MAY 30TH, 2011 VIOLENCE AT IWO ROAD, IBADAN: MY ENCOUNTER, MY STORY.
By Balogun Kayode Gideon
The day started with an early morning rainfall, an incredible thunder woke me up few minutes to 5am. I think the thunder was a sign that tells of a tragedy that looms over the city that day. I got a call from my younger brother (who had gone out early) some minutes past 9am to warn me of the trouble that started at Iwo Road, Ibadan since that’s where I’ll board a vehicle to Osogbo. I later heard the same warning on a private radio station in Ibadan after his call, but no detail to what it is or who are those involved was given. I decided to delay my morning trip till afternoon, believing that by noon, the police would have put the upsurge under control. I never knew I was absolutely wrong. At 1:20pm, I left my home in Felele, Ibadan for Iwo Road via Lagos-Ibadan Express to embark on my journey to Osogbo. I never knew that I was on my way to a battlefield. I paid the taxi fare when I got close to the junction I’m to alight from the taxi. I got out of the taxi pumping with energy in order to carry my heavy luggage from the trunk of the taxi. I looked up to call one of the teenage Alabarus (Potters) at the park to help with my heavy luggage. I couldn’t find any of them, I started wondering if Abiola Ajimobi; the new Oyo State Governor had started cleaning up Iwo road as his Lagos counterpart did to Oshodi. While surveying the landscape with my eyes, my vision perched on a commuter bus with no windshield at all. I guessed it must have been vandalized during the violence in the morning. The bus; which was half-way on the road was turned into a temporary office by a group of stern looking men. I quickly turned away my face from looking in their direction so that I don’t draw unnecessary attention to myself.
As I turned away my eyes, my vision fell on another group that has the same look as the earlier mentioned group, but these ones are on “security alert mode”. They held various arms ranging from swords, cutlasses of various shapes and sizes to undisclosed munitions.
I started getting apprehensive, feeling the tension in the cool afternoon air. “All shops in this motor park are locked”, I exclaimed silently. I pulled my luggage on my shoulder since I couldn’t get an Alabaru. I was still struggling with my luggage when a teenage boy hawking Aboniki Balm ran towards me. At first, I thought he wanted to perform the Alabaru job or maybe he felt I would need the Balm when I get to my destination to relax my muscles after struggling so hard with my heavy luggage. I never knew that my thought was a fantasy; I understood better when he ran past me. I looked in the direction where he was coming from; I saw a familiar scene, something I saw during the violence that erupted after the June 12, 1993 election when I was still in Primary School. That was a long time ago but I could remember so well what such scene can spell.
Everyone was running in random directions. Kayode! What would you do with your heavy luggage? I didn’t know who was talking, maybe my soul or Holy Spirit. I did not give an answer to the voice talking to me, but I think my actions thereafter did. I quickly crossed to the other side of the road where Adogba Shopping Complex is. I saw a woman and a teenage boy running toward a mechanic mini-village beside the complex, I thought in myself that it would be a safe direction to head. Since they look like traders at the garage, they’ll know better where safety is.
I forgot that I have a luggage (it had turned light because of the tension) until I got to a block wall (fence) where these duo led me to. Before I could bat an eyelid, the woman was on the other side of the wall. The teenage boy; about 13years and I got to the wall at the same time. I told the boy to climb fast so that I can climb after him. While waiting, I saw the mechanics (I supposed) scaling the wall effortlessly as if that’s where they go through when resuming at work and when returning. It looks like it is a routine for them. I deposited my luggage on the wall before climbing (thank God, I’m a tall young man). As I climbed over the fence, I heard a resounding and deafening gun-shot. Was that close or far?
I landed on the other side of the wall, guess where I landed? “This is a private property!” I muttered. I continued “Private or public, who cares, as long as I get a reasonable degree of safety”. In that situation, the Lord indeed was my Shepherd. Have you guessed what the private property is? It was a white garment church building. I followed my ‘mentors’ (the woman and the teenage boy) to the building. As I took each step, a gun-sot sound dominated the air, I began to wonder if taking my steps was a signal to these ‘Mafias’ to shoot, my footsteps synchronized with the sounds. I was tempted to stop moving, so as to stop the gun-shot, since it seems I’m the “commanding Officer” there.
“Go out! Go out!” a woman with a baby strapped to her back shouted at the entrance of the church building. “Put off your shoes before coming in!” the woman shouted at us. I quickly dropped my luggage and pulled down the zipper of my shoes. My ‘mentors’ were already in the building since it took them few seconds to put off their bathroom slippers. I entered the building with my luggage, went to a corner and stood there panting for breathe after running the race for my life with my heart making four-beats per second. I fixed my eyes on the wall clock in the building the time was 1:50pm. I started praying and quoting every Bible verse that could come to mind. I was lost in my prayers that I couldn’t hear what a woman (who seemed to be the spiritual head of the church) sitting few feet away from me was saying. “What is in your bag?” she had been shouting. One of my fellow ‘refugees’ tapped me to call my attention to my “interrogating officer”. I quickly shouted, “Clothes” and went ahead to tell her that I was actually traveling. “Confirm it”, she beckoned to the woman with a baby. She came over to check and declared to her “commanding officer” that it’s true.
Actually, I have more than clothes in there. You could guess those other things that can make a luggage heavy. “Sit down Bros”, one of my fellow refugees whispered. I looked around and found out that I was the only one standing, my fellow refugees were sitting on the clean Tiled floor. I sat down to continue listening to the gun-shots from various ‘species’ of munitions ranging from AK47 Rifles, locally made guns to Revolver guns.
The gun fire lasted for about 30minutes, then the air became calm, I heard horns of cars, buses, motorcycles and trucks, yet I sat glued to the floor, though some of my fellow refugees have found their way out of ‘camp’. Should I go home? Should I continue my journey? Those were the questions I asked myself. Earlier that day, my fiancée told me on phone that she wished that I make my journey the following day, but I said no. At that point, where I sat in the church building, I thought of her as a Seer. “She must not hear about this event until later” I muttered. If she does, you can guess what her next statement would be.
I looked at the time; it was 3:50pm, which means I’ve spent close to 2hours in the refugee camp. I encouraged myself to continue my journey. I thanked my hosts for their goodwill, carried my luggage, wore my shoes and moved to the garage.
Osogbo one! Osogbo one! The driver of a Nissan Primera was screaming. “Thank God”, I exclaimed. I ran up to the car before someone else would do. I can’t afford to stay another 5minutes at this location. The entire scenery of the environment was diabolical. Dozens of commuter buses and private cars were either vandalized or set ablaze. The fracas was actually between the two factions of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) that exist in Oyo State.
As I know well, this is not a new occurrence in Ibadan city, residents of Olomi area of Ibadan can tell a better story than I did; they have experienced many of such events. As I travelled through the Ife-Ibadan expressway, I asked myself some questions; can Governor Abiola Ajimobi bring sanity back to Ibadan? Can he stop this insecurity? Can he handle the menace synonymous with this city?