WALE AKINSELURE writes on the rising concern by leaders of the Yoruba nation over the menace of herdsmen in the South-West, with the attendant climate of fear across the region.
IT was obvious the leaders were agitated; agitated by invasion by herders with lethal weapons, of Yoruba land, perpetrating all manner of criminalities ranging from killings to kidnapping, abduction and raping of women and young girls. Major highways in the South-West have become a den of criminals, who have formed a ring around most rural communities, depriving peasant farmers access to their means of livelihood. So all of a sudden, the Yoruba people have become an endangered specie in their fatherland, following a climate of fear and uncertainty engendered by an army of occupation comprising herdsmen.
It was no surprise the elders had to rise in unison to take the battle to the agent provocateurs. After all, there is a popular saying in Yoruba that elders do not fold their arms while things become awry (agba kiwa loja ki ori omo tuntun wo); there is the need to act decisively on a nagging headache less it becomes a malignant growth. So, the occasion was auspicious; presentation of a book on the architect of the modern Yoruba nation, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and in Ibadan, the undisputable political headquarters of the ethnic nationality. To be precise, the venue was the University of Ibadan, to unveil the autobiography of Chief Awolowo (in the Yoruba language, and the event was organised by the publisher of Alaroye newspaper, Mr Alao Adedayo.
It was a gathering of who-is-who in Yoruba land cutting across eight states, Kogi and Kwara inclusive. The personalities that attended the historic event included Sir Kessington Adebutu, represented by Dr Kola Oyefeso, the Olubadan of Ibadan land, Oba Saliu Adetunji; the Olugbon of Orile-Igbon, Oba Francis Alao; former Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu; Ambassador Yemi Farounbi; Archbishop Ayo Ladigbolu; Oba Samuel Adegbola; Dr Omololu Olunloyo, Chief Bode Akindele, Mr Tunde Kelani and Mr Deji Osibogun.
Every senior citizen who spoke on the occasion to the other, the prevalent security situation in the land, was curious and demanded proactive and determined action and measures, both physical and metaphysical approaches to restore sanity. The speeches were thought-provoking as the leaders declared their readiness to defend and protect their heritage against any form of external aggression and internal colonialism. In short, each of the speaker did not mince words about the urgency for action.
The speech of the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III, on the occasion was instructive as he underscored the danger in retaining the existing defective federal structure that has kept Nigeria stuttering for decades after independence. Oba Adeyemi held his audience spellbound as he dissected the rough path the country has continued to meander because the centre was too powerful and against the principles of federalism. “At the national level today, we have unprecedented state of insecurity culminated by kidnapping, Fulani herdsmen harassment and all sorts of criminality that have enveloped Yoruba land today. What is more worrisome is that most of these Fulani people are alleged to be non-Nigerian but migrants from some West African countries. As far as I am concerned, there is no solution to the current national challenge other than the restructuring of our federal system to the glorious old days with some modifications where necessary.
“As of now, the centre is too powerful beyond any mortal capacity to supervise and superintend the whole national security. Unfortunately, some people at the moment see restructuring as synonymous with secession. But the truth is that rather than seeing it as synonymous with secession, it is in the actual sense an antidote to secession. The present system is too unilateral for comfort. Suffice to say that a return to the old system with some modifications will return to the glorious days when each federating unit developed its local skills to benefit the grass roots. At my own level, I have been persistent and consistent in my advocacy for true federalism. My doggedness in that resolve has been misunderstood in some quarters,” Oba Adeyemi said. While acknowledging the legacy of Chief Awolowo, the traditional ruler said no Nigerian leader could ever match Awolowo’s record achievements.
