The violence that broke out at Sasa Market in the Akinyele Local Government Area of Oyo State in February caught many traders and residents in the area unawares. Many traders who bought perishable goods that day at the market were caught in the web of the crisis. Lives were lost and property destroyed in wanton measures.
Residents of Ibadan and other areas became apprehensive because of the enormity of the violence. The Bodija Market International Market as it is called by traders is one of the popular markets in the state where traders and leaders quickly joined forces to ensure that what occurred at Sasa market was not recorded there.
It’s a market patronised by many people and the goods there are transported to some West African countries. The state governor, Seyi Makinde, also said after the destruction recorded at Sasa market that the damage to lives and property witnessed at the market would not be allowed to occur anywhere in the state.
An onion trader at Bodija Market, Hamisu Mohammed, told our correspondent that the harmony among traders at the market would curb any likely spread of the violence to the market. He urged Nigerians to learn how to live together in harmony.
The forty-year-old trader who speaks Yoruba and English fairly well said many Nigerians were being guided by tribalism. He said Nigerians must see themselves first as Nigerians, adding that affiliation of many of them with ethnicity outweighs connection to the country.
Mohammed said, “The first thing I will suggest is that we should see ourselves as brothers and sisters irrespective of ethnic background or religious affiliation. As I am in the market selling, the person beside me is a Yoruba. She is my neighbour and sister and we see ourselves that way.
“The problem of youth unemployment must be tackled by the governments at all levels. I think that factor worsened the Sasa market crisis. Those who had no business at the market were said to be there. It’s not possible to see somebody who has shops in a market joining others to set such a market ablaze. It will be difficult for that to happen. But when crisis starts and it is not quickly nipped in the bud, jobless youths who are hoodlums will allow themselves to be used to perpetrate evil.
“Also, although we say we are one Nigeria, if you leave your place to another man’s land, learn how they behave there. Learn their culture and respect to avoid trouble. And if you are seeking any leadership position, consult with the people widely. If the people see that you are competent and you have their interest at heart, they may consider you. We should also be fair in all our dealings with people.’’
Mohammed also called for regular meetings of various unit heads across markets in the state to discuss modalities on how to ensure peace always. “By doing that, the leadership will know that if a crisis brews, it would be easy to quickly tackle it. It is important to hold such meetings so that we will know ourselves and it will be easy for those in leadership positions to administer the markets,” he added.
The Sasa crisis spread to the Ojoo area of Ibadan and one of the traders at the Ojoo Market, Akeem Salami, expressed sadness at the level of damage to lives and property. He urged the state government and the security agencies not to allow a repeat of the incident anywhere in the state. He said both Hausa and Yoruba traders lost huge resources to the crisis.
Salami said to prevent a repeat of the ugly Sasa incident in markets in the state, heads of markets must constantly sue for peace among traders, customers and porters including transporters in the market.
He said discrimination should be avoided, urging promotion of equal distribution of positions to ensure that minority groups were given a sense of belonging.
Salami said, “Traders and leaders are ensuring sustenance of the unity in this market and everyone tries to be careful. Also, the government must be impartial. Law enforcement agents must also do their jobs without bias. It’s known that the Sasa crisis was triggered by a Hausa man whose tomatoes fell in front of a Yoruba woman’s shop. The man was said to have packed only the good ones and abandoned the rotten ones at the place. The woman was said to have insisted that he must pack everything. He reportedly slapped the woman and a Yoruba cobbler intervened and the Hausa man allegedly hit him with a charm and he died. The violence increased when the cobbler died. Some persons were killed and property set ablaze.
“But to the surprise of many, the police arrested seven persons and all of them are Yoruba. This kind of crisis will not be well resolved if the law enforcement agents are seen to be taking sides with people from a particular ethnic group. The people who feel cheated may not react now but they are definitely unhappy about the development. Yoruba were killed during the violence and their property destroyed and the Hausa also suffered losses. Why will the police arrest Yoruba people only? No matter the system put in place to check a recurrence of such violence in markets, if some people still have the feeling that they were cheated, they should be pacified.’’
The Babaloja of Oyo State, Alhaji Aderemi Jimoh, who is also the Babaloja of Bodija Market, who spoke with our correspondent, said he and other leaders were working together to make sure that the Sasa market episode was not witnessed in any markets in the state.
