The vice-chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University, (OAU), Prof. Eyitope Ogunbodede, alongside other members of the management and some journalists, on Monday afternoon, escaped an assasination attempt on their lives allegedly by those the institution described as land-grabbers whom it accused of forcefully encroaching on the university’s land in Ile-Ife, the host community.
But the Ile-Ife community has denied the allegation, cautioning the university management against throwing the community into “avoidable crisis.”
Prof. Ogunbodede, a professor of dentistry, confirmed the development in an interview on the phone, saying the attackers shot sporadically and brandished dangerous weapons including machetes, charms, arrows, planks, among others.
The vice-chancellor, who linked the development to the perennial land tussle between the university and some individuals within the Ile-Ife community, said the community’s palace was duly informed before it visited the site where the team was attacked.
The vice-chancellor said, “We were told there was an attempt to encroach on the land belonging to the university using the opportunity of an ongoing road construction by the Osun State Government. We quickly got in touch with the palace and made it clear that the university management would visit the place to find out the truth.
“For proper capturing of the situation, we asked some reporters to join us to the site which is just between the campus gate and Parakin, but as soon as our vehicles approached the place some hoodlums descended on us hauling stones and shooting at us. It was scary.”
According to the vice-chancellor, the land matter is beyond him and that the Federal Ministry of Education, the National Universities Commission, (NUC) and the university’s governing council have all been emphatic on how an inch of the parcel belonging to the university cannot be ceded to any individual or organisation.
Ile-Ife is peaceful -community’s counsel
But in his reaction to the development, Mosis Olafare, the spokesman to the community’s monarch, Ooni of Ife, Enitan Ogunwusi, said only the legal adviser to the community, Adeyemi Adetise, could speak on the matter.
In a telephone interview, Mr Adetise, a lawyer, said he was unaware of the development and urged the vice-chancellor to give the details of where and when the alleged attacks took place.
According to Mr Adetise, he arrived at Ile-Ife on Sunday and that the entire community was still peaceful as of the time of speaking to our reporter on Monday evening, even as he advised the university management to avoid throwing the entire town into an avoidable crisis.
Mr Adetise said: “We are unaware of such a development and I don’t think anything of such happened. As the counsel to the community, I am aware there has been a lingering crisis between the university and the community over land matter which was even before the new monarch was enthroned.
“So if the university is referring to that, I want to advise that it should desist from rushing to the media because land matters are not fought on the pages of newspapers. We have been meeting over this thing and even when the visitation panel came we raised the same issue. So I don’t see any reason for this media fight.”
Meanwhile, an official of the palace, who craved anonymity, described the allegation by the university as mischievous, saying the portion reportedly visited by the university team had a road construction company creating a new road between Parakin and Road Seven area of the community.
The official, who called for evidence of the attacks, said it was wrong for the university to simply run to the media as soon as it identifies issues of concern.
“What preliminary investigation has shown is that there is road construction ongoing at the site and so if there was any crisis with anyone, it could be people constructing the road. And if people of the Ile-Ife community are accused of attacking the VC, the university should know that the campus is also part of the Ile-Ife community and so the alleged attackers could be members of the university community,” the source said.
Osun commissioner speaks
When contacted, the commissioner for works and transport, Oluremi Omowaiye, said his men at the site said nothing of such happened where they were working.
He said a road that had already been on the layout is just being opened up at the Parakin axis to the Road Seven axis of the community.
“What we are doing in Ile-Ife is to build a circular road to ease traffic within the town because from Road Seven we will construct another to Sabo axis of the town. The roads have already been awarded and now under construction. So if there is any crisis, it has nothing to do with us,” Mr Omowaiye said.
Earlier in April, 2019, the management of the university submitted a petition to the office of the commissioner of police in Osun State and the office of the director of state security service, accusing some individuals of poisoning the dam that supplies water to the university community.
The university said as a result, the campus was endangered by the activities of those it described as land-grabbers, claiming the attackers forcefully gained access to the dam by overpowering the security official on duty whom it recognised simply as O.A Omotosho.
The university named one of the attackers as Idowu Ogunwusi (alias Dagunduro) alleging that the group freely used dangerous weapons including guns, cutlasses and axes during the attack.
The matter caught the attention of relevant stakeholders at the time, with the palace of Ile-Ife denying the allegation. Since then, the brickbats had continued between the university community and the larger Ile-Ife town.