Day pan-Yoruba groups held rally to protest insecurity in South-West
Concerned over the spate of seemingly coordinated security issues ravaging the length and breadth of Yoruba-speaking states, several sociocultural and self-determination groups on June 12, 2019 staged a protest calling on the South West governors and security agencies to work together to protect the lives and properties of the people. Yejide Gbenga-Ogundare reports that the rally held in three states out of the original eight states scheduled.
On June 12, the pan Yoruba group, Yoruba Koya Movement, the Voice of Reason (VOR) and 26 others which include Committee for the Defense of Human Rights, Grassroots Movement of Nigeria, Yoruba Youth Council, Agbekoya Fraternity Movement, Movement for Oduduwa Republic, Oodua Youth Coalition and Oodua Coalition, held a rally tagged O To Ge, to protest the continuous insecurity experienced across states of the South-West, Kwara and Kogi, to bring the consciousness of people to the need to rise up and put a stop to the menace and also call on state governors to work together to combat the incessant menace.
Though the rally was to hold in the six South-West states with Kwara and Kogi states inclusive, it only held in three; Lagos and Osun states held theirs under tight security while the rally in Kogi held on the Kabba Hotel Premises.
Nigerian Tribune learnt that allegations of secession announcement caused the clampdown on the protesters in some states. But in an interactive session at the Gani Fawehinmi Freedom Park, Lagos venue of the rally, the National Director, Organization and Publicity, Yoruba Koya Movement, Mr. Maxwell Adeyemi Adeleye, said the event, contrary to the fallacious claim of some reactionaries within the Yoruba sociocultural struggle that it was meant to declare the secession of the Yoruba Nation from Nigeria, was planned to enjoin all governors in Yoruba-speaking states to integrate towards economic, social and political development of Yoruba land and to make the security of lives and properties of their people an utmost priority.
According to him, the O To Ge rally was meant to reawaken Yoruba people to be conscious of the agenda of some ethnic warlords outside their domain to capture their land and enslave them while masquerading as visitors and to present a public petition to the United Nations, European Union, African Union and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) over the ongoing kidnappings in Southern and Middle Belt Nations of Nigeria and to encourage Yoruba legislators both at State and National Assemblies to endorse, support and move motions that will expressly indicate where the race stands at all time.
The rally took place under tight security at Gani Fawehinmi Freedom Park, Ojota, Lagos, as men of the police and Department of State services cordoned off the area before takeoff of the rally and people were screened rigorously before they were allowed to enter the venue.
But this did not deter the people as once the police discovered that the allegation that the rally was meant to declare a secession of Yoruba land from Nigeria was a lie, they allowed the rally to go on while they kept watch for any untoward act.
The well attended Lagos rally took off with an opening prayer from advertising guru, Chief Femi Kufo of the Voice of Reason. Shortly after the opening prayers, the business of the day began. First to fire the bullet point was the convener, Yoruba Koya Movement, Otunba Deji Osibogun who without mincing words, challenged all Yoruba sons and daughters to be vigilant, alleging that the entire Yoruba Land has been encircled by criminals masquerading as visitors and herdsmen.
“We are not here today to fight, but to make our position known to the whole world. Ekiti, Ondo and Osun have been taken over by kidnappers. People are now scared of travelling along the Ife-Ilesa-Efon Alaaye road. Our farmers in Oke Ogun are now scared of going to their farms,” Osibogun said.
‘Deyoruwa, a farming village in Isara Remo, Ogun State, was completely exterminated by suspected herdsmen because the villagers challenged the criminals on the use of their community as hideout whenever they perpetrate crime along the Lagos-Ibadan Express way. Churches, schools and 23 houses were burnt to ashes with no single arrest by the plice. We say O To Ge
“Over one billion naira leaves the Yoruba economy daily to the North via tomato, cucumber, water melon, carrot and cow; the Yoruba are very peaceful, accommodating and liberal but today, what we are getting from criminals, majority of whom are suspected Fulani herdsmen, is kidnapping of our people, grazing on our farms and raping our wives. I say O To Ge.
