of today (penultimate Thursday), the police are yet to contact us. How did the theory of suicide come in? My son has no reason for and cannot contemplate such a cruel and ungodly act. He was a well brought up, God fearing, obedient and well behaved child. Anybody can independently verify my submission and obtain further testimony about Ayo’s character and conduct at First Baptist Church, Alheri Baptist Church, Faith Baptist Church, all in Sokoto, including the entire neighbourhood  of Shagari Low Cost Housing Estate where he was born and raised.”

THEWILL also gathered that late Ayo, who would have clocked 30 years on August 12, 2021 completed his Masters degree at the same Kebbi State University of Science and Technology, where he met his death.

Recalling his son’s last days, Ajala said, “On Sunday, Ayo went to introduce his fiancé, whom we had already met, to his pastor. On Monday, he resigned from his place of work to enable him concentrate on his studies. He returned to the university on Tuesday. On Wednesday, we could not reach him on phone, only to discover his lifeless body on Thursday.

“Ayo is gifted and very versatile. He was good in barbing, photography and printing works. May God accept his soul.” The bereaved father solemnly prayed for the repose of his beloved son soul.

Members of KSUSTA Joint Christian Fellowship, who paid a condolence visit to the Ajala family in Sokoto, expressed shock on his sudden death.

The secretary of the fellowship, Mathew Samuel, said, “We have no information concerning his death, but someone posted a statement on the social media. The fellowship cannot rely on such statements or accept them as authentic because the social media occupy a free airspace, devoid of regulations and control, where anyone can post anything.”

Samuel described the deceased as a committed post-graduate student member of the fellowship, “Our meeting point is only at the fellowship.”

In his own account, Ajala’s son- in-law, who summoned courage to see his corpse, Pastor Ola Mustapha, said he was shown a rope, which the school authority claimed was allegedly removed from Ayo’s neck.

He said, “On getting to the campus, I requested to see Ayo’s corpse. I was informed that it had been evacuated in an ambulance to the hospital. I went to the hospital and demanded to see the body. They obliged me. They took me to the room where his body was kept, but it was locked.

“Since Ayo’s belongings were still in the room, I asked for the key to the room. But I was told that the key was with the DVC, who had instructed that nobody should be granted access to the room. I managed to peep into the room through the window and found that the bed was neatly arranged as if nobody had slept on it. I also noticed that there was plenty of sand on the floor. Upon enquiry, I gathered that the sand was intended to cover up blood stains on the floor.

“After I had observed these things, my next priority was how to get Daddy and Ayo’s younger brother back to Sokoto. They were still in shock when I drove them to Sokoto.

“Later, the university took Ayo’s corpse, which was accompanied by a doctor, a nurse and a policeman, to Sokoto. On getting to the Usmanu Danfodiyo University Teaching Hospital, the doctor suggested that an autopsy should be performed on the body, but the medical staff of UDUTH declined it because the corpse was already swollen and the stench was unbearable. On the other hand, the policeman that accompanied the corpse did not come with any document authorising that autopsy should be carried out on the body.

“We later gathered from a source within UDUTH that the facilities needed to carry out autopsy, with the corpse in that condition, were not available. There and then, we opted to bury the corpse after obtaining the consent of the father and concluded that whatever investigation anybody wanted to do, they could go ahead.

“On Friday morning, I went back to the university campus to pack Ayo’s belongings. At the office of the Chief Security Officer, I was told that since the police were already investigating the matter, I would not be given access to the room and his belongings. When I told the security men to hand over his cell phone and laptop computer, they said the items were in the possession of the university management and I should give them a few days to conclude investigation before inviting me to come for his belongings.”

On the same Friday, Pastor Mustapha, recalled that at a chanced encounter, the Vice Chancellor of the university, Prof Bashir Ladan Aliero, while consoling him on the death of Ayo, said the deceased was a brilliant student and all his lecturers testified that he was an intelligent and academically sound student that would be sorely missed.

Dismayed by the sudden twist in the tale of Ayo’s sudden death, Mustapha says the last may not have been heard about the sad event.  He insists that there was more to his brother-in-law’s demise than meets the eye.

“The evidence at our disposal indicates that the rope they claimed to have found on Ayo’s neck is neither strong enough nor is it long enough to hold someone who wishes to commit suicide. The wardrobe, in which they claimed he hanged himself, is not high enough for someone of Ayo’s height. Besides, the corpse they showed me was in a squatting and not straight position. His legs were folded and his neck was twisted to the left.

“This sudden twist has thrown the family into more grief. We are bombarded with phone calls from people who are eager to find out the true position of the matter. However, we are holding our peace in honour of the departed and anxiously awaiting the outcome of the police investigation.

“The outcome should unravel how and why there are blood stains on the floor of the hospital room; how a man who committed suicide could possibly vomit blood; why Ayo’s lifeless body was in a squatting position, instead of lying straight or dangling; how come the porters, or any other person, in Ayo’s hostel did not see any blood stains in his room or perceive the odour of his decomposing body and many other mysteries,” he told THEWILL.

A police source confirmed that upon preliminary investigation on the matter, a total sum of N291,000 found in the deceased’s room, his two cell phones and a laptop computer are in the custody of the police.

When contacted for an update on the investigation, the spokesman of the Police command in Kebbi State, DSP Nafiu Abubakar, pleaded for more time to enable the command give a detailed outcome of their investigations.

No official statement on the death of Ayo Ajala has been released by the university’s management. Several calls and text messages sent to the university PRO, Mallam Husaini Adamu, were not answered.