LATEEF DADA, in Oshogbo, reports on how the protest in the state turned into wanton destruction and even an “attempt on the lives” of the governor and his aides
There is no gain saying the fact that the protest against brutality of Special Anti- Robbery Squad, SARS, tagged #EndSARS has metamorphosed into big problem in Osun State, as some hoodlums have obviously hijacked the peaceful protest from the genuine protesters and turned it into crisis.
Some youths in Osun State joined their counterparts in the country on Monday October 12, 2020 to agitate for the proscription of SARS, and the peaceful conduct of the angry youths were commended by residents. They began by staging a walk from the popular Olaiya junction, Osogbo, to the state secretariat where they demanded attention of Governor Gboyega Oyetola to present their demand to him.
The protest continue the other day when the protesters didn’t see the governor but unfortunately, it advanced to extortion on Wednesday when motorists passing Olaiya, where protests usually have effect in the state, were denied access to the road except they ‘settle’ the thugs who manned the junctions with barricade.
Olaiya is the popular junction that connects some travelers coming to the state from Ondo, Oyo, Kwara, particularly, it is the major road that leads to the state government office. By Wednesday, the thugs had eventually infiltrated into the protest and almost taken over the struggle.
While the protesters manned the major junction, the thugs barricaded all other roads that linked with Olaiya junction including Odiolowo, Fagbewesa, Alekuwodo, allowing only those that bribed them to have their way. Some motorists pop off after N500 bribe, some begged the thugs with N200.
The protest later turned to carnival as tents were mounted on major road and coffin was carried round the town with posters of President Muhammadu Buhari pasted on the coffin. The protesters became fierce.
They nearly killed some personnel of Federal Fire Services, whose red car was misunderstood for Joint Task Force and refusal of the driver to wait where other cars had parked. However, the protest nearly graduated to fisticuffs on Thursday when some unknown thugs stormed same venue in the morning and went for the protesters, who were just gathering to begin the agitation and chased them away.
The thugs removed all barricades from the road thus giving hawkers and motorists a relief on that day as the protesters couldn’t gather because of the fear of the thugs. Though, the attack generated accusations and counters accusations as some groups and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, alleged that the thugs were sent by the state government, an allegation, swiftly debunked by the state government, who also blamed the opposition for the attack on the protesters.
The protesters regrouped with full force, ready to face any thugs that attempted to stop their protest. The protest became tough. Motorists were turned back to negotiate other routes. Motorcyclists denied access to road. Only those going to hospital with genuine evidence were allowed to go.
Jumat prayer was observed on the main road while some tankers that have been stopped since morning accepted their fate and their drivers joined the Jumat prayer observed by the protesters on the major road. Apparently aware of the intention of Governor Gboyega Oyetola to visit and address them on Saturday, the protesters were happy.
Oyetola reportedly arrived the venue around 2pm and gently walked closer to the protesters with his entourage. His deputy, Mr. Gboyega Alabi, wanted to address the youth but they insisted that they preferred the governor to speak to them.
Oyetola raised his head from SUV, pleading with the protesters that their demand is being looked into by the Federal Government. The refusal of the governor to mount the podium, apparently did not go down with some youths, who insisted that the governor must come down from his car and mount the podium. Some began to shout “Soro Soke” (speak louder).
Some of the protesters during questions and answers insisted that Oyetola should call the Commissioner of Police at the scene to arrest one Ashiri Eniba, the Chairman of Road Transport Workers, who they alleged was behind the attack on them.
Things degenerated into crisis when the governor entered his car and some people started throwing pebbles at his convoy. Oyetola eventually escaped death by whiskers as some of the youth brought out cutlasses and axes against the governor.
The convoy drove away and it was gathered that some motorcyclists chased after him so fiercely that the governor had to escape through a compound route when he discovered that the motorcyclists have waylaid him in the front. Speaking on a state broadcast, Oyetola described the attack as “failed attempt” on his life. He confirmed that the hoodlums were after his life and not the protesters that attacked him.