Jimoh said, “I was at Sasa with my people and when I saw the level of destruction there, I was saddened. I hurriedly called the heads of various markets, especially markets where Hausa traders are many. I called the heads of Hausa traders in the market and we held a meeting on how the crisis would not spread to this market. Sasa is not far from Bodija and the two markets have similarities.
“There are many Hausa traders in this market selling pepper, onions, yam, cows and many other things. The crisis would have assumed a most dangerous dimension if it spread to Bodija. I appreciate the Divisional Police Officer in this area, Janet Salami, for being proactive and her efforts including the state police command in making sure that the Sasa crisis did not spread to Bodija. Everybody is working to make sure that the crisis did not spread to this market. I also called heads of other markets in Ibadan although there are no Hausa traders in many of them, but we still had to be vigilant. I called heads of markets in Oyo, Ogbomoso, Iseyin and other places for them to prevent the violence from spreading to their areas and we thank God for it.’’
He also called on the government to tackle the rising unemployment in the country to curb a repeat of the crisis, adding that many youths were without jobs and available to be used to foment trouble.
Jimoh stated, “Also, there are many porters especially from the northern parts of the country who have no address and if anything happens, it will be difficult to trace such people. For example, when trucks bring beans to this market, some of the youth aboard the truck heading to Lagos or other places would just decide to alight here especially if they see someone from their villages or local government areas. Such people don’t have a house where they live and they sleep anywhere at night. We cannot stop them from coming here but we want the government to assist us. If everybody has identification like the national identity card, it will help.
“On our part, we are being vigilant and we hold meetings with heads of various groups in the market. This helps us to know whatever is about to happen and we quickly address it. We also tell our people to see everybody as one. We tell them that we are all brothers and sisters. We work together with the police who gather intelligence and we will also assist them to serve us better.”
The Secretary, Oyo State Market Men and Women, Alhaji Ayobami Ajala, said although people from other ethnic groups were not many in the Olomi Market where he is the head, the market leadership holds regular meetings with the community head and the people.
He said, “This has been helpful and we will continue to do everything to ensure that the harmonious relationship among traders and buyers is sustained. Crisis does nobody any good. Apart from that, when an issue is reported, we look into it quickly to prevent such from degenerating.”
On his part, the Babaloja of Ogbomoso, Alhaji Jafaru Babalola, when contacted told our correspondent that there was cordial relationship between Yoruba, Hausa and other traders from various ethnic groups in markets in the town. He noted that the leadership of the markets in the town also urged traders to always report any case that might lead to rancour.
He said, “Ogbomoso is a peaceful place and so also, markets in the town are peaceful. We don’t discriminate against anybody. We can’t even do that because Ogbomoso indigenes are known for travelling far and near to trade and reside. The kind of violence that happened in Sasa Market never happened in any market in the town and it will not happen by the grace of God.
“We are not even stopping at that. We have instructed our people to always report any incident that may result in violence. We work closely with community leaders and security agencies. If there is any case that may degenerate into violence, we will let the security agencies know. But more importantly, we see ourselves as members of one big family and that is what we will continue to maintain. If there is love, no matter the misunderstanding, it will not result in killing or destruction of property.”
The Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji, had also reassured northerners who went to his palace that Ibadan remained their home. He said the city had been accommodating people from various ethnic groups and races, stating that it was large enough to accommodate more people willing to live peacefully with their host.
The immediate past President General of the Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes, Yemi Soladoye, while speaking at the fifth coronation anniversary of the Olubadan also said that the Sasa violence was not between Ibadan people and Hausa, noting that the ancient city would continue to welcome people from all over the world.
He said what happened at the market was a personal issue between some traders. According to him, the group will support efforts being taken by the state government to ensure the return of peace in all parts of the state.
He said, “We want the world to know that despite the Sasa episode, Ibadan still maintains its record of high level of hospitality, tolerance, accommodation and indeed the largest city in Nigeria where all ethnic groups all over the world reside.
“Sasa, Sabo, Ekotedo, Ago Tapa, Ago Igbira, Isale ijebu, Ago Tailor, Oke Shapati and all religious groups coexist without records of ethnic or religious riots. The Sasa episode was principally personalised issues among the traders as against ethnic issues between Ibadan and her guests. We seize this opportunity to confirm to our Governor, Seyi Makinde, that we solidly stand by him and commend him for the efforts taken so far on the return of peaceful co-existence to Sasa in particular and Oyo State in general.”
