Alhaji Lalekan Lasisi Akekaaka, is in his early 100s and an acclaimed original living leader of the famous “Agbekoya” Farmers Association, who revolted against the then Western Region Government of late General Adeyinka Adebayo between 1968 and 1969, over Marketing Board imposition’s of flat and hefty 8 shillings tax on them, as opposed to the 1s10p they wanted on their farm produce, especially cocoa.
The Agbekoya Parapo Revolt (the union of farmers who reject suffering), popularly known as “Agbekoya” or the “Egbe Agbekoya Revolt”, was a peasant revolt in Nigeria’s former Western region, home to the majority of the country’s Yoruba population. The peasant revolt led to colossal carnage at Olorunda Village in the Akanran Area of Ibadan with casualties on both sides of the farmers and the policemen.
In this interview with SOLA ADEYEMO at his Akinode Village residence along Akanran in the Ona Ara Local Government Area of Ibadan in Oyo State, the traditional warrior bares his mind on various issues concerning the security of Nigeria, particularly, Oyo State in the South Western part of the country, opining that if the government wanted the spate of insecurity to have subsided, they would have done it. Excerpts
Baba, how old are you now?
I am already a bit above 100 years of age. I cannot say precisely because there was no record of date of my birth then.
Okay, with your age and vast experiences in life, how will you describe the Nigeria of yesteryears with the Nigeria of today?
This was not the way we met the world. The Nigeria I knew was that full of truth and sincerity of purpose. It is no longer so. The world is now full of deceit. Fathers no longer act as fathers. The children are now speaking on behalf of their fathers. They now direct their fathers on the way to take.
But does it mean that the children are not acting well?
If they say that an elderly person’s eyes are sunk or his head has gone bald, is it not experience that has made it so? “Paaori, paori, lo nje ki ori agba o pa” (Head of an elder gets bald owing to appeal that he should just accommodate everything, however, unsavoury). Can the child have the same type of experience which his father has gathered over the years?
What are such areas that you can pin point as having changed for the worse unlike in the past?
In the past, if a child was going to show his father or an elderly person somewhere he did not know, the child would allow the father to be in front while he would be following. He would say that is the way or that is not the place. But now, the child will be in front while the father will be running behind him.
Blood was very sacred in the past. People dreaded shedding it unless there was war. But these days, shedding of blood has become an everyday happening and government not doing anything. What is your feeling about this?
Can’t you remember what was said in the past that when the world is coming to an end, very many strange things would be happening? That is the case of this country called Nigeria.
You are a Muslim. There are Christians; there are even traditional worshippers, as well as, humanists. With the evil things happening in the country these days, do we say that God does not answer these worshippers’ prayers or what?
Like I said, when the end of the world is near, many strange things will be happening. The Bible says that children will rise up against their fathers. Nations will rise against nations. The Quran also has similar reference. It is gradually coming to manifestation. If we want things to be put right, it can be. It is the will to do so that matters.
But what do we say of the Boko Haram attacks, kidnappings, ritual killings, Badoo Boys attacks that are giving people sleepless nights? What is the way out to these incidents of insecurity?
All these are manifestations of what the Holy Books have said that there will be a time when brothers will be rising up against one another; nations will be rising up against nations. What we are now witnessing are precursors of such prophesies. But if we don’t want it to come to manifestation, it depends on us. But are we not working towards it?
In 1968, there was the revolt by farmers against the then military government over imposition of harsh taxes. I learnt you witnessed it. How did it go?
You are right. It was not a case of witnessing it. I was a major actor. Then I was working with the Ministry of Agriculture. During the period of Civil War of Ojukwu, I said I wanted to go and participate but my parents did not allow me. But when the Agbekoya revolt began, I left the Agric Ministry and joined the Agbekoya Farmers Association. I decided to go with the revolting farmers and because people knew I don’t, by nature pretend my intention and I won’t hide it, they gave me the alias of “Akekaaka” (Blunt speaker).
They christened me Akekaaka loju ija (Blunt speaker during fight or war). This was because anywhere I was going; nobody would dissuade me once I believed in it.
The genesis of the revolt was assessment made by the government of General Adeyinka Adebayo on farmers. They would assess the father and also assess his children. Then we did not say we would not pay tax, but the assessment on tax imposed on us was too heavy.
Adebayo said he would use his power on us and so he unleashed his policemen on us to be killing us. We said we would be paying 30 shillings as tax but Adebayo said he would not agree. We even went to (Chief Obafemi) Awolowo to intercede on our behalf but Adebayo refused.
On the 1st day of July when he said he would use his sword on us, we went to meet them at the Olorunda Junction along Akanran Road close to this village. When they came, our leader Baba Tafa Adeoye was at Akanran while we stayed at Olorunda Junction. Baba had said that we must not do anything to respond to whatever the government did to us until he was around personally. He said we should not talk until after he must have responded to whatever they asked him.
As the policemen were marching towards us, they were singing that we were stubborn people who were playing with death. Immediately they got to Olorunda Junction, they shot at two of us.