Again, the Aare Onakakanfo of Yoruba land, Gani Adams spoke extensively on the predicament of the Yoruba today, accusing South West governors of shirking their constitutional role of protecting lives and properties or better still sacrificing that role on the altar of diplomacy and partisan politics. To corroborate his claim, Adams said he was denied opportunity to make his own contribution at the recent security summit organized by the governors. Restating his readiness to defend Yoruba land at all times, he said: “For many years, I have been at the forefront of fighting for the Yoruba race, but I also have to be directed to go to war by the people themselves else I lose. I wrote letters to the governors of the South West asking for a security summit but they did not respond. I sent reminders and copied the traditional rulers. The governors I wrote to organised a summit on Tuesday, I was seated and wasn’t invited to speak. There was no resolution from the summit as immediately the governors rose to leave, the event ended abruptly. In the Yoruba land, I still have the power to roll out one million people within three days. I have told the traditional rulers that we have work to do. Bitterness is hindering me from using my position as the defender of the Yoruba race as I should. I am installed as Aare to be the defender of the Yoruba race, but if some Yoruba and those in positions of authority don’t want me to be effective, I will keep watching. There is a script such that, first, they requested for land, you objected, now they are resorting to forcefully take the land. Compared to the South-East governors, who were united to condemn any introduction of settlement, our South West governors are being diplomatic. When we were in the opposition, the Hausa/Fulani saw us as a lion; now that we are in the mainstream, we have become cow in the reckoning of the Hausa/Fulani. We will not allow the issue of insecurity to overwhelm us; we will continue to advocate for restructuring. No governor dares approve of Miyetti Allah to take over our lands in Yoruba land.”
The leader of Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, was in his true element: blunt, forthright and unsparing in his submission. He warned that the time had come for the people to defend and liberate themselves because of the ambivalence of their leaders on their constitutional responsibility of providing security. “Let no one deceive you, Buhari is behind the insecurity bedevilling the nation. I know some of you are scared of being pointblank for fear of being killed. I am no more scared of dying. At this age, we must tell the truth. Buhari is the head of the Miyetti Allah cattle breeders association. Also, [Senator Bola] Tinubu can’t speak the truth because of his 2023 presidential ambition. The APC governors in the South-West can’t also speak against Tinubu because he sponsored them. Only [Governor Seyi] Makinde can speak up because he is without a sponsor. The security of this state is in the hands of those who are attacking us are the Fulanis headed by Buhari. So, you have to liberate yourself,” Adebanjo said. Apart from restating the necessity for restructuring and state police, the elder statesman said traditional rulers had a critical role to play to guarantee security in the country. He was categorical on the recent security summit organized by governors from the South-West, expressing doubts on their sincerity and commitment because of their allegiance to the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu.
Speaking, chairman, African Newspapers of Nigeria (ANN) Plc, publishers of the Tribune titles, Dr (Mrs) Tokunbo Awolowo Dosumu blasted governors of the South West, except Governor Makinde, for failing to be present at the event. She wondered whether the governors were annoyed at Awolowo despite being beneficiaries of Awolowo’s policies one way or the other. Pointing to Awolowo’s work for the progress of the Yoruba race, Awolowo Dosumu tasked young Nigerians to uphold and uplift the ideals that Awolowo represented. She also warned the youths against corrupt enrichment of themselves, noting that such will jeopardise their future. Guest speaker, Professor Banji Akintoye also pointed to the crucial role of the youths in the revival and sustenance of the Yoruba race, urging them to rise to the challenge of preventing the suppression of the Yoruba race. Noting that the region under Awolowo was a pacesetter, he bemoaned that the region was not advancing but actively retrogressing, especially in education. He decried that the current education system inhibited character and creativity, calling for education with an entrepreneurial focus. The Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi, represented by Oba Kole Ojutalayo, noted that the translation of autobiography into Yoruba afforded all and sundry to further benefit from the great life of Awolowo.
South-West governors’ summit
After weeks of silence, the South-West governors had on June 7, 2019 mandated the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission to coordinate a security summit where stakeholders will brainstorm on how to arrest growing insecurity in the region. On the imperativeness of the summit, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, who is chairman, South West governors’ forum, said: “There is an urgent need to stem the growth of criminal activities and banditry in our region and as leaders, we must be proactive in our approach to addressing the issue.” The chief security officers of the six states showed seriousness to address the issue as they all were present at the June 25 summit held at Theophilus Ogunlesi Hall, Ibadan. Not only were Governors Makinde, Akeredolu, Kayode Fayemi, Dapo Abiodun, Babajide Sanwo-olu, Gboyega Oyetola in attendance, but the commissioners of police and heads of security agencies in the six states also were present. The top hierarchy of the police was led by the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, represented by Deputy Inspector General of Police, Taiwo Lakanu; Assistant Inspector General of Police, Zone 11, Leye Oyebade. Host governor, Makinde identified the imperativeness of a regional approach to security to surmount the activities of miscreants and “enemies of unity”. He reiterated the support of South-West governors for state police while advocating the strengthening of community policy and neighbourhood watch in the states. According to Makinde, the task of monitoring neighbourhood watch and community policing would be that of local government administration and traditional rulers as part of a new security architecture. In linking development of the region to a secure environment, Makinde stressed that state governors must live up to their responsibility of ensuring a safe space for people to live in.
