Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Ganiyu Adams, told ISIOMA MADIKE, in this interview that he expects South West governors and the council of Obas to support the initiative aimed at tackling the menace of kidnapping sweeping across Yorubaland without further delay
It appears the South West region is under siege of suspected Fulani herdsmen as they have continued to kidnap citizens even on the highways with reckless abandon. How are you evaluating this situation?
Well, I was installed the Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland on January 13, 2018, and three months after my installation, I noticed that the criminals among the Fulani herdsmen were invading Yorubaland. I took a step by writing to all the South West governors and I copied the council of Obas in Yorubaland, His imperial majesties, the Alaafin of Oyo and the Ooni of Ife, especially. Through online, I also copied a lot of other stakeholders in Yorubaland. In the letter, I suggested convocation of an inclusive South West security summit, which should be saddled with the responsibility of bringing all the stakeholders including security experts from the region to deliberate on the threatening situation and brainstorm on an immediate way out. It was conceived to also include retired military men, police, vigilance groups, Oodua Peoples Congress, retired directors of SSS, security apparatus of both state and local government councils with other relevant individuals who love the Yoruba race. The security advisers to the governors and those in all the local government areas were meant to attend as well. I wanted it to be coordinated through the state governments and the Obas and we were to select a suitable place to meet in the South West. My intention of the summit was to deliberate on how the region can be secured with law and order restored in Yorubaland. I wrote the letters in July and after four weeks there was no reply, I then followed up with a reminder. I also tried to make it a media affair so that nobody would say they were not aware of what we were proposing. Three weeks after the reminder letters I started calling them personally. And I got three governors; the Ondo State governor, who promised that something would be done immediately after the Ekiti State election, former governor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun, who requested that I should reforward the letter, which I complied with instantly and the ADC of Abiola Ajimobi, who said his boss was not in town but that I should re-forward the letter to him which I did. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the governors of Lagos, Akinwunmi Ambode, and Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. Since then there has been no calls from any of the governors; the Obas did not equally make any commitment to what we suggested.
Are you saying that the Aare is unable to take the lead as the generalissimo and commander of the Yoruba army?
We should not forget that the Aare Onakakanfo of today does not have the powers of his predecessors in the old Oyo Empire; the modern day Aare is mainly ceremonial. Since the early 19th century when the country was amalgamated, Nigeria became a sovereign state, and the empire literally ceased to be when it surrendered its sovereignty to the nation as a component unit. But that does also mean that we won’t fight the cause of our people. We will still coordinate the safeguarding of lives and properties by having a synergy with security personnel in any crisis situation.
As the leader of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) with a record of quelling crisis and restoring law and order, what is happening should not be something difficult to tackle? How do you intend to nip this in the bud?
Yes, you are right. We have a record of attending to crisis in our own way, a good example is that of the Badoo menace a few years ago, which engulfed both Lagos and Ogun states then. They were almost overrunning Lagos. Our group collaborated with the Lagos State police command under Imohimi Edgar and within three weeks they were flushed out. Today, Badoo is history but before we confined them to the dustbin of history, about 450 of them were apprehended. There was a panel set up to look into the issue and those found to be innocent were set free. One important lesson from that operation was that through those arrested, useful information were got. Another example which is more recent was the criminal activities around the FESTAC extension where criminals were terrorising the whole environs. Those ones were mostly from the remnants of Niger Delta militants who unfortunately turned criminals at that time. They were kidnapping people and collecting ransoms from victims’ relatives. That was shortly after I left FESTAC. The army worked in conjunction with the police with the rescue operation led by an army captain who unfortunately became a victim of the hoodlums. He was kidnapped in the saga. Up till now no one has seen the man dead or alive. But in the wisdom of the commandant of the Ojo Cantonment, he called me, requesting that OPC collaborate with the army to flush out the criminals. So, I led my men there when the operation was about to start, and wished them well with an order to meet them in the bush and the creeks. At the end of the day we were able to apprehend about 25 out of over 500 of them. That was how we subdued the criminal activities of the bad boys in that area.
Why have you not adopted the same strategy in dealing with the rampaging kidnappers on the highways across Yorubaland?
The Fulani herdsmen issue is one of the simplest issues to handle but without the cooperation of our governors, if we move in on our own, we could put ourselves in trouble because the government through the Inspector General of Police will ask how we got the ammunition we used and if there happens to be casualties which is inevitable, we might be charged for murder and there won’t be anyone to defend us. I will be the one to be answering all manner of questions about the operation.
So, what is the strategy you are adopting?
As it is now, we are trying to do certain things, the Yoruba way. We have recently been meeting all the relevant leaders and stakeholders in the region under the platform of Yoruba summit. We have held two meetings and after the second, a communiqué was issued by Mogaji Gboyega. The statement is about the need for Yorubas to defend themselves because we know that self defence is about the most important law of nature. It has come to a time when we can no longer fold our hands and allow foreigners overrun our land by killing our people, destroying our farms and raping our girls and women. We just have to defend ourselves and our land. We are planning the third meeting which will hold any moment soon to further deliberate on the way out of this ‘rubbish’. We intend to reach out to more governors, maybe they will be willing now to defend their citizens, who willingly gave them their mandate, and who exercised their franchise to vote for them to become governors. I know that the main responsibility of these governors is to protect lives and property of their respective states apart from economic wellbeing.
Do you have the governors, Obas and security experts in the two meetings you just talked about?
Well, we just have to put our house in order; these governors have their political commitments. There is a word from the Late General Sani Abacha when he was Head of State. He said that no criminal activity or crisis can fester for more than three days without government’s support. So, we are also suspecting that certain elements in government are tactically giving these criminals backing. We have analysed the situation and discovered that ordinary herdsmen may not be able to afford AK 47s that are worth over a million naira with more than 40 ammunition. How can they afford that? It’s not just possible. So, we suspect there are ‘big men’ behind theses rascals. Our intelligence report has revealed that we have more than 5000 of these criminals in the South West alone. Where are they getting the arms from? Don’t also forget that many of them don’t even have cattle; they are just in the bushes waiting for their prey. They rehearse in the bush before operation, an abode where they rape some of our women.
So, what do you think is the intention of their sponsors?
We believe they are test-running the impending doom. Their intention might be, let us just provoke them and see if they can resist the onslaught. It’s so bad now because our highways are no longer safe; Akure to Ibadan, Owo to Akoko, to mention just a few. I think we should not put all our hopes in government. The highest tenure they have is eight years and some of them when they are in power they think less about the people until when some of their close relatives die before they can take action. That is why I love former Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose. He made an important law aimed at halting the activities of these criminals. If other governors had followed suit, maybe, the situation might not be as bad as it is today. But they were lethargic, unfortunately. The government has the machinery to stop crime but a situation whereby you are thinking of protecting your political interest at the detriment of the people who are your subjects is painful. Recently, the ‘idiots’ had the guts to go to the palace of one of our Obas to threaten him. No, it’s no longer acceptable. Time to act is now.