Clement Adeyi, Osogbo
While the winners of the just-concluded general elections are being showered with congratulatory messages and celebrating their victories in the battle, other politicians, members of political parties and supporters in different parts of the country are mourning the death of their loved ones and counting their losses occasioned by political violence.
A pre-election violence that erupted in a community in Osun State left a lot of sad tales in its wake.
Since then, the residents of the community have been living in fear.
Barely one week to the presidential and National Assembly elections of February 23, Igangan, a sleepy community in Atakumosa East Local Government Development Area of Osun State, came under attack by bandits believed to be political thugs.
In a feat of Armageddon, hell was let loose so much that houses, vehicles, farm produce such as kegs of palm oil, honey and other property worth millions of naira were burnt. There were sporadic shootings which sent jitters into the spines of the residents, leaving many of them scampering into safety.
The crisis that occurred on Sunday evening of February 17 shattered the relative peace that the people of the community have been enjoying over the years. The hoodlums were nine in number. They were said to have come on three motorbikes and heavily armed with sophisticated weapons.
They allegedly came from Iwara, a neighbouring town, around 8.00 pm and unleashed terror on their targets. They set ablaze a house and a car belonging to the chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Segun Agbara. The attack triggered a reprisal, which eventually razed down a building belonging to a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) women leader, Mrs. Muibat Salawu. Three other houses owned by PDP members were also torched.
When our correspondent visited the town, Salawu recounted her ordeal: «It was about 8pm on Sunday when we started hearing gun shots. I was with my children at home when I discovered that the house of my brother, Chief Agbara, who is a chairman of APC, was on fire.
“I received a phone call from one of my confidants that I should run away. I was escaping through the bush with my children when I heard them saying that my house should be razed and like a joke, they set my house on fire.
“I discovered that the callous act was a retaliation. I am a chief in the palace. I am the leader of fruits sellers in the community. I am also the leader of Muslim women group in the town.
“In my house set on fire, I had some huge amounts of money kept with me by the groups that I lead. I also had N5 million cash, aside from 200 kegs of palm oil, a motorcycle and a drum of honey in the house. They broke the box and took all the money and my son›s laptop. They also took their time and ate rice and beans and chicken that we prepared before they set the house on fire.
“Apart from my house that was burnt, all that I lost is about N25 million. It is so painful that all my fortunes and people’s money kept in my custody went just like that with election violence. I am now squatting in a neighbour’s house. This is amazing. How can I recover from this loss?”
She, however, disclosed that two of the hoodlums were arrested by soldiers but were seen walking freely in the community a few days later: “They must have been freed. This does not speak well of our security agencies. Why must criminals who are supposed to be brought before the law released just like that without proper investigations? This is enough to encourage more crimes.”
Her daughter, Latifat, also recalled the sad experience: “We were at home when they came. But we ran into the bush when we discovered that they were bandits. My brother, who travelled home to vote narrowly escaped with his NYSC certificates and other credentials.”
The monarch, Oba Thomas Lucas, expressed sadness over the incident, saying that he had never witnessed such crisis since he ascended the throne 32 years ago. He expressed disgust at the sophistication of the dangerous weapons used by the bandits, alleging that it must be powers that be that bought the weapons for them. He added that they were not strangers but known by their parents and the community people.
He said he had insisted during a community meeting that the parents must be compelled to fetch them out and be handed over to the police to be brought to justice:
“We have two vigilance groups engaged from other communities who have been working for us for several years. There are community people among the vigilantes. But they did not fight back, claiming that the bandits’ weapons were very sophisticated.”
Oba Lucas, a retired police officer, added that he had weapons to fight back but did not do so in the interest of peace because the attack was political: «The attack was enough to discourage people from coming out to vote on the election day, but I assured them of security and encouraged them to come out enmasse and vote on the election day.”
A palace chief, Obasola Olalere, added: “We learnt that those who invaded our community were cultists from a neighbouring town of Iwara. Our hunters could not face them because of the sophistication of their weapons. That is why they attacked and were able to escape freely.”
On the eve of the presidential and National Assembly elections, Kajola, another community in the same council was also attacked. The incident happened between 8.00 and 9.00 pm.
A victim and the Iyaloja, Mrs. Iyalode Adegboku, alleged: “The attack was carried out by thugs while some APC members were holding a meeting on the eve of the presidential and National Assembly polls.” She lamented that people were beaten to stupor, adding that she received a machete cut on her leg, while one of the fingers of her son, Olalekan Jimoh, was cut with an axe while trying to defend her.
Other communities that suffered pre-election violence included Ifewara, Iwara, Olowu, Atorin, Temidayo, Tobalase, Lapaide, Faforiji all in Atakumosa East LG.
Commissioner of Police, Mrs. Abiodun Ige, who visited the affected communities said police had established investigations into the incidents to unravel the causes and bring the masterminds and the culprits to justice, regardless of their status in the society.