By Seye Olumide
The people of Southwest Nigeria are not only seething with anger, but also picking up stones. Piqued by pain and anguish, their blazing eyes are trained in the direction of the governors of the region’s six states: Dr. Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Gboyega Oyetola (Osun), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun) and Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos).
The governors’ ‘safety’ depends on how far they fare in tackling the growing insecurity in the region, especially the increasing menace of killer herders. Already, on individual basis, the governors are being evaluated according to what they have done to ensure security of lives and property in their various states, particularly over the excesses of armed ‘local and foreign’ herdsmen.
From 2015, when President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC), the general impression is that Fulani herdsmen, from the same ethnic group as the president, began to put up the air of superiority. In their arrogance, they espoused the right to graze their cows in any part of the country.
It was alleged that one of the factors that emboldening the Fulani herders was the easy access they had to lethal weapons, mainly AK47 assault rifles and ammunition. With those instruments of coercion, the herders were wont to attack their host communities as well as perpetrating crimes like kidnapping, banditry, rape, vandalism of farmlands and even brazen murder of innocent citizens.
Furthermore, as their kinsmen occupy major strategic security positions at the federal level, as well as the lax manner with which the federal security agents address the excesses of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), the herders on several occasions claim responsibility for many attacks on their host communities. All these combined to explain the escalating herders propensity to foment violence and crime. This has become worrisome across Yoruba land.
Toll On The Zone
Previously regarded as the most peaceful region in the country, the Southwest zone has literally been crippled by the destructive and murderous activities of armed herders. The toll is heavy on both material and loss of lives. For instance, few years ago, Fulani herders were accused of murdering the daughter of the leader of apex Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, in Ondo State. Although Akeredolu was campaigning for his reelection, he was accused of not being proactive on the issue of security. The criminal tendency of the herders continued to loom large in the zone, amid speculations that Yoruba spearheaded the rejection of Federal Government’s proposed cattle colony for grazing across the country.
In Ondo State, a senior monarch and his son were abducted and killed. Recall also, that a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Chief Olu Falae, who is also a leader of Afenifere, was kidnapped in his farm by armed herders. Huge ransom was paid to secure his release. Yet, the Federal Government takes no significant action. The unfortunate development continued to permeate Yoruba land to the extent that at a point in Ondo State, when some natives engaged the Fulanis over some attacks, the Federal Government was swift to arrest Yoruba.
It took several media criticisms of the security agents, especially the police couple with the bad image the development portrayed the Buhari administration before the arrested victims were released.
The story was the same in Ogun, Oyo and Ekiti, even as Lagos State was not spared. As the worsening state of insecurity increased, many Yoruba farmers were displaced from their farmlands and communities. This forced the governors to resolve to regional security outfit, which they code-named Operation Amotekun, which was aimed at securing the life and property of the people in the face of herders’ attacks in 2020.
Surprisingly, the Federal Government reacted swiftly and condemned the regional security outfit, claiming it did not only threaten the unity of Nigeria, but also breaches the Constitution.
The murder of one Dr. Fatai Aborode in Ibarapa, Oyo State, came as a defining a moment and roused the people’s anger. It did not take long before some stakeholders in Yoruba land, particularly those of the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) accused the APC governors of playing Ostrich game with the security of their people on the altar of politics and loyalty to the APC’s controlled central government.
In January 2021, Akeredolu having secure his re-election issued a quit notice that all herders should vacate the State’s Forest Reserves on the ground that security reports indicts them for major crimes in Ondo. The murder of Dr. Fatai Aborode in Oyo State by suspected herders also triggered local resentment against the governors, whom they accused of treating the criminal herders with a kids glove. The incidence led to violence reactions against the Hausa/Fulani community in Oyo State leading to the displacement of many headers.
But, following the quit notice of Akeredolu, the north rise in objection especially the Presidency, which claimed that the Ondo State governor has no right to issues a quit notice to any Nigerian in any party of the country.
Specifically, Governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed vilified the Southwest governors, just as he declared that the Fulani herders have the right to carry arms and ammunition for self-defense. He however failed to speak on the activities of the herders. In similar vein, President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan also accused the Southwest governors of inciting their people against the herders in Yoruba land.
Consensus Of Criticism
Reacting on the wherein the Southwest governors were accused of not doing much or nothing to protect their states and the disposition of the northerners that the governors are the ones inciting their people against the herders, prominent Nigerians Yoruba leaders, who spoke with The Guardian warned that the country it on edge and something urgent and critical must be done to address the situation.
