By Dayo Johnson
THE show of shame by persons from two states controlled by same ruling political party – the All Progressives Congress, APC – in the South-West region (Ondo and Osun) in the last few weeks was not only disturbing, unspeakable, but condemnable.
Within the spate of three days, a serving Commissioner for Regional Integration in Osun State, Hon. Bola llori was attacked in Akure during the party’s meeting, while in a reprisal attack, no fewer than 20 football players and supporters of the Ondo State-owned Sunshine FC were critically injured in far away ljebu-ode, Ogun State, after they were attacked by thugs of Osun State football team during an FA competition.
There are fears that the show of shame may degenerate into an all-out war between the two sister states. This has already attracted flaks from the Pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere which asked the governors of the states to quickly nip it in the bud before it escalates to a more dangerous level that would be regrettable.
Its spokesperson, Yinka Odumakin, said in Akure: “We see this as a brewing crisis that must be nipped in the bud. We can only know the beginning of a development like this, nobody can predict the end.
“We don’t want war between two states in the South-West and, therefore, call on the two governors to quickly meet and nip the crisis in the bud as it may escalate beyond what we are seeing.”
However, what has remained unknown to the people is the root cause of the crisis, which blew open last Wednesday in Akure, the Ondo State capital during the party’s meeting on true federalism and restructuring,which was attended by leaders of the party from three of the states on the South-West (Ekiti, Osun and Ondo).
Vanguard can authoritatively say that a deep rooted animosity between two prominent personalities of the state sparked off the show of shame. The race for the 2019 National Assembly election between the Ondo city-born Ilori and the present Secretary to the Ondo State Government, Hon lfedayo Abegunde, was one of the behind-the-scene causes of the assault.
The squabbles between the two gentlemen dates back to 2014 during the party’s primary election for the senatorial seat of the central district in which Abegunde and the present Senator representing the district, Senator Tayo Alasoadura contested for the seat.
Ilori pitched his tent with Alasoadura who eventually won with about 20 votes after a recount of the votes was done in far away Abuja because of the tension and misspelling of names of the two personalities on the ballot by the electorate. Instead of the electorate to write their names in full, abbreviations such as Alas and Abena were written on the ballot. Abegunde never forgave Ilori for his loss. Last Thursday was an opportunity to pay him back and all his boys waited for was his body language before descending on llori.
Also, like a chicken which came home to roost, Vanguard can reveal that llori again courted controversy and drew the ire of party members when he jumped out of the party’s ship after the last governorship primaries which produced the incumbent governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, to support the candidate of the Alliance for Democracy, AD, Olusola Oke against the party’s candidate.
Oke had earlier defected from the APC following the outcome of the primaries which did not go done well with him and other aspirants. Ilori publicly defected to the AD having received the nod of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu who did not support the incumbent governor’s ambition. Tinubu backed Oke for the governorship seat but he came third in the election.
Sponsors of the assault on llori may have not forgiven him and many other leaders of the party for their role in the election until he came to the party’s meeting in Akure. They argued that he was no longer a member of APC and had no justification to attend and speak for the party because he had not openly renounced his membership of the AD.
Vanguard gathered that the assault on Ilori was a signal to others for their alleged anti-party activities during the last governorship election.
Ilori, who left the International Event Centre to grant Press interview after presenting the position of the state at the meeting, was beaten and stripped naked by some thugs who equally reportedly warned him to forget about the central senatorial seat because its reserved for the SSG come 2019.
The ugly incident which disrupted the meeting had in attendance a representative of the national secretariat of the party who led the committee members, Rachael Akpabio, the state’s deputy governor, Agboola Ajayi, state chairman, Ade Adetimehin and the vice- chairman, South-West of the party, Chief Pius Akinyelure, party chairmen from the three states, state commissioners and traditional rulers.
Other top party leaders from the three South-West states were equally in attendance to make presentations on behalf of their states. For over 30 minutes, pandemonium reigned supreme at the International event centre, the venue of the meeting which was turned to a fighting arena. Signs that problem was looming was noticed when llori was booed by the party members when he insisted on making an addendum to the Osun State presentation after their leader, Adedeji Gbadegesin.
It was obvious that his insistence on speaking after the state had presented its memoranda may have drawn the anger of the party members who regarded him as an outsider. Members of the party from Osun went wild following the treatment meted out to Ilori and the meeting was disrupted. Stones and other dangerous weapons were freely used by the Osun State supporters outside the event centre. Security operatives’ efforts to calm down party members from other states proved abortive as they fled the venue and left the meeting but the meeting still continued.
In an interview, llori alleged that it was the state Secretary to Government, SSG, lfedayo Abegunde that sent his boys to beat him up. Ilori said that his molestation by the boys loyal to Abegunde was against the senatorial election in 2019. He said that the incident would have recorded casualties if he had not pleaded with the Osun party members not to retaliate.
They came with charms —Owolabi
But the state Information Commissioner, Yemi Olowolabi, punctured llori’s argument saying that the Osun delegates are the aggressors and that they came to the venue well prepared to foment trouble. Olowolabi said that they came with charms and cudgels to attack members of the party in the state. The commissioner alleged that Ilori seized the microphone after the leader of the delegates from Osun State made a presentation. “What happened was avoidable if he had not seized the microphone which must have provoked the party members,” he said.
Olowolabi added that the event was peaceful until Ilori “seized the microphone when he was not the leader of the delegates from the state.” He commended the state’s deputy governor, party chairman and secretary to government for prevailing on party members not to take the laws into their hands “despite the unwarranted provocation by the Osun delegates.”
He said that was why the incident did not record any casualty. A reprisal attack was, however, launched two days later by thugs from Osun State who in 30 buses stormed the Dipo Dina sport stadium in Ijebu Ode during a football competition between the Sunshine Stars FC of Ondo State and the Osun State owned football club, the Osun United FC.
Information Commissioner Yemi Olowolabi and his counterpart in the Youth Development Ministry Saka Ogunleye alleged that 20 players and supporters of the state owned FC were seriously injured by thugs from Osun State. According to them thugs from Osun State stormed the venue of the home match in over 30 buses owned by various Ministries, Departments and Agencies in Osun State and inflicted injuries on the players and supporters of the Sunshine FC.
Ogunleye said after the end of the second leg which Sunshine Stars FC won on 3:2 on goal aggregate, thugs descended on the players and supporters with sticks, bottles and cudgels that left several of them critically injured.