By Gbenga Olarinoye & Dapo Akinrefon
There was palpable tension in Ile Ife, Osun state, yesterday, following Monday’s parade of the 20 Yoruba suspects arrested by the police over the recent clash between the Hausa and Yoruba communities in the ancient city, where 46 people lost their lives.
This is as more groups and individuals condemned the Abuja parade.
Also pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, says it has constituted a legal team for the 20 suspects.
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr Yinka Odumakin, Afenifere also called on lawyers of Yoruba extraction to take up the challenge of defending their accused kinsmen.
Odumakin said: “Following the illegal, unconstitutional and sectional parade of 21 Ife indigenes over the recent clashes between the host community and Arewa settlers ,Afenifere vowed to resist the undue deployment of federal might to settle ethnic scores.
“As a first step in this regard ,we have assembled a powerful team of Lawyers to enforce the fundamental human rights of the 20 abducted Yoruba persons. It is a settled law that the investigation and trial of suspects must take place at the scene of the crime. We are appreciative of the many lawyers of Yoruba extraction who have taken up this challenge pro bono.”
In addition, the Afenifere spokesperson said: “The legal team will challenge this subversion of due process while political pressure continues on why two communities will be involved in a fight and only members of one community will be put on trial by a police whose leadership is of the same ethnicity with the other party in the conflict.
“We restate the fact that the Arewa group started the killings in Ife by killing a Yoruba young man. This is clearly missing in the skewed report by the police. We appeal to our people to be calm while we pursue the legal angle to this challenge to our pride as a people as the first step.”
OPC condemns outcome of police investigation
The National Coordinator of the Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, Otunba Gani Adams has condemned the outcome of the police investigation describing it as lopsided, highly biased and full of elements of foundation of injustice.
Reacting to the one-sided arrest and parade of the indigenes, Otunba Adams frowned at the subjective nature of the investigation noting that the position of the police is not clear.
In a statement, the OPC leader said: “We watched in awe the parade of 20 people which the police claimed were the masterminds of the violence that took place recently in Ile Ife. According to police, the people paraded were arrested in Ile-Ife and taken to Abuja. How come not a single person out of those who triggered the violence was paraded by the police? Were those paraded fighting against themselves? The genesis of the mayhem was the beheading of a vulganizer, an indigene of Ife, and his head was paraded by Hausa on the streets of Ife, which led to the unfortunate bloodletting.
“We are therefore calling on the police to be objective and do the needful to balance the arrest and allow justice to prevail. We are living witnesses to Mile 12 Lagos Hausa traders mayhem and police couldn’t pounce on them. They should not make this a media trial, if you parade someone on allegation of murder,what if the court states otherwise, what happens to their image?
A traditional ruler was among those paraded, the Osun State Council of Obas should rise up and investigate this matter and take a position. We condemn the entire investigation as lopsided, highly biased and element of foundation of injustice,” Adams said.
Tension in Ife
Meanwhile, there was palpable tension in Ile Ife, yesterday, following Monday’s parade of the 20 suspects.
When Vanguard visited Ile Ife yesterday to monitor the situation, it was gathered that the major discussion by both the elderly and youths of the town centred on the arrest, detention and parade of the suspects, who are mainly indigenes.
Some of the residents, who spoke with Vanguard on the development, threatened to resist a situation where only their kinsmen are punished as a result of the clashes.
They alleged that, from the investigation of the clash, to the arrest of suspects, it was evident that the indigenes were being targeted, even when the crisis was actually caused by a member of the Hausa community, who allegedly slapped a Yoruba woman.
It was further learned that some prominent Ife indigenes held several meetings on the development, to ensure the rising tension is curtailed before it snowballs into another round of unrest.
An indigene of Ife, Evangelist Kunle Agbaje in his comment, described the arrest as one-sided saying that that has been the complaint of everybody in Ife town.
His words: “If two people are involved in a fight, it will be unfair to arrest only a party. In the interest of justice and fair play, suspects from the two sides should be arrested. With what the police has done, it shows that the Federal Government is trying to ethnicise it by giving the other side a clean bill as if there is no fault from them.”
The President of Ife Development Board, IDB, Prof. Muib Opeloye said the pattern of the arrest was obnoxious, stressing that it was not civilized.
He asked the police to release immediately all the indigenes of Ile-Ife arrested in connection with the clash asking if the Hausa are also arrested, why were they not paraded.”
Omisore calls for calm
On his part, former chairman, Senate Committee on Finance and Appropriation, Senator Iyiola Omisore yesterday met with Ife indigenes that lost goods in the mayhem and called for calm.
At the meeting held at the Oba Okunade Sijuade Hall in Enuwa, Ile Ife, the indigenes alleged that since delegations have been paying on-the-spot assessment visit to the town, none of the visitors showed concerned for the indigenes that lost goods in the crisis.
Omisore, who pleaded for calm, told the gathering that all should be done to maintain peace between indigenes and other residents of the town.