PUNISH THE IBADAN KILLERS
ON 11 December 2006, matchet-wielding youth bombarded the Oyo State Government Secretariat, Agodi, in Ibadan, to prevent the return of Governor Rashidi Ladoja - the court had just reinstated him from impeachment.
The youth, who were enforcers, chased Ladoja supporters around. Live television footage of their activities was beamed across the world. They were not bothered. They knew they had the backing of the authorities in Ibadan.
None of them was prosecuted.
Killings from that incident were normal. More killings have continued, blames are apportioned, but the insecurity of the city endures.
At the centre of the seasonal chaos are politicians, who depend on thugs the National Union of Road Transport Workers supply, to maintain their hold on power or to access power.
They are therefore committed to protecting the thugs who also expect their patrons to cede the parks to them on assuming office. It was almost impossible to assume office in Ibadan without the thugs.
Rivalry over leadership of the lucrative parks on its own start riots in the proportion of full blown wars.
When one faction succeeds in displacing the other, it celebrates its superior firing power by the number of people killed.
Last December, a factional leader of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Alhaji Abdul Lateef Salako, also known as Eleweomo, was killed at a party congress in Ibadan. The police got an indication of the sophistication of arms used at the scene.
According to the state Police Commissioner Baba Adisa Bolanta, 'Items recovered from the scene include five expended AK 47 ammunition, nine expended cartridges, among others.' These are only hints about how well armed the thugs are for the wars that lasted hours and held the city hostage.
The thugs, when arrested, know that the case would lead to a dead end. It is the tradition for the faction that lost the previous attack to stage a reprisal, where it would take the other side by surprise.
An attack on Saturday night that claimed 20 lives, with more than 30 shops razed or looted, was a continuation of the reprisals after Salako's death and the efforts to ensure supremacy at the parks.
If the thugs were killing only themselves, it would have been bad enough. The loss of lives of innocent peoples, whose offence is that they were in the parks during the tussles, is a further reason for government to stop the killings and halt the insecurity NURTW has imposed in Ibadan for years.
A ban of the union may not be a right step for Governor Abiola Ajimobi to take. NURTW is a nationally- registered organisation, not under the laws of Oyo State. The government can take over the management of the parks without getting into the legal tangle of a ban which in the past failed to stop the attacks.
More importantly, the government must distance itself from any of the factions, if it would diligently prosecute the murderers who delight in confidence playing above the law gives them.
Ibadan has been in this peculiar mess for too long all because its governments took sides with evil people who think killing, arson and the general mayhem they cause were hallmarks of a lawful society.
Ajimobi has all the opportunity to paint the correct picture of law and order in Ibadan. The strokes will be up to him.