In his remarks, a former lawmaker who represented Ogun East in the Senate during the Second Republic, Otunba Olabiyi Durojaiye said leaders and stakeholders’ in Yoruba land must be cautious of what they say because the matter is a not a media issue.
He said those contending with us are strategic and we need to be careful on what we do instead of vilifying our governors or exchanging arguments among ourselves.
He also admonished the leaders of the region that the solution to the herders menace in Southwest must not be politicized. He stressed: “This is not about politics. If we are not aware the Yoruba land is in danger, then we need to rethink. We are in a mess.”
In another reaction, former Military Administrator of Ondo State, Chief Olabode George said it is time for the Yoruba Nation to take two-steps backwards and then rethink, saying, “Otherwise it is obvious that we have been encircled.”
According to him, “It is better we dialogue than to settle for war.” George, who is also a former deputy national chairman of PDP lambasted the leadership of the ruling APC and also accused them of playing politics with the lives and property of Nigerians.”
He said since Lawan, Governor Mohammed and the southwest governors are from the same party, except Makinde, who is a PDP member, “I don’t know why they cannot dialogue and resolve the matter instead of passing negative comments. The fact is Lawan and Bala are not here to have the feel of what the governors are facing and how their people perceive them (governors). They sat in e north and making uncomplimentary comments.”
George said it is imperative of Governor Fayemi, who is the chairman of the governors’ forum to call a meeting to discuss the challenge. “What are NGF and the Economic Management Team doing about the matter or does that mean APC has so disintegrate that they do not talk again at the expense of the security of Nigerians?”
He said as long as the herders have their cows and the Southwest is where they could get food they will continue to bring their cows here to feed “this is where it is necessary for the current leaders to have the political will to resolve the issue. For instance, when we have nine out of the 11 security managers of the country are from the north, this type of crisis cannot be resolved.”
George also advised the Southwest governor against negotiating with the herders. “This is an insult and they should not continue otherwise the governors would be giving the criminal herders boldness to continue terrorizing the region. Our governors should rather pay more attention to fortify the new security initiative, Amotekun and empower it to fight crime and criminals in their zone”
The PDP stalwart added that the challenges confronting Nigeria is a pointer to the fact that we need to restructure of governing system.”
He however said under no circumstances should the Federal Government or any state governor pad foreign herders, who misbehave or threatened Nigeria’s security at the back. We should rather deal with them brutally.”
The Secretary General of Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), Dr. Kunle Olajide, who aligned with those who claimed that Southwest governors are not doing enough to fight said what is facing Yoruba land at present is essentially dangerous. “Foreigners coming to our land to harass us is unacceptable and we need not to negotiate with them at all.
Speaking in similar direction with Otunba Olabiyi, former Governor of Ogun State, who is also the chairman Constitution Drafting Committee of APC, Aremo Segun Osoba refused to speak publicly on the matter. He noted that this crisis is strictly a security matter of which strategy, plans and actions cannot be a public discussion, the former governor said, “Since I am in direct contact with all the parties involved, it would be unfair of me either to myself or to the governors to start discussing on the pages of newspaper.”
The former Managing Director of Daily Times Newspaper added that it is painful Nigeria is currently being ravaged with this nature of insecurity “but we shall overcome it.”
Taking his contribution on the way out of the imbroglio and whether it is ripe for the Yoruba should embrace the option od self-defense, a former Minister of Defence, Dr. Olu Agunloye said it was a pity that the governors are being blamed or accused at home of not doing enough just as they are also being critcised by their northern counterparts from the same party of inciting their people against the Fulani herders. According to him, “This is expected when a society has suddenly found itself face to face with unwarrantable crisis. In fact, some of the Yoruba leaders are also attacking themselves and looking for the traditional “omo-ales” (bastards) amongst themselves, which need to be dealt with first before facing the real enemies. There are, indeed, anger, anxieties and inconsistencies in the land. The current actions and counteractions show some level of incoherence and unpreparedness in the face of premeditated attacks and unfolding political conquest plans.
“It has therefore become imperative for the Yoruba nation to deploy all resources within the land to galvanise a meticulous Defensive Action Plan (DAP) complete with strategies, schedules and schemes to protect the commonwealth and future of Yorubaland. This will have to be led by the governors acting as ‘Chief Operating Officers’, not Chief Executive Officers and select Yoruba leaders and traditional leaders as the ‘Governing Council’.”
