When I drove past Idi-Ape area of Ibadan on Wednesday, there wasn’t any sign that the arena would soon metamorphose into a theatre of blood. What occupied my mind while moving along the busy lane was a picture of the city as a medley of forgotten, blossoming and aborted dreams. There was the frustrating jeremiad of a motorcyclist lamenting the biting effect of the fuel scarcity conundrum, the tiny voice of the Muezin spreading out from a nearby mosque, the innocence of teenage hawkers maneuvering their ways through snake-like traffic snarl, the sound of exhausted car engines whistling endlessly under the full glare of the afternoon sun, and the dangerous demeanors of Ibadan Micra drivers racing impatiently to nowhere. From Iwo Road to Gate, the city was alive in all of its chaotic beauty.
But 24 hours later, Idi-Ape fell into the hands of marauding gunmen. They shot. They maimed. They fled. Whodunit.
The robbers came with dreadful eyes, dared an innocent Okada rider, dueled security operatives, and left in their trail sorrows, tears, and blood. They struck in broad daylight, defying the illuminating aura of the afternoon sun. They didn’t come in the night, yet attempt to unravel their identity has thrown us all into the dark. Whodunit.
Reports said a bullion van was heading towards Gate when the armed gunmen, who were in a Toyota Sienna, overtook the van and opened fire on the occupants and the police escorts. Some residents claimed the Police engaged the robbers in a gun duel, but that narrative remains fuzzy. What has been established is that two policemen and a civilian were shot dead. And then the marauding men escaped. Whodunit.
The Idi-Ape robbery underscores yet again the troubling state of security across Nigeria. The man whom Nigerians thought would help flush out criminals, insurgents, and bandits has answered their call with aloofness and insouciance. In the North West, bandits enjoy state-like legitimacy and dictate how peoples’ daily affair are being conducted. In the North East, insurgents continue to run wild. News items from the North Central aren’t complete without macabre tales of farmer-herder clashes. The South East and the South-South have remained under the tyranny of violent secessionists and moneyed militants. In the South-West, kidnappers, armed robbers and state-sponsored thugs have remained a thorn in the flesh of innocent residents. Across the country, the spectre of death and killing trails villagers and city dwellers alike.
For the umpteenth time, the Idi-Ape robbery and numerous other related attacks in Enugu and elsewhere this week make the case for a long-time demand quite imperative: State Police. Vast swathes of Nigeria’s huge landmass remain grossly under-policed, and there is an urgent need to rejig the policing architecture to address local security concerns.
But much more importantly, beyond the impotence of our federal policing system, there is a peculiarity to the Idi-Ape heist and the general climate of local insecurity in Ibadan and Oyo State that should worry every well-meaning resident.
On Thursday, almost at about the same hour that the marauding gunmen turned Idi-Ape into a river of blood, men of the Oyo State Park Management System (PMS) were locked in a gun battle with another group of miscreants known as “Federal Boys”. By the time the dust settled, a known PMS member had been reportedly shot dead, properties destroyed, and scores of people injured. The gun duel reportedly lasted for about four hours on Thursday and was resumed on Friday, leaving residents scampering for safety. Whodunit.
Penultimate week, no fewer than 150 men suspected to be political thugs were arrested by men of the 32 Artillery Brigade in Ekiti State. The armed men were said to be heading to Ado Ekiti from Ibadan ahead of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) primaries in that state. Sahara Reporters later claimed that Governor Seyi Makinde and officials of the PMS sent a delegation to the Ondo State Police Command to pressurise the Nigerian Army to release the 150 armed thugs, said to be PMS members. The government never dissociated itself from the PMS thugs, nor did it bring them to book. Whodunit.
Last year, at the Iwo Road phone mart, a few metres away from Idi-Ape, a young man was killed allegedly by marauding men of PMS. Nothing significant has been done with regards to justice in that case till date.
So in essence, there is the atmosphere of warmth and coziness that the Oyo State Government has built for thugs and other criminal elements in the state. By its naked fraternatisation with moneyed ex-convicts and its laissez faire treatment of the excesses of marauding outlaws such as men of its Park Management System (PMS), ostensibly as a trade-off for political support during electioneering, the government contributes significantly to the cloudy atmosphere of chaos and insecurity in the state. What’s most disturbing is that by some weird design, the government gets away with almost all of these misdemeanors, while everyone continues to play the ostrich. Of course there is a ready-made army of juvenile propagandists, including meddlesome dingbats that are far detached from Ibadan, who are always there to shut down and blackmail critics.
The romance between the government and hoodlums has so far been elevated as a part of pop culture, with their theatrics now instagrammed in our people’s subconscious. On radio stations in Ibadan, for instance, presenters glamorise and throw around buzzwords popularized by murderous thugs as though they are addressing folks at motor parks. It’s almost the same in informal conversations among people on the streets. Given how much culture influences everything, it’s a tad worrisome.
In deconstructing the Idi-Ape heist, there is a crucial point to make about the proliferation of illegal arms in the aftermath of the numerous jailbreaks witnessed across the country in recent months, including the one in nearby Oyo town. There is also the after-effect of the #EndSARS protests, where hoodlums infiltrated law-abiding protesters, unleashed mayhem on security operatives, burnt down police stations, and carted away guns and other weapons. Ironically, in Oyo state, very little has been done either to address the demands of the #EndSARS protesters or to boost the morale of Policemen who suffered harassment and were even cannibalised at the height of the protests. In effect, the spectre of that dangerous episode still haunts the security operatives in the state. This has manifested significantly in the spate of robbery attacks and the lukewarm response of the Police in places like Agbowo, UI, and environs. The Oyo state government, in its trademark manner, has addressed these issues with grand mendacity and hypocritical showboating.
The starting point is for the government to launch a genuine war against thuggery, radically wean itself of state-sponsored hoodlums, and, without resorting to media mendacity, genuinely engage the Police and other security operatives for better synergy.
Beyond needless politicisation of tragedies, the Idi-Ape heist should scare every resident of Ibadan, if put in proper context. Around the scene of the robbery, there are key security landmarks like the Officer’s Mess, the Police Area Command at Testing Ground, and more than four key Police Stations. The Government House is equally located just a stone’s throw away from the scene.
The state government has a security control room in Jericho and it’s quite worrisome that the robbers could escape from such a congested hub without traces. All hands must be on deck to fish them out, and make them face the full wrath of the law. If such daredevilry could be staged unchallenged in such a busy, strategic spot — as against some lonely bush path in the countryside — danger looms.
Last Saturday, I returned to Lagos from Uyo via Ibom Air. The airline’s reputation of timeliness and excellent in-flight experience preceded it, and I was quite excited. The take-off was timely, to be sure, but the flight experience was a huge disappointment.
First, the series of disappointing moments began from Uyo. The airport runway needs serious attention. It was bumpy and rough. But that’s by the way.
When the aircraft got into the skies, we realised that it had a faulty AC. At some point when the AC was put on, it sent panic down the spine of everyone. When we eventually began our descent into the Lagos airport, it was put off and everyone began to sweat profusely.
What many passengers found rather disappointing was that no apology nor explanation was offered by the crew, despite the stuffy, suffocating experience. It was heartbreaking because in Nigeria’s disappointing air industry of late arrivals of aircraft and flight cancellation, Ibom Air stands out. The airline can, and should, do better.
That was classic Iberibe-ism.
Oladeinde Olawoyin tweets via @Ola_deinde.
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