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Apaara Vs Oke-Apo: The Untold Story Of How Unending Gang Wars Cripple Oyo Town

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Few hours after a gang war claimed a life in Ibadan, another gang war ensued in Oyo town; between the Oke Apo boys and the Apaara boys. It was said to be a reprisal. Oke Apo and Apaara are neighboring areas in Oyo East local government.

In the Ibadan episode, a gang leader, Moshood Ekugbemi, lost his life after he was axed by to ‘one million boys,’ led by Abiola Ebila, who has been declared wanted by the police.

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In Oyo town, primary and secondary school dropouts, have ‘bases’ in front of their family houses. They are mostly between the ages of 15 and 30. Like their Ibadan counterparts, elders in the community dare not challenge them. Everywhere you go, their presence is obvious.

One afternoon, Idowu, a mechanic vying for the chieftaincy position of Alapini, was approached by some young boys who asked him to give them something, he said, No, and that was enough for the guys to send him on a journey of no return.

Bola (not real name) had to leave Oyo for another town after her shop was looted during a gang war on three different occasions within a few months.

The stories of Idowu and Bola are just two out of the many troubles the people of Oyo face as a result of the gang wars in the town that has crippled several activities.

In this report, OYOINSIGHT.COM’s Adebayo Abdulrahman takes a look at how unending gang wars have crippled the ancient town.

In The Beginning- There Was Unemployment, Hard Drugs

For several years, the people of various communities in Oyo have had to adapt to the change in their environment, they have come to par with the reality that theirs is a world they must live in with perpetual fear, and be prepared for the possibility of random gunshots, unexpected attacks, reprisal attacks, and probably another attack.

Unlike a tree, the root of these gang wars cannot be found in the soil, rather, the cause of this unending war is rooted in the unemployment of the majority of youths in the society.

According to Olorunpoto AbdulRahman Cephas, the president of Oyo Global Forum, the root of these gang wars is the high rate of unemployment and the consumption of hard drugs

“Since they are jobless, they settle down and gang up in the various joints scattered around the town. These joints serve as an avenue for them to formulate plans, not for the development of the town but to strategize on how to approach the next war with other gangs.

Expressing sadness after last week’s ‘war’, Alhaji Saheed Siyanbola, wrote: “We have witnessed many unfortunate incidents of hoodlums unleashing mayhem on innocent citizens of the town in times past. Such fracas have often resulted in murder, looting of shops/homes and vandalization of personal and public properties.

“In recent times, various indigenous groups and concerned individuals have stood up to the occasion challenging security agencies and the government to rise up to combat the menace. Unfortunately, we are still where we are.

“The menace has never ceased. Young boys between the ages of 15 – 25 have taken joy in bringing sorrow to people. They do not hesitate to unleash their mayhem at any time of the days and after perpetrating these acts, take covers in their homes under the protection of their unfortunate parents while the security agwncies watch helplessly.

“The obvious fact is these boys are known by residents of their communuties but who is bold enough to identify them? Does the security agencies even have the effontery to confront them when they are being protected by their people?,” Omo Iya Kunmi, as he is popularly called, had added.

A Show Of Force

The president of the forum stressed further that the unending war between these gangs is a show of force because all the wars between these gangs, including the most recent one between Apaara and Oke-Apo is rooted in the need for these gangs to fight for supremacy and prove how powerful they are.

He also laid emphasis on the fact that the last war is a reprisal attack by the Oke-Apo gang against Apaara, the same way all wars that preceded them are a reprisal attack to another war that had been fought before.

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Fracas Or Facade?

The question of whether these gang wars are caused by the need to prove how powerful they are or motivated by the loot they cart away became pertinent due to the fact that when these gangs begin their fight, they prioritize the looting of shops in the community.

Commenting further, Omo Iya Kunmi, who is a community-based activist and the founder of Omo Iya Kunmi Foundation, stated that “during most of these fights, their sole motive is to probably loot and exploit innocent people because once they start their problem what they do is that they attack shops.”

He stressed further that “if it was to be a one-on-one fight, they would have focused on that rather than use that opportunity to loot shops because once they start, people would have no choice but to run helter-skelter.”

He added that since they are jobless, they would want to have a means to sustain their lifestyle.

The activist did not dispute the fact that they truly attack themselves for supremacy but maintain that their ulterior motive is to scavenge and rob people and their shops.

Integrated By The Political Class?

Even though some stakeholders in the town who spoke with OYOINSIGHT.COM disputed the possibility of the political class having any contribution to the genesis of the gang wars.

However, Hassan Adebayo, who is the secretary of the OGF, in a chat with OYOINSIGHT.COM wrote that “Oyo like any other urban place has for long had issues with young persons with violent tendencies.  But it got to a public crisis level when the local leadership in the town integrated these boys into their working system.

He added that it’s clear enough that the local leadership made them a part of their instruments of abuse, oppression, and politicking.

An Atmosphere Of Fear And Trepidation?

The effect the unending wars between these gangs have had on the community has been damaging, to say the least.

A community leader, Archbishop Ayo Ladigbolu, in a discussion with OYOINSIGHT.COM explained that “the activities of these gangs have created an atmosphere of fear and trepidation within the entire community because people are now gripped by fear, cannot sleep well at night, are afraid to go out in the evening, and are not even sure of their personal safety.

