Hammed Shittu focuses on the undercurrents of the recent crisis that engulfed the two communities of Offa and Erin-Ile in Kwara State
Against the backdrop of the recent hostilities which broke out between the people of Offa and Erin-Ile communities in Kwara State, the state government, last week, ordered the suspension of the democratically elected chairman of Offa local government council, Hon. Saheed Popoola and his counterpart in Oyun local government council, Alhaji Ibrahim Omoniyi, with immediate effect.
Consequently, the state government has approved the appointment of sole administrators for the councils. Alhaji Ishaq Abubakar is to head Offa local government council while Alhaji G.B.O Bello takes charge of Oyun local government council respectively.
Also affected by the suspension order were their vice chairmen, councillors, supervisory councillors and all the appointed political office holders in the two local government councils.
However, the suspension order slammed on the two local government councils has continued to generate controversy in various quarters in the state in view of the political inferences that the people had seen in the suspension order.
Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Isiaka Gold, who announced the dissolution of the two councils, recently noted that the action was in line with the powers conferred on the state Governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, by the State Law No.4 of 2006 (Kwara State Local Government. Amendment Law of 2006) section 1, 2 sub-section 5, 6, 7)
The SSG told newsmen at a press conference in Ilorin that the two local government council chairmen as chief security officers of their respective local government councils failed to maintain public order as well as protect the welfare of the people in both communities, adding that in the process, about three people were killed while property worth several millions of naira was lost to the crisis.
Further defending the action of the government, Gold said the government had initiated peace initiatives with the stakeholders in the two communities but to no avail.
He said despite the overtures to all the stakeholders in the two towns, crisis still broke out, adding that no responsible government would fold its arms and watch the situation degenerate into criminality and lawlessness.
Offa Local Government Area, which is a single town local government, is under the control of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) while Oyun Local Government Area is under the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Before the latest development, the PDP had challenged the electoral victory of the ACN chairman, Popoola at the local government election petition tribunal and won with the declaration of the PDP chairmanship candidate of the council, Dr. Segun Olanipekun, as the duly elected chairman of the council.
Dissatisfied with the ruling of the local government election petition tribunal, Popoola challenged the ruling of the tribunal at the Court of Appeal, urging the court to set aside the ruling of the local government election petition tribunal. But the Court of Appeal is yet to give its ruling on the matter.
Reacting to the situation, National Publicity Secretary of the ACN, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in a statement faulted the government's dissolution of Offa and Oyun councils.
Mohammed said: “The Kwara State Government either acted in indecent haste in dissolving the councils or decided to cash in on the crisis to neutralise the awesome popularity and acceptability of the ACN, considering that judgment is still being awaited on the ACN's appeal against the election tribunal's award of the council to the PDP, and being acutely aware that any fresh election ordered in the local government will be swept by the ACN.
On its part, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), described the dissolution of Offa and Oyun local government areas by the Kwara State Government as an inexplicable selective justice. The party in a statement by Alhaji Soliu Mustapha, its deputy national chairman said: "If the state governor expected a standing ovation for firing the council chairmen, then he must be mistaken, because this latest move is no doubt a dangerous ill-wind that blows no good.
“The move is as reckless and thoughtless as it is feckless and insensitive. For us at the CPC, it beggars belief that the PDP-led Kwara State opined that the government instead of dissolving the councils should have concentrated on how to successfully bring calm and tranquility to an already traumatised population.”
But the PDP has said the dissolution of the two local governments had no political colouration as being claimed by the two opposition parties of ACN and CPC in the state. In a statement by the state Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Mashud Adebimpe, PDP said it was solely behind the state government on the dissolution.
The party accused ACN and CPC in the state for feeling the crisis between Offa and Erin-Ile communities. "PDP notes with nostalgia, the ACN and CPC's unpatriotic comments on the Offa/Erin-Ile communal clash by giving political colouration to the current sad development in the two communities."
Inasmuch as the PDP and its government may have justification for taking the action supposedly in the interest of peace, observers contend that it also owes the people explanation that would calm frayed nerves. Otherwise, what it thought was a solution might become its greatest undoing.