On his part, Akeredolu pointed to the palpable anxiety among the people on their security which made nonsense of any socioeconomic development plan for the region. He argued that security agencies appeared overwhelmed, thereby advocating the adoption of a collaborative and scientific approach.
Akeredolu also drew attention to fears of Nigerians about the complicity of security agencies with kidnappers. Giving an instance, he said: “I know people who are kidnapped and felt so reluctant to come out. This is not because the person was kidnapped but because those are involved are those are supposed to prevent the crime. Imagine if I go into a police station and find the kidnapper sitting with the DPO, what do I do? I won’t be able to report and will only say I have come to greet the DPO. That is why some people have failed to come out.”
To this end, Akeredolu said attention must be focused on the criminal justice system, just as he advanced strategies to include, “the need for proper coordination of the activities of all formal and informal security groups, the need for a toll-free line for crime reporting, need for joint border patrols with neighbouring states and inter-agency cooperation and collaboration and the need to fill gaps in legislation to sanction deviance comprehensively.”
Fayemi, who is chairman, Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), expanded the scope of the discourse positing that not just the South West but the entire nation had commuters in a frightful state while plying the roads. He traced the dire security state of the nation to a tripartite cycle of ignorance, poverty and crime. Especially, Fayemi said Nigerians must refrain from tagging crime to the Fulani ethnic group or other ethnic groups. “We should resist the temptation to play politics with the lives of our people.
Rather than finding fault in every action to curtail the menace, we should all focus on what we can collectively do to make things work better. We should also refrain from demonizing any ethnicity….The current security issue should be a thing of concern to every Nigerian,” Fayemi said. Further recommendations by Fayemi was that, “We cannot have a unitary police system in a federal state like Nigeria. There is the need to democratise security operations by getting our publics more involved to engender effective gathering of intelligence. Also, in order to fight crime and criminality effectively, the criminal justice system must act as a genuine deterrent.”
The need for the strengthening of the judicial system was stressed by Sanwo-Olu so as to ensure quick dispensation of justice. Buttressing the call for state police, Sanwo-Olu said community/state police could work side by side with the federal police. He averred that the region would commonly develop if each state shared from the comparative advantages of the other. The Osun State governor, Oyetola, in his input, said government must invest heavily in technology if it is to win the war against various forms of criminality.
Oyetola also pointed to the preponderance of security war on the social media, noting that states should be strong on the social media and proactively address security-related posts. Oyetola lamented that the nation’s police force was grossly under-policed and underfunded. Pointing to the United Nations’ ratio requirement of one policeman to 400 citizens, Oyetola said about 155,000 more men were needed to police the nation’s population. “For our region to achieve our goal of security delivery, states must collaborate and share information to collectively secure our people. Our security chiefs also need to share information among themselves while also doing same with their contemporaries across the states,” Oyetola added. Meanwhile, the Ogun state governor, Abiodun bemoaned that the nation’s borders were porous allowing the influx of foreign agents as terrorists into the country. He said states must pay more attention to securing its borders. Especially, Abiodun canvassed collaborative action through joint patrol of borders.
Asked if the event was not just another talk show, chairman, Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), Mr Olawale Oshun, said the event identified problems while the turnout showed that the people were bothered about the security challenges facing the region. Oshun stressed the imperativeness of the governors of the six South-West states acting in concert, adding that the issue of community and state policing should be implemented urgently. In his comments, chairman, Yoruba Koya movement, Deji Osibogun, advocated the issuance of license to herdsmen for the legitimate ones to be identifiable.