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06.03.2023 Featured REPORTER’S DIARY: In Ibadan, I Met Scarred, Limping Political Thugs Who Wanted More Violence

Published 6th Mar, 2023

By Tola Owoyele

As the 2023 general election in Nigeria gathered momentum, FIJ’s TOLA OWOYELE visited Ile-tuntun, Alafara, Elenu Sonso, all in Oyo State, to speak to a few actors whose actions could affect the election outcome.


For close to 45 minutes, I waited at a beer parlour for the man I had an appointment with. During a phone conversation we had an hour earlier, he had told me to wait for him at the joint in Ile-Tuntun, Ibadan, Oyo State.

As the evening progressed, the joint saw more customers, many of them men who obviously had just returned from work, come in to buy drinks and assorted meat. While some sat in groups, drank, laughed and shared news of how their day went freely, some simply drank alone, not to be disturbed by anyone.

“Are you ready to order anything now? The beer parlour’s lady attendant asked me. When I told her I was not ready, she left with a scowl, fuming as she returned to her counter.

The latest exchange marked her second time of asking if she could take my order. She was displeased because my latest response was beginning to make her feel I only came to “buy time and occupy space”.

As I attempted calling the man I was waiting for the second time, a baritone voice suddenly addressed me from behind.

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“I am sorry it took me a while to get here, bro. I needed to take care of a few things,” the person said.

From the voice, I knew the man I had been waiting for had arrived. He was a man of few words. His name is Ogangan (not real name).

After greeting a few people around the room, he returned to where I sat and said, “It is too crowded in here. Let’s sit outside and talk.”

OGANGAN’S STORY

Ogangan
Ogangan

Ogangan soon found a corner for the two of us outside the beer parlour. Before I could ask him my first question, he went into his story himself.

“I supply ice creams to schools and organisations to make ends meet,” Ogangan said.

“The 2019 election was quite an interesting one. I worked with one candidate called Bayo Penkele and it was hectic. I went to Ilu meta, Saki, Oke-Iho and Iseyin as a part of his campaign train. I was one of the people that drove one of the buses that were taken to campaign grounds.

“There’s no way you’ll go on such trips and won’t encounter one or two challenges. The money we were paid was not good. In our own case, money was first received by a middleman.

“It was after he took his own share that he gave us what he felt we deserved. The amount that was slashed and given to us was nothing to write home about. What was initially promised was N18,000. What we got in the end was N4,000 each.”

Ogangan then gave the details of one incident.

“In 2019, during the last election, I supported the APC. Bayo was with the APC then. He has now decamped to the Accord Party. As we were coming from a campaign in the night, we were attacked by thugs from the other party. During the attack, they damaged the bus we travelled on. It was an ambush. They knew we would ply that route and they lay in wait for us to get to a part of the express way,” said Ogangan.

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“As soon as we got to that spot, they started shooting at us. This happened after we passed Iseyin. We were coming back to Ibadan. Our candidate escaped from danger and his entourage quickly drove him to safety.

“I did not fight back that day because I was on the wheel and was responsible for driving many to safety. But some of the guys I traveled with did not show cowardice. They stood their ground and fought back. I won’t lie to you, many people suffered varying degrees of wounds from machete strikes. Casualties were recorded on both sides.”

When I asked Ogangan if the clash was what was responsible for his slightly but permanently bent left arm, he said it was from another violent political clash.

Ogangan said Penkele later footed the hospital bills for the treatment his supporters received after the attack. He also said that after the incident, the paltry sum he was given despite risking his life for the contestant made him leave the APC for the PDP.

Adebayo “Penkelemesi” Adelabu, the aspirant Ogangan worked for at the time, is a former Deputy Governor, Operations, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Apart from being the 2019 Oyo State gubernatorial candidate of the APC, he is also the grandson of Adegoke Adelabu, Nigeria’s Minister of Natural Resources and Social Services from 1955 to 1956.

He is presently the Accord Party’s 2023 governorship candidate in Oyo State.

Adebayo Adelabu
Adebayo Adelabu

Ahead of the general election that would start on February 25, Ogangan said he had been approached by politicians.

“Well, as far as the coming elections are concerned, we have received many requests from many aspirants. We have been approached by Remi Oseni, Sunday Oni and Teslim Folarin,” said Ogangan.

“Remi Oseni gave us N500,000 when he came around. Personally, I received N5,000 when the money was shared. When Teslim Folarin came around, we were given N100,000.”

READ ALSO: REPORTER’S DIARY: Ogun PDP Members Envy APC Money and Can’t Wait to Take Power

When I asked Ogangan if the token given to him and other youths in the Ile-Tuntun area by the aspirants came with expectations, he said they were just gifts.

“They only came around and then gave the youths the tokens when they were leaving,” he said.

When he was asked if he would be willing to do any assignment given to him by the aspirants as the elections drew near, he said yes.

“Right now, they have not reached out to us for services, but, if they eventually do, I’ll do it,” Ogangan said.

“If they want me to stand as a party agent on election day, I will do it. If it is to employ the use of force on the election day as well, I will do it. And once things degenerate into the use of force, I will collect my pay on the spot.”

After a while, I asked Ogangan how he gets the weapons he uses during elections.

“I would not want to mention names, but we have on many occasions been handed weapons by politicians, mainly for protection.”

When he was asked if he had had a cause to use the weapon on the opposition, he said “many times”.

ADABA OF ELENU-SONSO

Adaba
Adaba

After my encounter with Ogangan, I visited Adaba (not real name), another source, in Elenu-Sonso, Ibadan.

