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Life returns as survivors still count losses
From CLEMENT ADEYI, Osogbo
Life is gradually returning to Sabo in Ile-Ife, Osun State, after the March 8, 2017 community clash. According to eye witnesses, hell was let loose on when a mere misunderstanding between an Hausa man and a Yoruba woman degenerated to a free-for-all at Sabo Market when he allegedly slapped the woman for turning down his request to keep his luggage in her shop.
Miffed by what the Yoruba youths around considered as an assault by a man against a fellow woman, they allegedly descended on the Hausa man in retaliation, beat him to stupor and locked him up in the same shop. In the circumstance, some Hausa people present at the scene of the scuffle also fought back to rescue their kinsman.
Daily Sun gathered that just when the dust was beginning to settle, fresh crisis sprang up. The community, which had over the years enjoyed peace suddenly, began to witness chaos. Some Yoruba and Hausa youths, including other hoodlums took to the streets by 6.30pm.
This resulted in the use of dangerous weapons including guns and arrows. There were loss of lives and wanton destruction property. In twinkling of an eye, the community became a shadow of itself, leaving heavy casualties in its wake.
Police report confirmed that 46 people lost their lives, while 96 others were injured. Property worth millions of naira were also lost. Thousands of people were also rendered homeless as their houses were set ablaze, while a lot more lost their businesses as their shops were also torched.
However, the police arrested about 38 suspects in connection with the crisis, following an allegation that they capitalized on the scuffle to wreak havoc. But 18 were later released unconditionally for lack of prima facie evidence against them.
When Daily Sun visited the scene of the incident, hundreds of people were seeing fleeing to safety. Some said they were fleeing to the North, while others said they were going to take solace in their friends’ and relations’ houses in neighbouring towns such as Ilesa, Akure, Ondo and Ado-Ekiti.
Though life is gradually returning to the community, absolute peace remains fragile as security agencies, particularly police, are still keeping surveillance on the town to forestall any further attack.
Also, Hausa leader, the Afobaje of Arewa Hausawa, Alhaji Malami Nasidi, said: “Though life is returning to Sabo now, peace is still under threat because some youths still throw insults at us. But we won’t reply them because we are for peace.
“We don’t have anywhere to go. Ile-Ife is our ancestral home. Our forefathers came to settle here more than 200 years ago. Our great grand fathers were born and bred here. Most of us were born and bred here and this is where we have our businesses and families. Even if we travel to the North now, our people would be asking us, ‘when are we going back home?’ referring to Ife)?”
He disclosed that some survivors who fled to the North and those that took solace in neighbouring towns are returning to Sabo to continue with life: “The Yoruba people now cooperating with us and buy things from those (the Hausa) who have started their businesses. Also, we (Hausa) and Yoruba pray together in the same mosque as usual without any malice or quarrel.”
According to him, people who were rendered homeless sleep in houses that were luckily spared, while many others sleep outside without fear of attack since normalcy returned to the community: “About 50 people sleep in one room, while several others sleep outside. But there is no fear of further attack any more.”
On how his people are feeding since they have lost all their means of livelihood, Nasidi said they depend largely on the relief materials and donations from the state government and concerned individuals. He said the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahaman Danbanzzau, former Kano State Governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso and Senator Babajide Omoworare among others who paid sympathy visits to the community donated cash and bags of rice to them.
He said the restored peace was not under any threat “because we are for peace. We are ready to hearken to the appeals by our leaders, especially Kwankwaso and Danbazzau, to remain calm and peaceful. We have been telling our youths to remain peaceful and avoid retaliation. In any case, we want government to go into the roots of the matter and bring justice to bear. We also want government to rehabilitate us and make life meaningful for us.”
A couple of Yoruba shop owners also resumed businesses. Madam Iyabo Ojo said: “I sell provisions in my shop and I have been here for several years. We and the Hausa people have been cooperating. There was no quarrel until this recent fight. I have opened my shop now. But there is no market like before because of the fight.”
Ayodele Olufemi who sells rugs and carpets, said: “The market has opened. Peace has returned and life is picking up gradually as you can see. I have opened my shop since peace has been restored. There is no more fight. But there is no business like before. We are only hoping that things will improve soon.”
Investigations confirmed that cucumbers, carrots, kolanuts, watermelons, onions pepper and tomatoes usually brought from the North are missing. A dealer, Mallam Abubakar Bello from Kano, said: “Since the fight which crippled the market, the Hausa people who sell cucumbers, carrots, water melons, tomatoes, onions and pepper are no longer selling. The prices of the few ones that we find in the market are very high,” an Ibo woman who sells soup ingredients lamented.
Mallam Ibrahim Tanko, a tyre merchant said about 35 percent had returned to base. He believed that their return would encourage others to return.
Visit to the market showed that businesses have picked up as shops that were not torched have reopened. Hawkers were seen with their wares and people going about their normal businesses. Also, banks and schools shut for fear of being attacked have since reopened.
Some of the Hausa who sell suya, tea and bread have resumed skeletal service in tents and kiosks.
The Central Mosque, Sabo is a Mecca of sort. A tailor, Mallam Muhammed, from Kano said: “I sleep in the mosque. But my wife and three children are in Kano since I don’t have a home in Sabo now.”
Nasiru Ali: “I used to sell ponmo on wholesale basis and was making N56,000 gain per week. But I lost all my money during the fight. Now, I don’t have anything again. My family is in Kano and I don’t know when they will come back.”
Tanko Umaru: “I am from Kano State. My house was destroyed. I kept my family with my people in Efon Alaiye in Ekiti State. I have five children. But I sleep in the mosque in Sabo. I used to sell kola nuts and was making between N30,000 and N35,000 gains per week. I lost N500,000 during the fight. Now my pocket is empty.”
Ibrahim Muazu: “I am a tyre dealer with a major distributor, Michelin. Two weeks after I got a big supply in a trailer, the fight started and everything was destroyed (pointing to the wreckage of the products in three of the shops that were razed down). I lost N1.350million. How do I recover now? I am finished.”
Aminu Abdullahi: “I deal in assorted provisions, but lost my shops during the fight. They came and parked all the provisions in a vehicle before they set the shops of fire. I also lost my Toyota Corolla that I bought two weeks before the fight. I also lost about N13million because I am not somebody that keep money in the bank. As I speak with you, I don’t have anything. I lost everything. I have six children. Me and my family sleeps in my brother’s house. We pray to God to help us.”