I just smuggled my way out of the hell-hole in Ifo/Ado Odo-Ota axis of Ogun State now. It’s a complete mess. Clearly, the Police are overwhelmed. From Ijaiye through Toll-gate, Dalemo, Sango, Ijoko/Ogba-Ayo, Gasline, Ota, Agbado Crossing, Joju, Oniyale, Iyana-Ilogbo, all the way to Ifo, tension is high among folks in those communities as we speak. The bad boys are ransacking homes in broad daylight, carting away money and foodstuff. Three separate individuals in Ijoko told me they came last night, carting away money and anything edible they could lay their hands on. Hungry lots.
The somewhat heartwarming part is that community members have largely stood against them in the last five days, observing vigils amid bonfires. Yet, sadly, at least two people have died in one community in Ijoko, their heroic moves unsung, their gallantry buried in the midst of the chaos.
As scary as the tweets being directed at the do-nothing OGSG on Twitter via the #OgunUnrest hashtag are, they are for me a tip of the iceberg of what obtains in that axis of the state NOW. A two-day peregination of these areas have shown me far worse developments.
I spoke to a man in Joju who narrated how they invaded their homes around noon Thursday. Some hungry boys with tiny necks, they came wielding POS machine, baying for blood and money and Semovita. So pervasive have the boys become that Police now reject SOS messages, multiple residents confirmed this to me. I did try the emergency numbers, too, earlier today. No luck. Overwhelmed.
The sociological makeup of this part of the stae shows that it’s traditionally the hideout of retired criminals and promising urchins, many of whom Lagos flushed out of its ghettos back in the day. Again, in these communities, at least 60 percent residents are wallowing in abject poverty. I spoke to an aged woman, a pepper seller, who had almost her entire capital swept off by the rampaging boys Wednesday. She spoke to me in ways that suggest that her poverty has found a new nomenclature, defying simple social categorisation. I realise yet again that in this clime, it is expensive to be poor. Pathetic.
What’s heartbreaking is that in the quest for survival, folks have become very desperate. You stand a very high chance of being lynched if you preach “social distancing” in that axis as I type this. Yesterday, I watched as young men gathered to form a shield around Iyana-Ilogbo, whispering gibberish into one another’s ears. It’s a pathetic sight. The situation was same in Plaza, where, in the absence of the state, young men mingle freely to devise their own means of ambushing the rascals. But do you blame them for having no regard for a virus they can’t “see”—–in the face of devising pushback mechanism against a death-inducing threat they can see and literally feel?
When this covid19 phase is finally over, there will be too many heroes for us to recognise. But, sadly, the genuine heroes would go unrecognised, their commendable efforts buried in obscurity. Many of these unsung heroes are in Ifo, Agbado and Ijako areas as I speak now, young boys observing sleepless nights amid fear and piercing sounds of bullets, pushing back against criminality with their bare hands and unusual courage.
May they all live to witness the birth of a new dawn.
From Oladeinde Olawoyin