Vera Wisdombassey, Elizabeth Ogunbamowo, And Chima Amaechi
Anxiety was written on their young faces as two teenagers combat on a game of cards copiously. Their cheerleaders cheered on. Balls of sweat streaked down their shirts and pants as Ismail and Afeez battled. They were catching some fun but there was nothing pleasant to others in the area.
Residents were afraid of cigarettes, hemp, and marijuana fumes, supported by gulps of different brands of cheap alcohol. With red eyes, a half-empty bottle of Chelsea dry gin in one hand and a stick of cigarette, on the other hand, coupled with the roars of Afeez and his supporters celebrated his victory.
In another corner, younger teenagers were gathered around two of their mates who were in a gamble called ‘The Zlatan Flip.’ The game consists of two players, a half-filed sand pet rubber. The players respectively flip the bottle backward with the hope that the bottle would gain balance; the winner goes home with the money won. These were seen with smaller portions of herbal mixtures to help boost their brain while at ‘work’.
The two entrances to the enclave were decorated by fierce, fearless adult smokers who puffed cigarette smokes with carefree attitudes, as alcohol traders converge in containers and shacks to sell their wares to the smokers.
The enclave is christened FokeSobo, located in the middle of Idimu, Lagos State. In the Yoruba language, the vulgar phrase Fokesobo means bursting a plastic in a vagina. The actual motive behind the name was not ascertained but largely attributed to the attitude of young street guys to employ the use of dirty slang in communicating especially after the induction of a carnival tagged “Fokesobo Carnival” which held 10 years ago.
Surprisingly, the house located in the heart of Fokesobo, beside a mast has “Smokers are banned here” tags at the entrance meanwhile the major visitors to Foke are smokers. Asides being a smoker’s den, Fokesobo also serves as a base for cultists thereby largely accommodating their activities. Vices such as rape, illicit use of drugs, and theft among others characterize the lives of these young men.
In recent times, cultism in the community has proven its longevity in the area. Residents live in perpetual fear, the level of unrest is on the increase as police officers bombard the enclave every day to arrest cultists on a large scale. In spite of the huge arrests, cult groups with funny names regularly emerge in Idimu, cults like ‘Awon Omo No Pant’ (No pant ladies), Esu Kesari (The devil of Ceaser), Alora (the yellow emblem) and the notorious Eiye, Aiye cult groups.
In June, a clash occurred between cultists and a member of the Nigeria Army whose identity was concealed before the strife. The death of the soldier has brought the constant presence of his colleague to the area whilst arrests are made.
Some weeks ago, cultists clash led to the death of a cult member whose candlenight also served as a night of revenge on the supposed culprit who is a member of another cult. The clash led to a heavy gridlock along Egbeda- Ikotun road.
Saturday Sun spoke with some residents of the community. Mr. Adeolu, an Islamic cleric and concerned parent in Idimu revealed that Idimu was never known for crime; neighbours respected one another; there was peace and tranquility and the sales and consumption of weed were done carefully and in secret. About a decade ago, some strange young men from places like Mushin, Oshodi, started moving into Idimu with negative attitudes. Residents started noticing cigarette fumes coming from hidden places. “And you know, once an individual starts taking weed, any negative thing can happen. They started harassing innocent passers-by who either get robbed or raped. This made everyone security conscious and limited movement hours, walking at night became an issue especially from 7 pm.”
Mr Adeolu stated that some areas in Idimu are not safe at certain period of the day, beside Abeokuta Street, along the lone CAC road that at any time, people’s bags can be snatched there. Also, areas such as Oke-Idimu, Foke, Idu Aro among others harbor the smokers den and as they are gathering, they keep bringing cultism from the various campuses they form groups here such as Eiye, Badoo, they then appoint leaders for themselves such as the taxis battalion, and some groups are location-specific such as Awawa in Agege.
He speculated that if things do not change in Idimu any time soon, he would ensure that his children take their secondary school education in the Northern part of the country where criminals are still ashamed to carry out criminal activities in the public. “I stayed in the North for 9 years and most of these dubious characters weren’t common there, I discovered that a jobless person can take 5 tablets of tramadol here. Why?” he quipped.
Saturday Sun gathered that during the Fokesobo carnivals, residents abandon their homes to avoid harassment. Those who come back late from work usually escape such harassment. Omolola disclosed that Idimu had become so unsafe that no one can be trusted. The cultists now initiate kids who are later used for diabolical purposes.”For instance, you can be taking a stroll and a child of six years can walk up to you and slap your buttocks or touch your breasts. With that shock, it is possible that you’d want to react, but then that child is a trap, when you try to raise your hands against that child, the adults among them would come out and collect all that you have on you or even beat you up”.
Ms. Omolola believes that the name Fokesobo is an initiative of the kingdom of darkness as all the activities surrounding the place, the carnival and everything Fokesobo stands for is to corrupt the minds of the innocent ones.
“Ten years ago, they started organizing a carnival, when I heard the name of the carnival, Fokesobo, I thought it had another meaning not until I saw the poster printed for the event, [saw that] it contained the picture of a naked woman, I didn’t attend.”
According to another resident, Mr. Ayo, the issue of Foke remains a source of concern and worry to the residents due to the tremendous increase in the frequency in SARS patrol in the area. He stated that the relationship is inversely proportional, the more they get arrested, the larger they become. He attributed this to the support of some insiders who he claims do not desire the progress of the community.
“Was it not an insider’s son that started selling weed in this area? Nobody complained about it but then the information leaked to the police and he was arrested but after a while, he was granted bail and came back worse than he was before. He is now a supplier of drugs which is increasing their base here”, he lamented.
He believes that the police force is making huge attempts to reduce the scourge of cultism but their effort is truncated by parents and other adults who embrace the offensive behaviours.
