My wife won’t rest until ritualists who beheaded her face justice — Husband of murdered Osun food hawker

A food vendor and resident of Alapata area in Modakeke, Osun State, Latifat Olabode, had no inkling that death lurked around while leaving her residence around 3pm on Friday, April 9, 2021. One of her regular customers known in the vicinity as lfa was sadly believed to be the harbinger of death.

Olabode was in high spirits as she left home that day in anticipation for the same good sales she recorded the previous day. Before the food vendor left home that day, Sunday PUNCH gathered that she received a phone call from Ifa, said to be an herbalist and resident on London Street, Iremo, Ile-Ife. The customer was said to have asked her to reserve some food for him.

Our correspondent gathered that the food hawker exchanged pleasantries with those who saw her as she left home to start the day’s hawking. With a large bowl of Yoruba delicacies of ekuru (Beans recipe) and eko (Maize pudding) carefully balanced on her head, the 55-year old mother of four walked away to her usual routes to sell food to her customers. Sadly, that was her last moments with neighbours and her family as her mutilated body was later found in a mud house around Iremo Quarters with her head and limbs severed by suspected ritualists.

The incident sparked tension as youths from Modakeke were said to have gathered and vowed to avenge the woman’s killing. Prior to the discovery of the woman’s mutilated body, her children and other family members were worried when she didn’t return home on Friday evening.

A search party was immediately organised to look for Olabode and her husband, Adebare Olabode, working in Ibadan, Oyo State, was not immediately informed of her missing because everyone thought she would be seen hale and hearty. It was learnt that the search party comprising family members and other residents combed Olabode’s residential area in Modakeke before moving to Ife as she mostly moved between the two towns to hawk.

Sunday PUNCH gathered that early on Saturday morning, some people in Iremo Quarters who got information that the woman was missing contacted her relations and the search was narrowed to a mud house on London Street, where she was seen last around 6pm the previous day.

When the door to the house was forced open, the mutilated body of Olabode confronted the youth with her head and two hands missing. The youths who were angered by the discovery evacuated the corpse and set the building ablaze.

A resident of Iremo, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told our correspondent that the deceased arrived in the area around 6pm on Friday and headed to Ifa’s house to deliver the food she requested.

The said resident added that he became curious when around 8pm on Friday the herbalist’s house became quiet. He further said that the herbalist had some people working with him, noting that there were other occupants in the house.  Our correspondent learnt that the suspect and his collaborators fled the vicinity after allegedly committing the crime.

Speaking to Sunday PUNCH in a solemn mood, the deceased’s husband, Adebare, said he was at work in Ibadan on Saturday when a relation called him on the phone to inform him that his wife was missing.

Adebare said he had no premonition of the disaster, adding that his wife visited him about two weeks ago in Ibadan. He stated that he was told that his wife’s killer earlier called her to order food before she left home on the day she was killed.

He demanded immediate arrest and prosecution of those behind his wife’s death to serve as a deterrent to others involved in such heinous acts.

Adebare said, “We saw each other last when she came to Ibadan on a visit because we didn’t stay together. I work and live in Ibadan, while my wife lives at Modakeke. I was at work last week Saturday when my sister called me on the phone that my wife was missing since Friday. I was told she went out to hawk food and didn’t return. But my family didn’t inform me or raise the alarm till the next day when she was declared missing. Immediately I was told, I called the youngest of my children, schooling at a polytechnic in Offa, Kwara State, to inform him that their mother was missing.

“But he told me that their mother had been found dead in the Remo Area of Ile-Ife. I could not believe what he said. I immediately told my bosses at work what happened so I could go to Osun. On getting to Ile-Ife, I went to the scene of the incident though her remains had been taken away by my eldest son and deposited at the mortuary. Policemen also accompanied them.

“I was at the scene when I saw the Divisional Police Officer of ‘A Division’ Moore, (Ile-Ife) and I introduced myself to him. We exchanged phone numbers and he told me to see him at the office and I went. I, on behalf of other family members of the deceased, am demanding justice. We want justice to be done on this issue. All the culprits should be apprehended and brought to book. That is when the spirit of the deceased will rest.

“I had no premonition of her death at all. Imagine someone who went to hawk around 3pm. She was not sick and the next thing one hears is her death? The information I heard was that she was called on the phone and she told the people in the house that she was called by a man identified as Ifa, who ordered food. The deceased had four children; two male and two female.”