Once they shot two among us, the rest of us went into hiding because Baba Tafa had instructed that we must not respond. The news got to Baba and so he headed back to Olorunda. As soon as he got to the policemen, one of his guards who was standing beside him saw that someone beside him had been felled by a police bullet.
He said, ‘so you people indeed came to fight?’
Baba Tafa was not holding any gun then, but he just snatched a gun from one of us and shot at the police. It was that single shot that triggered the unrest, making many of the policemen to start falling that day. That was how it went.
Okay, if I can understand you properly, many policemen fell and eventually farmers emancipated. Why can’t you Agbekoya farmers use the same power you used then to put a stop to the menace of bandits, notorious herdsmen and other kidnappers that are ravaging the South West?
The so-called bandits are not disturbing the masses o. They are just having understanding relationship with the government. They both know what they are doing. It does not concern us. its govt that brought those killing people. The government that brought them will know what to do to them.
But how do we explain the situation where people were travelling to Ile Ife from Ibadan and on the way, they were ambushed? Some killed while others were kidnapped and dragged into the forest. Is it the government that was responsible for that?
But why would they be ambushed? They will also need to be prepared then. Our fathers have said it in a proverbial form that whoever will dine in a complex situation will also need to lock his door firmly. Anybody travelling will also need to be prepared for whatever comes his way then.
But not many people have such power to be prepared as you have said.
Then let him sit down and allow himself to be killed or allow them to put rope on his neck. He has alternatives now!
Do you therefore support the position of Iba Gani Adams, the Aare Ona Kakanfo, with regard to commanding his followers to revolt if the banditry, killings and kidnappings in the South West do not stop?
No o. If one is not sent on an errand and he sticks out his neck into it, he should not blame anybody if he rubbished. Was I not with Gani at a recent meeting we had? I even left him there because some guests were waiting for me. But in the real sense of it, Gani and I are together.
But the question that many people are asking is that if all these were to be happening in the past, the Agbekoya Farmers would not allow the mess to befall them. They expect you Agbekoya and the OPC to have risen up to protect them but you are not. What do you have to say to this?
But does the government not have all the arsenals with which to combat the menace you mentioned? Let them use it now. It is the government that is concerned and not us. The government has not said that it is pained.
Why are you crying more than the bereaved? Those who are perpetrating the havocs are not doing anything against the government. It is what suits the government that they are doing. Is it not the government that owns the land? If a parent sends his child on an errand and some people waylay him and beat him, would the parent not stand up and go there?
What has the government said on it? Didn’t you hear what the government said in the years past, that if 10 persons died during a war, it would avenge with 100 persons? The government owns everything. We don’t have any say in it.
Many people were complaining that Fulani herdsmen were destroying their farms with their cattle but President Muhammadu Buhari said that governments in all the 36 states of the federation should create grazing lands in form of RUGA for the Fulani. Was that the expected solution?
Don’t you know that the government has interest in the cattle rearing business? They also have cattle among the Fulani herdsmen. Within our community around here, when we were complaining that cattle were eating up our farms, investigation we conducted revealed that most of the cattle involved were owned by policemen.
And nothing must happen to them. They were committing all those havocs because the government gave them the chance. Don’t you know that once one has soiled his fingers; he will find it difficult to tell the truth? That is the situation with what we are experiencing.
Are you therefore saying that with the way the Federal Government is handling the herdsmen’s matter, we are no near finding a solution to the problem at all?
The government is not concerned. They have not said anything and they have not done anything. If they are ready to put an end to it today, you will see that the problem will stop. Or why does the government have security in the Police and the Army?
Is it not to be able to curtail any excesses in the land? If we protest or talk with those concerned now, you will later realise that they would go behind, change the resolution, and do the contrary.
In terms of security in the Yorubaland, can we say that the leaders have unity of purpose?
We cannot have unity of purpose because those who are working with the government will always be taking sides with the government. I am not working with the government. As you have come now, if the government wants to get something, they could send secret police that will come to the midst of villagers, for example to act like a labourer to work on their farm. Through it, he will be able to gather whatever information he needs for the government. If any of the villagers claims he knows what does not concern him or he does not know, has he not put himself in trouble that way? That is the case with Nigerian situation.
There was a forum in Ibadan about two weeks ago where Professor Bamji Akintoye was elected as the Leader of Yoruba. You were also there. But some groups have kicked against the election, declaring that the professor of History is not qualified for the position. What is your reaction to that?
My own reaction is that I cannot get involved in any such argument. The whole issue will end up somewhere one day. The whole scenario is like that of a child that mounts a horse and says that his father should be drumming for him to dance. (Kangun kangun kangun, o maa kangun sibi kan lojo kan). After dancing for some time, the horse galloped and slammed the child on the ground. He hit his head on the ground and died. Everything will end up somewhere someday like that.
How can you assess President, Muhammadu Buhari, in terms of his style of administration since he has been in the saddle?
How can an illiterate assess an educated one? We the illiterates don’t have ideas where the literate ones are doing things. When we were fighting in the past, Awolowo came to us. He saw us as illiterates and when he approached us, he removed the garment (agbada) he put on so as to come to our level, and we both talked.
