….•How verbal disagreement turned into bloody clash – Eye witnesses
By Gbenga Olarinoye, Osogbo
“Ile-Ife has a king who talks of life of peace, love and harmony. Let every one in Ile-Ife eschew bitterness, rancour and violence. Let us all pray for Ooni Ogunwusi and the people of Ife. God’s spirit will calm every storm in Jesus name”.
The above quote is a post from the Facebook page of Mr. Dele Salam, a foremost writer and journalist while reacting to the Wednesday’s bloody clash between the Hausa community and their host, Ile-Ife.
The clash is uncalled for, particularly at a period when the Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi, has been doing everything possible since his ascension to the throne about two years ago to bring peace and development to the cradle of Yoruba and beyond.
Both the Hausa community and their Ile-Ife hosts have been living for decades together without any crisis of the magnitude of the Wednesday clash. Their association had blossomed to the extent that there have been inter marriages between the Hausa and the Yoruba communities in the town.
So, what could have been responsible for the disagreement between the two groups that degenerated into such a bloody clash with lives lost and scores wounded?
The clash, which started Tuesday night, raged till the following day. It was as if the cradle of Yoruba race had become a war zone. By the time the clash was quelled, property and cash worth several millions of Naira had gone up in flames.
A visit to the town by Sunday Vanguard, on Thursday, after the situation had been brought under control, made the heart bleed because of the level of destruction that took place. It brought back memories of the clashes between Ife and its neighbour, Modakeke, a wound Ogunwusi had made efforts to heal since coming to the throne.
The Ooni, since receiving the staff and instrument of office, has been fighting youth restiveness in his domain through empowerment programmes.
Sunday Vanguard learnt the monarch embarked on the programmes in order to resettle youths who took part in the Ife-Modakeke war.
The painful aspect of last week’s clash between the Hausa and the natives may be seen as throwing spanners into the reconcillatory efforts of Ogunwusi, not only between Ile-Ife and Modakeke, but also among some monarchs in Yorubaland who are considered as enemies of Ife before the Ooni ascended the throne. For his role in this regard, Ogunwusi, has received applause both locally and internationally.
An account of what led to the Wednesday mayhem was given by a trader in the Sabo market, where the clash started. This was corroborated by the Serikin Hausawa. An argument ensued between a woman trader at Sabo market, simply identified as Kubura, Tuesday evening, but was resolved.
The trader said, “The woman was sitting in her shop when a man came. The man wanted to drop some loads with her but the woman refused. She asked him to take his load away. Suddenly, the man slapped the woman after which the woman held the man by his dress. Later, we saw the woman making a call and some group of youths came to defend her.”
It was gathered that the following day, some miscreants in the town, as early as 6am, armed with cutlasses, knives and clubs, stormed some shops said to be owned by Hausas and started breaking into them.As the situation degenerated, eyewitnesses said the people from both sides organised themselves into two formidable groups for the battle.
Meanwhile, Governor Rauf Aregbesola has assured the Hausa community in Osun State of adequate protection as government is on top of the Ile-Ife mayhem.
Aregbesola spoke when he visited the scene of the clash, expressing regret that the incident happened. He called on the natives of the state as well as other tribes resident in Osun to go about their lawful duties without fear of intimidation, as government had put every thing in place for their security.
Aregbesola, who condemned the fracas, promised that those behind it will be made to face the full weight of the law.
He was received at the entrance to the town by the Serikin Hausawa, who accompanied him to the scene of the mayhem. The governor later visited the palace of the Ooni for discussion on how to bring succour to the affected community.
Ogunwusi did not hide his feeling when he received Aregbesola. His words: “I kick against war or violence in any form. I always preach peace and unity , not only among the Yoruba race but also among Nigerians at large. As Hausa are sojourners in Ile-Ife, so also are Ife indigenes live in other towns and cities across the country and in diaspora. Let’s give peace a chance and maintain peace and harmony in this land.
“ We have Yoruba also in the North and that is why we should live in harmony. I thank God I was yet to make a trip I had planned before the incident happened”.
The monarch explained that he had to abandon the trip to rescue over 1,000 Hausa people captured by the Yoruba and many of the Hausa sought refuge in his palace and they were all protected without discrimination. “I have been communicating with traditional rulers in the North since Wednesday to give them assurance that, the matter has been resolved amicably”, the Ooni said.
“I am a man of peace. This incident will not deter me from agitating for peace in the country. Ife is a land created by God for peace. We embrace visitors but it is unfortunate that this happened. Many Hausas were born here, they have become Yoruba. Ife is a land of love. I am a king of peace and I detest crisis. We are one with Hausa and Igbo monarchs and we will do all we can to see that peace is upheld in the land.
“Why are we setting our houses ablaze and fighting one another. God will console the families of those who lost their lives in the mayhem”.
“I believe the mayhem was caused by strangers and not the Hausa in our midst who have become part of us with their contributions to the social and economic development of Ile-Ife. Those behind this heinous crime, I assure you, will be brought to book.
“We should be wary of bad elements living with us in our communit”..
The two members of the National Assembly from Ife, Senator Babajide Omoworare and Hon. Abiodun Adeogun, also condemned the violence.
Omoworare, in a statement, appealed to all frayed nerves in the community to give peace a chance.
Adeogun, in his own statement, said: “Hausa and Yoruba people of Ile Ife have been living together, peacefully and harmoniously since a century ago. They are living together without rancour because they tolerate themselves by overlooking some minor problems that can spark off violence among themselves.
“It is very worrisome and bizarre to notice what happened, yesterday, when hell was let loose. Many people were killed and property worth several millions of naira were destroyed. I extol the virtues of our law enforcement agents for their prompt intervention and Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, for his fatherly role to douse the tension during and after the crisis. I wish to appeal to all residents of Ile ife to embrace peace and desist from anything that can further lead to another crisis in Ife township and its environs. People should cooperate with law enforcement agents to unravel the cause(s) of the bloody clash and obey the curfew imposed by the state government in other to have a permanent peace in Ife land”.