IJEBU-IFE now a ghost town as villagers flee crisis
By EbunÂ Babalola
Saturday, December 5, 2009, in Ogun State may go down in history as a bleak day.The often busy Ijebu-Ife road became empty. Houses, shopsÂ were locked. Tenants and landlords fled and bodies were reportedly picked from the streets as a result of the crisis that led to the murder of the Police Area Commander ,Mr Omolodun Oladokun,a tailor and several other people.
According to reports,no fewer than 50 houses were burnt during the mayhem.Contrary to what have been aired on the televison or read in the newspapers recently,an Okada-man at the Lagos garage of Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State on Wednesday around 9. 35am.Â who had aÂ Â brief discussion with Saturday Vanguard reporter painted a different picture of the crisis in Ijebu-Ife area. Excerpt:
HowÂ can I get a bus going to Ijebu-Ife?
You cannot get a bus to Ijebu-Ife because no vehicle is allowed to enter that town for now.
It is dangerous to do so. Since, the crisis in that land began, people are scared to go there.
What do you think I can do now?
What do you want to go and do there?
Iâ€™m a journalist.
â€œHum!Â Let me tell you, there is no possibility of passing through the place for now, unless, you have a contact with the policemenÂ or anybody who would probably assist you.
If you say you are a reporter and wants to go alone, something else would have happened before explaining your mission to the place.
You see, all these vehicles you are see plying through Ijebu-Ife are no longer doing so becauseÂ nobody wants to risk his life. Another solution is that, you can take Okada to Ijebu-Imusin and from there, you would have to trek to the town and this time around, you have to be careful.
And if there is anyone who would take you to the place, ensure he or she is a military man. If not, your life will beÂ in danger.Even those who are indigenes of that town have taken to their heelsÂ to somewhere as there is no more peace in that land again.
What was the problem?
What we heard was that there was a communal agreement in that village that once it is 8 pm, everyone should stay indoors. But on this fateful day, a particular tailor was working in his shop. AndÂ the vigilante came to him around 10 pm and asked him why he was still working at that time.
According to what we heard, they said, there was no light and so, the man was using his generating set to work. So, they went to him and asked him toÂ put off his generating set and later told him to pay a fine of N1,000 which he did. But, surprisingly, they still beat the man.
They did not only do that, they also beat him with charms. That was what we heard, I wasnâ€™t there. They said they beat him and the next day, the man died. That was what led to the crisis in that town.
But Mr Saheed Adekoya who just relocated to Ijebu-Imusin from Lagos said that Ijebu-Ife area was very dangerous,and warned that the area should be avoided because of the unrest .
An encounter with one of the elders in Ijebu-Imusin revealed some other issues surrounding the crisis. Some people were still shocked and reluctant to talk butÂ a middle-agedÂ manÂ said it was unreasonable to hide anything. He opened up: â€œIf people refused to talk, how would they expect others to know what is happening here?
Last Saturday, we heard there was crisis and before we knew that was happening ,the situation had escalated to something else. What we learnt was that there was a particular hearing-impaired tailorÂ who was working in the night with his generating set outside but his door was closed because there was no light.
And vigilante forcefully entered his shop and accused of violating the law and asked him to pay a fine of N1000.Even with the intervention, people in the neighbourhood, the vigilante was still obstinate.
The tailor who had no choice paid the fine. Apparently infuriated ,they beat him even with charms and he collapsed .He (tailor)was rushed to the hospital and he was not getting better.
They reported to the leader of vigilante, one Duduyemi to proffer solution but he demanded that the people should go and appease the town and this discouraging response provoked people.
â€œThis incident occurred at the eve of El-eid-Kabir, Ileya festival, which was Thursday, November 26, 2009. Eventually the tailor died between Thursday and Friday,( December 3and4,2009)after vomiting blood. This incident degenerated the crises already brewing in the communityâ€.
However, another account alleged that the vigilante head, Duduyemi destroyed all the shanties which certain boys used as hideout to foment trouble in the town and these boys have issues to settle with Duduyemi.
There was another report that the boys said they donâ€™t want police in the town, and for more than 10 years this demand subsisted. But this time around, police patrol came in to curb the atrocities of the boys. All these issues eroded the peace of the town and the killing of theÂ Police Area Commander and others degenerated the unrest in the town.
Meanwhile, Duduyemi had appealed to the areaÂ boys to stopÂ fighting but theyÂ insisted that police patrol must leave the town or the crisis would continue.
How police Area Commander was killed
â€œThe fighting continued until, the Area Commander, Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, Mr. Omolodun Oladokun intervened and he was slaughtered and burnt while his team fled.
When the police team realised that their boss was left behind and suspected that he had been killed, they reinforced but the boys were too tough for them to subdue .
They left and came back again increasing the unrest, and lives and properties were constantly being threatened.
â€œThere was an old man who had stroke for a longtime but was burnt to death as well as a particular woman who was killed together with her two children. Lots of people have lost their lives in this crisis. And corpsesÂ were not allowed to be claimed from the mortuary. There were people who were arrested by the police and were killed at Gbeba Police Station.
â€œThe situation on groundÂ is that no man is allowed to enter into Ijebu-Ife. And the only people who were allowed into the town, the females according to information, are now victims ofÂ rape . It will be difficult to count the number of people who had escaped through the neighbouring villages and bushes.
â€œSome of the people who escaped have been going through hell.Â They have nobody to help them. There are some who are yet to find their way out of the hidden places just because of the presence ofÂ police, vigilantes and theÂ bad boys. Some of those who escaped are now refugees in some neighbouring towns including Ijebu-Itele, Ijebu Imusin and other neighbouring villages.
Some good Samaritans including the King of Ijebu-Itele, His royal highness, Mufutau Kasali, Balogun of Ijebu-Itele and some others have been taking care of them by providing food, shelter, clothes and money. The situation on ground is more than what people are seeing, hearing or readingÂ in the newspapers or seeing onÂ television.
â€œWhat we heard on Tuesday, December 8, was that a threat had been made by the police to kill at least 500 men in that village to compensateÂ the killingÂ of their Area Commander byÂ the boys ,â€.
And from information gathered,Â it will take a while before peace is restored in that community. Although, the police have been calling people to come back to the village the villagers refuse to go home for fear of police revenge but the police authorities in the town said nobody is being threatened as peace has returned to the town.
One of the victims who claimed to haveÂ narrowly escaped death told Saturday VanguardÂ that since the incident, their living conditions have become worse as they sleep anywhere night meets them. Her words: â€œOne woman in Ijebu-IteleÂ accommodated me and my childrenâ€.