By Victor Akinkuolie, Ado-Ekiti
A brewing communal clash between Omuo-Ekiti and Ilawe-Ekiti over the siting of a Federal College of Education was quelled by the timely intervention of security agents, as temper rose when the two communities contended on the host of the institution.
Ilawe-Ekiti is a hilltop town of about 10 minutes drive to Ado-Ekiti, the state capital, located in Ekiti South-West Local Government, Ekiti Southern Senatorial district, while Omuo-Ekiti is in Ekiti East Local Government, about two hours drive from Ado-Ekiti.
The two communities have been at loggerheads since the news of the purported establishment of the institution broke.
The purported announcement came as a surprise, not only to the residents of the state but to the people of Omuo-Ekiti, who have been leading the agitation since the bill for the proposed establishment of the college was first introduced to the legislature.
Omuo-Ekiti was said to have earlier been announced during the passage of the bill as the location of the institution which was moved at the 10th National Assembly.
Until the news of the establishment of the institution was broken in the town by the monarch of Ilawe, Oba Ajibade Alabi, there was no official announcement by the Federal Government on the siting of the institution in a particular community.
It would be recalled that the bill seeking for the establishment of the Federal College of Education to be sited in Omuo Ekiti was sponsored by the Senator representing Ekiti South Senatorial District, Senator Biodun Olujimi, who is also an indigene of Omuo-Ekiti. The bill was passed by both chambers of the 9th National Assembly.
The bill which was said to be awaiting the signature of the President was not signed until the last administration came to an end.
The last was yet to be heard about the bill as it was announced by the monarch of Ilawe-Ekiti, Oba Ajibade Alabi, that the establishment of the institution had been moved to Ikere-Ekiti.
Following the announcement by the monarch on Friday June 30, 2023, the traditional ruler hurriedly summoned a town-hall meeting where the news concerning the establishment of the college in the town was broken to the people of his community, amidst glamour and wild jubilation.
The meeting summoned by the monarch was attended by chiefs, priests, youths, market women and other notable indigenes of the ancient community.
During the meeting, the monarch in a joyous mood announced to the gathering the establishment of a Federal College of Education in the town by the Federal Government.
The monarch equally, in a carnival-like ceremony, publicly expressed the appreciation of the people of the town over the establishment of the institution. Oba Alabi said,” the siting of the institution in the town marked another federal presence in Ekiti State and a positive development in Ilawe community.”
The monarch who is also the immediate past Chairman, Ekiti State Council of Obas, pointed out that the college, apart from adding to the economic wellbeing of the people, would also serve in the training and production of thorough-bred teachers for Ekiti and Nigeria as a whole.
He further revealed that the establishment came as a result of several requests made to the Federal Government on the establishment of a higher institution in the ancient town.
The monarch explained that the move started in 2016 and was supported by some patriotic indigenes of the town both at home and in Diaspora
Oba Alabi, during the well attended meeting, emphasized that all hands had been on deck to provide a conducive environment for academic activities in the newly established Federal College of Education
He equally announced that a 10-man committee had been constituted by the community under his leadership to oversee a seamless take off of the institution and commence academic activities in the newly established institution.
Oba Alabi did not stop at that, as he also announced to the people that in the meantime the Federal Government has named the immediate past Acting Provost of Adeyemi College of Education, Dr.Ajigbade Ikuejube as the Provost.
According to him, Ikuejube, a Phd holder in History Education at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, has authored not less than eighty (80) publications. He was said to have established a contact with the community for onward commencement of academic activities in the institution.
“The Provost has since made contact with the community on the possible take off of the institution. The community equally wishes him a very successful tenure as the pioneer Provost of the institution,” he stated.
The announcement did not go down well with the people of Omuo-Ekiti who had earlier believed that they would host the college, as people of the community took to the streets and blocked the major roads in the town, apparently to show their displeasure over the relocation of the school.
The protest paralyzed several activities in the area, as movements and commercial activities stood still for the day. The protesters, including youths, women and traditional rulers from Omuo Ekiti, the headquarters of Ekiti East Local Government, trooped to the streets as early as 9 am on the fateful day to protest against what they called alleged injustice meted to them by relocating the FCE meant for the town to Ilawe community.
Several placards displayed by the protesters read: “On Omuo FCE we stand! No more! No less,” “This injustice must be redressed. Return Our FCE back to us, Don’t rob Peter to pay Paul, FCE belong to Omuo Ekiti,” among others.
During the protest which lasted for a day, travellers going to Abuja and those passing through the major highway in the town to Lagos, Ado Ekiti and neighbouring Ondo State, had a difficult time, as the roads were barricaded.
Efforts by the Nigerian Police, the Directorate of State Service and other security agencies drafted to maintain law and order to prevail on the angry protesters to allow free flow of traffic, were rebuffed.
Earlier in the morning, the paramount ruler of the community, Oba Noah Omonigbehin, had directed that all markets, shops and other businesses must not open as a mark of protests for the alleged injustice brought on the community.
Addressing the protesters, a leader in the community, Chief Segun Akanle, appealed to President Bola Tinubu and the Governor of Ekiti State, Mr Abiodun Oyebanji to come to the rescue of Omuo Ekiti by returning the Federal College of Education to the town.
Akanle, who described the citizens of the community as law abiding, noted that Omuo Ekiti had been working for the establishment of the FCE for over 10 years, adding that a bill establishing the institution had been passed by both the 8th and 9th National Assemblies and was only awaiting presidential assent.
“We have 12 communities in Ekiti East and there is no federal or state presence in any of them. A bill establishing a College of Education had been passed and was waiting for presidental assent before Ilawe people went through the backdoor to alter the location of the school.
“Why would the government establish two federal institutions in Ilawe and leave the remaining parts of the constituency? This is not acceptable.
“We have confidence in Tinubu to do the needful by righting the wrong and returning the Federal College of Education to Omuo Ekiti where it rightly belongs,” he stated.
Also reacting to the development, the Olomuo of Omuo Ekiti, Oba Noah Omonigbehin said he was a participant at the public hearings by the Senate leading to the establishment of the school in both 8th and 9th sessions.
“We presented memo to the august legislative assembly. We wonder how someone who has not asked for a thing would be given. I urge President Tinubu to correct this injustice and return the institution to Omuo Ekiti,” he demanded.