Nigeria: Violence Erupts Again Between The Ifes And Modakekes

By Tunde Oladipo In Ibadan, 13 March 2000

Lagos — Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Ade Shinaba, has hardly known peace since last two weeks when renewed hostility broke out between Ife and Modakeke. As the commander of the Ife Police Area Command, it is Shinaba’s duty to ensure peace in the area.

Since fighting broke out between the two arch-rivals-Ife and Modakeke in Osun State-on 3 March, Shinaba has been on full throttle, issuing orders on the top of his voice to his men on how to quell the burning and killings in the two communities. As the battle became fiercer last week, Shinaba’s boss in Osogbo, Police Commissioner Johnson Nwoye, stepped in and literally moved his office to Ife. His deputy also relocated to the war zone.

Yet, the Inspector-General of Police, Musiliu Smith was worried about the escalating war. He ordered the AIG in charge of the zone to move in. In no time, Nwoye whose car was shot by the fighters, got reinforcement from five units of anti-riot police including some from Abeokuta, Ogun State. After joining forces with Shinaba’s men who had been on the ground, they moved into action. The way the armoured personnel carrier (with number-plate PF 4479 KG) stormed Modakeke area last Monday, 6 March created fear and silence in the community.

As the police trudged on, armed Modakeke youths poised for attack. They carried sophisticated weapons and wore black headbands with some wearing black clothes. As the police charged at them, some would run into the bush while fully-armed ones guarded the palace of the Ogunsua of Modakeke, Chief Francis Adedoyin. As the police patrol team left the area, they began firing gun-shots into the air only to retreat into the shrubs as some policemen re-emerged. “It is a guerrilla kind of thing,” a senior police officer told TheNEWS. And it really caught Ife community napping. Fighting between the two communities broke out, according to findings, over petty arguments on a sign-post designating an area as Modakeke land. The site was to be used for the launching of a mosque by Alhaji Arisekola Alao, the Are Musulumi of Yorubaland.

Tension, it was gathered, had steamed since the announcement of the land by the Modakeke community. Fighting allegedly broke out on Friday, 3 March, over the opposition and subsequent destruction of another sign-post which the Modakeke people had laced at a junction within Ife. The sign-post, it was learnt, also described the location of the launch site as a Modakeke area.

Placed at Akarabata area, the sign-post bore “Ajebamidele-Modakeke Road” instead of Ajebamidele-Ife Road.” This was said to have irked the Ife community who saw it as a brazen affront and immediately staged a strong opposition to it. Unknown to them, Modakeke people lurked around the corner.

TheNEWS gathered that immediately the sign-post was pulled down, a scuffle ensued between the two groups. Thereafter, heavy-fighting broke out in the area. Many persons were kidnapped on both sides. About 10 persons reportedly died on the first day of the war. Both sides went back to their drawing board to restrategise. Fighting continued Saturday, 4 March. By evening of Thursday, it had spread to the interior of the hitherto peaceful towns. Eyewitnesses said there were sporadic gun-shots from both sides while machetes and charms were freely used by the warriors.

At the theatres of war which included Ibadan Road, Mayfair, a popular hotel in Ife was torched while the glass house “BOLLAPAT Court” housing Amicable Assurance PLC and Nigeria Agriculture and Cooperative Bank PLC was also vandalised.

Also razed were the Universal College of Technology building, Ile-ife, Trans Nigeria Insurance PLC and the Gospel Faith Mission houses.

By Sunday, 5 March when fighting, burning and killings had subsided, many lives and property worth millions of naira had been lost to the needless carnage. On Monday, 6 March, the death figure was over 20 while it increased to about 50 as at press time last week. The leaders of the two communities, Chief Orayemi Orafidiya who represented the Ooni of Ife (who was abroad) and Chief Adedoyin of Modakeke claimed they have lost many of their citizens to the fighting. Adedoyin accused the Osun State government and the police of taking sides and fanning the crisis while Orafidiya reportedly gave kudos to the police for prompt intervention in the crisis. In a radio announcement last week, the state government denied taking sides in the hostility. It also denied insensitivity to the crisis.

“The government cannot be insensitive to the security and unity of communities and individuals in Osun State,” it said.

However, a dusk-to-dawn curfew was imposed on the communities on Tuesday, 7 March. A release issued in Osogbo by Governor ‘Bisi Akande said the loss of lives and property was regrettable.

“I have directed that a curfew be imposed in the area from 6a.m. to 6 p.m. until further notice.”

Leaders of both communities said last week that they were ready to lay down their arms and comply with any decision taken by the state government.

This position informed a call by the Modakeke Progressive Union (MPU) that President Olusegun Obasanjo should send soldiers to the zone. The union said there was the need to declare a state of emergency in Osun State over the “war of genocide by Ife and Modakeke.” Hon. T.A. Odeyeyiwa, the union’s secretary said in a 7 March release that “soldiers should be drafted to the trouble zones to maintain law and order.” A judicial commission of inquiry into the carnage was also canvassed by the union.

On 8 March, Governor Bisi Akande met with leaders of both communities with a view to dousing tension in the area. Special adviser to the governor on media relations, Mr. Ayo Afolabi, said the governor’s efforts at resolving the crisis have paid off. “By this evening, 8 March, peace has returned to the area,” he told TheNEWS in a telephone chat.

However, it was learnt that the Ifes were planning an attack to balance the destruction of properties of their indigenes by the Modakekes. This has led to non-natives-Hausa and Igbo and students at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU)-fleeing the volatile zones to neighbouring towns such as Ilesa, Edunabon, Ipetumodu, Gbongan, Ode-Omu and Osogbo.

Also, some Modakeke indigenes who are staff of some establishments located in Ife have abandoned their duty posts. Four of such staff of the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital (OAUTH) were absent last Monday. Their colleagues held a meeting at the casualty ward area. “We (Ife) decided that we should be careful with them whenever they return to work,” a source at the meeting told TheNEWS. In the past, such feuds had led to the transfer of Modakeke indigenes to the Ilesa branch of OAUTH apparently to avoid reprisal attacks. “It is just recently they returned here,” another source said.

Dr. David Akinola, Chief Medical Director (CMD) of the hospital was not available to confirm this development. But Olu Bello, head, public relations unit of the hospital said only three persons had died in the hospital so far.

According to him, “one body was brought in dead while two others died in the hospital.” About 66, he said, have been treated while several others have been discharged. As the crisis lingered last week, accusing fingers were pointed at Alhaji Abdulazeez Arisekola Alao as the possible cause of the clash. But in a swift reaction, the Ibadan-based businessman denied any complicity in the crisis, describing such insinuations as spurious, baseless and criminal falsehood. “What business have I being involved in the foundation-laying ceremony on a disputed land between Ife and Modakeke and an unnamed project for that matter?,” Arisekola queried in a statement. He said he would never take sides in the hostility because he has always prayed “fervently to Almighty Allah to provide a lasting solution to the Ife-Modakeke crisis.”

The Ife-Modakeke feud took a dangerous turn in 1997 over the relocation of the Ife-East Local Government headquarters from Modakeke to Oke-Ogbo, supposedly neutral ground but actually a quarter in Ife. Since then, thousands of lives have been lost to sporadic clashes between the two communities aside from wanton destruction of property.

Additional reports by Adeolu Adeyemo/Osogbo.

Publication date: March 20, 2000

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

ChatClick here to chat!+