Some hoodlums on Tuesday attacked pensioners and human rights activists who staged a protest against Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State over his inability to pay them for the past seven months.
Our correspondent gathered that the pensioners and some human rights activists under the aegis of Civil Societies’ Coalition for Emancipation of Osun State had gathered at Ayetoro area of Osogbo from where the protesters took off but some youths pelted them with water sachets.
Angered by the effrontery of the youths, one of the pensioners told our correspondent that some of his colleagues repelled the attackers by stoning them in return.
The protesters, he said, advanced to Igbona where they were ambushed by some armed thugs who hurled stones at the elderly persons and flogged some of them especially the women who could not run as fast as their male colleagues.
The police were said to have intervened by shooting into the air to scare away the hoodlums.
The leader of the police team was said to have appealed to the pensioners to stop the protest, saying the police would not want a clash between them and pro-Aregbesola youths who were also protesting at Olaiya Junction.
The pensioners, who later regrouped, stopped singing anti-Aregbesola’s songs while the few remaining senior citizens continued with the protest.
The protesters carried placards with various inscriptions such as “Aregbesola, pay pensioners their stipends, “Aregbesola: Stop receiving N500m monthly as security votes,” “Osun Assembly: Treat Justice Folahanmi’s petition,” and “Our demand is that Aregbesola must go.”
The Chairman of CSCEO, Mr. Adeniyi Alimi, said the group would not relent in its protest until Aregbesola “is removed from office.”
He said, “This is a serious matter. Although, we are practising democracy in Nigeria but in Osun we are under a demonic and oppressive rule. We need to save this state now. Everybody must be involved because under our nose, Aregbesola has completely destroyed this state.
“In this country, we fought the military to a standstill and in this case, we will continue with our mobilisation from house to house, market to market, school to school until this repressive regime is booted out. Aregbesola must go.”
While the pensioners and civil society groups’ protest was going on, some pro-Aregbesola youths and some notable activists, who are loyal to the governor also marched to Olaiya Junction from Odi Olowo, saying no to the planned impeachment of the governor.
A serving judge in Osun State Judiciary, Justice Folahanmi Oloyede, had petitioned the House of Assembly on the alleged financial recklessness of Aregbesola and asked the House to impeach the governor.
Many had thought the lawmakers would begin the impeachment process on Tuesday. Consequently, some anti-Aregbesola groups had planned to demonstrate in support of the impeachment while some pro-Aregbesola also trooped out in support of the governor.
Some youths, who were armed with a gun, axes, saw and cudgels stormed Olaiya junction and disrupted the pro-Aregbesola demonstration.
However, the hoodlums who some claimed to be ‘State Boys’ being sponsored by the governor, shot sporadically into the air to disrupt the anti-Aregbesola’s protest while those watching the debacle fled.
One of the thugs, who bore a rifle, came on a bike just like his colleagues and he shot into the air repeatedly before they boarded a mini commercial bus already waiting for them.
There was a heavy presence of police at Olaiya Junction and other flash points in Osogbo to ensure that the situation did not degenerate into a total breakdown of law and order.
But the Osun Progressives and other civil societies group led by its Convener, Wale Adebisi and his deputy, Waheed Lawal, in a statement condemned the attack on pro-Aregbesola’s protesters.
Adebisi accused the Peoples Democratic Party of disrupting the protest which he said was a peaceful demonstration to defend the mandate given to Aregbesola by the majority of the people of the state.
Reacting to the allegation the Director of Publicity of the PDP in the state, Mr. Diran Odeyemi, told our correspondent on the telephone that the PDP knew nothing about the attack.
He said, “It is unfortunate that the APC is still using their old method of blaming the PDP for their evils. Do they still want the people to believe that outright lie? We do not have anything to do with any protest.”