The people of Ogun State may have good reason to remember the just concluded Eid-el-Kabir festival. Beyond the spiritual notes and gaiety that usually attend the festival, this year›s Sallah festival had so many mementos to cherish. Apart from the fact that the festival was celebrated in a convivial atmosphere, reinforcing the bond of brotherliness and good neighbourliness that exists among the people of the state, the celebration was devoid of any unsavoury event.
Also, on that day, the industrious Ogun people received a very reassuring gift from a man who had sworn to protect their interests always, the governor of the state, Prince Dapo Abiodun. And this gift is none other than the renewal of his vow to ensure the safety of all residents in the state no matter their status, when he made a bold declaration that outlawed criminals in the state. In other words, the Ogun State governor was emphatic when he read a riot act to criminals who might be planning to carry out their ignoble activities in any part of the state.
Governor Abiodun, who did not hide his aversion for criminals who have been marauding and terrorising people all over the place, seized the unique Sallah event to pass his message when he played host to leaders of the Muslim community in Remoland at Iperu, his home town.
The Muslim leaders, league of Imams, led by the Chief Imam of Remoland, Sheik Junaid Abdukadiri, was at Iperu to felicitate him on the occasion of Sallah and also offered prayer for him and the state, especially on the pervading insecurity in the country. The governor had, in the spirit of the occasion, reassured the Muslim leaders of the strong resolve of his administration to ensure that lives of Ogun indigenes and residents in the state matter.
Abiodun›s avowal to protect of life and property of the people under his charge is viewed generally as the perfect elixir for the troubling times. With growing insecurity across the nation, made more strenuous by incidence of banditry and kidnapping, many a Nigerian now lives perennially in fear. From the far North to the edge of the South, and indeed the South-West, where life and living used to be luxuriant, the situation has changed drastically.
There is hardly a day that the news media would not be awash with reports of either deaths from banditry, unknown gunmen or kidnappings on the nation›s highways. Ogun had its own share recently when some hoodlums struck on the highways in the state. Seven persons were abducted. Though the victims, with the concerted efforts of security agencies in the state, have now regained their freedom, the Ogun governor had referenced those incidents in his response to the Muslim leaders› apprehension and vowed that such incidents would never be allowed in his domain again.
“You will recall that there were two cases of kidnapping along Lagos-Ibadan expressway, involving seven victims in all. That was between the 23rd and 24th of July, and another one on Thursday, 1st of August, 2019, along Sagamu- Benin- Ore expressway, involving five victims, including Deaconess Chidinma Ebeleji of the Redeemed Christian Church of God,” Abiodun recalled, while appreciating the Ogun State Police Command and the state Commissioner of Police, Mr Bashir Makama and the state Director of the Department of Security Services for their professionalism in ensuring that those abducted were rescued unhurt.
“However, we give all the glory to the Almighty God that the quick intervention of the men and officers of our security agencies have brought this to a positive conclusion. All victims of the two cases have been rescued unhurt, while most of the suspects have been arrested.
“These incidents are a test of our resolve and we have demonstrated in clear terms our strong commitments to ensuring that our their state will continue to be secure for our people and all those who have made our dear state their home.
“Let me state in clear terms that no part in Ogun State is a safe haven for criminals and criminality in whatever form. Whether on the Lagos- Ibadan, Sagamu- Benin-Ore, Abeokuta- Sango- Lagos expressways or even our township roads or interstate roads, we shall smoke them out. We shall arrest them and hand them over to [face] justice,» Abiodun had vowed, declaring Ogun a no-go area for men of the underworld and their collaborators while also giving strong warning to landlords and those who might give them cover.
“Let me use this opportunity to sound this a very strong note of warning to our landlords and any property owner that, any property or facility, found to be serving as a hideout to criminals will not only be taken over, but we will also demolish it. The landlords will also be arrested and handed over for prosecution for harbouring criminals. We will consider and treat them as accomplices.”
However, Abiodun did not lose sight of the state he is superintending over as one of the most strategic economic nerve points of the country and why his government viewed security as critical to the survival of the state and the people, just as he assured those with legitimate business that the government would not spare any effort to protect their investments.
“We occupy a unique position in our country,” he stated. “We are a gateway to the fifth biggest economy on the continent and also the gateway to the rest of this country. So any issue that pertains to security, it is of extreme importance to us in Ogun State…
“For people with legitimate businesses, let me assure you that Ogun State will continue to be a paradise; however, for people with criminal tendencies, hell, for you, will be a child›s play. All of us who have decided to make Ogun State our dear home will have to cooperate and collaborate with our law enforcement agencies. We also have to support our agencies by giving them information on any suspicious movement of people. These criminals are not ghost; they are not spirits. They are human beings. They live with us; they live within us. We should and we must fish them out.”
With that assurance and insurance of safety from the governor, the Muslim leaders expressed satisfaction with the government of the state, acknowledging the efforts that had been made so far and promising to take the message of war against criminals by the governor to the people. Sheikh Abdukadiri, who delivered a sermon on the occasion, urged the people to support the Abiodun-led government which he described as the will of God.
Onasanya works with the Ogun State Information Ministry.