As elders and concerned sons and daughters of Ibadan, we have exercised profound restraint as we watch events unfolding as our political gladiators continue to perform on the field among our people. As elders, we have endeavoured to positively influence the course of events, to ensure that sanity, respect for security of lives and property and general welfare of the ordinary citizens are made the priority by political players so that the basic purpose of politicking, which is making life more abundant for the entire citizenry of Ibadan irrespective of their political, religious or social status, may be achieved. Contrary to mistaken perception that we are docile and indifferent to the ongoing political activities, elders of the city have taken every available opportunity to warn against violence in any form, and to plead that all activists should abhor politics of bitterness.
We have tried to quietly prevail on all active political leaders in Ibadan, but some, unfortunately, believe that with external support, they do not require our wise counsel and that their will must be done at all cost, even if it would involve large scale violence. These political leaders believe that they are above the law, which they can violate with impunity.
Caution has been thrown overboard, and their philosophy is might is right. Openly and in the full glare of security men, cutlasses and guns are on display and are audaciously wielded by thugs who are completely drunk, ostensibly as evidence of naked power and authority! They openly boast that they have federal might behind them and that, in any case, federal might is superior to any other authority. A culture of violence is being nurtured and installed.
This has been the trend since the flag-off of electioneering campaign early in the year, but it got to a climax on Monday, 2nd April 2007, when two political parties reportedly clashed at Challenge area of Ibadan. By the report in the media, between eight and 10 people got killed while many people were seriously injured. It should be noted that those killed and maimed were not foreigners. They were our own people.
This is why we have decided to address the press with a view to stating our concern and explaining our position. By way of illustration, it must be explained that the restiveness in the state started with the events that led to the illegal impeachment in the state. After the impeachment, hoodlums and anti-social elements took over the state, especially the state capital, and left in their trail tales of woe. While they visited destruction and death on several innocent people, the security agencies looked the other way. Rather than bring the culprits to justice, as it is done in other civilized climes, the response of the police was at best lukewarm. The spectacle, in all cases, was bizarre. Indeed, each time political violence erupted, the presence of law enforcement agencies was hardly felt.
It is a culture of the Obasanjo administration for the President to embark on official tours of states so as to commission projects that can enhance the quality of the life of the people.
While he went round other states commissioning projects that will guarantee better life for the people, he came to Ibadan to glorify anti-social elements and put a stamp of authority on lawlessness. Ibadan people listened with awe to the regrettable pronouncement of Mr. President on those who revel in doing evil. This state of affairs persists to date as we inch towards general elections.
The apprehension and restiveness of our people is therefore not misplaced. Who will protect them from the rampaging thugs who parade the streets with dangerous weapons?
On his own part, it would appear that the President does not think highly of Ibadan as a people. Apart from the Ladoja saga on which the President chose to be on the side of falsehood, he has persistently showed contempt and disregard for Ibadan and its people, For example, the PDP campaign train arrived Ibadan sometimes last month and did not consider it necessary to pay a courtesy call on the Olubadan of Ibadanland. While corrupt leaders are being hunted all over the country and handed over to law enforcement agencies, our President came to Ibadan to glorify those who have been publicly labelled by no less a personality than the anti-graft boss as “unfit to govern.” We are reluctant to accept the belief being widely bandied about that the indignity which is being meted to Ibadan under the current dispensation is simply a direct consequence of the humiliation of Owu during the Ibadan/Owu war of the 19th century.
Apart from the rot in the Executive arm of the illegal government on which the misrule was anchored, the legislature in Oyo State became the theatre of the absurd. No one should forget in a hurry the desecration of the hallowed chamber of the state House of Assembly by men who are anything but honourable. This is the same legislative chamber where men of honour and ideas such as the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, S.L. Akintola, A.M.A. Akinloye, Adegoke Adelabu (Penkele Mesi). Rotimi Williams SAN, Bode Thomas, S.O.
Awokoya, Ogedengbe and Osuntokun– all of blessed memory sat and conducted the affairs of the finest government in black Africa. And in the year of our Lord 2007, the legislative chamber reserved for men of distinction was invaded by gold diggers who sat side by side with their private army constantly puffing cannabis. That was the level of desecration or pollution of the Oyo State House of Assembly.
In the debacle Oyo State has found itself, the society at large must accept its share of the blame. As the Greek philospher, Socrates, said, when decent and good people refuse to take part in politics, the evil men will take over. This is a good lesson to all and sundry that there must be a limit to political neutrality. At least we should be interested in all those offering themselves as our representatives at all levels of government. We should take the trouble to screen them and ensure that they have worthy pedigree.
The way out In the light of the situation described above, we like to suggest the following conditions as the minimum our people should ascertain before deciding to cast their vote for any candidate, whether at state or federal level, in the forthcoming general election: i. Any politician who overtly or covertly promotes violence as a way pursuing political ambition should be outrightly rejected.
ii. As we are desirous that this time around, Ibadan should be represented at all levels by knowledgeable men and women of impeccable integrity, any individual who has been found guilty of embezzlement or misappropriation of fund by a valid panel of enquiry should be rejected at the polls.
iii. All people of Ibadan, indigenes and residents alike, should resist blackmail and intimidation and resolve to exercise their voting right on election day.
iv. Law enforcement agents, partcularly the police, should perform their functions according to their oath of office by being firm and dispassionate throughout the election period. It is not in the interest of the police themselves to allow the prevailing notion, which is fast gaining ground that they are working for particular politicians at the expense of the generality of the people.