By Lukman Olabiyi
The Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba land, Iba Gani Adams, in this interview, speaks on current spate of insecurity in Nigeria and reason all stakeholders in South West must work together to prevent ugly trends being experienced in the Northern region.
The security situation in the South West in particular has become a cause for serious concern. What are you doing currently concerning this issue?
That is the issue that concerns everyone in Yoruba land and Yoruba leaders have agreed to unite to fight the battle against insecurity. The governors are also taking steps, but they don’t carry us along. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are doing theirs too. On that level, we agreed at a South-West security stakeholders meeting in Lagos, that the organisations that have structures in the entire Yoruba land, the hunters, OPC, the true vigilantes and the Agbekoyas- Agbekoyas may not cover all the states, but they cover Oyo State, parts of Lagos and some parts of Osun State; but the three main organisations that have structures all over Yorubaland are OPC, vigilantes and the hunters- should put up a joint effort to tackle insecurity. As a matter of fact, hunters’ group is the oldest organisation in the world. All over the world, there are hunters. In Yorubaland, hunters’ groups are some of the oldest. So, we have to convince them to join efforts with others to reduce insecurity. This is because as it is now, it’s not only about Fulani herdsmen. We should be looking inwards, at the criminals among us. The external infiltrators cannot act without the connivance of the internal criminals. And we realise that the intelligence reports given to these criminal herdsmen are being supplied by the Yoruba people. You would even realise that some of them who are in the bush, our people are the ones that cook for them, both the kidnappers and the kidnapped.
So now, our focus have gone beyond criminal herdsmen. We have to tackle the criminals within our region and we have agreed to do that. We had the structure on ground before now, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we stopped the meeting in February last year. But the Yoruba leaders sent a delegation to me that I should prepare as insecurity is threatening and had become so rampant, and that we have to use whatever we have to support the government; that was what led to the reactivation of the South-West Security Stakeholders Group. We deliberated more on way and manner we can do this job without having clashes with the security agencies and we are working out the modalities. Soon, we will call another conference that would be expanded. Some Yoruba leaders would be there to address them. So we have it in two layers.
Less than a week to the meeting of the Security Stakeholders, we called leaders of the six leading socio-political groups, Afenifere, Yoruba Unity Forum, Yoruba Council of Elders, Voice of Reason, OPC and the Atayese but Atayese was not there, but all the five names were fully represented. We met at the home of Papa Ayo Adebanjo and agreed on a lot of things. One of the main decisions is that we will hold a pan- Yoruba Conference on March 17, 2021.
We don’t want our region to be like the North-West. We don’t want our region to be like North-East and we don’t want our region to be like the North-Central. We have to prevent such early. So we have to prepare ourselves because we realised that the Federal and state governments are helpless on this issue. They are seriously helpless, so we have to do something to make sure we complement their efforts. The Oba of Imeko sent me a picture of a woman that was killed in a stream around where she resided. And the Fulani herdsmen killed and roasted the body, if you see that picture, you will shed tears. So we are doing something about it.
In Ogun State, the cry there is that a lot of the indigenes have relocated to Benin Republic and that is in spite of the steps you are taking.
The heat that is coming from Ibarapa/Oke- Ogun has forced some of the criminals to move to Yewa area of Ogun State and from intelligence reports, we have three different groups of Fulani herdsmen in Yoruba land now and they don’t know themselves. They are operating differently.
Can you name them?
No, I wouldn’t name them. They are operating differently and they are being coordinated by different sponsors, godfathers and patron.
So we are working, it’s not about much publicity, about talking too much, we have been in this business for the past 28 years and we know, tell me how many such situations we have rescued. Do you know that OPC was one that liberated the people of Akala? Akala in Mushin was a serious criminal den that every criminal, about 50 to 60per cent of criminal activities that happened in Lagos started from. OPC was one that liberated the place. Although we still have some pockets of criminals but they are very minimal, compared to what it was in 1999. They are not up to 2per cent anymore. Do you know that it was OPC that took the bull by the horn in Idi- Araba that the Hausa/Fulani were no longer harassing our people again? The same thing at Mile 12, the same thing in Sagamu and in different places and not to talk of schemishes in different areas that our people are clearing on daily basis.
Now, we have opened a Facebook page, we call it OPC Security Diary so that all efforts of our members, the pictures and the evidences would be put on that page so that people can know what we are doing because you hear some people saying what is Aare doing? But our people are doing this job, we leave the credit to the police, by handing over the suspects to the security agencies without even identifying they are the ones doing it. But now we will hand them over to the police, they will record them, take pictures before we hand them over to the police so that people can know our efforts.
We know Yoruba; Yoruba always forget those who assisted them. They have short memory of their heroes. So, we have to work on that. If we don’t create a perception, you would lose out at the end of the day.
Some of these cows are believed to be owned by some Yoruba and still they allow them to go and graze on people’s farms and destroy them in the process. Why not talk to these sponsors, these owners in particular, these Yoruba who are also part of this problem? What are you doing about that?
Well, the chip is already down now; the Yoruba who bought cows for them and allowed them to destroy our farmland are part of the problem.
Have you been able to identify some of them?
I would not talk about that for now, we know how to sort that out within our house. A suspect of a crime is the first to be apprehended, you first apprehend somebody who used gun to kill before using that person as a suspect to detect the person who sent him on such errand. You don’t first go and apprehend somebody who can claim innocence and leave the main suspect alone. So when you deal with the prime suspect, you now look for those who collaborated in committing the crime. So we don’t go there for now, when you go there, it may result to a situation whereby Yoruba would be fighting amongst themselves. Yoruba would tell you let us first chase away akaran before we now go for chicken. That’s strategic. There is a lot about that that I cannot mention outside, that can even affect our traditional institution, but at the same time, the signal is already on the pages of newspapers and on social media for anybody who connived with external forces to destroy us. Now, they have given us a signal, I have never seen somebody who uses fertilizer to grow something in his own region and said he is sanctioning somebody who has fertile land that does not need fertilizer.
Are you saying that the South-West was sleeping while terrorism festered in other regions? What is your reaction? It is the belief of some people that if the South-West had taken steps early, it would not have taken this dimension.
There is no step you can take with the structure we have on ground. No step you can take ahead. Look at it, Amotekun is helpless now, they have not allowed them to carry guns. They are helpless. You won’t blame our governors completely, sometimes I disagree with them that they are not trying their best, but they are helpless. Do you know what Governor Akeredolu passed through because he confronted criminals in the forest reserve? The body language of the Villa is that they were not happy with him for almost one month. From all that we have seen, a lot of things show why these people do not want fiscal federalism or true federalism. We now see because they want to use the wrong system to oppress others. And because of that, you now lose focus on economy, you lose focus on security, you lose focus on cohesion, you lose your focus to make this country a great nation just because you want to oppress. So, there is nothing you can do when the political structure is abnormal. There is no miracle. When you are given a wrong constitution, there is no perfection when you have a wrong plan. Constitution is like plan of a house; constitution is like when an architect designs a plan of a house. It is like when an architect designs a wrong plan, the builder would not get it right no matter the level of his expertise.
They didn’t even give you a skewed constitution, they gave you a complete Unitary Constitution for Unitary System of Government; a country of multi- ethnic, multi-language and even multi- religious.