Recently, reports emerged of how a Baptist Church pastor in Ikonifin town in Ola Oluwa local government area in Osun state, allegedly staged ‘fake’ terrorist attack on his Church during a vigil making members of the congregation to scamper for safety with some sustaining injuries. Our Correspondent, Suleiman Idris visited the sleepy town to find out more about the incident.
The precarious security situation in Nigeria nowadays makes one shiver even at the mere mention of insurgency. And despite the fact that the activities of the deadly sect, Boko Haram have remained largely in the North east which may now be rightly described as a war zone, or enclave of the insurgents people in other parts of the country still consider themselves unsafe.
That was the state of mind of the people of Ikonifin, which until now, was a peaceful sleepy town in the state of Osun in South Western Nigeria. A report alleged that a Baptist Church pastor in the town, who is the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Chairman in Ola Oluwa local government area attempted to fake an invasion of his Church during a vigil. When the dust finally settled, scores of the faithful were left with different degrees of injuries.
Reports said Pastor Olatoke, had allegedly conspired with some members of the Church, namely Emmanuel Atanda, Peter Oyedepo and Ogunniyi Babatope who agreed to disguise as Muslims, adorning their heads with turbans to fake terror attack. On 18, May, 2014, between 11pm and 12 mid-night while conducting the Church vigil, the three persons swooped on the Church and began throwing some bright exploding objects, fireworks to scare the people away.
Those calling for full scale investigation into the matter are of the opinion that the ‘prank’ was capable of igniting crisis in the entire local government.
As we rode into Ikonifin at about 5.43 pm on the cool windy Friday, the sun was setting behind the Oba Hill, casting a temperature of 28 degree centigrade while humidity stood at 56%. The Oba Hill, a rounded elevation of limited extent rising above the surrounding land with local relief of less than 300m, reminds a first time visitor of an agrarian environment.
The look on the faces of the villagers however did not betray any deep seated animosity, which l later found out after my encounter with the Oba of Ikonifin, Muslim and Christian faithful and scores of villagers within and in the neighbouring Iwo, the most popular city within the axis, less than a hundred kilometers from Ibadan.
A brief inquiry from Taju, my co-traveler on the motorbike, (the most common means of transport) from Iwo to Ikonifin, actually revealed that the incident actually took place but he quickly added that the whole incident was considered a drama rehearsal.
Aside a traditional marriage ceremony in one of the ancient buildings where family members gathered, nothing else suggested a crisis of confidence between the two prominent religious groups in the ancient town. After discussion with a few people, l proceeded to the Oonifin Palace to visit the Kabeyesi. Dr. Solomon Oyewo Ojo, the paramount ruler, who is the Akinyena 1 and a permanent member of Osun state council of Obas. He said, “The condition in the country is very sensitive and anything that will cause panic anywhere must be avoided” he began. Oba Ojo said “immediately I was informed l wasted no time as l swung into action.
Oba Solomon was however not happy about the experience saying the incident was the least he expected to happen in his domain, “each day l pray for the progress of this community and my neighbours, having worked in different spheres of life l choose to retire home and lead my people. I did not expect such at all. It is very unfortunate, if my Ikonifin is to gain global attention, it should be for the right reason.”
Earlier in the day in Oshogbo, l had visited the Commissioner for Information and Strategy in the state, Mr. Sunday Akere, who gave the government’s position on the matter.
“We are a straight forward government, we neither relate with anyone on the condition of religion nor tribe, the position of the government is straight forward, we have instructed the security agencies to carry out the necessary investigations and to come out with a report. All we have had so far are conflicting reports.” The Commissioner said.
My next point of call as l left the Oba was a Mosque down the road some few meters away from the Palace of Oba Solomon. The Imam, resting his hand on the window as l approached him said. “We are a peaceful people; we have all agreed to pursue peace within and among ourselves, our leaders have stepped in so l am not permitted to speak to anybody.
At the entrance to the Baptist Church where the said incident took place, a group of young men and women gathered and were discussing mundane issues among themselves. One of them said Pastor Olatoke was not in town.
Later l put a call to Mr. Oyintiloye Olatunbosun, the Senior Special Assistant to the governor on Community Forum. On a squeaky telephone line, he told me the government has put in motion modalities to ensure peaceful co-existence among communities in the state.