Osun State crisis: Hoodlums attack newspaper readers
THREE days after some thugs reportedly attacked a peaceful protest organised by a coalition human rights activists in Osogbo, Osun State capital, some hoodlums, believed to have been sponsored, yesterday stormed a popular newspapers’ stand opposite old Governor’s Office in Osogbo and attacked newspaper readers and owner of the stand simply identified as Kazeem.
The cause of the violence launched on the people was not immediately known, but sources said the attack was triggered by alleged critical comments about the administration of Governor Rauf Aregbesola.
The newspapers’ stand, which was situated directly opposite Ayegbaju International Market, was said to have been turned to an arena of bloody violence when the hoodlums, numbering about 40, arrived the venue and beat everybody on sight. People in the neighbourhood and passers-by were said to have fled when the situation degenerated into serious crisis in the area.
The Guardian learnt that the newsstand provides a platform where residents gather every morning to read newspapers and comment freely on topical issues in the country, including the affairs in Osun State. Spokesperson of victims of the attack, a public servant, simply identified as Fadeyi Solomon Olufemi, while narrating their ugly experience, said the armed thugs numbering about 40 came to the newsstand in four mini-buses and four motorcycles and beat newspaper readers mercilessly.
According to him, there was a very hot argument among the newspaper readers at the junction. While some argued against Aregbesola and his administration, especially as relating to the issue of non-payment of salaries of workers in the state, others argued in favour of the governor.” Fadeyi further said that one of those arguing in favour of Aregbesola later stepped aside and made a phone call to the thugs who arrived few minutes later and descended on people around the newsstand.
His words: “As we were discussing matters concerning state of things in Nigeria and Osun State, there was serious argument and it has always been like that because we used to disagree on issues and debate on stories we read in the newspapers. However, we were surprised that thugs, popularly known as ‘state boys’ came with dangerous weapons, including cutlasses and guns, and attacked us.”
The “state boys” whom he alleged to be foot-soldiers of the current administration in Osun, suddenly arrived and bombarded us and everybody ran for safety but few of us were caught up.
They shot sporadically into the air and beat us seriously. They also destroyed all the newspapers on the table and the umbrella placed there by the newspaper vendor. The Chairman of Newspapers Distributors Association in Osun State, Alhaji Muhammed Azeez Olaiya, who later visited the scene of the ugly incident, condemned the attack against members of the association.
As we were discussing matters concerning state of things in Nigeria and Osun State, there was serious argument and it has always been like that because we used to disagree on issues and debate on stories we read in the newspapers.
He expressed surprise that hoodlums could launch attack on innocent citizens who gathered to discuss current issues in the nation’s polity. Olaiya, who lamented the unprovoked attack, urged the security agents to fish out the attackers. In its reaction, Osun State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) condemned the attack, saying it marks a dangerous signal if people can no longer exercise their fundamental human rights of freedom of expression.
The union called on law enforcement agents to rise up to the challenge. In a statement by the Secretary of NUJ in Osun State, Mr. Bamigbola Gbolagunte, the union said: “Any attempt to take the nation back to the dark military era shall be resisted by all lovers of democracy, including the NUJ. We shall investigate the cause of the ugly development. We stand for peace and promotion of human rights.”