By Otunba Gbenga Teejay Abass
The recent incident that took place at Epe, one of the culturally rich dominions of the Yoruba race, and home-place of the current governor of Lagos State, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, is one that one that calls for deeper reflection and in fact redress. This is especially in view of the efforts of the current administration, to sustain security of lives and property, attract more investments inflows and sustain Lagos’ reputation as a leader-state.
It is on record that there is yet any Governor of the State that has reached out to the youths like Gov Akinwunmi Ambode has done. An example is the Annual Lagos Count down where thousands of our youths were engaged for almost 10 days. That was a clear attestation of the commitment of his administration to a policy of inclusion and attempt to provide youths a sense of belonging.
This is why it has become necessary for us all to dispassionately overview this Epe incident, the very subject-matter of this write-up
An otherwise noble cultural evening, with distinguished personalities from Epe and beyond in attendance, was rudely interrupted by marauding cultists, with far-reaching social, political and economic consequences. One of such consequences is the discouragement of investors and other peace-loving people to the state.
It is necessary to state here that the Eseiga, which has an intriguing cultural history, has become an important forum and homecoming of sorts for Epe people, their colleagues, friends and associates.
In a situation where there have been calls for cultural rebirth in our nation, a return to the old valued paths which help to sustain our collective heritages as a people, the Ese iga, an event that holds once a month and is usually chaired by His Royal Majesty ,The Olu Epe of Epe, Oba Shefiu Adewale, is one forum that should be upheld, but of course without any recourse to fetish and diabolical exercises. It is one gathering that should be devoid of threat to life of the participants. Yet, when the month’s edition was in process in the town, some elements, for reasons more than one, decided to short-circuit it.
The day was March 31st, 2018, the last Saturday of the month, and Ese Iga festival,. His Royal Majesty couldn’t attend this particular edition, but hosts and guests were having the best of a pleasant cultural evening.
All of a sudden, these cultists, armed with some dangerous weapons, and in their esoteric mannerisms, found their way to the venue of the celebrations, and unleashed mayhem. The melee that followed created a platform for two fraternal factions, Aiye and Eye, to settle their differences, exerting their strengths in a showcase of power and territorial supremacy. There were sporadic gun shots, and then pandemonium and what started as a beautiful evening came to an abrupt end.
There were unconfirmed reports that One person was killed .However, all efforts to identify the victim have not been successful. Probably the report of the fatality could be propaganda to legitimise the barbaric and murderous act of the cultists. Regardless, the Ese iga should not have been an appropriate forum for the two warring factions to settle their differences
It is necessary to state here that the Eseiga, which has an intriguing cultural history, has become an important forum and homecoming of sorts for Epe people, their colleague, friends and associates.
For one, you can imagine the lot of distinguished individuals and their guests, who have been having a fulfilled day, when chaos took over. Like they say, it was everyone to himself and God for us all. But that is not the ideal in a decent society, in a democratic dawn where individual liberty, safety of lives and property are supposed to be guaranteed. The first fall-out is fear, of not just attendees to the festival in question, but other such related social gatherings in the future. It calls for serious action from the authorities. Whereas the activities of the cult group on this time and occasion, calls for serious redress, it has nonetheless, thrown up a lot food for thought for us all.
It has brought to the fore, the need to take certain precautions and measures to forestall similar occurrences in the future. The first is to realise that, sometimes, certain socio-economic conditions create permissive grounds for delinquent behaviour. Since not everybody can bear hardship with the same level of equanimity, some people just exploit any opportunity that presents itself.
For all we care, the sight of gaily dressed individuals having a good time, could be a trigger to mayhem; it could be a stir to the wicked biles of some underprivileged or marginalised individuals in society.
An unemployed, and economically impoverished individual, is a willing tool for social mayhem. He is easily manipulated, and can become a ready instrument of disruption of public order. Since he cannot afford a decent social evening, he would be a wiling tool in the disruption of one, no matter who is organising and for what purpose. As I alluded earlier, the current Administration has reached out unprecedentedly to our youths, not just empathising with them, but birthing programmes aimed at rehabilitating them and integrating them back into the society as productive citizens.
It now behoves the larger society to rally and seek broader solutions. It is our collective responsibility to address, nit just this one, but all the menacing behaviours of our youths .
Cultists are the product of our rotten political system and Epe political system is not exempt from deliberate attempt to use education as a tool of oppression to subject our children to a state of perpetual poverty, thereby, stripping them- of their dignity and honour.
For some such politicians, the only way to garner support and massive votes is to exploit the political dichotomy of the community. This had been the story of our political system not only in Epe but across the state, but until the emergence of Gov Akinwunmi Ambode.
The difference with Ambode is that he sees governance as a tool for socio economic liberation, a symbol of peace and unity, and His Excellency should be commended for that.
As much as we commend the incumbent for making a difference, it is necessary to still iterate the need on the part of government, to increase opportunities for youths to earn a decent living. This presumptive position implies that such opportunities should be created where none currently exists There are indeed a number of initiatives which can come on board and join the already existing ones sponsored by the state government at different levels, to bring youths into the mainstream of income creation and value addition. This point could be explored if one is given the opportunity to do so.
Further, the Epe incident makes it necessary to take a second look at the security situation of the community and revert back to the status quo in terms of what had been done in the past to effectively curb the activities of the cultist; these include:
1.The immediate reinstatement and empowerment of the IBILE SECURITY ARRANGEMENT
2.The immediate reinstatement and empowerment of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC)
3. Seek the cooperation and collaboration of the respective local governments and LCDAs .
4. Redeployment of OP MESA to strategic parts of the division.
5. Involvement of the police’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SAS)
6. Continuous utilisation of the police force and the Neighbourhood Watch
All security apparatus of the State must be mobilised to effectively curb the activities of the cultists
Let’s also talk about our decaying moral values .The cultists are members of a family and it behoves on that family to report suspected activities of the cultist to authorities
There is also an urgent need to set up a hot line and protect the anonymity of callers.
It is a known fact that the OPC and IBILE have been instrumental to safety in some neighbourhoods in Epe, one or two slips notwithstanding. There may therefore, be need to seek a collaboration with them in the safeguard of lives and property, if not on a permanent basis, but on an ad-hoc arrangement. Were these two organisations on ground on the day of the incident, perhaps, it would have been averted.
We duly appreciate the efforts of the current administration in the state, led by Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, supported by diligent members of his cabinet. What remains is for us all to rally round the administration to ensure its all-round success. This means, amongst others, volunteering information and bringing forth suggestions which, in our sincere consideration, would help the administration achieve its lofty ideals. It was Eseiga on March 31, it could be Ileya festival, Christmas gathering , or any other social gathering in the community next It is in this patriotic sense that I have written this piece and looking forward to our collective efforts that will ensure a safe and peaceful community
Otunba Gbenga Teejay Abass,
The Aremo Of Epe Kingdom
The Opinion expressed in this piece are solely those of the Author and not of theeagle.com.ng