The tragedy of Omo Onile

The Lagos State government, last week, promulgated a law banning land grabbers, popularly called Omo Onile, from its widely reproached notoriety in its vicinity. For those who are not aware of its irritancy, land grabbers are a set of lawless miscreants who traverse every nook and cranny of the land looking for lands to devour. The wording of the law passed by the State House of Assembly, among others, is to the effect that a ten-year imprisonment awaits anyone who forcefully takes over a landed property that does not belong to them. Their modus operandi is recklessness, irreverence and they are unsparing of the law.

Anyone who has ever encountered an Omo Onile and its menace would never wish to have another. They invade a land that does not belong to them, spin ludicrous yarn of how their fathers or forefathers held ownership of the property and proceed to take possession of same. This possession is done with a band of violent, arms-bearing and unruly youth who are obviously under the influence of drugs. They leave in their trails weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth and sometimes, death.

The Omo Onile has constituted a social threat to the wellbeing of society and deserves to be condemned and extirpated from the roots. This is why the Lagos State government needs the commendation of all of us for this proactive action. Apparently due to the intensity of its actions in Lagos and the nefariousness of its activities that have gained notoriety, there was the need for a government that understands the needs and yearnings of the people to take action against the Omo Oniles. And as such, the kudos to the Lagos government.

From the moment that the Land Use Act of 1978 was promulgated, the state governor and chairmen of local governments were given the powers to hold lands in trust for the people. This thus means that they have the powers to grant Certificates of Occupancy (Cs of O) to land owners who then have allodial ownership of lands. This has been flowing unhindered until the powers of government got whittled down by a combination of social and economic forces. Governments are losing their grips of the states and their running, so much that, aside the irritancies of their sirens, they have no singular respect from the people. The agelong role of government to provide security for the people has gone to the dogs. This is where the problem lies.

This is what has led to the lionisation of miscreants in society. The Omo Oniles are offshoots of the Area Boys who have been successfully incorporated into the political system of the Nigerian society. The miscreants are now part and parcel of the governance of states and local governments. They have become instruments of violence that the political class has found to be an anvil of its operations in winning elections in the country. During elections, they are ceded part of the powers of state, to wit authority, violence and in many cases, money. Their brief is to hoodwink political opponents, run them out of town and suppress dissent to the political aspirations of their sponsors.

At the vortex of these violent powers are the road transport unions. They are exposed to daily money, have miniature powers and glory and are lionised to perform risky assignments on the cusp of drugs. They have at their beck and call a retinue of thugs, some of them active and dormant malefactors, drug users and armed robbers. They became really very useful for the political assignment.

In the process, the miscreants became lords of their own, Lords of the Manor, if you like, grandstanding and carrying on like societal panjandrum. Post-election, they still assumed the powers, some of them going about with sirens. But after elections, they understandably lost a great chunk of the potency of their powers and state responsibilities. After elections, the governors shifted attention from election matters to other aspects and as such, the miscreants’ powers ebbed considerably. While the election phobia held and even thereafter, the miscreants easily transmogrified into Omo Oniles or barons of the illicit trade, transporting their violence and ill manner into this new offence. They have led many into their untimely graves and have incapacitated so many. This is why Governor Akinwunmi Ambode deserves to be commended. It is also clear from the above that the failure of government and the illicit camaraderie between runners of government and the miscreants is what is fattening the trade of land-grabbing.

The proactive posture of the Lagos government has now revealed the governance that is in abeyance in the adjoining states. Whether a continuation of their well-known scant regard for humanity or lack of proactive disposition, those miscreants who have been smoked out of Lagos have found comfortable nests in Oyo and Ogun states, especially in their capitals. They are cloning the menace and tears they hitherto inflicted on Lagos residents with reckless abandon. The states and their rulers are less bothered.

If you go to Ibadan, to places like Ajila, Are Egbeomo, Aro, Aba Ayo village, Akogi, Olosun area, Ashaka, Mekun area, Agbada, Alukoso, Manganna, Idi Ahun, Soka areas and many others, you will have an idea of the hues and cries of the people of the state which government is expected to address.

On the whole, while kudos goes to the Lagos government, other adjoining state governments must up their relevance. The counterpoise to this is self help and thus a reincarnation of the brigandage whose ghost is disappearing gradually.