Many residents of Ogun State now live in constant fear as more youths with the encouragement of politicians take to cultism and cause panic in major cities, writes DAUD OLATUNJI
While it trying to permanently end kidnappings, Ogun State is also being confronted with violence caused by cultists.
Recently, violence ensued between two rival cult groups: Eiye and Aiye confraternities. One of the violent incidents occurred not far from the Government House, Isale-Igbein, Abeokuta in the Ogun Central
The killings spread to Sagamu in the Ogun East Senatorial District and later to Sango-Ota in the Ogun West Senatorial District claiming many lives.
No fewer than 60 persons have been gruesomely killed in various clashes between cult groups in different parts of the state between 2019 and 2022.
Areas which have been turned into battlefields for cultists are Abeokuta, Ifo, Sagamu, Ijebu-Ode, Sango-Ota and Ijebu-Igbo.
The immediate past Commissioner of Police in the state, Edward Ajogun in January 2021, confirmed that at least 25 persons were killed in cult clashes in different parts of Ijebu-Ode.
Also in November 2020, about 20 people were killed in various cult clashes between members of the two groups also in Ijebu-Ode.
The killings, however, subsided for a while before it recently reared its ugly head with the latest killing of 15 people.
Sources told our correspondent that the recent killings had been going on almost on a daily basis before the latest one that happened a few weeks ago, claiming the life of a notorious cult leader in the state capital.
Thursday, March 24 would continue to linger in the memories of the traders and passers-by at Panseke market, who were caught in the web of the killing of a cult leader, Tommy Boy.
The ever bubbling Panseke market became a ghost of itself shortly after some gun-wielding young men invaded the market and went straight for their target.
The traders and passers-by scampered for safety as gunshots rented the air while the assailants were hacking Tommy Boy to death . He was hacked to death by suspected members of the Aiye cult group.
It was further gathered that Tommy Boy was a suspected leader of the Eiye confraternity group, a notorious cult well known to many people in Panseke, Onikolobo, Oluwo, Adigbe and Onikoko communities, mostly populated by students of the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic in Abeokuta.
Prior to his death, ,six others had been hacked to killed in the same manner by the two groups in reprisals.
The killings took place in different parts of Abeokuta such as a relaxation centre at Asero, Kugba, Ikereku, Panseke, Adigbe, Oke- Ijeun and Isale-Abetu. Tommy boy’s death sparked off the killings of eight persons residing in Sagamu. Seven persons were reportedly killed in Abeokuta within one week.
Sharing their feelings with our correspondent on why the clashes lingered in the state, some of the residents of the state blamed the government and politicians for the violence .
Some of the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity, cited the case of late ‘Tommy Boy whom they said had become terror in the state capital while the government looked the other way.
Tommy boy was reported to have installed himself as a transport union leader collecting levies from commercial motorcyclists, popularly known as okada riders in Oluwo, where he resided.
Some non-governmental organisations, community leaders and residents attributed the thriving of cultism to politicians’ action during elections
The Executive Director, Women For Peace, a gender equality initiative, Mojisola Akinsanya said the solution to the problem could only be discovered after getting to the root of the menace .
Akinsanya said, “Politicians are driving cultism whether we like it or not. It is when politicians can take that bold step that during this election, we are not going to use thugs nor fraternity to mobilise or intimidate people.”
For Adesina Adefolahan, Executive Director, Community Education, Advancement of Peace and Development Initiatives, the need to talk to politicians to stop encouraging cultism is imperative.
On his part, Tola Adenekan, the Chief Executive Officer for Center for Grassroots Education, Healthcare and Empowerment, said, “The government in the state needs to be more serious and focused in tackling the issue of cultism.”
A resident of Sagamu where eight persons were killed in one day, who preferred to be simply identified as Adesewa, said Sagamu had been turned into a slaughter slab by the cultists .
Speaking on the reasons for the recent killings in some parts of the state, especially Sagamu, Adesewa said, “All we heard was that they killed their leader in Abeokuta and they were also retaliating.”
A community leader, the Executive Chairman, Ilugun Community, Itesiwaju Ilugun Community Development Association, Adekunle Moses raised the alarm that a lot of young boys were involved in cultism .
The state Chairman of Police Community Relations Committee, Dr. Samson Popoola attributed the incessant menace of cultism to the proliferation of tertiary institutions in the state.
Popoola said the case of cultism in the state was not worse compared to other states, claiming that media publicity had the perception of a bad situation.
Speaking on the extent of damage of the menace, Commandant National School Crime Prevention Corps , Dr Ige Folayinka, said the clashes had claimed many lives in the last six months in the state .
He said the situation was so bad that the killings had been extended to secondary schools in the state.
The Special Adviser to the governor on Communications, Remmy Hazzan said prior to the moment it reared its ugly head, the government had nipped it in the bud .
He said the recent killings showed that the government needed to go back to the drawing board to reassess the situation.
Hazzan said, “For some times now, it actually subsided and we thought that the step we took especially when the Ijebu saga happened, we thought that, the step would subsume it until the unfortunate recurrence that took place in Abeokuta for which the attacks now began to bring out their ugly heads especially the Sagamu area.
“We need to come up with a solution; more encompassing and sustainable and that means every single stakeholder in this matter is of importance; the parents of these people that are involved, influential people in the society who have access to those who have been fingered in all of these involvement in cult-related issue, the security agency, community leaders, everybody matters in this particular case so that we can have peace because without peace every effort and progress will just be completely useless.”
When asked to react to the general belief that the body language of the state government allowed cultism to thrive, Hazzan faulted the submission .
He denied that the government was pampering the hoodlums, challenging anyone with such a belief to be specific on what he meant .
Hazzan said, “That is not a fair way to intervene and whoever says things like that too should be able to narrow it down to the specific because what you call body language may not be something that is true .
“The person also needs to press it down. What type of body language? Do we have suspects that are being condoned. Do we have members of our cabinet who are promoting cultism? Do we have people who are friends of the administration that are promoting cultism? What exactly is specific about the body language allegation?”
On the official adoption of yellow colour by the state government which is believed to be a subtle way to support a particular fraternity among the cult groups, Hazzan cleared the air, saying yellow was adopted for political reasons and not otherwise.
Hazzan said, “Now, the issue of yellow is more of a decision that came by our late commencement of campaign in 2018 and 2019 and we were just looking at. If we are going to be able to have a branded shirt because we want to run a crash programme about our campaign, can we have a uniformed colour that is very bright and easily noticed in which we could be identified,
“Now that decision came, there’s no colour that you will use in any electioneering that a particular group of fraternal fellows will not say it’s their colour, go for blue the Eiye confraternity will say it’s their colour, go for yellow, the Buccaneers will say it’s their colour, go for red, the Aiye will say it’s their colour, go for black, the black axe will say it’s their colour.”
Reacting to the development, the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Abimbola Oyeyemi said the command had swung into action by setting up a special squad to tackle the menace of cultism.