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Ife carnage: Police in eye of storm

The rest of the nation was jolted on March 8, 2017, as another spectacle of mayhem, blood-letting and arson of monumental proportion was unleashed on…

The rest of the nation was jolted on March 8, 2017, as another spectacle of mayhem, blood-letting and arson of monumental proportion was unleashed on Ile-Ife, the heartland of the Yoruba nation. It was not the usual gory eruption of the perennial internecine wars between the Ife and their neighbours, the Modakeke, which have been a familiar occurrence in the past decades. It was also not an incident of violent encounter between thugs and militia men of rival political groups. This round of violence was between the Hausa living in Sabo and their host community. It was unprecedented because in all the years that they have been living there, no such violence has ever been reported between the two communities. When the dust was finally settled, no fewer than 46 people were reported killed, with a number of the bodies of victims incinerated. Apart from the death casualty, over 100 were hospitalized as a result of machete and gunshot wounds of varying degrees. Scores of homes, shops and sundry business structures were pulled down or set ablaze. All the 46 killed were members of the Hausa community and the people of northern extraction. By the time the dust settled, many of the shops, homes and other properties, owned by the Hausa community, were left in ruins.

It is pertinent to note that unlike previous experiences in the past, there was not a single report of reprisal anywhere in the north. This development may not have been unconnected with the prompt and spirited intervention of the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, and the governor of the state of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola who rose up to the occasion to starve off further attacks and allay the fears of the people. The state police command under Mr. Fimilan Adeoye, Commissioner of Police, and other security agencies in the state were also prompt in rising to the occasion. The Ooni in his reaction was reported to have denounced the phenomenon as the handiwork of “agents of backwardness and devastation”. Describing the Hausa community as part of “his people and co-owners of the town with whom he has enjoyed tremendous loyalty”, Oba Ogunwusi sent some of his chiefs to broker peace and ensured that the state government and security agencies took on the issue headlong in a bid to resolve the crisis. 

On his part, Governor Aregbesola went on a frantic mission of bringing the situation under control. He gave assuring words that definitely contributed in restraining the agents of destabilization, as well as allaying frayed nerves within and outside the state from snapping. According to him, “We will not allow miscreants in our state… we will fish them out, especially the perpetrators of the fracas at Ife, we are going to arrest them from their hiding places and persecute them. I promise you that it will never happen again”. The commendable actions of the spiritual or traditional leaders and those of the state government were augmented by the swiftness and gallantry of the security agents in their response.

In a bid to compliment efforts of the command in the state, the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Kpotun Idris, dispatched a crack team of the special investigation squad with the task of further dousing tension and fishing out suspected masterminds of the crisis.  At the end of the day, no fewer than 38 suspects were arrested, with 18 of them released, following outcome of preliminary investigations that found them not culpable. The remaining 20 suspects are to have their day in court soon, according to the police high command. Though, the nation has been witnessing the unfolding of a new police force and policing under IGP Idris, not a few, however, are skeptical that the police may cave in, at the end of day, to the rising cacophony from certain quarters from going on with the prosecution of those involved in the Ife blood bath.

Unfortunately, there has been an outcry from the Afenifere, the pan-Yoruba cultural platform, over complaint of bias and one-sidedness on the part of the police. According to the group, “The 20 people arrested and paraded are all Yoruba”. The two factional leaders of the Odua People’s Congress (OPC), Dr. Frederick Faseun and Gani Adams have expectedly joined the fray, with a threat to bring down hell if the police should go ahead to arraign the 20 suspected murderers and arsonists. No one is of course shock with the disposition of the factional leaders of OPC, knowing their deep hatred for people other than their own. Self-appointed champion of Yoruba interest, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode has been shouting himself hoarse that the arrest of the 20 suspects is yet another manifestation of Hausa-Fulani hegemonic agenda. Of course, Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State has also come up with the whimsical refrain that the police action on the Ile-Ife massacre fell short of fair play. Because, in their view, the “IGP is an Ibrahim Idris from Arewa”.

Considering the footprints of Idris, the Inspector-General of Police, he has been known to be fair to all sides in any conflict. His sterling qualities of fairness remain unquestionable and as the nation’s number one cop, he is incapable of lowering the standards for ethnic interest. As a police boss, famous for his courage and single-minded commitment to professionalism, IGP Idris’ handling of the Ife crisis has been adjudged the best. “You know we are police officers. If you are a criminal, you are a criminal… we don’t look at crime in the identity of where you are coming from. As far as you are a criminal and the police find you wanting, we apply the law”. 

The IGP has brought a new dawn in policing and administration of justice. It is time we come away from the plot of shrouding crimes and criminals in the obfuscating garbs of ethnicity, religion or any of such primordial sentiments. No fewer than 46 Nigerians were killed in cold blood! What we all need to strive to see that the murderers are brought to justice. We must not allow the killers to escape from the long arm of the law. The best way to encourage crimes and criminals is to allow them escape from the full wrath of the law. The IGP had sent a message recently in the police handling of the case election rigging in the River State by-elections. It doesn’t appear that he will succumb to the intimidating antics of those who see everything in the light of “we against them”.

 

Lawal wrote this piece from Abuja.

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