Narrating the scenario, one of the coordinators of the protest, Mr. Ayo Ologun, explained that one person sustained cutlass injury during the attack on the protesters before the arrival of Oyetola and he was quickly rushed to the hospital by the protesters.
He said the angry youths repelled the attack and the thugs retreated. Ologun said: ” I and few others joined the protest on Thursday and that was the day there was an attack on the protesters. We regrouped on Friday and it was peaceful.
Olaiya was shut down and nobody was harassed or intimidated. There were singing and dancing. We also gathered on Saturday and some hoodlums came to attack the protesters. One of us popularly known as Oloye had a cutlass cut and we had to rush him to the hospital around 8:30am.
“We regrouped and some other people joined us. We matched peacefully from Olaiya to Okefia, to Old garage, to MDS, and returned to Olaiya, where people were donating food, money and water for the protesters.
“There were demands that the governor has to address the protesters and it was at that point some of us stepped in and made some calls that the governor should come. Around 2pm, we got a feedback that the governor had actually agreed to come.
Though, he was afraid that he might be attacked because people were saying other governors did not wait for about nine days before they addressed the protesters. I gave my words that nothing untoward will happen to the governor. When he arrived, we met him around Alekuwodo and he came down from his vehicle with his entourage and walked with us to Olaiya where there was crowd.
“Of course, there were insults but the governor maintained his calmness. The governor was responding to questions, especially on who sponsored the attack on the protesters on Thursday. We then heard a gunshot from MDS area and a lot of people scampered for safety. The time we walked and the time questions were asked lasted for about 40 minutes to 1hour.” It was reported that two persons died during the attack on the governor.
One Alhaji Adesina, who narrated how motorcyclists numbering about 30 chased a Hilux van of the police to Osun shrine, stated that the policemen jumped into the river and some went into the bush. The man explained that he couldn’t move his car and the motorcyclists caught the driver of police van and macheted him and burnt the van. He narrated how the thugs saved him and escorted him to the major road.
A police source, who confirmed the attack on police vehicle to New Telegraph, disclosed that two policemen sustained machete injuries and their vehicle burnt by the hoodlums. The Police Public Relations Officer, SP Yemisi Opalola, on Monday, said the command could only gather information about the death of two persons which she couldn’t give the exact place they were killed. She said the policemen were receiving treatment at the hospital.
The protest got messier in the evening of Saturday, when the hoodlums bombarded Osun Mall and carted away mobile phones, beverages and other valuable things that worth millions of naira. The spokesperson of the Federal Fire Service, Mrs Basiri Adijat, confirmed that a store beside post office, Osogbo, that was razed by fire looked like arson. Meanwhile, the attack on Oyetola was not the first time.
He was attacked by some thugs during the inauguration of a maternity centre at Oke-Baale, Osogbo, sometimes in May 2019. The thugs were said to have thrown pebbles at the convoy of the governor, when it was leaving venue of the programme.
The second one was indeed an attempt on the life of Oyetola. It happened at the freedom park, Osogbo, on the eve of New Year 2020. Oyetola and some members of his cabinet, were attacked by thugs suspected to be “state boys.”
It took the intervention of the Department of State Security Services to rescue Oyetola and some of his cabinet from the scene. Oyetola himself confirmed that the new one was carried out by political thugs and not #EndSARS protesters. In his state broadcast, Oyetola said: “Political thugs and hoodlums made an unsuccessful attempt on my life and those of my aides while identifying with our beloved youths, who were engaging in legitimate protest against the alleged brutality of the now disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). “My entourage and I had joined protesters from Alekuwodo area to Olaiya Junction chanting solidarity songs and encouraging them along the way.
During the course of my address to the protesters to reiterate our cooperation and support, political thugs hijacked the exercise and hurled stones and dangerous weapons at us and vandalised several cars in my convoy. “Preliminary investigation revealed that the commando style with which the assailants carried out their attack leaves no one in doubt that it was deliberate and pre-planned. However, not the genuine protesters resulted to violence,” Oyetola stated.