Agunloye added that the well-articulated and focused DAP will be an all-inclusive synergy programme, which will recognise the peculiarities of the Southwest geopolitical zone and galvanise all the human and materials resources and talents within the zone to coordinate formal and informal security forces. “The latter will include Yorubakoyas, Agbekoyas, Oodua People Congress (OPC), and the courageous Sunday Igbohos in the land as well as others who are just as potent but less famous. The Governors will assume full powers as both Operating Officers and Security Officers in their respective states. The operational mode of the plan will need to extract maximum support from the Federal Government and the Presidency to engage and disengage all manners of bandits and criminals from the zone.”
He noted that to achieve optimisation, the plan, through the actions of the governors must rekindle the Amotekun spirits in the hearts and souls of all the people in the land, liaise with other geopolitical zones especially, adjacent South-South and North Central Zones, and recognise that at the brink of civil war or disintegration, there is no time for politicking, self-aggrandisement, personal ambitions or self-interests.
Agunloye was miffed with the position of the Senate President and Governor Bala on the matter. He said, “Their positions reminded me of that old saying that “by their words you shall know them” which is apt in this case. Governor Bala is however, very correct that AK47 is at the centre of all of these unrests and violent crisis in Nigeria. It is so either as a weapon or as a figure of speech. The bandits use AK47s to protect selves and to attack others and they have continued to do so with all impunity; and, worse more, in an environment which forbids law abiding persons from carrying AK47 or barrel shot guns. The position of His Excellency may also support those who argue that the Presidency or National Security Council has encouraged or turned a blind eye on dangerous criminals who carry AK47s.”
He said it was sad that at trying moments, which beckon on leaders to rise to the rescue, some prominent leaders, not limited the North, or to the Governor of Bauchi or Senate President, have not found their voices toward how best to reverse the dangerous descent towards imminent plunge down the cliff. It may also be reasoned that those who criticise the Southwest governors or accuse them of fomenting crisis may be simply ignorant or deliberate in their attempts to hide the real reasons behind the incessant civil unrests or trying to cover up the shortcomings of those charged to guarantee peace and security in the land.
According to him, “In truth, there have been pervasive attacks, invasions, atrocities, and crimes in the South West in recent times. No areas or personalities are spared. Women, monarchs, scholars, businessmen, traders among others have been attacked. These are traceable to herdsmen or nomadic bandits or hoodlums who we need not label as Fulani or foreigners. The new reality is that there are criminals now ravaging the South West and other parts of Nigeria and they threaten the unity, peace and development of the nation.
“So far, all the Yoruba governors are trying their best. In Ondo State, the forests reserves were turned into crime centres and Governor Akeredolu ordered the criminals out of the forests within a period. He further ordered that all those who wish to do legitimate businesses in the forest should register with the State Government. He was right. His orders were in order. In Oyo State, the Governor sensed that the fragile peace in the rural areas could be drastically altered if locals fanned embers of intolerance. He too was correct.
“The increasing state of insecurity in the Southwest is only a part of widespread insecurity in Nigeria and an indication that things may soon get out of hands. It must be clearly stated here that the general insecurity in the country caused by bandits and hoodlums is an affront on the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces whose main duty is to ensure security and protect the Nigerian domain. The attacks on citizens, communities are vivid signs that the country’s Chief Security Officer is unable to protect the country. The attacks constitute a grievous assault on the economic development of the nation. These imply that either the Presidency is unable to carry out its functions or is in connivance with or encouragement of the ravaging process for reasons that have not been made public. It is unfortunate that innocent people bear the physical consequences like arsons, kidnapping, rapes, violent deaths, property destructions and so on.”
But putting the blame of the state of insecurity across the country on politicians, Chief Tola Adeniyi, a former Chairman/MD of Daily Times conglomerate said, “Politicians have succeeded in creating an Assemblage of Politicians, a Political Arena without government. Imagine the recklessness of a Senate president blaming governors for insecurity knowing fully well that the governors are mere ‘Decoration Posters’ as far as security architecture of the country is concerned. Or a Minister, of Defence for that matter, inciting the unarmed civilians to defend themselves against the ferocious monstrosity of AK-47 wielding marauders. Can politicians be more anti-people and anti-commonsense?”
Adeniyi dismissed the current senate and its leadership as by far the worst, the most self-serving, the most partisan, and the most docile in all of the history of Nigeria. “They have been cowed down by the equally incompetent and nepotic Presidency which in itself has been cowed down by the Cow Constituency,” he said.
He added that whenever the history of the eventual collapse of this country is written “Nigeria’s commercial/mercenary politicians will surely take a lion share of the blame. It is just unimaginable that any crop of human beings anywhere on earth could be as insensitive, as unfeeling, as wrongheaded, as selfish and self-centered as the politicians who the ordinary people of Nigeria had/have been unlucky to share space with.”
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