“These criminals are now so emboldened that the convoy of my friend, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, was attacked by them few weeks ago. We call on our governors to exhibit courage and defend their people. We call on our security agencies to pay more attention to the security of lives and properties of the people. We say O To Ge,” Osibogun stated.
In their remarks at the event, several speakers, including representatives of Pan Nigeria Delta Forum (PANDEF), Ohaneze Ndigbo and other dignitaries which includes medical guru, Dr Ebun Sonaiya, retired Assistant Inspector General of Police, Tunji Alapini, ex-NADECO chieftain, Col. Tony Nyiam (Rtd), representative of PANDEF, Dr. Denzel Kentebe, Director of Publicity, YULICOM, Arc. George Akinola, among several others, expressed concern over the incursion of bandits into the South West geo-political zone, calling on Yoruba people to be extra-ordinarily vigilant and be ready to protect themselves.
Also in Osun State, protesters in Osogbo were led by pro-democracy activist, Adekanola Desmond and a university lecturer, Mrs Peju Adigun, who defied the heavy presence of police and DSS to make their position known despite the refusal of the state government to give them permit to make use of the designated venue. The protesters moved round the streets of Osogbo to make their points known and went peacefully under the full guidance of the police. And like Lagos, the message in Osun was the same; O To Ge.
However, the rally scheduled to hold at Ibadan Military Cenotaph, Agodi, was aborted and the leaders, Dr. Tunde Amusat, Princes Oyeronke Bolajoko Akinlolu, a sound system operator, Femi Oluwaseun and his engines and seven other participants as well as the banners and fliers meant to be used for public sensitization during the protest were arrested.
Confirming the arrests, the National Public Relations Officer of the Odua People’s Congress (New Era), Comrade Adesina Akinpelu, decried the development, adding that, “We got all the necessary approval but we were surprised to see men of the DSS arriving much earlier, even before the coalition members, with the intent to stop the rally.”
Corroborating the national directorate on the essence of the event, Akinpelu said the botched rally was tagged “O To Ge’ to commemorate June 12 and to address the issue of insecurity in the land and safeguard Yoruba people who are becoming endangered in the land through incessant kidnappings and wanton attacks on their farmlands.
“We don’t want to take laws into our hands and that’s why we called the meeting to bring it to the notice of President Muhammadu Buhari that aside declaring June 12 Democracy Day, he should also tackle the issue of insecurity in our land,” Akinpelu said.
In Ekiti, the Fajuyi Memorial Park venue of the rally in Ado-Ekiti was cordoned off. The state coordinator of Yoruba Koya, Comrade Femi Oluwajuyitan, who led protesters to Oke Isa area of Ado- Ekiti, stated that, “We do not know why they clamped down on us. What we are saying is enough of the ongoing kidnappings, destruction of farm lands and quasi genocide across Yoruba land. We say enough is enough. O To Ge. We demand right to live, right to dignity and right to liberty from the government,” Oluwajuyitan said.
In Akure, the Ondo State capital, presence of security opertives early in the morning caused tension and panic in the Alagbaka area of the state capital. A former commissioner in the state who was billed to address the protesters, Mr. Sola Ebiseni, said he and other protesters had to change the venue of the rally when they observed the heavy presence of the police at Alagbaka roundabout.
In Ogun, the two coordinators of Yoruba Koya, Comrades Timothy Odedina and Biodun Osifeso, were picked up by three operatives of the DSS somewhere in Abeokuta, the state capital where they were holding strategic meetings on Monday, June 10 and weren’t released until the late hours of Wednesday, June 12.
Protesters in Kabba, the headquarters of Yoruba speaking Okun people in Kogi State were also not lucky as there was a clampdown on the protesters. The protesters, led by a former student activist, James Obasa, said his people moved to a hotel on the outskirts of the city to address the press on the spate of insecurity in Okun land, calling on the government of Kogi State and security agencies to ensure that Nigerians live peacefully without being oppressed.