Also speaking, a textile trader at Gbagi Market, Ronke Agunbiade, also condemned the Sasa violence, saying the government, security agents and traders themselves must ensure that such destruction was not allowed to occur anywhere in the country again.
Agunbiade said, “There is peaceful co-existence in Gbagi market and we are prepared to sustain the peace and unity there. The incident that led to destruction of property and deaths at Sasa Market should not have been allowed to degenerate to that level. The destruction had happened and we should focus on ways to prevent such in future. That is when people from outside will know that we have learnt something from the past ugly incident.
“The first thing I will suggest is that security agents must work with the leadership of various markets. Where there are members of various ethnics groups, they should constantly interact with their leaders and such leaders should also work with the police and other security agents. If any of them hears of an impending attack or crisis, security agents should be immediately alerted and the law enforcement agents should also be proactive. When they are responding to emergencies, they should not waste time to do so.
“In fact, they should have police stations or posts in some markets. Besides, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps should also have presence in markets and their officials must move round the market vicinity, if we do this, I believe we won’t experience such violence again.”
A boutique owner at Sango Market, Mrs Joyce Okechukwu, said Ibadan was largely peaceful with no cases of ethnic disagreement in markets in the state. She, however, blamed the Sasa Market incident on what she described as leadership failure.
She said, “No matter how big a market is, there are various units there and they should have leaders. Their leaders must strive to know their members and even the porters should be registered. The leaders should know everyone operating there and have information about them. This will even make those who buy things from such a market to feel secure. The man that caused the problem in Sasa was said to have fled after the incident. If they have information about him, they would have been able to track him.
“There is the need to organise our market system in a better way so that nobody will just come and cause trouble and vanish without traces. Also, visitors should respect their hosts and vice-versa. If you are living somewhere, respect the culture and traditions of the people there. Do unto others what you want them do to you.’’
A food stuff seller at Bere Market, Hamisu Abubakar, said to prevent a future occurrence of violence in markets, the problems of hard drugs and other substances must be tackled.
Abubakar said, “Most of those involved in this kind of crisis are usually miscreants who are on drugs. They smoke Indian hemp all the time and drink alcohol apart from consuming a cocktail of illegal substances. If such youths are allowed to roam about, there will always be a crisis. When they need money, they go from shop to shop extorting traders and if you don’t give them money, they may start trouble and give it ethnic colouration. That is how trouble will likely spread from town to town and even states.
Saying none was exempted from the situation, the trader called on the government, the police and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency to rid the streets of hoodlums frustrating peace across the country.
According to a bean seller at Dugbe Market, Abdullahi Sanusi, the government has a big role to play in preventing such ugly incidents from reoccurring. He said there should be a constant enlightenment programme to foster unity and oneness in markets.
Sanusi said, “The Dugbe market leadership is making sure that the peace and love among traders are sustained. It is a good step. But the level of distrust among ethnic groups in the country is high and the government must come up with programmes that will make the people see themselves as one. There must be justice as well. I think those in government should also be accessible. If the governor of a state is too busy to be seen by everybody, I think the commissioners should not be difficult to see because they are many and cover different areas.
“The state commissioner for Trade, Industry, Investment and Cooperatives should also visit markets and find out the welfare of the people there. The ministry should not concern itself with what to generate from the markets as revenue, it should find out what is happening there and how it can help the people. The commissioner’s number and the telephone numbers of the Special Adviser to the Governor on Security, DPOs and area commanders should be known by various unit heads in each market. If there is any crisis brewing and any of these people is called, I believe the matter will be immediately tackled.’’
A restaurateur at Agbowo Market, Promise Akpan, also called on the state government, security agents and the leadership of each market to collaborate towards peaceful co-existence in markets in the state.
However, the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr Taiwo Adisa, when contacted by our correspondent, said the Sasa crisis was a peculiar one.
He said, “The Sasa crisis is a special case. It’s the only market where there’s a unique mix of Yoruba and Hausa. Other markets are wholly owned by the government and run by the Babalojas and Iyalojas. There is no such ethnic mix as profound in other markets.”
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