“None of the political aspirants would willingly offer you a gun for electoral violence,” Adaba said, after offering me a seat across him.

“Whoever chooses to carry arms during election periods does so only when they deem it is necessary. They carry such weapons on their own,” Adaba said.

“There are times we would have to go in convoys and everyone on the journey would have to be the one to protect themself with whatever they deem fit for the occasion. What that means is that you are to protect yourself on such journeys, and it has to be to your own taste.

“I must, however, let you know that your protection comes mostly from you and not the aspirant you work for. You have been paid not only to get the job for which you have been hired done but also to protect yourself.”

Adaba then spoke about threats during elections.

“Well, I was not brought up to be a coward. You can’t also say you want to come and cause trouble in my ward and expect me and my crew to keep quiet,” Adaba said.

“Of course, we would have to slug it out fists to fists, weapons to weapons. It has to be a fight to the finish.”

At this moment, Adaba suddenly told me to turn off my recorder.

“In 2019, I was in one of the wards we have here when six fearsome guys stormed the place,” Adaba said.

“One of them suddenly brought out his gun and shot in the air. This made voters and INEC officials scamper.

“Some three guys and I did not run. When they saw this, they knew we were at the polling unit to represent someone’s interest too. Fight broke out and there were casualties on both sides.”

I then asked him if the clash resulted in the loss of lives.

“No,” he answered, “But people were seriously injured. Their intention was to snatch the ballot box. In the end, and because of our efforts, they could not.”

“Our candidate knew this was going to happen. That was why he paid us to protect the polling unit.”

When I asked him if there were no security agencies at the unit, he said he would not want to talk about the police. He also refused to tell me the name of the candidate he represented during the incident.

READ ALSO: Adesina and Olabimpe Ajanaku: A Thrilling Love Story Abruptly Ended in Owo by Terrorists

As I rose to leave, Adaba offered to walk with me a bit. This was when I noticed the several scars on his body. A deep scar across his right arm looked like it had been inflicted with a machete.

It was also during the walk that I realised that he walked with a limp.

As if he knew what I was thinking, he said with a smile, “Bro, don’t worry, na fight during election cause everything wey you dey see.”

MECO’S STORY

Meco
Meco

Alafara is about five minutes drive from Ile-Tuntun, the location I first visited to talk to Ogangan. Sitting under a tree that was not too far from the only motorable road in the area was Meco (not real name). The moment he saw me, he flashed a smile and motioned me to join him under the tree.

After we exchanged pleasantries, Meco told me he had limited time to spend with me because he still needed to attend to a few things.

“I was an APC member in 2019. During that period, I worked for a politician that was simply referred to as ‘Comrade’. After we worked as party agents and also offered protection, what was promised us was not what we were given at the end of the day,” Meco said.

“He promised to give us motorbikes and other incentives during the election, but at the end of the day, he only gave us a paltry sum. It was disappointing.”

I then asked Meco if he would still be willing to provide protection if another politician approached him in the coming election.

“Sure. Why not? I have boys that are willing to do the job for them, provided they are willing to pay us on the spot. I won’t say because I have been disappointed in terms of rewards in the past, I won’t carry out assignments for them again,” said Meco.

At first, Meco said he had never experienced election violence. When he saw that I did not buy this, he smiled and shook his head. Just like Adaba, he also requested that I turn off my recorder.

“In our world, there is no way you won’t encounter violence during campaigns and elections,” he said.

READ ALSO: REPORTER’S DIARY: Mass of No Return: Aftermath of the Owo Catholic Church Attack

“There are also times that you will leave your home during such periods and will not be able to tell whether you will make it back.

“I have seen things. I have also lost friends on the job.”

When I asked him to give me just one experience that could show how dangerous their job was, he said he would not mention names and place, but that something happened during the 2019 general election.

“While on a job during the last general election, some members of an opposition party suddenly started shooting in the air when the electoral officers were sorting out the ballot papers. The counting of votes had not even started yet,” said Meco.

“They resorted to violence because they knew the outcome wasn’t going to favour them. While everyone present ran for their lives, my boys and I resisted them.”

“In the end, both parties sustained varying degrees of injuries, but nobody died. Despite preventing them from carting the ballot box away, the officials still went ahead to cancel the exercise in the area.”

OYO POLITICS AND VIOLENCE SINCE 1999

Since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, politics in Oyo State has been characterised by godfatherism and acts of violence. A notable figure during the early stages of Nigeria’s fourth republic was Lamidi Adedibu, an Ibadan-based politician that stood as a political kingmaker in the state. Known to be a brute, Adedibu was dreaded because of the number of thugs he had in his corner.

His exploits in Oyo State politics would later pave the way for other political thugs like Tokyo, Auxillary, Elewe-omo, Concord  and Alado.

The violent activities of these thugs have led to the loss of many lives in the state. It also led to many instances of ballot box snatching and other acts of violence during the 2019 election. Olatoye Temitope, one of the members of the Federal House of Representatives from the state, was shot and killed by unknown thugs at his polling unit.

READ ALSO: INVESTIGATION: Farmer-Herder Clashes in Nasarawa Through the Eyes of the Victims

For Ogangan, Adaba and Meco, whoever comes with money gets their attention, trust and loyalty during elections. All that is important is the immediate reward they can get from their principal. Whatever they (the principal) end up doing after getting power is unimportant.

This Story was produced in partnership with the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD).

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Published 6th Mar, 2023

By Tola Owoyele

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