Taming political violence in Ibadan - The Sun

By The Citizen

Thugs, at the behest of some politicians in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, recently unleashed a mindless orgy of violence and destruction on the city. Within hours of the mayhem on November 21, hundreds of shops laid in ruins, while several houses and scores of cars, motorcycles and commercial tricycles were also destroyed.

Most shocking of all, the thugs engaged the Police in a shoot-out, and killed an inspector. A female Divisional Police Officer (DPO) and a Divisional Traffic Officer (DTO) received bullet wounds and were taken to hospitals.  Many officers and men were badly injured, and an extensive trail of destruction was all that could be seen at Oke Ado, where the violence began, before it spread to Iyana Lodge, and on to Idi Arere and Born Photo areas in the South-Eastern areas of the city.

This violent incident is troubling on many grounds.  Some of the most serious cases of political violence in Nigeria occurred in Ibadan, the capital of the old Western Region. In the early to middle 1960s, politically induced mayhem in the town turned into a conflagration which spun out of control to the extent that it was cited as a justification for the military overthrow of the First Republic in January 1966.

Secondly, this orgy of violence was reportedly instigated and perpetrated by motor park touts, who have always been known to lend themselves for use as political thugs and militias to unscrupulous politicians in the state.

Thirdly, the Ibadan violence seems a worrisome dress rehearsal of political violence that may occur in many parts of the country in the run up to the 2015 polls, unless strong measures are taken immediately to avert it.

We commend the Oyo State Police Commissioner, Mr. Kola Sodipo, for inviting different interest groups for discussions to underscore the need for peace in the state.  It is important that he takes on the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) in his efforts to stamp out brigandage and political violence in the state.

History demonstrates that there has been no political violence in Oyo State, or in any state for that matter,  that did not involve thugs either at the planning stage or in its execution.  Indeed, the genesis of the mayhem of November 21 has been reportedly traced to a thug dressed in All Progressives Congress' (APC) uniform, who was refused a ride by a cyclist.  Typical of thugs, he would not take no for an answer.

When the Police arrived to calm the atmosphere and had arrested some of the troublemakers, another group of touts came down to confront the policemen, insisting that they release the suspects who were already in custody.  Soon, yet another group of touts arrived, assaulted and opened fire on the police, setting off the chain of actions and reactions which created a riotous environment  that led to extensive damage, destruction of property and arson, the like of which Oyo State has not witnessed in a long time.

We commend the Police for its level-headed approach which prevented the crisis from spinning out of control.  All the suspects in its custody should be charged to court as expeditiously as possible to demonstrate its readiness to enforce the laws of the land and hold anyone found to have committed acts of violence to account.

This is a very sensitive time in the nation's election cycle.  The elections are less than 90 days away.  Desperate politicians who are bent on winning at all costs must be prevailed upon to rethink their approach.  The political parties should hold regular meetings, not just on how to win but how to protect democracy through peaceful campaigns which can lead to peaceful and credible elections.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should set up a monitoring group to watch the campaign activities of politicians to ensure that they play according to the rules of the game.  We cannot afford to let violence ruin the forthcoming elections.