Speaking further, Adebare acknowledged efforts of the Ogunsua of Modakeke, Oba Moses Oyediran, and his chiefs to ensure that those behind the heinous act were arrested to ease the tension generated by the development.

Killing stirs communal tension

Sunday PUNCH gathered that immediately news broke that the woman was killed, youths from Modakeke gathered and moved to where the corpse was discovered.

The quick intervention of the leadership of the flagship group of indigenes, Modakeke Progressives Union, the security operatives and the Obalufe of Ife, Oba Idowu Adediwura, doused the tension.

On how the matter was managed to ward off unrest, the spokesperson for the MPU, Venerable Debo Babalola, said the irate youths at different times attempted to invade the palace of the Ooni of Ife and Ogunsua with the corpse to register their displeasure over the incident.

Babalola said when the incident was brought to his notice on Saturday, he immediately moved to the scene and pleaded with the angry youths and commercial motorcyclists who had gathered near the scene to allow security agents to do their work.

To show their displeasure regarding the act, Babalola said some youths in Ile-Ife razed down the building occupied by the suspects.

He added, “I am an Anglican priest. We held a funeral service at my church and because of that I switched off my phone till 11am on Saturday. When I put it on around 11am on Saturday, I got a call from the DPO of Modakeke Division, who asked me if I had heard of the killing of a woman and I said no.

“The DPO told me to come to London Street at Iremo Area, Ile-Ife. He said that many Modakeke youths were planning to protest against the killing of one ‘Iya elekuru.’ As I ended the call, another call came in from the National President of MPU, Mr Julius Odegbemi, who told me to immediately proceed to the scene and calm down the aggrieved youths. On getting to the scene of the crime, there was serious rage from the youths and the family of the slain woman. They were ready to start a war. I asked them what happened and I tried to pacify them.

“I told the angry youths that what happened was a suspected ritual case against Modakeke people. We should not allow it to escalate into communal clashes. The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, is a peace-loving man. He detests violence. What people in the area told me when I got to the scene was that the woman got into the neighbourhood some minutes past 6pm on Friday. I also learnt that while she was locked inside in the building, she shouted that four people were about to rape her. But the people in the vicinity said they did not bother since she was not new to the occupants of the building.

“The matter took a turn for the worse when the vehicle that conveyed the corpse rather than driving to the mortuary headed for the palace of the Modakeke monarch. It’s a taboo for a Yoruba oba to see a corpse.

“After we spoke to them, they agreed to move the body away to the mortuary. The vehicle later headed for the Ooni of Ife’s palace. I had to call Sarun, (the Ooni Chief of Staff) and told him that the entrance to the palace should be locked before they arrived in the place.  After all that, the Obalufe of Ife called me and said we should move the body to the mortuary in Ife General Hospital to avert further crisis. We eventually succeeded in doing that.  The crowd that followed us around while we took the body to the hospital was massive. The house where the deceased was found dead was razed down by the Ife youths to douse the tension.”

On his part, Oba Adediwura urged security agents to apprehend those involved in the dastardly act to serve as a warning to those nursing such acts.

He stated, “Killing and dismembering of the human part is a serious crime. We should not allow such a thing in our land. The town is ready to support the law enforcement agencies and the media to expose evil doers in this land.

We are ready to support the media. Let’s all join forces to end such a horrible incident. We will monitor the matter and ensure that the perpetrators are punished. We don’t harbour criminals in Ile-Ife.”

Speaking on investigation into the crime, the spokesperson for the Osun State Police Command, Yemisi Opalola, said the number of suspects involved had yet to be known.

Opalola said operatives were working round-the-clock to unravel the mystery behind the killing. She stated that the main suspect had been identified, adding that he was on the run.

She said, “The main suspect is still on the run. Preliminary investigations revealed a case of suspected ritual killing and investigation is steadily progressing. We cannot say the number of people involved in crime, but the main suspect known to people in the neighbourhood (name not mentioned), is on the run.

“The police are however assuring all those involved in the crime will be apprehended and brought to book. Justice will be served on this matter. The Commissioner of Police, Mr Wale Olokode, has given a marching order to the investigators.”

 Copyright PUNCH.

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