Tribal tensions close campus

May 26, 2000

The Obafemi Awolowo University of Ile-Ife has closed until further notice in the face of continued communal clashes between the inhabitants of two communities over the relocation of a municipal headquarters.

More than 50 people are reported to have been killed in the past five months in strife between the Ife and the Modekeke tribes, who are locked in a dispute over control of their local government.

Police have arrested an associate professor at Obafemi Awolowo for carrying a large amount of arms and ammunition in his car.

Wale Obadare, of the urban and regional planning department and an influential member of the Modekeke Progressive Union - one of the opposing factions - was paraded before local and foreign press. In front of the reporters, he confessed that he had been carrying the weapons.

Professor Obadare is a member of the task force set up by Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo to bring the warring factions to the negotiating table.

Police commissioner Johnson Nwoye said: "A situation where a man of the stature of Professor Obadare degenerates to a degree where he is now a merchant of death says a lot about the level of sophistication and complexity that has been brought to bear by the parties involved in the Ife-Modekeke crisis."

Earlier this month, Rogers Makanjuola, vice-chancellor of the university, escaped with his life when his car was ambushed in Ile-Ife by some combatants of the warring factions.

Seni Osunade, a final-year medical student, was abducted at gunpoint as he was driving to lectures at the teaching hospital a few kilometres from the campus. The incident heightened fears about insecurity on the campus.

Seni's father, the right reverend Michael Osunade, a former professor of geography at Obafemi Awolowo, appealed to the kidnappers for his son's release, and students marched on the Osun state assembly to call on its members to help recover the abducted student.

The Odua People's Congress, which claims to defend the interests of the Yoruba ethnic group, said it will publish the names of university lecturers and retired military officers who, it alleged, finance the communal clashes. It also threatened to punish those behind the violence.

Armed police have cordoned off the university campus, and students have moved out of the university. A university spokesman said it would remain closed until normality returned.

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