The city of Ibadan, still “running splash of gold and rust”, as JP Clark presented it more than half a century ago [1965 to be precise], was confronted late evening of January 16, 2024, by a rude, huge bang, the type it had never experienced.

Ibadan, very much at home with its ancient traditional ways, has continued over the years, to combine a vibrant live of ancient and modern. Historically, the town, capital of Oyo State, is not a stranger to conflicts. Even at that, what befell it on January 16, was not another breakout of conflict or some sectional violence, as it was used to. Nor was it any type of adversary it had prepared for. The explosion of January 16, 2024, literarily landed on the city out of the blues. The epicentre of the explosion was reported to be the Bodija area. However, the impact of the bang was extensive, shaking buildings in different parts of the ancient town, including the Governor’s office, the University College Hospital, the State House of Assembly and the Secretariat. Windows were reportedly shattered and roofs gave way. The explosion was that massive.

The official narrative of the unprecedented explosion that rocked Ibadan on January 16, 2024, was simple, if not simplistic. According to the official line, the huge explosion resulted from the activity of an illegal miner, who had, over time, stacked explosives in his residence. Whether the said explosives store was in a basement, in the open air or inside a house, was not said.

As the stories came, unofficially, in support of the official narrative, people were aware of the dangerous arsenal at the miner’s home, located in a residential part of the city, where various decent citizens also live. Somehow, however, nobody had ever raised issues about the miner’s deadly tool of work. For good measure, the miner was said to be a foreigner, a Malian. From reports, following the explosion, the Malian illegal miner was not around, possibly not in the country, when his explosives detonated. What could have triggered off the explosion? Did the explosives simply explode due to heat? If the said miner was not at home, then he certainly was not at work at the point in time. Even then, is he, alongside many other residents of the Dejo Oyelese area, where the explosion was identified to have occurred, living on top of a mining area? Cock and bull narratives aside, what actually set Ibadan on fire?

So many questions to ask and so many loose ends about what officially, was said to have transpired. One Yoruba association, Apapo O’dua Koya [AOKOYA] was not impressed with the official explanation of the explosion. In its reaction of January 17, 2024, the day after the incident, to the explosion and the government explanation, AOKOYA dismissed government’s explanation, right away. It held that the bang in Ibadan was a “conscious act of terrorism”.

The group was reported to have gone further to say that the pattern of the explosion, the form and the impact showed a high possibility of a bomb attack on the heart of Yoruba nation…”  Further driving home its stance, the group contended as was reported, that “state sponsored intelligence reports are tailored to allay justified panic and to deceive the people that there is no threat to democracy…” They described the official explanation as “intelligence report for political convenience”.

It should be said though, that the belief of the ethnic association was not supported by any tangible evidence. At best, it was a gut feeling. On the other hand, the conclusion of the State Government on the cause of the explosion, appeared perfunctory. It could not have been backed by any convincing investigation, within less than 24 hours. That remains the official line anyway.

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In due course, some days after the explosion and the illegal miner narrative, a news medium featured a brief interview with a man who claimed to be the Malian and miner in question. He did not seem to understand what the issue was all about. He explained that he was not around in Ibadan at the time of the incident, but that he had no explosives around his residence, in the first place.

So then, from where did the big bang in Ibadan emanate? The explosion left a number of deaths in its wake, with many more wounded. The aerial view of the impact of the explosion showed a rather extensive devastation of areas and building in Ibadan. The magnitude of the destruction wrought by that singular explosion, left all those who visited the accident locations, dismayed.

The Oyo State government, having simply stated that the explosion was from an illegal miner, has not gone further to provide such critical detail as who exactly the illegal miner was, where he is at the moment, what the fate of the said culprit is and what exactly led to the explosion. The position of the Yoruba group, AOKOYA that the government intelligence report is for political convenience, maintains a sharp ring to the ear.

With those who died in the incident gone and buried, with those lucky to be just wounded, having received treated and with the Oyo State government having issued the usual government statement that those responsible for the disaster will be made to face the full wrath of the law, everyone has moved on. That’s the way it is in Nigeria. In those days, the communication aides of President Muhammadu Buhari always had their statements expressing sympathy at hand. They were ever prompt with condemnation and expression of sympathy from the president, after which the man, whose duty it was to protect citizens, resumed his rest. The citizens moved on with their lives. The structure seems to have continued. The explosion at Ibadan, whatever its actual cause, has been overtaken by deaths elsewhere; Abuja, Plateau, Agatu, Benue State, etc.

The Ibadan explosion with the illegal miner official narrative were effectively receding from national attention, as they go in Nigeria, when, late last week, a reference to the incident raised the issue, calling to mind at once, the reaction of the Yoruba group, AOKOYA.

Following the arrest by the Directorate of State security [DSS] of the leader of Bello Bodejo, the leader of the Fulani irredentist group, Miyette Allah Kautal Hore, for establishing a private army, in the name of an encompassing vigilante group, an inchoate group that called itself Fulani Nationalist Movement [FUNAM] issued a statement which, as should be expected, was tendentious. It was one of those statements. The message was not much more a declaration of the group’s capacity to kill and main, if they are not allowed to live above the law. That is where Nigeria has found itself.

In The course of its threat on what it can do and plans to do unless the government allows any and all Fulani groups, to ride all other peoples of the country rough shod, the FUNAM group threatened violence on some major cities in the southern part of the country. Then it added for effect, that It is “watching the actions of the Government in relation to the explosion in Ibadan” .Whatever that means.

In the game terrorist groups and wanna-be terrorists play in and with Nigeria, such sounding off as the FUNAM group undertook in its statement are part of the business. Picking a name is, of course, the easiest part of the enterprise. Still, dismissing the FUNAM group and its threat to peace in the country, cannot be the right thing to do. Alas, since the presidency of Muhammadu Buhari, the definition of a terrorist and an agitator for justice has been substantially swapped, leaving the country at the mercy of the evil ones.

So then, was any illegal miner in Ibadan responsible for the devastating explosion of January 16, 2024? What exactly did FUNAM mean in its reference to the explosion? Could the Yoruba group, AOYOKA be right in its stance that “the pattern of the explosion, the form and the impact showed a high possibility of a bomb attack…” Was the illegal miner narrative politically motivated, after all? To what purpose?