In a similar vein, Azeez Opade stated that some adults who ought to discourage crimes are the ones harboring the criminals as they provide shelter for the criminals during police raids in the area. He believes strongly that when there is no one to sell weed or alcohol to the young men, they won’t be encouraged to continue. He blames the shop owners in Foke who sell alcohol and cigarette. “Those young men know that when they come to Foke, they’d compliment the weed with a sachet of alcohol. I blame the landowners who give out space to those people; when you want to rent out space, ask the people what they want to do with space before leasing it out. Let them know that this place is not for crime”
He added that a drug addict can commit the crime of theft due to the inability to pay for the drugs. He revealed that children of five years old are also indulging in such acts. “Someone here has taken Franol before and he lost his life. Some would even go naked, you can see a responsible girl going naked because they’ve mixed it in her drink. Some would even be raped and they won’t even remember what it is that happened to them.”
For Adeyinka, the effectiveness of the activities of the police officers is hampered by the lack of knowledge of the many routes in the area. He stated that the residents who seem to be harbouring the criminals do such out of fear. He called on stakeholders in Idimu community alongside the CDA chairman and all concerned people to provide a lasting solution to the social vices going on in Idimu. “If we don’t help the government, there would be no progress, we all complain about the state and federal government, whereas the solution lies in our hands”
Miss Blessing believes that Foke is a base where young men negatively explore the world, which, she blames on the lackadaisical attitude of their parents towards their upbringing. She averred that the majority of those who stay at Fokesobo are cultists who are from rich and comfortable homes. According to her, “a greater percentage of Fokesobo guys are Muslims, I know of an Imam’s son, though there are adherents of other religions involved in this practice.”
She revealed that the boys get initiated from age 10 when they start wearing the Idimu masquerade which charges their ego and makes them feel powerful and at 15 years old, they start taking hard drugs. “In Foke, drugs are sold secretly but taken openly,” she concluded.
In a further investigation, Saturday Sun gathered that cultists have started spreading to primary school in Lagos. A lady who identified herself as Nkechi Chukwu narrated her encounter. “I was walking along Mile 2 to board a bus to an event, climbing the bridge to the other side, a schoolboy between ages 15-16 years walked past me and a man, immediately shouted “Aleye baba”, he pointed out that the boy was sipping an Alomo bitters gins but he wrapped it up with a handkerchief so that people will not know what he was holding in his hand. I then asked the man next to me what will this boy learn in school once he gets to school. Definitely, he will learn nothing, but he will disturb others while class is on. The funny thing is that this is the period of examination, what is he going to write when he gets to school, we huskily asked ourselves.
On a visit to some of the schools in the area, students were just walking in from home as they were writing their examinations. Schools like Imoye High Schools and Odofin Junior/Senior Secondary School students were seen walking in from home to write their examination, although the school was scanty, not a handful of them was in school.
On entering the school compound of Imoye High school, only the gateman who spread his mat on the ground and was praying with his chaplets and food seller was seen.
One of the students who called herself Patience said, “it is not a new thing within the neighbourhood that these boys including big girls take alcohol , they don’t feel there is anything bad in what they are doing,” she asked.
But when they see any policeman they hide it, they buy it when coming to school from home and some drink it before they get to school and some do so when they are going back home.
Another student, a J.SS3 boy, Ambrose said his father is late and he takes care of his mum and other siblings due to hardship, he takes the drink to forget his pains and sorrows. “I drink it as a result of malaria, that it helps to cure malaria. drinking it shows that I belong and it all that matters. It makes me strong to get my job done for the day,” he stated.
There were also girls who took to beer, they patronize clubs and even go out with elder men who buy these things for them.
Recently, the much-feared 7/7 passed and there was a relatively less peace in the city of Lagos State. Saturday Sun gathered that Egbeda, a suburb of the state was metaphorically on fire. There were about three incidents recorded.
The first was a robbery which took place on Abeokuta Street. A young man who deals in cosmetics on the street was robbed with his brother and two of their cars was carted away but unfortunate for one of the robbers he was caught on Fakunbi Street and was held till morning by the community youth who then handed him over to police. Another was a fracas between two cult groups that ended up in the loss of property of the residents. Cars packed on the streets became their battleground
The spokesman of Lagos State PoliceCommand, DSP Bala Elkana told Saturday Sun that there are efforts to quench the burning fire of cultism in the state.
Explaining what the slogan 7/7 mean, DSP Bala said; “ what criminal element do most times is to put fear in the minds of the people. We have had some cult boys who always have a clash. Some of them think the best way to show that they belong is to join a cult and amplify themselves and unleash terror on people. On this day, they show their supremacy and initiate new members into their folds. You see them dress in a particular manner and walk in a certain pattern and greet the same. It has always been happening over the years and has made it ring a bell in the minds of Lagosians.
“We pay so much attention to them which prompted the police to launch Operation Crush which is to end gangsterism in the state. The essence of it is because these guys will attack each other and innocent people will suffer. The first operation by the group had more than 200 suspects. It was intelligent and aggressive operation. We work on credible information about this cult people and their modus operandi. The next operation was targeted on their top members whom some of them have turned to generals. We got another 170 suspects. The commissioner of police paraded some of them on their 7/7 day celebration over 100 of them. We make sure that the 7/7 becomes entirely irrelevant in Lagos and we made sure that such day doesn’t exist in the mind of the people. we did a proactive deployment. we sent intelligence unit to the locations that we are certain they would show up and when they showed up, we got them arrested and they are charged to court.
“This is the first time that 7/7 in Lagos nobody is killed because they marked the day with bloodshed. It’s not just a day they celebrate it’s a day they kill and maim people but they did not get that kind of opportunity this year. They attempted but we crushed them because we are well prepared,” he stated.