Yoruba question in Nigeria’s conundrum
The comprehensive letter written by the Alaafin of Oyo and Permanent Chairman, Oyo State Council of Obas and Chiefs,Oba (Dr) Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, to President Muhammadu Buhari, on the state of the nation.
Let me start since your first inauguration in 2015 as President and Commander-in-Chief of the country, I have never been timid or shy of my total support for the success of your administration to deliver the country to the Promised Land. My confidence had always been based on Your Excellency’s ability, fitness and competence in leading the country, to the Promised Land, where Law and Order prevail, individual liberty is guaranteed, economic well-being of the citizens is assured.
That my confidence in Your Excellency remains unshaken to date. In recent times however, I am worried about the security situation in the country, especially in the South-West geopolitical zone, nay the entire Yoruba-speaking area of the country, including Kwara, Kogi and Edo states.
This has to do with the incessant and increasing menace of Fulani herdsmen that have laid siege in almost all the highways of Yoruba land. Whether in Owo, Akure, Ilesa/Ife-Ibadan road or Ibarapa zone and Ijebu area of Ogun State, the story is the same.
I have held series of consultations with opinion moulders and eminent Yoruba leaders across board about the menace of these cattle herdsmen with such assault like raping of our women and on some occasions, in the presence of their husbands. That is apart from massive destruction of our agricultural lands; which ultimately points to imminent starvation.
On top of it all is the menace of professional kidnappers usually in military uniforms. What is more worrisome about the kidnapping notoriety is what looks like impunity which these kidnappers enjoy their nefarious activities. After due consultations with Yoruba leaders and as the pre-colonial head of the Yoruba nation, we are worried by the audacity of these lawless people in effecting their illegal acts in broad daylight on our usually bushy highways without any arm of security being able to do anything. Worse still is the confidence with which they demand ransoms and collect such illegal levies at designated spots without any arm of security being able to lay siege on them as it was the practice in the recent past.
Now, we cannot even talk of parading suspects, when in actual sense, no major arrests have been made in this part of the country. Without arrests, we cannot talk of their facing of the law. Unfortunately, and painfully indeed, in the face of the apparent helplessness of our security agencies, where do we go from here?
It is in the wake of this manifest frustration of our people that our people have found it unavoidable, even though reluctantly, to resort to alternative measures to safeguard their lives and properties. Suffice to say that in most parts of Yoruba land, their pre-colonial military structures have not been totally collapsed. Hence, such structures like Odua Peoples Congress (OPC), Agbekoya and other vigilante groups.
Having stated the above, and having established my premise as a stakeholder in your administration in the firm belief that we all believe in the Nigeria project, kindly permit me, Mr President, to make the following points and submissions as the Alaafin of Oyo, the King and Head of all Yoruba at home and in the diaspora and the Chief Custodian of Yoruba culture and values.
The people of Yoruba land in the traditional six states of the South-West geopolitical zone and extending to some parts of Kogi, Kwara and Edo states live in palpable fear because of the new wave of insecurity of lives and properties they now witness on a daily basis and which is alien to them. This new uncomplimentary development is not unrelated to the new wave of criminal activities usually associated with banditry, armed robbery and lately, kidnapping and rape of genuinely innocent and law abiding citizens. I remember when these nefarious activities were first noticed in the Oyo/Oke Ogun area of Oyo State, I took proactive steps to stem the tide and to amicably normalise relations between farmers and herders. Our initiative succeeded because we were dealing with genuine farmers and herders who had a commitment to Nigeria and who were interested in promoting their economic activities in a peaceful, prosperous and united Nigeria.
However, it is becoming obvious that the nature and character of banditry and kidnapping today are different from what they used to be. Today, it is not merely infraction in the course of doing business, but blatant and criminal violation of the constitutional right to life and liberty of innocent citizens of Yoruba land. A few publicly known instances will suffice.
- Certain individuals were kidnapped along the Erio-Aromoko road, Ekiti State. They were tortured and exposed to danger in the forest for upward of two weeks. These victims included the Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ikole Branch, Adeola Adebayo, whose decomposing body was eventually found after a ransom price of N4 million had been paid.
- Two officials of the Federal Road Safety Corps, both Yoruba, were picked up along the Ilesa-Akure highway. In the process of this kidnap, an unnamed individual died.
III. Musibau Adetumbi, a legal practitioner based in Ibadan was going to attend an Appeal Court session in Akure when he was kidnapped along the Ilesa-Akure highway.
- Professor Adegbehingbe, a surgeon at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, was adopted along the Ibadan-Ile-Ife highway.
- Dr Muslim Omoleke, the Administrative Secretary of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), was kidnapped around Ilesa, Osun State.
- Mr Ayo Oladele, an employee of Guinness Nigeria and an old student of Christ School, Ado-Ekiti, was adopted and taken away and lately,
VII. Dayo Adewole, son of a member of your 2015-2019 executive council and erstwhile Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, was kidnapped on his farm at Iroko, a village along the Ibadan-Oyo road.
There are many other instances of kidnapping, raid, rape and banditry not publicly known but which were reported to the police and other law enforcement organizations.
As ugly as the picture above seems to be, the people of Yoruba land have remained generally peaceful and have resisted concerted effort to push them into civil disobedience or adopting self-help mechanisms to protect themselves in their homeland. They have demonstrated confidence in you and in your ability to stem the tide of these criminal activities. Yoruba have been restrained from believing the new found Islamization or Fulanization theory.
