You are currently viewing The angry mob of 1983, by Simbo Olorunfemi
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I was quite young at the time. But I have vivid recollection of a lot of what transpired in the political space then. As young as I was, I followed politics religiously and was quite abreast of what was going on and even the undercurrents to the issues of the day.

The 1983 Election was a turbulent one in many regards. The old guard – Chief Obafemi Awolowo (UPN), Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe (NPP), Mallam Aminu Kano (PRP), Waziri Ibrahim (GNPP) and Rev Tunji Braithwaite (NAP) were on the ballot. UPN was in control of the West, NPP in control of core East, PRP in control of old Kano and Kaduna, sizeable part of current North-West, while GNPP was in control of the current North-East.

Then, there was the omnibus NPN, the so-called national party, in control of the reins of power at the centre, with healthy presence in every part of the country, yearning to win more states with the aid of so-called federal might.

The economy was in bad shape, with many of the state governments struggling to pay salaries of their workers. Yet, NPN was desperate to win states in the column of opposition parties. The other parties were not going to let go. It was a ‘do or die’ affair with the Federal powers unleashing their ‘kill and go’ forces.

Some of the UPN controlled States had been torn apart by internal power tussle between the Deputies and the Governors over second term tickets. In Oyo, the deputy, Sunday Afolabi had crossed over to the NPN. In Ondo, Akin Omoboriowo also crossed to NPN and got into the race for the Governorship seat with the incumbent, Adekunle Ajasin.

The Governorship election was held on August 13. It was rancorous, even as it appeared that the people were firmly with the UPN, Awolowo and Ajasin, even in Ekiti where Omoboriowo was from.


Allegations of rigging were rife and hell only waited for a few days to let loose. It was a Tuesday, August 16th. FRCN, the Federal radio, announced apparently doctored election results and announced Omoboriowo as winner. Even as I write, the jittery voice of the Returning Officer, Orinbaloye, I think, still rings in my ears. That was all it took to ignite the mayhem.

The angry mob took to the streets, going after known leaders and supporters of the NPN. Those unlucky to be caught were murdered. Houses were on fire, with the state-owned radio station running live commentary, fuelling rather than dousing the fire.


I stood in front of the house, along with others, as the mob made their way past ours. They moved from one house to the other, setting them on fire. Any house that was unlucky to have a car registered to the same local government as that of the NPN Candidate was set on fire. One of my Mum’s colleague was unlucky. She had travelled. The house and the car of the civil servant who had nothing to do with politics was set on fire. I have friends, some here, who barely escaped with their lives before the mob got to their houses to set them ablaze. It was pure hell. The memory has never left me.

Yesterday, as results began to trickle in, as supporters became buoyed by favourable results, I began to notice the emergence of a disturbing, even dangerous narrative on this platform. I can only imagine what it might be like on others.


Either out of excitement or whatever it is, supporters of a Candidate began to call out people who are of the same ethnic stock with them and their candidate for not voting for their preferred candidate. They began to throw around the labels again – ‘Afonja’, ‘Omo-ale’, ‘Akotileta’. The anger was that the Yoruba had not voted en bloc for their preferred candidate, as if there has been such a case. Is it not the same Yoruba who say that ‘We all can’t sleep facing the same direction?’. How can people be this intolerant, even when they were supposedly celebrating a hard-fought victory?

‘Omo eni o no se di bebere ka lo f’ileke sidi elomiran’. I dare say that the interpretation many of the people are running with appears, to me, flawed. This aphorism does not suggest an unqualified support for one’s own. Rather it does expect for the idi itself to se bebere. That being so, what might appear as qualified in that regard to one person might not be idi bebere to another person. For me, it still does not rule out the power of choice, which some want to abolish.

Some of the people talking Afonja, odale, omo-ale might be too young in age/knowledge to understand the implications of what they are saying/doing. But they need to be careful. The mob of 1983 is now largely an online mob. Radio might have been the medium in 1983, the internet, with social media platforms have become more powerful, even virulent tools in 2023. Forty years after.

Perhaps because of what I saw in 1983, I am unduly cautious. I have consistently called for caution, moderation and patience. But I have also noticed that each time I do that, some come to proclaim that they are either winning or have won. That is good. But there is more to this than winning. People are free to celebrate, gloat and even troll, as they promised to do. But in all that we do, I will continue to urge for caution, patience and moderation. On all sides.


Last night, I saw 2 tweets attributed to Prof Pat Utomi. I struggle to believe that they could have come from him. Such a weighty allegation. Claim of landslide victory without proof. Allegation of rigging, then linking this to June 12. How? The feeling of deja vu that I have is that, yet again, people who should champion peace are flagrantly fouling the air, instigating chaos, when they should be urging caution.

It will only take a spark to get this started. The mob is already here with us. People have been stuck in their own bubbles for a long time, only hearing themselves and voices from their echo chamber. It takes only a little to set the mob on fire.


A mob is not given to thought or logic. Whatever we say or do as we celebrate, gloat, taunt or troll, we must be mindful lest it become a tool in the hands of those who do not mean well. For those who are aggrieved or disappointed, they must find a way to dam or channel their anger, lest it provokes an untoward outcome.

Again, a little bit of patience and moderation will be helpful.

Lennox Mall

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