Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba land, Iba Gani Adams, speaks with BOLA BADMUS on the Federal Government›s insistence on grazing routes and lately farm estates across the federation which he says will create more chaos.
How do you see the Federal Government›s insistence on securing grazing routes in 27 states of the federation?
Well, they can’t insist on having grazing routes in 27 states. All land belongs to the states; it is between the states and their communities. The constitution didn’t even allow the Federal Government to grab lands from the states. So the Federal Government should respect the principle of three tiers of government: federal, states and local governments. They can’t impose their wish on the states and local governments.
The question even is: as we have different sectors in agriculture, is the Federal Government telling us that the herders are the most important stakeholders in the agricultural sector? We have people in charge of livestock and the government hasn’t raised an eyebrow on them. So why placing importance on cattle herders?
We are reading political motives into the government action and we are seeing it as a strategic way of grabbing our lands. It is like the Federal Government wants to expand the territory and base of the Fulanis to the Western and urban regions and, for that reason, we are becoming suspicious about the government’s action on the grazing issues.
And what is the job of the government? The major priority of any government should be security, without which there is no governance. It is when you have peace and tranquility that you can govern any society or country. The governors as the chief security officers of states have already read signs of security threat on open grazing and agreed that they don›t want it in the region. They are saying that if you want to rear cattle, you should go and build a ranch. A community can sell land to you to build the ranch and have your operation as a herder in their community.
We have travelled to many countries. For instance, Namibia as a country has millions of cows and its population is not even up to 10 million. They also practise ranching. So why should anyone encourage those who call themselves herders that have become terrorists in our bush, killing and maiming people, to operate in that way? We are not ready to discourage them in their business, but we want a situation in which they can be in one place, so that we can monitor them and their activities. We can›t continue to be losing our souls, because we want to eat cows. We can change from eating cows and look for other means of sustaining ourselves, if herders› operation is becoming a threat to our lives, environment and impeding on all other businesses we are operating in South-West and the entire southern region.
So I am in support of governors of the entire South on Anti-Open Grazing Law. They must not shift their ground on what they have decided, because we are watching them. They are the representatives of the people in the South and we are in support of everything they agreed upon in their meeting. They must not shift ground; anyone of them that shifts ground from what they agreed on will die politically and lose his respect in his state. The entire people of the state should see him as a political harlot, who betrayed the course of the entire South.
Before amalgamation, we knew how we operated, the Southern and Northern protectorates. And even with the amalgamation, the South and the North still exist; so one man›s food may be another man›s poison. The four governors in the North made a decision; they shut markets, banned bringing cattle into their states, and made a lot of decisions in their states to stop the security threat and I believe it›s working now.
The decisions were taken by the governors of Niger, Katsina and two other states in the North and most of the policies affected the herders. But Miyetti Allah did not raise any voice on that; they did not shout and heaven did not fall. But once anything comes from our governors in the South, the group will be lambasting our governors. We voted for them (governors) to be our leaders and a commoner, who formed an organisation, cannot be threatening the governor of a state. So this is a clarion call to the entire Southern region: the South-West, South-East and South-South. We must not go back on our stance on open grazing.
Sometimes we are hearing from a section of Miyetti Allah that those perpetrating this act of terrorism are from outside the country and are not Nigerians. Do you agree with them?
Definitely, a lot of them, but we still have our people who are conniving with them. Even in Yoruba land, I can talk specifically about Yoruba now. We still have our people who connive with them, because of economic gains and I think their days are numbered. I even got an intelligence report that Miyetti Allah has bribed some prominent people in Yoruba land to support them in these illegal trades, but I won’t mention names. This is because if I do, you will be shocked.
But I am warning all those that have collected money to support the policy against the stance of our governors. Those people should be very careful and the general public should watch them and their utterances, because by next week, if care is not taken, you will see some people that would be attacking our governors over this Anti- Grazing Law. I got that piece of information three days ago that Miyetti Allah has rolled out money to certain people in the South-West. I don’t know about other zones, but those people would fail at the end of the day.
Don’t forget that when we were fighting for this Amotekun, some Yoruba people kicked against it. And you can see the advantage of Amotekun now as the issue of insecurity in the region has reduced. If the governors did not have Amotekun, who would implement the Anti-Open Grazing Law? The police cannot implement it as the Inspector General of Police (IGP) would just call them to order. Their loyalty is to him. He can even call the Commissioners of Police to stay off and not arrest the herders or even criminals. Now, we have our security outfit, even though the governors have not recruited enough personnel, which they should do.
I will appeal to the Lagos State government to join the queue, because if they don›t join what we are doing in the South-West, by the time some of their politicians go to other states in the zone to look for votes on party platform, they would be told ‹you are not part of our agenda in South-West.› Before they know it, the Amotekun would have driven out criminals from other states and the criminals will have nowhere to go, but Lagos. Already, five states have started operation of Amotekun. Osun has launched their own ; Ogun has launched theirs; Ekiti has done its own a long time ago, also Oyo too, and Ondo has been passionate about it. It›s only Lagos and for what reason? We have rural areas in Lagos State; Badagry is there. I was in Agbara yesterday, part of which is Lagos State; we have Epe and Ibeju-Lekki, where people are being kidnapped every day.
We also have Ikorodu. Forests are there, which kidnappers take as safe haven. A businessman was kidnapped two months ago. About N15 million was collected from him. Even though Lagos State may not want to put Amotekun in business districts; they can put them in the rural areas. So why have they refused to do it? The question I want to ask the government of Lagos State is, what is the reason behind slowing down the issue of Amotekun? I think the issue of security is very paramount, we should forget about the political issue. It›s when you have your life and you are safe that you can play politics. If you are not safe and your environment is not conducive, you can›t do anything. We are sitting here because there is peace in the estate. If you hear gunshots from different directions now, everybody will be scared; you will be disorganised. Even though they ask you to eat, you can›t at all. So the issue of security should be the number one priority of any government.
