Pregnant woman, cart pusher, cobbler: The trigger of Shasha market violence

In this piece, WALE AKINSELURE reports the various sides to the Shasha market tragedy in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, and the spirited efforts by stakeholders in forestalling a recurrence.

While the dust was yet to settle regarding the controversial move by Sunday Adeyemo, popularly called Sunday Igboho, against Fulani heders in Igangan, Ibarapa zone, little was it known that an exchange of words between a Yoruba pregnant woman and a tomato Hausa porter and the eventual murder of a cobbler last Thursday at Shasha market, Ibadan, would blast a volcanic ash more than the Igboho situation into the Oyo state atmosphere. The death of one cobbler named Sakirundeen Adeola who intervened in the exchange between the pregnant woman and the porter, later that Thursday, served as the trigger for the mayhem. With alleged ethnic attachments serving as fuel, shops, kiosks, properties at Shasha market were set alight while some individuals met their death. As each day progressed from Thursday, the flame of what was tagged Yoruba versus Hausa conflict incensed with tens of persons killed on Friday through Saturday.

On Saturday, in particular, many who wanted to ply the Oyo-Ibadan road were left stranded with a long build-up of trucks parked at Ojoo for fear of being engulfed by the Shasha fire. While residents feared that the Shasha incident could trigger ethnic violence in other parts of the state, those outside the state also feared reprisals in their own domains.

 

As the crisis snowballed

As the hours passed and the flame of the crisis went higher into the air, many looked up to the Seyi Makinde-led state government for decisive action to douse the tension. While residents yearned for decisive action from Makinde, the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji and Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State had urged warring factions in Shasha to sheathe their swords, and embrace dialogue. And the action came on Saturday morning when Makinde, through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Taiwo Adisa, announced the imposition of a curfew on Shasha to run from 6pm to 7am. He also directed an indefinite closure of the market, warning that anyone caught disrupting the peace of Shasha community would be made to face the wrath of the law. This was followed by Makinde, accompanied by his Ondo state counterpart, visiting the troubled Shasha community. The two governors urged residents of the community and the Yoruba and Hausa communities, in particular, to desist from taking laws into their hands. Makinde, in a statewide broadcast on Monday, disclosed that a judicial panel would be inaugurated to investigate the crisis. He also declared that his government would ensure that justice was served on all victims of the crisis.

While local solutions were still being advanced to resolve the calamity, it was clear that the Shasha crisis attracted national attention when governors Atiku Bagudu, Abdullahi Ganduje, Abubakar Bello and Bello Matawalle arrived Oyo government house, Ibadan, on Monday, to begin series of meetings with Governor Makinde and various stakeholders. At the Ibadan hotel where the governors were lodged, from Monday night to Tuesday morning, they held various meetings with security agencies, relevant government appointees, leaders of the Hausa communities, community leaders, and religious leaders. The governors had followed up their overnight meetings with an on-the-spot assessment visit to Shasha market and meetings with the Baale Shasha, Amusa Akinade-Ajani and Seriki Shasha, Haruna Maiyasin. But, while on their way to Shasha, the governors made a brief stop at Bodija market where they fraternised with onion sellers who disclosed that they were in Ibadan from Kebbi, Zamfara, Kano and other northern states.

Reporting his observations on the crisis, Bagudu, who led the governors’ delegation, downplayed notions of a tribal conflict describing the incident as a regrettable, spontaneous reaction to emotions. He held that the crisis was triggered by undercurrents and disagreements about the emergence of the leadership of Shasha market and the social media instigating pent-up anger. He also discarded notions that northerners were leaving Ibadan in truckloads stating that the Yoruba and Hausa were committed to peaceful coexistence.

 

‘I was pushed down from my two-storey building, lost my brother, N60m’

One of the Hausa victims of the violence, Garuba Adamu, stated that “I am the most unfortunate man in the incident. I lost my brother to the crisis. My brother left behind a wife and four children. He was killed. I lost more than N60 million because I had many trucks bringing perishable goods from the North to the South. My two houses in Shasha were burnt down.

“I have a store where I loaded 420n bags of rice, beans, corn, and other valuables. They were destroyed. They have killed me alive. I just returned from the hospital now.”

 

‘Our house, shops were burnt’

Muisbat Osuolale, a Yoruba trader who was affected told Nigerian Tribune that “we were in our shops when we saw some Hausa men running. We asked to know what the issue was. But they said they were looking for someone. I said I was not the person, but one of them raised a dagger and wanted to stab me. I was scared. My children were with me; I started screaming. My shop is directly beside my husband’s house. My husband is crippled. They started throwing stones. They threatened to kill us if we refused to vacate our shop and home. We ran out and they burnt down both our home and shops.”

