As our reporters made some diggings into the ongoing internal feud between the two factions of the Onyabo Vigilante group in Ikorodu over the leadership succession row, can of worms unfolds. After speaking with the faction claiming to follow the tradition of the group, Olabinjo Olanrewaju Mohammed (aka Lanre Onyabo) the presumptive leader of the group narrated his side of the story. Reacting to accusations from certain group members, Lanre Labinjo expressed his reservations over those members who are complaining about the leadership succession in the group.
According the Labinjo, he is not aware of any struggle for the office of the Grand Commander of the Onyabo Vigilante Group, as far as he knows, he still remains the Provost Marshal and has been carrying out his duty towards ridding Ikorodu community of miscreants. When asked about the various comments by some group members, he said he has no issue with anyone and bears no grudge. “They are all side talks, if any of them have issues with me they should speak up and let’s resolve it. I have been communicating with most of our comrades whenever matters of security comes up and they have been responding. If they start bringing up unnecessary maters at my back, it is a pity,” he said.
On the group’s leadership succession, he said, “there are procedures to the leadership, but no one has indicated interest nor made any move. The tradition demands that rites be performed to properly lay the late leader to rest by offering sacrifices to the departed soul, a move His Royal Majesty has started by inviting the Security Committee who met with the traditional council. They consulted an oracle for the necessary rite, the Oba paid for the items prescribed by the oracle worth over two hundred thousand naira. That was all, nothing has been said about who will succeed the late leader.”
He explained that “it is the duty of the Security Committee to make consultative effort in initiating the succession bid after His Royal Majesty would have sanctioned it. Then the group will call stakeholders together over the appointment of the new leader”. However, he responded to the allegations about claim that the Oba of Ikorodu has picked him to assume the leadership position, “I am not aware of any move by His Majesty. The last time His Majesty invited us was when we had clash between some people in the community, and the meeting was attended by members of the traditional Committee and Vigilante groups. We all left the palace after the issue was addressed. There was never any talk about me or the group’s leadership.”
The man was blunt about his duty to serve the community, he believes that some of the security lapses they are still having in Ikorodu is due to the corruption in the system. He believes that one of the reasons many group members dislike him is his resolve to sanitize the system and keep it free from opportunists and criminal minds who use the privilege as members of the vigilante group to enrich themselves.
Secondly, his attempt to reform the group was met with stiff disapproval while the erstwhile leader was alive. According to Labinjo, he proposed to the former leader to open a record for all serving members of the Onyabo Vigilante group by collating their bio-data. The leader was reluctant for over five months and later said he did not buy the idea of documenting profiles of members since they have taken oath.
“But I strongly felt that the group should know its members and give account of everyone, since there have been reports that some criminals caught claimed to be members of our group. I believe that he who carries out sensitive function like ours must do it with probity, if some bad elements among us are constituting nuisance in the society, we must be able to fish them out. That was my thought, little did I know that many are not happy about it.
Then they labelled my reform plan anti-group policy”. This attempt led to his falling out of favour with the former leader. Lanre Labinjo cleared the allegation that he demanded for the group’s official car through the Oba, he said that was ridiculous because he has three cars and does not need the official car for anything.
Speaking on who is qualify to lead the group, he asserted that Nurudeen Oseni (aka J.J.) is nowhere close to the leadership chain command. This was backed with past meeting records of 2014, 2015 and other minutes from previous meetings the group held in the past. As seen from the register, the Onyabo Vigilante chain of command started with Chief Kamorudeen Bombata as Grand Commander and second in line is Chief Rafiu Onilegboro and Mr. Lanre Labinjo next in line. Nurudeen Oseni was found on number 109 on the list.
“Presently, the likes of Rafiu Onilegboro and Gabriel Adepoju are the most qualified to lead the group. They are both founding members and good mobilizers. But if I emerge leader of the group, I will focus on restructuring the group to a more efficient body. If all other members play their roles, we would have lesser security challenges in Ikorodu. But many are registered as members of Onyabo vigilante but are not active, take for instance, in my command, we have more than one hundred and twenty registered members; yet, only forty members are active and turn out for duty in time of emergency. Other command is even worse, my move to correct all these anomalies earned me enmity with opportunists within”, he explained.
He added that many of the group members are ineffective and are corrupt fellows working to serve themselves and even harbour criminals. “I was shocked to discover that some of our group members facilitate the release of cult boys after we arrest them, they even help the miscreants to escape arrest and inform them of imminent arrest. I had issue with the former leader over such practices and he started hiding some details from me. Many of them who have their hands soiled know that they will face justice if I emerge leader of the Onyabo in Ikorodu division”.
As opposed to what Saliu Bombata said about the origin of the group and Lanre’s involvement in land grabbing issue in Ogombo-Lekki, Labinjo responded that Onyabo was founded by the traditional council when Ikorodu was a hot zone for mob brawl, according to him, the foremost front line vigilante then was Rafiu Onilegboro who was on the vanguard of riding the community off mob street fighting, “The traditional council adopted Rafiu Onilegboro and his team and later merged them with other stake holders. Baba Kamorudeen Bombata later joined and outwit Onilegboro. Saliu Bombata was way too young to have any influence in 2001. I didn’t know him till my group was merged with the Onyabo.”
The issue I had in Ogombo-Lekki was with a land grabber named Kamorudeen Lamina (aka Sir K Oluwo) who encroached on my grandmother’s property. I fought the case and sent the man away from my grandparent’s land, the Ogunleye family land in Ogombo-Lekki”.
“I took oath of allegiance and fealty when I joined the group. At several other occasions when I had disagreement with the former leader, the traditional council made us swear oath at the Eluku Shrine and subsequently at the Iti-Liwe shrine. It is ridiculous for rumour mongers to question my membership and the role I play in the organization. Some of the founding members are still alive, they can testify to these”.
Okogan Ibrahim, who is a long time member of the group, said the leadership position is up to the Traditional Committee and His Royal Majesty to decide. But if they want to follow the chain of command, then, the second in command, Rafiu Onilegboro and third in command, Lanre Labinjo, are the next in line, however, the latter is most suitable because he is educated. “Most of the grumbling members are afraid of Lanre Labinjo because they know that Lanre does not condone corruption. They abuse their privileges by trading with the cult boys in our community, often facilitating their release when arrested and these boys will go back to their dubious acts. Lanre hates such practices with passion, he would not pardon any of his own followers who commit crime, and they fear he will expose their dirty tracks” Ibrahim explained.
Adeshina Abiodun, who is the first Onyabo vigilante driver, asserted that the movement began with Rafiu Onilegboro at the Ajo-Olomba in Ikorodu, but the Kamorudeen Bombata manipulated the group to emerge the leader after he joined. “Nurudeen Oseni is nowhere close to the leadership position of the group, he is not even among the first forty of the chain of command,” Adeshina affirmed. He stated that members of the other faction are jealous and fear Lanre’s unbiased approach. “Lanre does not tolerate ineptitude. He mete out punishment to those working closely with him, they just can’t stand that,” Adeshina said.