By ADEBAYO OBAJEMU
Sometimes from a very little exhilaration of mission springs life-changing events, says Victor Hugo, the French novelist. For Chief Sunday Adeyemo, a.k.a Sunday Igboho, such exhilaration came during the Ife- Modakeke crisis.
As a young man learning the artisan trade of motor repair in Modakeke, a town he has come to love, which folklore, small town life and pristine way of life not only infused him with a state of being called happiness but has come the very soul of his existence since he moved to the place in 1985 as a teenager.
Though born in and a native of Igboho in Oke Ogun axis of Oyo State, the injustice of the Ife- Modakeke crisis was not lost on him, having seen in the latter a sense of victimhood.
Thus he enlisted in the trenches on the side of Modakeke, and his exploits in the protracted crisis earned him his first spotlight as an activist and warrior akin to Dedan Kimathi, the hero of the native Mau Mau uprising in Kenya against colonialism.
He shares Kimathi’ s persona at many levels. One, his supposed invincibility to bullets and iron weapons, his alleged possession of supernatural powers and his bravery and commitment to the cause of his people and to the oppressed anywhere.
In no time myths and folklore were built around him, especially after his notorious exploits in the political crisis that rocked Oyo State when Rasheed Ladoja was governor. Recall that Ladoja with the backing of the then strong man of Oyo politics, late Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu , was impeached by the state’s House of Assembly.
The violence and crisis that followed pitched Ibadan into two camps, on the Ladoja’s camp was his generalissimo, Sunday Igboho who counter-balanced the Adedibu’s boys’ terror.
From what many regarded as his bravery in the crisis the name Sunday Igboho became a household one, with many shortchanged or visited with one form of injustice or the other going to him for justice which he willingly and readily dispensed with gusto.
Many who had been robbed off of their land went to him for justice and he would do the needful according to many accounts, including his own. On Modakeke crisis, he says he has no regret, what he did, he believed, was to defend his people.
“Modakeke was a different thing entirely. That was where people got to know me. And I do not believe that should be counted against me at all. If anyone says because I said I have not killed before and they refer to Ife-Modakeke crisis, it will be unfair because that was a war.
“A person that wanted to kill me and razed my property is bent on killing me, so if one killed while defending himself, I don’t think it is a crime. May God forgive us, but it will be unfair for anyone to judge me based on a story they do not know the full details.
“I lived in Modakeke and the Ile-Ife people said they wanted to send Modakeke people packing from their lands. That was where these people have lived all their lives. How can you suddenly rise to send them away? That was where my father lived and built a house; that was where I lived. So, I had to rise in defence of my home. Our house was burnt down during that crisis.
“I had been in Modakeke since 1985; that was where I learnt a vocation, got married and gave birth to children. So, should I have folded my arms while my father’s house was burnt and lose everything? People just shout Sunday Igboho, Sunday Igboho — who can say he saw me in a public fight?
“Who can say he has seen me cheat or oppress people? If you hit my car, I tell you to go because if I did anything untoward, people would say I was oppressing such person because of my personality.
Many who know the 45-year- old rights activist say he is jovial and gentle, with some saying his gentle mien is a steely one. He has said on many fora that it was Modakeke crisis that turned him into a fighter
“It was when the crisis occurred and I saw that Modakeke was about to be oppressed that I took up the task. I decided then that if God could give me success in fighting against the oppression of Modakeke, there was nowhere someone would be cheated around me and I won’t rise in the person’s defence.
“Modakeke people didn’t just get to that place; they didn’t get their 100 years earlier and you just told them to leave your land. The land belongs to God and you would recall that former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in ending the dispute, said that Ile-Ife is the source of all Yoruba and that all Yoruba people could decide to return to live in Ile-Ife.
A myth has built around him, similar to one around kinship in the 1950s – the ability to command gun to appear at will, the bullets of which are said to be physically and spiritually deadly. On that he said he inherited the supernatural act of commanding gun to appear in his hand at will from his father.
Described as a good family man, married to two women, according to accounts, none of them live in Nigeria – one allegedly in Germany and the other in Canada.
Igboho is a rich man with houses and choice cars. His Ibadan mansion was recently gutted by fire a day after he ordered the Sarkin Fulani to leave Iganga, after the expiration of seven-day he gave the Fulani to leave Igangan and Ibarapa land expired.
After he sacked the Fulani, the government through the Inspector General of police ordered his arrest, the order is yet to be effected. Many believe the government is treading softly, as it is widely believed that he has the backing of wide spectrum of Yoruba intelligentsia, traditional rulers and the mob on his side.
His quit Ibarapa land order to the Fulani was condemned by Oyo State governor, Seyi Makinde, who tended to downplay the security situation in Ibarapa land, warning that he would not condone trouble maker hiding under Yoruba nationalism.
Igboho shot back, saying Makinde is a traitor, daring him to do his worst.