By Ola Ajayi
THE bloody clash that greeted the rally organized by opponents of Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala in Ogbomoso, his hometown, did not come as a surprise to many observers. It will not be difficult for anybody closely following political developments in Oyo State to conclude that more work has to be done towards a violence-free election come 2011.
The discordant tunes that have emanated from the three major factions within the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, have indicated that the election may be far from being peaceful. As at now, the ruling party has split into three factions.
Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala leads a group – the second term antagonists. In the second group are Senator Lekan Balogun, Senator Teslim Folarin – Senate Leader, Senator Rashidi Ladoja- former Governor of Oyo State; Yunus Akintunde, Mr. Ayo Adeseun, Chairman, House Committee on Appropriations in the National Assembly; and Alhaji Yekini Adeojo, former National Vice Chairman, South West of the party.
Others are Elder Wole Oyelese, former Minister of Power and Steel; as well as Barrister Sarafadeen Alli, former Chief of Staff. The third group is led by the former Deputy Governor of the state; Alhaji Azeem Gbolarumi who is acting as a lone ranger, apparently because he doesn’t seem to believe in the other two groups.
The second group led by Ladoja and other chieftains had stormed Ogbomoso to campaign against the emergence of Governor Akala come 2011.The group must have felt emboldened by the company of Adeseun who is an indigene of Ogbomoso.
Also among them were the suspended lawmakers who had made futile efforts to sack the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Mr. Moroof Atilola.
Expectedly, there was a strong resistance by loyalists of the governor who saw the opponents as spoilers of Akala’s tall dream.
Before the arrival of the visiting politicians, fierce-looking armed youths, about 200, had taken over major streets in Ogbomoso since the early hours of the day. The seeming blood thirsty youths sacked Taki, Idi-Abebe, Oja’gbo, Isale-Ora, and part of Soun’s palace.
They made bonfires and were shooting sporadically to warn the perceived enemies to stay off. They dominated the whole environment for more than five hours. The way they brandished dangerous weapons like machetes, axes and guns had sent the message that they were not there for merry-making.
At the end of the clash, two people reportedly lay dead. The State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Adisa Baba Bolanta, however, refuted the casualty figure but confirmed that two suspects who destroyed Akala’s billboard were arrested.
After the melee, there had been accusations and counter-accusations. Senior Special Assistant to the Governor, Mr. Bashiru Akanbi saw no reason why the anti-Akala people should disturb a sleeping dog by going to the home town of the governor.
When they arrived, they paid homage to the Soun of Ogbomoso, Oba Jimoh Oyewunmi in his palace.
They later moved against all odds to the venue of the programme – Ogunlola Hall though the local government authorities tried to stop them.
At the time the crisis engulfed the town, Governor Akala was away on official trip, having travelled two days earlier.
While responding to the clash at the rally, Governor Alao-Akala, through his Special Adviser on Public Communication, Prince Dotun Oyelade, said though he was not opposed to the group campaigning in his hometown, it was wrong for them to allegedly herald their entry into the peaceful town with guns and cutlasses.
Akala said: “Ladoja group is free to visit Ogbomoso and anywhere in Oyo State without let or hindrance but must comport itself decently on every occasion. Sporadic shootings are not the hallmark of democrats especially at a period we clamour for votes that count. Gratitude must go to the good people of Ogbomoso, who refused to be provoked by those clamouring for a far-fetched state of emergency in a peaceful state.”
He added: “It was far fetched to call for a state of emergency in a peaceful state. Senator Abiola Ajimobi’s 2007 poster is still intact at a prominent location in Ogbomoso three years after he lost the election, which according to him, shows the people as true democrats confident of repeating the same feat next time around”
The likes of Senator Ladoja, Balogun, Folarin, Mr. Ayo Adeseun, variously described it as unfortunate and a sign of intolerance on the part of the government adding that the victory of the party come 2011 in the state would be threatened unless some urgent actions are put in place to checkmate future occurrence.
Pleading with party faithful in Ogbomoso to be calm and resolute in ensuring that a credible person is fielded in the election, Folarin said, the internal crises within the party would be resolved.
He added: “It has to be resolved otherwise there is no future for the party in Oyo State. All we are saying is that we want everybody to be carried along. We want a level playing field for everybody. The era of one godfather sharing forms is over. That is what we are saying.”
He said everybody in the party should be seen as very important and nobody should be allowed to monopolize the party.
Folarin said: “In 2003, when we were all together, we knew how difficult it was. In 2007, when we were all together, we lost the whole of Ibadanland. And with the situation now, only God can tell. But I hope it will be resolved for the future of our party. If we fail to resolve the lingering in-party crisis, there is no future for the party.”
In the words of Ladoja: “All Nigerians have a right of association. And to that extent, therefore, the action of the hooligans in Ogbomoso cannot kill the will of the people.”
Hon. Ayo Adeseun described sponsors of the violence as “anti-democratic forces who have been frustrating the growth of democracy in Oyo State.”
He added: “Unfortunately, those in high positions of authority that are expected to discourage this sort of thing are actually the ones fueling these acts of lawlessness and brigandage. Democracy is about selling your ideas, selling your thoughts to the electorate.
If people find you acceptable, they will support you; and if not, they will vote against you as the issue at stake is what you are capable of doing and what impact you have been able to make on the life of the average citizenry in the society. That essentially was our message.
“The cause we are fighting is the cause of liberating Oyo State from the shackles of oppression, of directionless leadership and I think we are getting somewhere in our efforts. And I am very much pleased.”
Balogun said: “Guns and machetes are not part of the instruments of democracy. Hoodlums are alien to democracy. The three latter instruments are the only weapons our opponents know how to use. Our instruments are the people backed by intellect and character and yesterday (Friday) rally was a major triumph”.
Strong followership in Ogbomosho
To Akintunde, the Chairman of the controversial Implementation Committee it was the governor that attempted to disrupt the rally.
He said, “it became obvious why the governor did not want the meeting in Ogbomoso to hold at all. For without the meeting, we would not have known that the governor lacks strong followership in Ogbomoso.
The experience made nonsense of his often repeated allegation that the opposition to him is purely and simply a localized Ibadan phenomenon, whereas, the governor is just simply unpopular’’, he said further.
Though, the rally had come and gone, there are some pertinent questions that beg for answers. Where were the security men when the youths took over the town?
For the 2011 to be peaceful in the state, there must be a round table talk because all the gladiators have their supporters who may not have grasped the message by President Goodluck Jonathan that the election would be free and fair.
Oyo State being the hotbed of political rivalry, where the people need a lot enlightenment and re-orientation, else the politicians would make nonsense the free and fair crusade of the president.
Though, the police and INEC have been having talks with politicians in the state on how to embrace peace. It seems majority of the politicians are yet to shake off the alleged roles played by the police in the last election. Except this is done and police live up to expectation, achieving a hitch-free poll in 2011 would be a mirage.