Oyo State: In the throes of politically motivated skirmishes
In recent times, incidences of politically motivated killings have assumed a disturbing dimension within Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State. This, to say the least, has now left most residents on the edge and in trepidation of what fate lie ahead as the 2023 electioneering period approaches fast.
Some residents and observers within the ancient city opine that the spate of violence and insecurity has taken the alarming dimension because Governor Seyi Makinde has been lax in clamping down on identified and notorious hoodlums within the state.
One resident said: “Today in Oyo and especially Ibadan, the peaceful atmosphere enjoyed under the late Governor Abiola Ajimobi is no more. At any time, members of the legalised Park Management System (PMS) headed by Alhaji Mukaila Lasisi, aka Auxiliary, perpetrate series of violence leaving many injured, properties destroyed and loss of many innocent lives.”
Last Tuesday, not less than three people lost their lives while many others sustained varying degrees of injuries with property worth millions of naira damaged in Ibadan when members of the PMS loyal to Auxiliary engaged members of the disbanded National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) in a free-for-all.
Relics of damages from Tuesday’s night fracas were still visible across Ali Iwo area in Agodi Gate axis of Ibadan all through the week as the gory videos of injured victims went viral on the social media.
Pandemonium was said to have started when suspected members of the PMS engaged in a gun battle with thugs known as Isota boys around Ali Iwo area.
There were conflicting narratives of what led to the crisis but the State Police Command confirmed the crisis with assurance that necessary investigations are ongoing.
A version had it that the incident started when members of the PMS, while returning from Challenge where Governor Seyi Makinde had gone to commission the bus terminal, started shooting into the air. In the process, stray bullets hit some yet-to-be-identified youths in the area leading to their death. Another source said members of the PMS, led by Auxiliary, were attacked by the Isota boys who were alleged to be on a mission to assassinate Auxiliary.
In other narratives, sources said two groups, known as Isota boys and Were boys, attacked passers-by, especially those wearing vests with inscriptions of Governor Makinde and Auxiliary.
It was alleged that many supporters of the governor, who were returning from the just commissioned bus terminal, were attacked and suffered damages, which triggered reactions from supporters of Auxiliary.
Following the attack and counter attacks, the situation degenerated into full-scale pandemonium with sporadic gunshot from different angles.
In one of the viral audio messages captured by frightened commuters while the incident unfolded, a member of the Were Boys, was heard threatening to kill Auxiliary should he appear anywhere in town the following day or as at that moment. Efforts to confirm if any arrest had been made by the police failed as at the time of this report.
Concerned by the disturbing trend, residents say Governor Makinde needs to address the worrisome rate at which touts and or alleged government-sponsored motorpark hoodlums operate under the legalised PMS.
When contacted for reaction, Public Relations Officer of PMS, Alhaji Emiola Jelili, blamed members of the NURTW for the violence. According to him, “We passed through Bere-Oje-Gate while returning from the commissioning of the bus terminal at Challenge. One of the leaders of NURTW, Hamidu Were, and his boys struck. Some of us had gotten home when we were told on the phone that Were and his boys had attacked our men.
“The driver of a Toyota Camry car coming from Lagos, who wore a vest with inscriptions of Makinde and Auxiliary was ambushed by members of Were group. He was dragged down from the car and attacked with cutlass, which led to his death.
“Were was also threatening to kill Auxiliary. They carried out the attack to disrupt the inauguration of the bus terminal facilities by Governor Makinde. It is all about politics.”
But in a counterclaim, a member of NURTW who preferred anonymity, blamed the crisis on Auxiliary, saying the PMS chairman started the first phase of the crisis at about 5:30pm on Tuesday when he was moving with his usual convoy to Ojoo for the commissioning of the bus terminal.
“Auxiliary and his people passed through Ali Iwo where we have our base and while on his way, the PMS chairman started the attack on us. His people killed two of our men while shooting sporadically and when they were returning from Ojoo at about 8pm, he (Auxiliary) also ordered his boys to attack us. We had no choice but to retaliate. We also arrested two of their members but the police didn’t want to confirm their arrest,” he said.
Meanwhile, The Guardian gathered from credible sources that the PMS and NURTW are divided and loyal to Governor Makinde and Senator Teslim Folarin respectively. While Makinde is said to be counting on PMS support ahead of next year’s poll, Folarin, a top contender for the All Progressives Congress’ (APC) governorship ticket for 2023 is in control of the NURTW group. This is the setting ahead of the next governorship election in Oyo state.
The Guardian also gathered that most commercial vehicle operators, particularly the ones driving Micra cars, are lamenting over the excesses of Auxiliary but regret that Makinde, unlike his immediate predecessor, seem helpless in the situation.
Political opponents of the governor have also expressed discomfort over the free hands Makinde has offered Auxiliary and his group to operate. Some of them, like Alhaji Bisi Olopooeyan, an acclaimed godfather of Makinde, who has since defected to another platform, alleged that the PMS members are being nurtured by the incumbent for use against perceived opponents during next year’s election.
Several other politically-motivated violence were cited in Ibadan, especially that of June 2021 perpetrated at Iwo road complex where another resident was killed by alleged members of the PMS.
Some stakeholders who spoke with The Guardian called on Governor Makinde to call Auxiliary to order. Recently, a former governor of Oyo State, Alhaji Rashidi Ladoja called on politicians in the state to embrace peace as the 2023 elections approach.
His admonition came on the heels of allegations from major opposition that Makinde has perfected arrangements to use violence to intimidate all formidable oppositions or those he perceives may stand as obstacle to his re-election next year.
Three weeks ago, Olopooeyan, who claimed to have irreconcilable differences with the governor, alleged that sponsored hoodlums operating on Makinde’s instruction disrupted his defection ceremony from PDP to New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP), leaving many injured.
Olopooeyan called on President Muhammadu Buhari, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS) and critical stakeholders across the state to call Makinde to order.
SIMILARLY, National Chairman, Social Democratic Party (SDP), Dr. Olu Agunloye also alleged that about 30 thugs attempted to disrupt the party’s congress that was held in Ibadan. He alleged that the hoodlums were government agents sent to destabilise SDP’s congress in the state.
In like manner, a former deputy governor of Oyo State, Hazeem Gbolarunmi, expressed concern over the spate of politically motivated violence in the state. He said something urgent needed to be done to address the situation as the election draws near.
A top security personnel told The Guardian that all the identified hoodlums in Oyo would be adequately demobilised before the election. He said: “When the time comes, necessary security agents would be deployed to ensure peace.”
Spokesman of Oyo PDP, Akeem Olatunji, however, said there was no iota of truth in all the allegations. He said those making the allegations were not known in Oyo politics and that Makinde is not even thinking about them.
APC Rallying To Save Oyo
Coming to terms with the dangers before Oyo state, members of the opposition APC on Thursday gathered at the instance of Mrs Florence Ajimobi, wife of the former governor Ajimobi, to chart a way forward and reposition the fragmented party to oust Makinde next year.
One of the resolutions at the gathering was to call on all members and concerned citizens in the state to stand up to the task of rescuing the state from the incumbent’s excesses come the next election.
Senator Ayo Adeseun, who addressed the media after the gathering said it was glaring that Oyo needs to be salvaged before the incumbent destroys it.