The eighty-two-year-old retired Archbishop of the Methodist Church said these gangs have created so much fear that people are now afraid to open their shops because they don’t know what will happen next or what hour the next fight will commence

The Poverty Effect

Omo Iya Kunmi also explained that when these gang wars start, the gangs turn the main road from Ilaka through Oke Apo to Durbar into a battlefield and as a result of this, shops, offices and all sort of business activities in these communities are closed down for as long as the fight last and this sometimes could be for weeks.

The effect of this, based on data, is better imagined than experienced.

According to the World Poverty Capital in February 2019, 91.6 million Nigerians are living below the poverty line of $1.90 per day. This report named Nigeria as the poverty capital of the world a position the African giant occupies till date.

A report by SBM Intel gives flesh to Nigerias position as the poverty capital of the world, the study by SBM on the consumption pattern of Nigerian households shows that 63 percent of Nigerians have nothing left from their income after spending on food.

This shows that at least 63 percent of families who rely on the income from the over two hundred shops in these communities in Oyo have no choice but to go to bed without food anytime this unending war is ongoing.
Bola Had To Relocate

Bola (not real name) had to leave Oyo and relocate to another town after her shop was looted during gang wars on three different occasions within a few months.

A friend who narrated Bolas ordeal to OYOINSIGHT.COM explained that after the first two occasions, Bola had to take some time to gather enough funds to stock up before re-opening her shop. But, after her shop was looted at the third time during gang wars within a few months, she had no choice but to relocate to another town the friend said.

‘Suffering And Smiling’ Is A Must

When Fela Kuti said, suffering and smiling, he must have had a lot of things on his mind but the people of Oyo town most likely did not top the list of his worries.

However, residents of the communities terrorized by the activities of these gangs are suffering yet they have no choice but to smile because, according to a resident, when the Police apprehend some of these boys, people would always come to bail them before they are charged to court.

He added that “when these guys are granted bail, they return back to the community and become bolder to commit their atrocities. This alone is enough to create fear in the mind of anyone who wants to give the security agencies any tip or information about who these guys are because they don’t want these guys to come for them when they return.

The Trend Will Continue

Omo Iya Kunmi also noted that if care is not taken, the trend will continue because the psychological effect of the fact that people can commit the level of atrocities these gangs are committing and go scot-free is telling on the younger generation.

He cited the example of a fight among about 50 young boys between the ages of 10 and 13 years on the 11th of April in broad daylight.

Operation Burst: An Army Faraway From The War Zone

OGF president, Olorunpoto, also lamented that the location of the Operation Burst office in Oyo is not in a place where it will send a very strong signal to people because it is located in a very relaxed part of the town.

He added that their office is located in an unfavorable position to respond quickly to the gang wars.

He called for a change in the location of their office to a more strategic place where they can attack the issue on the ground because there is no connection between their current location and the unending wars that have crippled the town.

He agreed that the case of the Operation Burst can be likened to that of an army fighting a war far away from the war zone.

The Fatherly Role Oba Lamidi Adeyemi Must Play

Various residents who spoke with OYOINSIGHT.COM all emphasized the need for the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, to intervene in the matter to help put a stop to the various atrocities of these gangs.

Omo Iya Kunmi described the office of the Alaafin as highly revered one that comes with over five functions.

In his words:  The Alaafin of Oyo, with his political influence and traditional position should summon all the Baales in the affected areas. A stern warning would do this. Let them be warned that any attempted violence in their domains could lead to the loss of their chieftaincy titles

”Secondly, Baba should help us reach out to the government with his unshaken influence to further increase their efforts towards combating the menace of these hoodlums.

Olorunpoto, in his own submission, also laid emphasis on the fact that the king has the wherewithal to call everyone to order and issue a stern warning to all Baales (community heads) in the community.

Archbishop Ayo Ladigbolu, however, disagreed with those who claimed the Alaafin had not interfered in the issue.

He said “the Alaafin had intervened on a number of times, people must have been ignorant of the intervention that is why they are saying he should intervene.”

He maintained that he is a living witness to the fact that the Alaafin had intervened in the issue, adding that, “the Oyomesi and the Igbimo Atunluse Oyo Metropolitan, which he leads , have also intervened.

He, however, added that there is no limit to the number of times the Alaafin have to intervene in the affairs of his own domain.

Stakeholders’ Meeting, Vigilante System

The elder statesman also called for a meeting of all the gangs with stakeholders so that they can explain to the community what they want and why they are quarreling, and the community can decide on the measures to put in place to find a lasting solution to the unending wars.

OGF president, Olorunpoto, however, called on the local government to implement the vigilante system so that anytime there is violence anywhere in the community, they can come out en masse and make arrests while expecting the police to prosecute the culprits.

Security Summit Delayed By COVID-19 Pandemic

Arowosaye Saheed Adeyemi, the caretaker chairman of Oyo East local government while discussing with OYOINSIGHT.COM disclosed that his administration had put in place plans for a security summit where all stakeholders including the gangs, security agencies, traditional rulers, religious rulers, and other gladiators would sit to discuss the issue and find a lasting solution.

He, however, noted that due to the outbreak of COVID-19, they had to put a hold to the plan to prevent a large gathering of people.

He also noted that some of these guys had been apprehended by the police and investigation is ongoing.

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