By Erelu Bisi Fayemi
Yesterday, September 10th 2019, there was a crisis at Oye town in Oye Local Government, Ekiti State, while I was on an empowerment and advocacy tour to engage with women across the State. The tour commenced on Monday September 9th, with visits to two local governments which were hugely successful and peaceful.
On September 10th, we were billed to visit three local governments – Moba, Ilejemeje and Oye. The first two stops were just like the ones before – peaceful with no incident. While we were at Ilejemeje, we received a call from our advance security team that students of the Federal University of Oye (FUOYE) were protesting a lack of electricity in Oye town. We were told that more information would be provided on the situation. Shortly after we received word that the students had dispersed and the coast was clear for my visit.
When my convoy got to the Oye-Isan junction, we were met by a convoy of excited Okada riders who led us into Oye town. We made a stop at the primary healthcare center along the road for me to present delivery kits to pregnant women. There was no sign of any trouble. We proceeded to the venue of my town hall meeting at the civic center with women in Oye Local Government. The atmosphere was very peaceful, the women were singing and dancing and there was nothing to indicate that anything was amiss. I stopped at the tent erected for the mobile health clinic in front of the civic center to greet the elderly patients who were being attended to, and I also went to greet the beneficiaries of the Food Bank for the ederly project (Ounje Arugbo), who were assembled under another tent. I then proceeded into the hall for the program.
Half-way through our event, there was a disturbance outside. The FUOYE students (and possibly infiltrated by local thugs) had re-grouped and were trying to get into the venue. The security officers prevented this from happening. We finished our program, and by the time we got outside, we found that vehicles from my convoy and those of my guests that were parked outside the venue had been vandalised. As we were driving out of Oye town, we encountered at least two road blocks that the students had mounted to prevent the movement of vehicles. I could see students/thugs throwing stones and large sticks at us as we drove by.
However, the casualties that were recorded did not take place while I was there. There are eye-witnesses, photographs and video footage to confirm this.
There are reports circulating that the crisis occurred because I refused to address the protesting students. This is totally false. I did not encounter any group of students when I got to Oye town. They had dispersed before my arrival, and when they regrouped I was inside the venue. It is possible, as I stated earlier, that the group that came to the venue trying to gain access with sticks and stones in hand might have included local hoodlums, but there was no way of telling the difference.
I am scandalized and shocked beyond words to hear that I instructed security officers to shoot at students.
Yesterday morning, as I was driving past my office in Ado-Ekiti, a group of women were gathered there to protest. They are members of a Female Sweepers Association, who were protesting a cut in their monthly salary by the previous administration. They wanted me to help them. They were very polite and pleasant. I listened to them and promised to pass on their message to the appropriate authorities. These two protests happened on the same day. If I had met a group of protesting students, as a social justice activist myself, I would have listened to their complaints and addressed them. I firmly believe in citizens’ rights to protest on issues of concern.
I am deeply saddened that at least one fatality has been recorded. As a mother my heart bleeds. All these students are my children, and no mother prays to weep over their offspring.
I extend my sincere condolences to the family concerned, and I wish those who are still receiving treatment a speedy recovery.
The Obirinkete Tour has been suspended pending a review of what transpired yesterday. I thank friends and all members of the public who have expressed concern over this. God bless you all.
Erelu Bisi Fayemi
First Lady Ekiti State