The political differences between the governments of Osun and Ondo States escalated last when their respective football teams physically attacked one another in Ijebu Ode stadium during the second leg of the ongoing Aiteo Cup.
The two state governments are believed to be in a cold war over the outcome of the 2016 Ondo governorship elections which saw Rotimi Akeredolu emerging as the winner.
Political pundits believe that the All Progressive Congress leaders in Ondo are still bitter over the role reportedly played by the Osun government and its Commissioner for Regional Integration, Bola Ilori, who served as the AD candidate, Olusola Oke’s, campaign director, while still being a member of the APC.
Sunshine Stars of Akure were home to Osun FC last Saturday and had won the match 3-1, but the restive crowd erupted in violence inflicting injuries on the supporters of rival teams and damaging vehicles.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that the fight started subtly between the supporters of both teams who had in the course of the march engaged themselves in shouting rounds, hauling insults at one another until it degenerated into a free for all.
Both state governments have since denied being responsible for the violence that rocked the event.
Speaking about the violence on Monday, the Ondo State Commissioner for Sports and Youth Development, Saka Ogunleye, told journalists in Akure that no fewer than 20 supporters of Sunshine Stars attacked by the irate fans of Osun FC.
He alleged that the supporters of Sunshine Stars were critically injured by the attackers suspected to be thugs from Osun State.
Mr. Ogunleye also said about 40 vehicles inscribed with Osun logo were mobilised to the stadium, and that many of those who attacked Ondo citizens were suspected loyalists of the APC in Osun State ”going by the clothes many of them wore.”
According to him, ”the Ondo team was caught unawares, as they were exposed to the attack that left several of them severely injured.”
He also accused the Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola, of ordering the release of those arrested by the police for perpetrating the violence.
The Osun State Commissioner for Sports, Social Protection and Special Needs, Biyi Odunade, dismissed the allegations made by Mr. Ogunleye, saying it was the supporters of Osun United that were attacked and “not the other way round.”
He said the attack on the Osun team was unprovoked, alleging that Sunshine Stars mobilised thugs to the Dipo Dina Stadium, Ije-Ode, to unleash violence on players, officials and supporters of Osun FC.
“We considered this allegation as a blatant lie, vituperations from the pit of hell and desperate attempt to lure the unsuspecting members of the public into misconstruing the true report on the brutalization of our players, officials, supporters and fans,” said Mr. Odunlade.
“The real aim is to turn the story against us to earn unjustified public sympathy. The Commissioner also made fruitless effort to politicize the show of shame and display of savage thuggery by the Sunshine FC by linking it with the reprehensible attack on the State of Osun Commissioner for Regional Integration, Hon. Bola Ilori by thugs suspected to have been sponsored by the Ondo State Government officials recently at another event in Akure. If we may ask, where does sports event relates to political activities?
“May I quickly establish the fact that hooliganism and violence are synonymous with the Sunshine Stars of Akure as it has caused untold hardships and pains on many Nigerian clubs in the past and got banished from its Akure home ground.”
Mr. Odunlade also accused the centre referee, Ferdinand Udoh, of being compromised, saying he allowed ”two controversial goals in favour of Sunshine Stars while disallowing a direct free-kick that would have earned the visitors an advantage.”
He also said the conduct of the match officials and that of the Sunshine players and officials infuriated the supporters of his team.
“The match continued until the injury time when the referee allowed an offside for the Sunshine FC to score its controversial third goal, while he denied Osun United a direct free-kick which might have given another goal advantage to make the match a 3-2 result and put the aggregate at 3-5 in favour of Osun United FC,” he explained.
‘This did not go down well with supporters of the Osun United FC and they began to shout on top of their voices in protest. The supporters of the Sunshine FC who had been hauling abusive words on the Osun United supporters quickly seized the opportunity and launched a physical attack on them, leading to pandemonium. Of course, the match got disrupted and the story is what we are telling now.”
Mr. Odunlade also claimed that some of their players were badly injured while five of the buses which conveyed Osun players and supporters to the venue were vandalised.
“I will like to end this address by saying that Osun United FC and its supporters have always been peaceful and professional as a football club unlike our neighbour Sunshine FC which is known for thuggery,” he said.
“We reject any attempt to smear our image by some unscrupulous elements, no matter how highly placed.”
A recent brawl occurred between the supporters of the APC in the two states, led by Mr. Ilori on Thursday, September 22 in Akure.
Mr. Ilori was reportedly attacked by thugs who were suspected to be acting on the instruction on a leader of the party in the state.
Political commentators believe that the attack is connected with the unresolved bad blood generated during the 2016 governorship election, where Ilori and his group opposed the candidature of Rotimi Akeredolu, who eventually emerged as the winner.