…Man killed as monarchs fight over farmland
Itaji, Ayede obas trade accusations
From Wole Balogun, Ado-Ekiti
The once cosy relationship between the people of Ayede-Ekiti and Itaji-Ekiti in Oye Local Government Area of Ekiti State, has now turned not only sour but may soon degenerate into a bloody inter-communal war if urgent intervention is not made.
On January 31, protest by angry people of Ayede erupted over the death of a father of four, Seyi Oladipupo, 44, from wounds sustained through a gunshot, allegedly shot by a yet-to-be identified chief from Orisumbare community, a small community that connects Itaji and Ayede communities.
The protesters trekked to the palace of Onitaji of Itaji-Ekiti, Oba Adamo Babalola, immediate past chairman of Ekiti Council of Obas, chanting war and hate songs and alleging that the monarch sent the chief to kill one of their own. It took the intervention of anti-riot policemen to restore calm.
During a visit to the two towns on Sunday, February 5, palpable tension still reigned. A detachment of policemen was seen guarding the Onitaji palace which is barely two kilometres to Ayede town.
Oladipupo was allegedly shot on Egan farmland, which has been subject of a three-year dispute between Itaji and Ayede. He had led a team of youths assigned by the Attah of Ayede, Oba Mumuni Orisagbemi, on January 31, to remove some poles allegedly erected on their land by the people of Itaji.
According to Segun Ajayi, another leader of the Ayede youths, the Ayede monarch had sent a team of youths to remove the poles as they indicated an encroachment on their own land by the people of Itaji.
He claimed that the chief who allegedly shot Seyi had ambushed them on Egan land.
“Seyi and I usually lead others to the land when issues like that arise. We had been told to find out about the land five days earlier. We were not sent to fight anybody but were instructed to remove some poles the people of Itaji had erected on our portion of the land. We were not also armed. We got to the place and removed the poles. It was then some boys escorted by policemen came. Those were the people who had used the poles to barricade on our land. We were deliberating on how we would all come to our monarch to resolve the issues and how the police would escort us to the town when a chief of Orisumbare came. I reminded him that the land in dispute was between Ayede and Itaji and does not concern him who is from Orisumbare town. He told me to keep shut; that he was on his land which was given him by the monarch of Itaji, Oba Adam Babalola.
“I asked him which of the onitaji: the one dead or the one alive. He said I should keep shut and leave the place or he would shoot me. I left him and the elders among us were discussing how the matter could be resolved, it was then we heard the gunshot that came from the chief which he had fired at Seyi. We wouldn’t know whether he had anything against Seyi. We had to over-power and disarm him so that he would not shoot any other person.
“The policemen ran off when he fired the shot. We have given the gun to the police. Right now, we don’t know where he is because he ran away when we disarmed him. He boasted that he has about 10 of the guns,” Ajayi said.
Attah of Ayede, Oba Orisagbemi who confirmed he sent the youths for the assignment wondered why anyone could shoot another dead over a land dispute that could be resolved in court.
“The land in dispute is where our forefathers have been farming. The people of Itaji are claiming that their forefathers gave the land to our own forefathers. But the issue is that even if it is true that our forefathers were given the land by their forefathers, did they have to claim the land with violence? The right thing to do is to go to court and show evidence that the land in question belongs to you. Our forefathers have been farming on that land for ages. I want to say that Ayede people have a right to live and they have to survive. Every town and village surrounding us is claiming they own our land, so where do they want us to be?
“So, on this matter, we want justice to be done. The man said to have killed our man must not be allowed to go scot-free. He must be made to face the full wrath of the law. We have given the police all the necessary evidence which showed that it was the man who shot the deceased dead.”
Oba Orisagbemi who revealed that there had been over three years dispute between his town and Itaji over the said land, appealed to his people to be calm.
“Last year, I wrote a petition to the then Commissioner of Police informing him that we have some dangerous people encroaching on our land. Incidentally, this man who shot our own man dead was among the people whose names I mentioned in that petition. I urge our people to be calm now and wait for justice to be done. I assure them we will get justice for Seyi.”
But the monarch of Itaji, Oba Babalola, an octogenarian, denied giving either land or gun to any chief in Orisumbare community.
“People might say whatever they feel to implicate their fellow human beings. I am quite sure Obas (monarchs) don’t tell lies; when we see any Oba telling lies then that Oba must be a crook.
“I have signed undertaken with the law enforcement agents that if I have any weapon that is fully licensed it will never be out of my own hand. I will not give it to anybody and I still maintain this, I did not give anything to anybody. A lot of Boko Haram attacks were organized by the Ayede people. What happened is a Boko Haram attack. If there is going to be a war, we should know on both sides that we are preparing for war. When I don’t know that they were going to fight why would I give anybody anything? If you go and meet somebody at his home, you have over 50 people coming to meet somebody at home. It is the Ayede people who know what they are up to. What I know is that the people of Itaji have no boundary with Ayede and Onitaji owns every bit of the land where the dispute occurred and which is called Egan farmland.
“Even the Ayede people know that it is my predecessors who allowed them to settle where they are and there is a court judgment on this. I think when we continue dragging this issue, facts would be out on it.
“However, it is very unfortunate that someone has to die. Our communities have co-existed for years and there have been no clashes like this. Even when there was a dispute, we went to court and the court judgment is in the archives. But I don’t know whether this is a new style of governance, let me reserve my comment but we could avoid killing people, we could avoid unrest and every community should do this. We are to nourish our people and not to kill them,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Oladipupo Folake, 35, widow of slain Oladipupo has said the alleged killer of her husband has thrown the family into a terrible tragedy.
“I was at the sawmill doing my petty trading, buying and reselling firewood, when the director of the sawmill drove in and asked an Okadaman to take me home, saying there seems to be some trouble in Ayede. But while we were near the general hospital in Ayede, my husband’s elder sister called to inform me that my husband was wounded and had been rushed to the general hospital.
So, I headed straight to the hospital. When I got there, I became very anxious when I saw many people. I demanded to see him but the nurses said he wasn’t in a condition that I could see him.
“ We have four children, our first born is about 15 and in the secondary school. The last is just about two years old. My husband has been single-handedly taking care of all of us because I do not have a job. I have been fetching firewood at the sawmill to sell. I am only making very little doing.
“I want the government to ensure that my late husband gets justice. This is an unjust killing and the government should ensure he gets justice so that his soul can rest perfectly, “ she said.