10 Years After: The July 10 1999 Massacre in Great Ife

How time flies is a very common saying in our World. But can the families of those affected by senseless and wicked sides of humanity ever forget the wounds imposed on them even after decades? I guess no!
I was a 300 level student of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife when the unthinkable happened. Today marks the 10th anniversary of that unforgettable incidence that left the whole country gasping for breath.

Now someone might ask if it was so uncommon for cultists to kill Tertiary institution students in Nigeria. The answer is no, it is not uncommon as we have lost what it takes to understand the sanctity of human live. But it was nevertheless uncommon for such an ignominious act to happen in Great Ife. Why? Because Great Ife was a vanguard in the fight against cultism and we prided ourselves as one of the few cult-free campuses in the whole of Nigeria.

But that was our undoing on this historic day. The devil we thought we had caged reared its ugly head and terminated the dreams of a nation. Five wonderful young men were killed in a senseless raid that still baffles me till date. There are different accounts of the motive behind the killings but one thing is clear; it is all a case of man’s wickedness towards man. I always ask myself why a man with blood running in his veins will decide to shoot another but I guess it is futile ‘cos it happens everyday in our world. Sad!

The scenarios painted are still not clear till date. Let me share some of them.

1. A school of thought believes that the attackers were an amalgamation of cultists from other campuses who came to deal with OAU students union leaders for their involvement in chasing cultism out of Nigerian higher institutions. It is believed that the external cultists collaborated with some few OAU based cultists to plan this raid.

2. The second school of thought linked Professor Wale Omole to the mayhem. Omole was rounding up his tenure as the Vice Chancellor of OAU when this happened. It was said that he wanted to deal with the student Union leadership who were always embarrassing him and his style of leadership which was very unpopular with the students. Omole allegedly brought mercenaries from other Universities to carry out the raid.

3. A third school of thought which many might be reading for the first time today came up. Yeah. it was not a very common one back then. It was believed that the President of the Students Union at that time – Lanre Legacy was in trouble. Nigeria was going to host the Under-20 world cup and the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) was hell bent on stopping it. Lanre and the NANS president at that time were in the fore-front of leading NANS to disrupt the competition. On the day of the planned rally; they were nowhere to be found and later they persuaded Nigerian students to stop the disruption. It was gathered that they got a heavy beating and Lanre who had a good reputation as a fiery activist was a let down. It was alleged they collected some money from the Local Organizing committee of Nigeria ’99. Great Ife students were waiting for him to return to Ife to be probed. he came back but almost immediately, the massacre happened. The conspiracy theory was that his political party (DSM) plotted the attacks to get the mind of Great Ife students on another pressing matter and forget the fraud. This account might be far-fetched as it is almost incomprehensible that Legacy could do that.

Now I do not know which of the theories was right and even if any of them could lead us to what happened on July 10 1999 but one thing is clear. Our judicial system as well as security intelligence is nothing to wrote home about. Up till now, the case has no closure and the cultists (Ife based) that were arrested did little to bring justice to the families and friends of the departed souls.

It was an heinous crime as most of the dead were killed in their sleep. Even the animal kingdom respects itself more than this. They mostly kill for food but we are worse. I know the spirit of those young men cut down in their prime will continue to haunt their killers and the system that has not been fair enough to give them justice.

To George Iwilade (Law) aka Afrika, Eviano Ekelemu (Medicine) and the rest who died on July 10, 1999 – I say rest on. Your struggles were not in vain and Great Ife has not suffered such an attack since your ultimate sacrifice. To the University – I wonder if any ceremony is holding at the moment to celebrate these martyrs?
To the students who were there when it happened – it could have been you o. So please do all you can to bring positive change to our nation, so we can become a people with respect for human lives.
To the families of the departed ones – God will continue to give you the fortitude to bear the loss.
To the wounded ones – yeah we cannot forget some were hit by bullets. God will heal you totally.
To the killers and their cohorts – One day you will give accounts, either in this world or in the aftermath.

NB: There are some events leading up to the July 10 attack that will be materials for an upcoming book from me. It will be an expose on how we might have avoided that attack ‘cos the events started from my 100 level in 1997.

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