In this report, HAKEEM GBADAMOSI examines the recent violence that erupted in Ikare-Akoko in Akoko North East Local Government Area of Ondo State over a New Year carnival organised by some people in the area, as well as possible solutions to the frequent clashes and violence.
The recent imbroglio created by the end of year carnival organized by some youths in Ikare-Akoko community in Akoko North East Local Government Area of Ondo State has reawakened the age-long rivalry and supremacy battle between the two traditional rulers in the ancient town, Olukare and Owa-Ale in Ikare-Akoko.
Ikare, the commercial center of Akoko land, had struggled to develop over the years as a result of frequent disputes between the supporters of the two monarchs, each of whom claimed to be the legitimate traditional ruler of the historic town. This has consistently disturbed the peace in the town because needless and unnecessary clashes resulted in the loss of lives and valuable assets worth millions of naira.
The age-long rivalry and cold war between the two traditional rulers dated back many years, and the conflict was so severe that many residents of the town were forced to leave the town and relocate to another town, having lost their houses and loved ones to the violence, while several businesses had been shut down and many business owners were left stranded due to the violence.
The state government, in its wisdom, recently recognized the two monarchs in an effort to stop the town’s violence, but this only seems to have increased tension because the followers of the two monarchs constantly claim territory that belongs to one side or the other, leading to the most recent clash in the new year, which resulted in the loss of life and property.
The genesis of the latest violence was traced to the celebration of the New Year carnival organized by the youths of the town, which turned bloody, leaving some dead while houses, shops, schools, vehicles, and other properties were destroyed in the town when the two opposing sides faced each other.
An eyewitness and resident of the town told the Nigerian Tribune that the problem started on Monday, January 2, 2023, during the carnival put together by some youths in Okoja quarters. He explained that the two sides had been laying claims to the quarters.
According to him, Olukare youths prevented some Owa Ale youths from holding events at the hall within the Okoja quarters a few days before the new year, and when the Owa Ale found out about the carnival organized by the Olukare youths, they also tried to stop them.
“You know Ikare is divided, and Okoja is like the center between the two. The Owa Ale people wanted to use the place, but Olukare youths stopped them. When the Olukare wanted to use the place for the carnival on Tuesday, the Owa Ale people stopped them, and there was a crisis.
“The shooting was so intense that the town became deserted, and they fought all through the night, with the sound of guns filling the air. This morning, the youths mobilized for another attack, and the shootings continued. Many shops have been closed down, but the police have intervened,” he said.
He further explained that “there were gunshots everywhere. There is tension all over the town as I am speaking with you; nobody could go to the shop or market in Ikare.
“Commercial activities were paralyzed, and banks too did not open for their customers for fear of hoodlums. Commercial activities in the central areas like Osele Market and Obada Market have been paralyzed. Okoja Area, Oloko Junction, and Post Office Area up to Lokoja Garage have been deserted.”
However, one of the youths in the area, who identified himself as Sanusi, laid the blame on the doorsteps of the community leaders in the area.
He explained that there was a security report that the carnival might turn bloody and should be stopped from holding, but they failed to heed the warning, saying the death and destruction would have been averted.
Speaking about the unfortunate incident, Oba Adeleke Adedoyin-Adegbite, the Owa-Ale of Ikare, said there was no justification for the incident but that some hoodlums took advantage of the chance to start a commotion in the community.
The monarch said, “when the crisis started and I was informed, I called the attention of the Nigeria Police and Commander of the Nigerian Army in the town for peace to reign, which was achieved immediately.
“Unfortunately, some armed hoodlums emerged from only God knows where and started shooting sporadically in the direction of a popular junction close to my palace.
“I had to call the Nigerian Army and the police for their intervention.”
Also, an official in the Olukare palace who said he was not allowed to speak on behalf of the palace said the Olukare of Ikare-Akoko has expressed disappointment over the development.
He claimed that despite all efforts to ensure peace in the historic town, the Olukare described the most recent incident as shocking and worrying. He claimed that some desperadoes, who feed on crisis, were responsible for sponsoring unpatriotic residents to disparage the town’s leadership.
The Ondo state government imposed a 24-hour dawn-to-dusk curfew in the town following the most recent incident, citing credible intelligence and security reports resulting from the situation in the town where an unspecified number of people were feared dead as a result of the crisis.
The state government said “this follows the escalated violent clash in the town, which has continued unabated, despite the meeting held by the government and the Olukare of Ikare, Oba Akadiri Momoh, and Owa Ale of Iyometa, Oba Adeleke Adegbite, to rein in their subjects.
“Security agencies have been directed to ensure strict compliance with the order just as investigations are already underway to unravel the real cause(s) of the violent clash. For emphasis, Ikare Akoko has been closed down for any unauthorized human movement and activity until further notice.
Through the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mrs. Bamidele Ademola-Olateju, the state government threatened to expel the two traditional chiefs if there is another communal crisis in the town while easing the curfew. The state government warned the two traditional rulers to comport themselves in line with government decisions or risk being banished.
Ademola-Olateju said the council has set up a 5-member committee to look into the crisis in Ikare and recommend resolution on the Okoja issue as well as the Oloko intercession. She listed the committee members to include Bashorun Sehinde, as the chairman, Chief Jamiu Afolabi Ekungba as a member, Dr Tunji Abayomi as a member, Mrs Oreoluwa Agbayewa member, and Mr Joseph Dele Adesanmi as secretary of the Committee.
She said the council among others resolved that any further crisis or escalation in Ikare will result in the banishment of the Olukare and Owa-Ale and said “the crisis in Ikare has resulted in stringent measures being taken by the government. Nevertheless, the curfew is now in effect from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. after being slightly relaxed in a similar manner.
Solution to the crisis
A source in the town, who does not want his name in print, while speaking on the last crisis in the town, explained that, “it is expected of any youth who wishes to carry out any carnival to take instruction from the Olokoja of Okoja, which is under Owa-Ale before going ahead with such ceremony at the heart of Okoja, but some hoodlums who have been stopped by the security agencies not to do the carnival still went ahead, which led to the crisis.
“The crisis is basically between two factions of youth groups within Okoja. Iyometa youths are not involved. One thing I can tell you for free is that both Okoja and Iyometa areas in Ikare are under Owa-Ale’s jurisdiction. It is also funny that since the Ajama white paper was released, some unscrupulous elements have been trying to make Iyometa look like a separate town from Ikare. The issue of alienation between Iyometa and Ikare in all their correspondences is a dangerous trend.”
Meanwhile, a prominent youth club in the town, Omoye Klob Youth Wing, noted that the incessant clashes have become like a recurrent bad dream, keeping them awake at odd hours and making it impossible for them to develop at the pace expected of a town of our standing.
In a statement, the club harshly denounced the altercations, calling them a disappointment that a town known for its commercial prosperity, industry, and peace would submit to such mindless fear and unease, slowing down its development and trade in the process.
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