If the Federal Government insists on this issue of grazing routes, what is the Plan ‘B’ of Yoruba leaders?
They can’t insist. It can’t work. It will be the beginning of anarchy. It can even lead to war, if the governors are determined. The governors don’t know how powerful they are; they interface with the citizens, but the Federal Government does not. The Federal Government just interfaces with government officials. So the Federal Government cannot bamboozle them. You can’t force them. You can take a horse to the river, but you can’t force it to drink water. So the governors own Nigerians. The Federal Government is just a coordinating structure; the governors are the main government, and the Federal Government is the coordinating one. That is why it is called the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The entire states came together to have a Republic, the Federal Republic of Nigeria. And any governor that feels intimidated on this issue should be tagged as an enemy of the people of his state and the region. This is the opportunity for the governors to save the lives of their people with the strategies we mapped out in Yoruba land, because the bandits have already moved to Lagos-Ibadan expressway. They still killed one person, who came from the UK some weeks ago. There was a lady who came from the UK for her father›s burial. When she was coming back to Lagos, they shot at her and she died. Her children were very lucky to have escaped. And when you kill somebody coming from the Diaspora, it is worrisome.
I read an economic analysis, which says that the Diaspora has remitted about $35billion this year alone to the Nigerian economy. And $35billion is even more than what we generate in our economy internally when converted to naira; it is even far beyond what we earmarked for this year›s budget. So we have to be very careful how we manage our security, so that it doesn›t affect the opportunities coming from the Diaspora and we don’t discourage the investors, who are coming to invest in the country.
Wholeheartedly, I support the governors of the South on Anti-Open Grazing Law, and those governors who have not signed the bill into law, we should watch them very closely to know maybe they want to sell us out and encourage criminals in the South. Now, look at what is happening in the entire North; the terrorists have gained grounds in the three zones in the North. Yes, they have gained grounds. Kaduna is not passable anymore. It is the economic centre of the North; you can›t live there conveniently. Many communities have been overrun by these Fulani herdsmen. Now, the situation has become a terrorist agenda to the extent that he (president) can›t control it anymore. Katsina, his state of origin, has faced a lot of security threats, even in his own community. Sokoto, which has always been a peaceful state and the seat of the Caliphate State, is now laden with dangers. If you don›t have between three and four mobile police escorts or soldiers, you can›t move in the area and likewise Zamfara State. The only place in North-West that is fairly liveable is Kano, while North-East is a no-go area.
In the North-Central, you know what is happening in Plateau now; you know what is happening in Benue and Nasarawa. It is only Abuja that is very safe. So if we don›t prepare ourselves and according to an intelligence report, we have a number of them (bandits) in South-West, they are just waiting for the day to strike and intimidate us. They want to decide on that one day to strike to weaken our spirit.
How prepared is the South-West?
Well, at our own level, as a private organisation, we are doing our best. It’s so funny that Yoruba don’t normally prepare, but our generation, we are preparing at our own level. Just a few weeks ago, the relevant security organisations were put together, the South-West Security Stakeholders Group. We have the OPC, vigilante, the Agbekoyas, the hunters, and others joining us. So all the relevant groups in Yoruba land now have been brought together on the basis of alliance, and we are meeting the entire kings in all the local governments as they should coordinate all these groups together to enable them to work in their domains or communities. So we are trying our best at our own level in OPC. We are moving from one city to the other to hold national coordinating council meetings to sensitise our people to be security conscious, because if you don’t inform your people to be security conscious, they will catch them unawares. Even beyond the OPC as an organisation, individual Yoruba people must be security conscious. If you see strange people in your street or your community, you should report them to the appropriate authorities.
Now the Federal Government has come up with the idea of farm estate and already some states of the federation are keying into it. But some people are saying this could be another clever way of reintroducing RUGA settlement which has long been rejected. What is your reaction?
I don’t know what they call farm estates. If they want to have farm estates, they should not be in the bush. They should be cited in the urban area or in the city. So if any governor is keying into such, it should be located in major towns, urban areas. They are using all tricks; that’s why you will know they are so desperate in doing that. And when somebody is desperate on issues, there is an agenda toward such.
They want to extend their territory and there is nothing hidden about that. They are looking for a way to extend their territory, I mean the Fulani. It was the late Ahmadu Bello that said he would throw the sword from Sokoto and land into the sea. But just forget it; our ancestors will not allow that. Our deities will not allow that. Our gods will fight back and our guardian angels will not allow them to put us into slavery.
They have tried it before, from the beginning of their life. Even in Ilorin, where we don›t have a king, they speak our language; they practise our culture. Ilorin is the only community we lost, but Yoruba still dominates. Most Fulani Ilorin can›t speak their language anymore. That will show you how powerful our Alales are. If I call them deities, some people may not know. They are so powerful. Even the Oworo that was broken away from Lokoja, we, Yoruba, are the owners of Oworo. It is part of Okun. Oworo is a sub- tribe within Okun. The Oba of Oworo is still in Lokoja. The colonial masters caused some damages too. Lokoja happened to be one of the capital cities before. Others were Calabar and Lagos; they were before Abuja. So you can still see the reflection of Yoruba in Lokoja. We own Lokoja. There was one kangaroo judgment some people got about it, but we own Lokoja. It’s a land of Okun; The Oworo own Lokoja.
The meaning of Lokoja is ‘Ilukojo.’ The fishermen that fish in River Benue, they came from different communities and Yoruba now say let us name this community Ilukojo. It was what the colonial masters, with their tongue, now pronounced as Lokooja. That was how Lokoja came about.
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