I cannot stop the cry for improved security in ourYoruba Southwest. Our elected governors, legislators, and traditional rulers, must break their silence and wake from their sleep,and begin to do something urgently to stem the rising tide of violence in our Yoruba homeland. Our region is being subjected to invasion from various directions and we must stop it. That is the present state of our affairs in Nigeria.
I am not happy that the cry about the growing invasion of our homelandhas been limited to only a few voices among us. It is a matter over which multitudes of usshould be shouting untilwe become satisfied about the steps being taken about it by our elected rulers and our traditional rulers. Very many individuals among us, and many of our civic organizations, youth organizations, women’s organizations, market women’s associations, workers’ unions, commercial drivers’ associations, and self-determination groups should raise their voices. Those of us who can do so must go and talk to our governors in their offices, legislators in their Houses of Assembly, and Obas and Baales in their palaces. That is what the situation now demands.
It is very important that we must not wait until our youths begin, on their own, to rise up in wild and uncoordinated responses to the invasions of our homelandand the violence against our unprotected communities. Signs that our youths could begin to fight the invaders are already showing up. In the course of the past week, some of our self-determination groups have issued warnings against the invasions – and many others are known to be getting agitated. We know, of course, that our youth groups have more than it takes to defend our communities against the various attackers from outside – against murderous Fulani herdsmen and their Libyan mercenary allies, and against Ijaw criminal elements killing, kidnapping and destroying in our coastlands. The reason why our elected rulers and traditionalrulers must take steps now is that their actions will be more orderly and better controlled.
Our rulers, especially our governors and legislatures, must already know what other Southern and Middle Belt governors are doing tocontrol the destructive and murderous activities of Fulani herdsmen in their states. Still, we must shout the information loudly in the ears of our governors. Available information has it that in Enugu State, the state government has set up a patrol system in the northern districts of the state, and that such patrols have seriously curtailed the uncontrolled roaming of the herdsmen and their cattle in the state’s farmlands. It is also said that other states in the Southeast and South-south are doing much the same thing.
Governors of most states in the South and Middle Belt have definitively rejected the granting of farmland for the establishment of “grazing reserves“in their states. In Plateau State, where the governor first offered to grant land for the grazing reserves, he has withdrawn the offer – under pressure from crowds of his people. In our Southwest, only the governor of Ekiti State has definitely rejected any possibility of grazing reserves in his state, and we must urge our other governors to do so. All our governors already know that we Yoruba will never step down in civilization by allowing any part of our land to regress into primitive cattle herding. It will not happen. We will resist it with everything in our power, untilthe promoters of the project go away and leave us in peace. Our governors owe us the duty of telling the rulers of Nigeria very definitely that it is not possible to grant any inch of Yorubaland for Fulani herdsmen’s grazing reserves.
Because our rulers have been delaying action to stop the crimes by the Ijaw criminal elements in our coastal communities, the criminals have become excessively confident. Early this past week, they kidnapped a First Class Oba, the Oniba of Iba in Lagos State, and they are said to have shot his wife and to have killed some family heads in his community. They are still holding the kidnapped Oba as these words are being written, apparently trying to work up an atmosphere in which his people would be ready to pay a big ransom for his release. In some of our cities, banks cannot now open until late in the day – for fear of invasion by well-armed robbers from outside our region.
It is right and proper that we Yoruba people do not want to use our big size and power against our smaller and traditionally friendly neighbours, but irritation is manifestly growing among us, and our state governments and traditional rulers must urgently bring theseunprovoked insults to an end. Of ways to get this done, one is that our state governors must start discussions on this whole matter with, for instance, the governors of the South-south – in addition to the statesmanlike contacts already established between the civic leaders of the Southwest and the South-south. Another is to set up in our states in the Southwest the kinds of securityarrangements that any state government can set up – the kinds of security apparatuses that state governments across Nigeria have been known to set up in times of need and in the absence of state and local government police forces.
I have already mentioned state governments that have established patrols in their rural areas. I repeat that our state governments should establish such patrols immediately to beef up security on our farmlands. It is time we serve notice to the murderous Fulani herdsmen and their sponsors that they cannot use violence to take over our farmlands for their cattle rearing, and for their plan to set up grazing reserves in our homeland.
In this column last week, I also suggested that our state governments should also look into the possibility of using OPC for our security – a body which even the Nigerian Federal Government recently employed to tackle certain kinds of crime. I hereby repeat that suggestion. In an interview a few days ago, the leader of a wing of OPC, OtunbaGani Adams, told us that OPC is able and ready to man security in our states and to bring the criminal violence against our coastal communities to a quick end. He added that all that OPC would need is legal coverage by our state governments. He told us that when OPC responded recently and stopped criminal violence in an area of one of our states, some OPC members were arrested by the police for the injuries suffered by the criminals, and that those OPC members are still in detention in prison. If a state government calls OPC to action and provides legal coverage for OPC members during that action, the interest of our public would be well served. We citizens of the Southwest cannot see why this should be difficult. It obviously is not difficultfor other state governments in other regions of Nigeria to uselegally covered vigilante groups to protect their people. Since we are not allowed to have state government police and local government police, are we then condemned to live unprotected like sheep without a shepherd, or to live perpetually in fear and suffering from violent criminals from other parts of Nigeria?
I also suggested last week that we should revive, in all our towns, our traditional measures of community protection. Under such measures, our Obas and Baales are able to call some groups of men into action to defend our streets, especially during night hours. Happily, I have read in some news these past few days that some Obas are already doing this,and that such Obas are thereby considerably improving security in their towns. It would help a lot if our state governors were to address meetings of the Obas in their states, and urge them to begin to use this age-old community protection method.
Finally, I must also repeat, and repeat very emphatically, that our state governments should act urgently to remove okada and riotous street vending from our streets. Such actions have been taken by many state governments in other regions of Nigeria. Only our Lagos State governor has banned street vending. There is no doubt that both okada and street vending, the kinds that one sees in our major cities all over our Southwest these days, hold enormous potential for crime, injuries, sabotage, and even terrorism. A word is enough for the wise.