By Rotimi Ojomoyela
IKERE-Ekiti, reputed to be home to the largest numbers of professors in Ekiti State, is also the second-largest town in Ekiti State, with a population of 147, 355 (2006 census), second only to Ado-Ekiti, the State Capital, has been in the news recently for the wrong reasons.
Precisely six months ago, the town was practically brought to its knees, when the #EndSARS protesters attacked and razed all the police stations in the community, including the Area Command’s office, situated along the University of Education, Science and Technology road.
Also, property worth hundreds of millions of naira was either destroyed by the irate youths or eaten up by the inferno.
Since then, Ikere-Ekiti has been under-policed, thus, giving room for criminals and crime to fester and thrive, cultists and other criminals roam the streets freely with reckless abandon.
Bloody cultists clash
Just like Saturday, October 17, 2020, another ill-fated Saturday, April 17, 2021, will forever remain indelible in the minds of the people of the agrarian community.
The day started like every other day in the weekend, a day exclusively reserved for parties popularly known as ‘Owanbe’ especially in the South-West of Nigeria. The town was in a festive mood, people were at different event centers, having fun without any sense of foreboding that the day would end in a blood bath.
By the time it was near dusk, six persons lay dead, while several persons sustained varying degrees of injuries. The cultists had struck.
The genesis of the crisis
Trouble started when one of the victims, Adebanjo Ojuale, alleged to be the leader of Black Axe Confraternity, aka ‘Ayee’ came into town on Friday, 16th of April, 2021, from Port-Harcourt to attend the marriage ceremony of one of his members.
Ojuale was said to be the armourer and powerful force behind ‘Ayee confraternity’ before relocating to Port-Harcourt in search of greener pasture. He was said to have come into town with his girlfriend, Radeke (surname withheld) who is also an indigene of the town to attend the ceremony.
It was learned that Radeke, an apprentice, before she traveled out of the town with his boyfriend was said to be a girlfriend of a strong member of another rival cult group popularly known “Eiye confraternity” in the town.
The arrival of Ojuale in the company of his girlfriend at the scene of the marriage ceremony held at Ikere City Hall, located at Odo-Oja area of the town, was said to have infuriated some members of Eiye confraternity who were at the ceremony.
Ojuale was said to have been challenged by members of Eiye confraternity over his audacity for dating an ex-girlfriend of their leader, but the matter was later settled by some elderly people at the marriage ceremony.
Ojuale, in company with his gang, later shifted their merry-making to a relaxation centre in the area at about 5:pm, all of a sudden two masked men appeared on a motorbike and opened fire, shooting sporadically, sending everybody within the vicinity scampering for safety.
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At about 8:30 pm on that fateful day, the leader of the black axe confraternity, Ojuale was isolated and shot dead, about two poles to the scene of the merry-making joint.
Shortly after he was murdered, members of his cult group took over the streets of the town, tormenting and harassing residents of the town, who on hearing the booming of gunfire, had retreated into their homes.
The cultists took over the ancient community for several hours, staccato sound of gunfire rend the air, searching house-to-house looking for the relatives and family members of some notable members of Eiye confraternity in retaliation of the death of Ojuale.
Shop owners and merrymakers immediately disappeared and in a split second, the town became a ghost town, leaving only the gun-wielding cultists running riot.
By the time the dust settled five people had been killed and several others critically injured.
The situation was, however, brought under control following the deployment of a detachment of mobile policemen from Ado-Ekiti.
Also, the combined team of security agents were seen patrolling the whole town, while vehicles both commercial and private were subjected to stop and search by the police.
45 people arrested
The Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Ekiti State Command, Mr. Sunday Abutu, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, said the incident happened between Saturday night and the early hours of Sunday.
Abutu added that 10 suspects were earlier arrested on Sunday, while another set of 35 was arrested on Monday in connection with the bloody cult clash.
The police spokesman confirmed that six persons lost their lives, while their bodies have been deposited in the morgue.
He said: “I can confirm to you that it was a violent cult clash between two rival groups.
“About six persons have been killed as a result of a show of strength between the two nefarious groups.
“We have begun serious operations thereby combined forces of the men of the Nigeria Police Force, Nigerian Army, Amotekun corps and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps.
“Those arrested are in our custody and by the time we conclude our investigations, they will be charged to court accordingly. We have begun investigations on the matter, while the remains of those killed during the clash have been deposited in the morgue of Ondo Ekiti State Specialist Hospital until we conclude investigations on the matter.”
Unemployment responsible for violence— Olanipekun
A prominent indigene of the community and also a legal icon, Wole Olanipekun decried the killings and the incessant violent clashes in the community, blaming it on youth idleness as a result of unemployment
Olanipekun, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, said: “How can our youths and our future kill in the name of cultism? We need to help the government to engage our unemployed youths. This shouldn’t be left to the government alone. The killing has portrayed us in a bad light. We shouldn’t be in the news for negative reasons.
“I was saddened when I heard that six of our youths were killed. We need to look inwards and protect our town from being turned into a killing field.”
Angry monarch threatens to invoke curse
The Ogoga of Ikere Ekiti, Oba Adejimi Adu, urged parents to guard their children against arson attacks, political thuggery and cultism, just as he threatened to invoke the spirit against those perpetrating crime in the town.
Oba Adu said: “We will invoke the spirit against cultists because we won’t allow them to spoil the reputation of this town. We will place a curse on them, but before we do that, they must change and if they refuse to change, they will face the consequences.
“How can people be doing cultism? What is it for? What are they trying to gain? What is their mission? My people should prevent them from making Ikere-Ekiti a safe haven for bad boys. We won’t allow it.”
The monarch, who bemoaned that it was only Ikere that police stations were razed in Ekiti, during the EndSARS protest, said: “It is a failure of the parents for the children to go into thuggery. Don’t allow anyone to use you for thuggery. Let us try and guard our children.”
We saw it coming— Community leader
Similarly, a community leader in the town, Chief Olubumi Aribisala, said it was unfortunate that the situation occurred few weeks after the town embarked on three days prayer to wade off bloodshed in the town.
He explained that the first suspect, Ojuale, who was shot dead during the clash, was expelled from the community over what he called cult-related activities in the town before he later resurfaced on the fateful day the incident occurred.
Also speaking, an eyewitness, who incidentally was one of the victims and run over by a motorcycle, has since been discharged from the hospital.
She said had closed shop and was rushing home when a group of boys emerged from the street and started shooting sporadically.
The victim described the activities of cult members in the town as worrisome in recent time, said she was hit by a motorcyclist, who was also scampering for safety.
She appealed to leaders of the community as well as Ekiti State Government to urgently curb the activities of the nefarious group, saying incessant clashes of cultists in the community have maimed and sent several people to the grave, adding that it has also destroyed property worth several millions of naira.