20th December, 2010
A town hall meeting organised by Professor Wole Soyinka, to deliberate on and find a solution to the impasse generated by the factionalisation of the Ogun State House of Assembly (OGHA), was interrupted by thugs allegedly sponsored by Governor Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State.
The thugs, including market women, decked in Aso Ebi, threw caution to the wind as they had a field day casting aspersion at Professor Soyinka, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Aremo Olusegun Osoba and others. They accused them of attempting to subvert Governor Danielâ€™s government, occasionally singing derisive songs aimed at insulting them.
The meeting, which held at the Henry Townsend Hall of St. Peterâ€™s Cathedral, Ake, Abeokuta, Ogun State, South West Nigeria, on 18 December, had prominent Ogun State indigenes in attendance.
They included Prince Bola Ajibola, a former Judge of the World Court, who was the chairman of the occasion. Others were Dr. Onaolapo Soleye; Aremo Osoba, a former governor of the state; Pastor Bakare, convener of the Save Nigeria Group, SNG; Senator Ibikunle Amosun, a governorship aspirant; Barrister Bisi Adegbuyi and Sina Kawonise, the state Commissioner of Information, among others.
Also present at the gathering were Yinka Odumakin, spokesman of Afenifere Renewal Group, ARG, and Joel Okei-Odumakin, a human rights activist, who were there as observers. Representatives of various groups were also at the meeting.
The meeting kicked off on a good note with Prince Ajibola addressing the crowd after introducing members of the high table and stating the reasons for the convention. Thereafter, he called on Professor Soyinka to address the gathering.
The renowned professor of literature pointed to the fact that having suffered years of underdevelopment under series of military regimes, it is unfortunate that democratically elected civilians governments are behaving like military dictators.
Professor Soyinka recalled how the 12 June, 1993 presidential election, which Chief M.K.O. Abiola won, was annulled and General Olusegun Obasanjo was foisted on the nation as a compensation for the annulment.
He argued that even though Obasanjo was rejected by the South West, he went ahead to rule the nation for eight years. He blamed the former president for some of the nationâ€™s woes, one of which is the crisis rocking the OGHA.
He condemned the action of nine members of the OHGA, known as G-11, in impeaching the Tunji Egbetokun-led G-15 members of the Assembly on 6 September.
Professor Soyinka said he was particularly miffed at President Goodluck Jonathanâ€™s decision to make Governor Daniel his campaign manager in the South West, despite the â€œcivilian coup he orchestrated in the OGHA.â€
He added that, as an elder in the state, he could not have sat by to watch things go awry. It was for this reason, P.M. NEWS gathered, that he organised the meeting, so that various stakeholders in the state could come together to seek a solution to the problem.
However, as Professor Soyinka noted, Governor Daniel had before the meeting mobilized his thugs to storm the venue. Their aim was to hijack the event and make sure it ended in fiasco.
That exactly they did. Immediately Professor Soyinka called on Pastor Bakare to speak, the crowd began to grumble. The thugs began making noise, shouting that they had an observation.
Every attempt to calm them down did not work. Invariably, Professor Soyinka called on one of them to speak. He complained that since the meeting was meant for Ogun state indigenes, those not from the state should state their reasons for being there. But the professor tactically appeased him.
Pastor Bakare, thereafter, addressed the crowd. Immediately after, Kawonise was called upon to speak on behalf of the state government. Expectedly, the Information Commissioner condemned the gathering.
He accused Professor Soyinka of being playing partisan politics and that his group had already taken a decision before calling the meeting. He equally claimed the meeting was subjudicial, as the OGHA matter was still in court. Kawonise then went on to brandish flyers advertising the purported achievements of Governor Danielâ€™s administration. His speech elicited a rancorous ovation from the rented crowd, which cheered on.
Kawoniseâ€™s speech set the tone for other OGD supporters, who, one after another, came up the stage to cast aspersion at the organizers, while hailing Governor Daniel as their messiah.
At a point, the crowd got unruly. It took the patience and maturity of Professor Soyinka to ensure that violence did not break out. Even representatives of the Studentsâ€™ Union of Ogun State came up the stage to laud Governor Danielâ€™s achievements, claiming that they have never had it so good.
This is in spite of the fact that all tertiary institutions in the state have remained closed since 30 September salaries of teachers have also not been paid.
At the end of the gathering, no resolution was made, meaning the thugs succeeded in disrupting the meeting.
But Professor Soyinka assured it was just the beginning of a series of meetings that will work out a solution for the problems plaguing the state.
Meanwhile, some of the rented women and students were seen outside the venue threatening to foment trouble if they were not paid exactly how much they were promised.
By Sola Olaosebikan/Abeokuta