 

‘My house was burnt looted; I lost over N30 million’

Another victim, Adelabu Ibrahim Abiodun told the Nigerian Tribune that “I housed these Hausa traders unfortunately my house was the first to be burnt on that day. I am not a trader. I was not involved in any violence. I am a spare part dealer. I had a large sum of money that was burnt together with my house. I was expected to travel to Lagos to purchase some motor parts. I lost over N30 million.”

 

Underneath the veil of an ethnic clash

Underneath the supposed veil of an ethnic tension was a protracted struggle over leadership of the market. Overtime, some group of persons was fingered to have vowed not to heed to the dictates of the Baale Shasha and Seriki Shasha on who emerge principal leaders of the market. This group of persons was said to have held that they owned the market and would not continue to kowtow to the dictates of the Seriki Shasha and Baale Shasha.

In 2017, some traders had particularly fingered the Seriki Shasha for alleged large scale extortion and asked to be freed from alleged oppressive rule by the Hausa leader. This set of traders had formed their own committee to steer the ship of the market alleging that Maiyasin had been in control of the affairs of the market for the past 30 years.

According to spokesperson of Baale Shasha, Adams Adesokan, “There are some seven persons who said they will not heed to the dictates of Seriki Shasha or Baale Shasha that they are the management and own the market. We have reported them to Operation Burst. The caretaker chairman said only those approved by Seriki Shasha and Baale Shasha should be inaugurated but those persons vowed to foment trouble and burn shops and kill people. Those persons vowed to cause trouble despite meeting with Babaloja. They are the ones behind the arson, burning of shops and houses. They have got a land at Iroko that once they burnt this place, they will go there. We want the market rebuilt so that everyone can return to the market. Baale Shasha and Seriki Shasha got here in 1979 and Seriki Shasha pleaded with the Baale that they be allowed to have Hausas as head and Yorubas as deputy. Since then, when we appoint Iyaloja, there has not been any problem or bloodletting since then. We marry among ourselves without problem. The aim of those aggrieved people has always been to create chaos and that is why we have what we have now. The office of those seven people was not razed during the crisis but others around it were razed. We know the names of the seven persons. They are out to kill some of us.”

 

The market relocation suggestion

In proffering its own solution to the crisis, the state House of Assembly at Tuesday’s plenary, urged Governor Makinde to consider relocating the Shasha market to a new and bigger site. The lawmakers had noted that the present location could no longer accommodate the number of traders and volume of goods that get into the market, hence the need to move the market to a more spacious location. In addition, the assembly noted the need for the state government to find a lasting solution to the recurring clashes between Yoruba and Hausa traders in the market. The assembly also noted the need for the Nigerian police and other security agencies to be more proactive in responding to conflict situations so as to prevent them from degenerating into full blown crisis.

 

Demand for return of Shasha market

As preached by the five governors, both Baale Shasha, Akinade-Ajani and Seriki Shasha, Maiyasin asserted their commitment to peaceful coexistence. They decried that those bent on foisting themselves as leadership of the market are behind the crisis and called on the state government to arrest and deal with such persons. They however called for a quick rebuilding, reopening of the market as well as provision of palliatives to the affected traders.

Akinade-Ajani said, “We do not discriminate against any tribe; we believe we are of the same family. We want peaceful coexistence of all tribes here. We want a return to how we have been coexisting in Shasha. It is unbelievable to hear that some people are moving to settle in another place within the same Akinyele Local Government. We can’t approve of them selling in another place and then coming here to sleep at night. Government should arrest and deal with anyone causing crisis. We are no more fighting. We want to live in peace; we are not fighting with Hausa, Igbo. We know those causing trouble; help us take them away from Akinyele Local Government. We don’t want people that beat drums of war. We welcome anyone who wants to trade at Shasha market peacefully. We welcome anyone that will live here in peace.”

In responding to their calls for reopening of the market, Makinde said the reopening will depend on the cooperation of the market people and all stakeholders. He said the Shasha market will be reopened as soon as he can extract commitment and assurances of the market and community stakeholders that there won’t be further bloodletting. Told that some Shasha traders had relocated to Iroko area of the same Akinyele Local Government, Makinde said he would not hesitate to shut the said Iroko market too.

 

Arrival of succour

Succour has however started to come the way of the affected victims. This kicked off on Tuesday with Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State donating a total of N18.5million to 185 indigenes of the state affected in the mayhem. Kano State Commissioner of Information, Malam Garba Mohammed, who led the government delegation, handed over a cash of N100,000 to the select victims. Also the Federal Government, through the Director General, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Muhammadu Muhammed, during a visit to Shasha market, on Wednesday, also promised humanitarian assistance to the affected persons. Also, Atiku Bagudu, on behalf of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), on Tuesday, announced that the governors would be supporting the state government in rebuilding the market as well as in providing palliatives to the affected persons. Makinde, had also set the tone for the influx of support, promising to rebuild the market and pledging palliatives for victims.

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