The fresh congresses ordered by the National Working Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Oyo State yesterday turned into a killing field as three people lost their lives.
One of the well known casualties was the sacked state chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Lateef Salako (aka Eleweomo). He was killed during a crisis that ensued after the party’s congress at the Ona-Ara local government area of the state. Two other supporters of the Senate leader, Teslim Folarin, were also reportedly killed during the fracas.
The late Mr. Salako, popularly known as Eleweomo, was a staunch supporter of Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala while Mr. Folarin is an opponent of Mr. Alao-Akala.
Killed in action
Mr. Eleweomo, who was said to be one of the registered delegates at the congress, was gunned down during an exchange of gunfire between his group and the security aides attached to Mr. Folarin.
At the premises of the IDC Primary School, Olunloyo, in Ibadan, where the congress was held, four of the vehicles brought to the scene were burnt, while 10 others, including an official Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) of the local government chairman were smashed.
NEXT gathered that Mr. Folarin’s convoy was attacked by some hoodlums, allegedly led by Eleweomo, and in defence of the Senate leader, the transporters’ union leader was mowed down.
Reacting to the incident, Mr. Folarin told journalists that he was the main target of the attack. According to him, he had been alerted earlier that the faction of the party under the leadership of Mr. Alao-Akala had marked him down for assassination during the congress.
“Today again, he (Eleweomo) and his people in multifold had besieged the local government brandishing dangerous weapons, arms and ammunition. And immediately, I recalled privileged information from an Ibadan-based prominent supporter of Mr. Alao-Akala’s camp of the party that I should tread softly during these congresses because a plan had been hatched to assassinate me. Then, this made me to call the Commissioner of Police, Bola Adisa Bolanta, to alert him of the presence of Eleweomo and his gun totting hoodlums, who invaded the lawful assemblage of PDP congress,” he said.
He tacitly accused the state police command of being slow in its response to his call to prevent the violence.
“Ordinarily, because of the threat message I got two days earlier, I should not have gone to my constituency to partake in the ongoing exercise. But as a politician, at times you have to brave some odds. Knowing full well that I had no sinister intention against anybody, why would anybody be after my life?
“So, I went there yesterday and today and alerted the Commissioner of Police more than five times of the happenings in my constituency. And as a peace lover, shortly after our congress, I left there with my people and on my way home, I got information that Eleweomo and his men clashed with some members of the outlawed Odua People’s Congress (OPC) at the area,” Mr. Folarin added.
“Even my convoy was severally attacked on my way home and this resulted in the death of two of my supporters while I also learnt that two others had their arms chopped off. If I had wanted to attack Eleweomo and his people, I would have done so since Wednesday because I have my orderly and security aides in my convoy. But I never did so and I now wonder why anybody would now link the death of Eleweomo to me and my aides,” he further said.
However, the state government has dismissed Mr. Folarin’s claim and accused him of fomenting the trouble that led to the death of Mr. Eleweomo.
A statement by Dotun Oyelade, an aide to Mr. Alao-Akala, accused the Senate leader of leading, “thugs and armed policemen to the venue of the congress, shooting at will,” asking,
‘‘How come that the peaceful congress was violently disrupted at Ona Ara Folarin’s home local government?”
The government accused him of being afraid of the result of the congress and called on elected delegates to cast their vote today for the election of the state executives.
Prelude to the murder
The congress had earlier witnessed a mild drama when a group led by the deceased Eleweomo and his group successfully repelled the supporters of the Senate leader who had besieged the scene singing anti-Akala songs to discredit the governor’s faction.
They were dispersed by the overbearing strength of the hoodlums when the two sides engaged in pebbles throwing game.
After dispersing the group, the pro-Akala group hurriedly held their congress. In less than 20 minutes, they had completed the exercise and officers of the party for the local government had emerged.
Toyin Oyedele, an official of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), who monitored the congress, later described it as free and fair. The caretaker chairman of the local government, Tunde Olayiwola, also noted that the exercise went peacefully, describing the Folarin group as dissidents.
But, shortly after their dispersal, Mr. Folarin came back with his group, backed with full security strength of his office. The ensuing clash reportedly led to the death of Mr. Eleweomo and the vandalism witnessed at the scene.
One Yetunde Olayiwola, whose car was among those damaged, condemned the Senate leader for allegedly superintending over such violence against his own people.
“The future of democracy is at risk in this country. If a whole Senate leader would descend so low as to be leading hoodlums to attack his own immediate constituency the way he did, what message are we sending to the younger generations?” She asked.
Meanwhile, news of Mr. Eleweomo’s death sparked off violence at major motor parks in Ibadan metropolis yesterday, with members of the factions in the state NURTW brandishing charms and dangerous weapons, attacking each other at their parks. Policemen were later moved to the trouble spots to arrest the situation.
The Commissioner of Police, Mr. Bolanta, confirmed Mr. Eleweomo’s death when called on phone yesterday, saying that he visited the scene and saw the corpse of the factional drivers’ union leader.
Though he said that some arrests have been made in connection with the incident, he noted that he could not say much on it as at press time.
Crisis prone union
The Ibadan branch of the NURTW had been embroiled in leadership crisis between the late Eleweomo and Lateef Akinsola, known as Tokyo, since June 2, 1999.
However, on September 13 and 16th, 2010, mayhem broke out between the warring factions. The police confirmed three people dead, scores injured, and over 80 vehicles vandalised.
Also on November 8, no fewer than 11 members of the union in the state allegedly sustained injuries during an attack at the union’s secretariat in Ibadan.
The invaders were said to have arrived at the union’s state secretariat at Olomi area of Ibadan, around 6.15 a.m.
Mr. Eleweomo, who always referrred to Mr. Akinsola as ‘Oga Tokyo’, had in a recent interview agreed that there is war going on in the union, claiming that “Oga Tokyo caused it.”
According to him, the crisis started in 1999 and since then, many lives have been lost to the crisis.