I am therefore writing to you, as a concerned stakeholder in your administration, to alert you and demonstrate to you, the urgency of the need to quickly respond to these and other issues concerning Yoruba land. There is a general impression among opposition groups that you are not known to take decisive and proactive steps in many matters of national interest and that you are not usually too disturbed about the gale of insecurity in Yoruba land.
May I also share with you the outcome or product of my wide consultations in Yoruba land to let you know, beyond what official security reports will make available to you, that there is a growing feeling of frustration, disappointment and despondency among our people, which if not immediately addressed, could lead to other serious national catastrophes and security challenges. The present state of insecurity is posing enormous challenges to people’s engagements in other economic activities. The incessant and increasing menace on our highways and farms in Yoruba land is making farming and other economic activities hazardous and dangerous. I recall with sadness that the Old Oyo Empire disintegrated because the slave trade introduced insecurity that made all other economic activities which had supported and enhanced the prosperity of Oyo to decline. It is never my wish that any part of Nigeria will ever go through this harrowing experience again.
Apart from massive destruction of farms and crops planted on them, the new wave of Fulani, pretending and disguising as herders have unleashed a reign of terror on Yoruba land. They destroy crops, they kidnap men and women, violate and rape our women, right in the presence of their husbands. What this portends is definitely more than the simplistic interpretation of farmers/herders’ clash but the deliberate acts of hostility and criminality. What makes it worrisome is the fact that for reasons best known to the police establishment, they have not been apprehending or pretend to be in the defence of victims. There is always a tendency to blame the victims and demonstrate helplessness in apprehending and bringing perpetrators to book to face the full wrath of the law.
It is even said, Mr President, that these criminal pseudo herders go about their nefarious activities in broad daylight and many times in military uniform. They carry sophisticated weapons, the likes of which are only available to state actors.
There seems to be no doubt that the security apparatus of the country is both overstretched and rustic. The philosophy of policing the state, protecting lives and properties and ensuring the existence of atmosphere that is conducive to life and living in Nigeria is lost on the security personnel. In Yoruba land, we are scared and worried about the outrageous audacity and effrontery of these criminal elements in carrying out their activities and without any challenge by security operatives. In situation where money exchanged hands, the police are adequately equipped to trace every paper money issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria. Intelligence gathering concerning money paid as ransom should lead, finally to these criminals since they would eventually make transactions with the proceeds of their illicit and criminal activities.
As no major arrest of Fulani pseudo herdsmen has been made till date in Yoruba land, suspects cannot be paraded, let alone arraigned. They even threatened a sitting traditional ruler and asked him to comply with certain directives to go about as if they are indeed above the law and beyond arrest. It is unheard of that the state could be seemingly helpless in the face of these criminal assaults on its integrity and capacity to carry out the most sacred of its mandate; preserving life and property.
Mr President, let me assure you that the Yoruba people traditionally have what it takes to defend themselves and interests against all enemy attacks. What is of immediate concern is the possibility of these traditional self-help mechanisms of defence to conflict with legal and constitutional framework of the security organisations. This is indeed my greatest fear, recluse to the situation is fast degenerating into what could trigger complete breakdown of law and order under a constitutional state arrangement. Thus, latent frustration must be nipped in the bud to avert a breakdown of the state system in Yoruba land. I am aware that members of the Odua Peoples Congress (OPC) scattered all over the world are already being mobilised to stand in the defence of their land and are ready, willing and able to raise an army of volunteers as was done in 1968 by the Agbekoya.
It is trite saying that a stitch in time saves nine. For me, and relying on ancient wisdom, the dilemma of a possible breakdown of state authority and power could still be managed and the slide to anarchy arrested. Historically, and even now, ethnic relations between the Yoruba and the Fulani had been managed adroitly through excellent statesmanship and participatory administration of inter-ethnic group relations. I have had many instances of settling farmers/herders’ disagreements in my palace to the extent of instituting workable modalities for inter communal conflict management and peace building. What is strange is the new wave of criminally-minded Fulani groups. What is again disappointing is the ease with which these criminals will leave our country should there be anarchy in the land. They have other places to return to, but Nigerians don’t have another country apart from here.
This is a serious national emergency, when Fulani herdsmen are engaged in criminality all over the country and the sitting Federal Government seems helpless and generally unperturbed by what is going on in the security organisations. There is no doubt that some leaders of these security organisations are either incompetent or bankrupt of ideas. Some are even compromised to take any decisive actions against criminals. What we are witnessing in Nigeria is an anomaly because it is inconceivable that in the 21st century, when the whole world is making appreciable progress in providing enhanced standard of living, Nigerians will be living under the fear of banditry, brigandage, rape, kidnapping and terrorism.
Insecurity is posing a direct threat and imminent danger to living in Nigeria. It is capable of de-robing the country in the comity of nations and passing it off as uncivilized and barbaric.
As more and more countries issue travel restrictions to Nigeria and parts thereof, it is just a matter of time for Nigeria to lose whatever gains it has made in repositioning itself for more decisive participation in the international system. I trust that you will not allow this to happen and will quickly and decisively take immediate steps to re-establish confidence in your government and demonstrate the capacity of the state to protect all legitimate interests.
I wish you God’s guidance, courage and wisdom to do what is right, appropriate and necessary to build the Nigeria of our dreams, where no ethnic group is oppressed or taken for granted.
While urging you to take out time to read and consider this letter as coming from a stakeholder in your administration, I wish to assure you of the warmest regards of the Royal stool.