For the family of Monsuru Hamzat and residents of Arapaja compound, Kudeti, in the Ibadan South-East Local Government Area of Oyo State, February 23, 2019, would be remembered for the violence and attendant bloodbath that threw the family and community into mourning.
On that day during the conduct of the presidential and National Assembly elections, some masked gun-wielding hoodlums stormed the polling booth in Arapaja compound, shooting sporadically into the air to scare the voters that had converged on a collation centre in the area.
It was a few minutes after the 2pm time set by the Independent National Electoral Commission for the conclusion of voting that the gunmen opened fire on the armless voters.
A female security operative, manning the unit, fled in the face of heavy shelling, where no fewer than five people were shot. While four of the victims reportedly sustained gunshot injuries and are at the moment receiving treatment at a hospital in Ibadan, a 25-year-old Monsuru Hamzat was unlucky.
Eight bullets reportedly pierced through his body and he died on the way to the hospital. Five days after the killing of Monsuru, his wife Ayoka, and parents, are still shocked and downcast.
While welcoming our correspondents into their compound, the family members wore mournful looks and the grieving family members initially turned down the offer to talk about the incident.
Sympathisers besieged the home of the grieving parents to commiserate with them. The bloodbath has cast a pall on the elections and people were seen lamenting what befell the community on Election Day.
A political leader in the community and a former deputy governor of the state, Alhaji Taofeek Arapaja, who was in the compound when the incident occurred, was later arrested for interrogation by the State Criminal Investigations Department.
Recounting his ordeal, Arapaja, now a chieftain of the African Democratic Congress, urged the bereaved family to take heart. He also called on law enforcement agents not to politicise the crime but fish out the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
He believed that the hoodlums that carried out the dastardly act were sponsored by those in power in their desperate attempt to remain in office at the expense of innocent people’s lives.
He added that if not for God’s intervention and mercy, he would have been dead by now because the hoodlums were shouting his name when they came.
The politician said upon sensing danger, he removed his trademark cap he wore and hid behind a friend to escape. Arapaja said the mission of the perpetrators and their sponsors was to disrupt the peaceful election in any polling units where they were being defeated.
Arapaja said, “I believe that the hoodlums that carried out the dastardly act were sponsored by those in power in their desperate attempt to remain in power at the expense of innocent people.
“If not for God’s intervention and mercy, I would have been dead by now because the hoodlums were shouting my name ‘Arapaja’ when they came, and on sensing the danger ahead, I had to remove my trademark cap which they can use to identify me before I narrowly escaped.”
He noted that all the security officers deployed in the polling units, where the incidents occurred, were unarmed and had to run for their dear lives. Arapaja visited a native traditional hospital at Idi-Aro, Ibadan, where other victims were being treated to sympathise with them.
He noted that with the killing and violence that ensued during the last election, there might be apathy on the part of the electorate in the next election since the people were no longer sure of their safety.