But like you have asked, you can see that illiterates cannot talk where the educated ones are talking. Wherever the government says we should go is where we will go.
But in view of your age and experience in life, I want you to advise President Buhari on what you think can make his administration perform better?
You want an illiterate like me to advise someone that is educated? Have you forgotten how our leader then, Tafa, was picked up by the then government and how we all suffered? We had to break the Agodi Prison (in Ibadan) then before everything went down.
On a lighter mode, please, how many wives do you have?
I have two wives and they are with me.
May I know the age of your last born child?
I cannot say I have a last born yet because I am not an educated one like you people who will say they have stopped procreating. If God gives me, what will I say is delaying me? If I have a young lady as a new wife now, I am good to go. But in the real sense of it, I have retired myself because what my children want from me now is just to be eating well.
People have been commending Governor Seyi Makinde for doing well within his 100 days in office. Do you also support this?
Yes, I support it. A government that is administering well and does not allow for crisis should be supported.
The roads that I drove through to this village are so deplorable. What is your message to Governor Makinde on behalf of your people in this area?
We had complained to the past governments on these roads of ours but they did not answer us. But I will use this medium to call on our leader, Governor Seyi Makinde, to please see to the repair of our roads to Akanran community in the Ona Ara Local Government Area. The roads that lead to this community right from Orita Aperin, are not motorable. They are not good. Many roads that lead to several villages like the one to Akinode here are in deplorable state.
All those we had voted for in the past always reneged on their campaign promise to repair our roads for us. I implore our government of Makinde to be merciful on us villagers. That is what seriously affects us farmers. We find it difficult to transport our farm produce out of our villages to the major markets. This should not continue to be so.
You are an Ibadan man Sir. What do you see to the crisis between the Olubadan and his crowned High Chiefs?
They are all our traditional fathers. I don’t want to comment on that but just to appeal to them to allow for peace. I nevertheless commend our Governor, Makinde, for his interventional moves. May God help him to resolve the crisis finally.
What is your message to President Muhammadu Buhari also?
Our President should know that many of us under his very big tree whose branches have covered, are not comfortable. Our smaller trees are not thriving because of the shed from his branches.
Many of us in the villages are not enjoying at all. We farmers in the villages are not enjoying at all. He should be merciful onto us. Our roads are not good. The Federal Government should help us. They have all along been promising us all these years. When are they going to do whatever they will do? Time is going please!
What of the area of employment opportunities? Many youth now go into banditry, Yahoo Yahoo, kidnapping business because they don’t have jobs to sustain their living. What is your advice to President Buhari on this?
The issue is that many of the youth that are having jobs are the children of those big ones on top. You can see, these are some of my own children. When they could not get jobs, we asked them to come and be farming. Our own children cannot steal or go into armed robbery. But are they encouraged to do any meaningful farming? When it comes to provision of fertilizers, those big farmers in the cities are the ones that will corner it. Talk of loans; it will not get to us real farmers. If they want to talk of caterpillars, they would ask us to bring money to purchase it; they would ask us to buy diesel for it if they provide one.
But where will peasant farmers like us get such money if they don’t assist us? Whatever we are able to clear and hoe is what we are doing. The government is not assisting us. It is every day that they keep promising. If they say they want to give out loans, they always gave it out to farmers in the urban centres. They don’t extend it to us in the villages. I hereby appeal to the government to remember us in the villages if they want to extend any help on agric.
They should not continue to limit it to the so-called farmers in the urban areas who will just keep the money in their pockets without extending it to us real farmers in the villages.
Many communities have been complaining about cattle of Fulani people eating up their farms. Hope you residents of this area are not having similar experience.
Like I said, it is the government officials themselves that are buying and keeping cattle with the Fulanis who are causing havoc on innocent people.
If anybody does anything to harm their cattle, such person must be killed. They must protect the property of their bosses. We had such experience where our farms were destroyed, and when we investigated it, we discovered that powerful people were behind the scene. And what can we do?
But on this insecurity issue, kidnapping and armed banditry, my prayer is that they don’t come here like they have been attacking some other communities.
They will not come. They cannot come. If they attempt to come here, they will just perish on the way by the power of the ground they will pass through.
Baba, we know you to be leader of the Agbekoya Solidarity Movement, but Agbekoya Movement has got about three or four different leaders now. How do we reconcile that?
If anyone calls himself an Agbekoya leader, ask him where he fought his own war. This is the Akekaaka that went to break the Agodi Prison and released our imprisoned people. I was the one that Tafa sent to go and break the lock of the prison and release our people. I am the successor of Tafa today.
Ask them who among them fought war along with Tafa Adeoye. Where did they fight their own war? Go and ask them. Those claiming to be Agbekoya leaders are only looking for what they want to eat from the government.
Go to the house of Tafa at Elekuo near Orita Aperin, and they will tell you that Lalekan Lasisi Alekaaka remains the successor of Tafa Adeoye as the authentic leader of the Agbekoya Farmers Association.