With the prevailing conspiracy of silence by some notable political leaders in the South West geo-political zone over the siege of the zone by Fulani herdsmen and the killings and kidnapping there, apparently for political reasons, may soon take a toll on the economy of the region and place it among the list of states on the advisory watch list of American and Western countries
By Anayo Ezugwu
THERE seems to be no letup on the state of insecurity in the southwest region of Nigeria. The growing number of reported cases of kidnapping and killings in various parts of the region indicates that southwest is under siege of kidnappers alleged to be Fulani herdsmen.
Already, it has become a risk to travel on the highways in the region. Though the frequency of attacks has increased dangerously on the Ibadan-Akure highway lately, especially on the Ilesa/Ibadan stretch, other highways in the region are by no means safe from the kidnappers.
The reports ordinarily suggest the upsurge in crimes across the country, but the fact that some highways in southwest are now death traps suggests that kidnapping and banditry ravaging the northwest is gradually taking over the region.
According to the account by some of the victims of kidnapping in the southwest, the kidnappers block the highways like Ibadan–Akure expressway, kidnap some of the travellers and take them into the bush, abuse them physically and sexually, demand ransoms from their relatives, and even kill those, whose relatives did not pay any ransom quickly or those who did not pay something substantial.
In May when Prof Olayinka Adegbehingbe, an orthopedic surgeon at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, was kidnapped on the Ibadan-Ife Expressway while returning from Lagos, he revealed that his kidnappers were of Fulani extraction, and that a ransom of N5.045 million was paid before he was released.
Also, David Olajide, the traditional ruler of Osi Community in Akure North Local Government Area of Ondo State, narrowly escaped being kidnapped by the herdsmen a few days ago. His botched kidnap occurred just two days after a mother and her step-son were kidnapped in the same community.
There were several other incidents, including the one that involved two Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, officials; Musibau Adetunbi, an Ibadan-based lawyer, as well as Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, whose security aides had to ward off an attack on his convoy.
While speaking on a live television programme on Sunday, June 9, Akeredolu said he and his colleagues were working towards ending the siege to the southwest. “I have encountered them (kidnappers) before; so security issue is not limited to the masses alone. My convoy was targeted, but my security people shot into the air to scare them away.
“They fled into the bush on Akure-Ibadan road. We, as governors, will do something about the issue. We are discussing with the Federal Government. It is real that travellers are not safe on the roads. It looks like it’s only the masses that are affected as big men are enjoying themselves as they drive in convoy. Is that so?”
Likewise, Kehinde Bamigbetan, former commissioner for information and strategy in Lagos State, recently narrated how he and his wife left Lagos for Ife in the afternoon, but on the way, he decided to confirm the stories of kidnap from his contacts within the Osun State Governor’s Office and the palace of the Ooni of Ife.
According to him, the contacts confirmed to him that those stories were true and that it was not safe to travel on the Ibadan-Ife Expressway, especially from 5pm to 8pm and from 6am to 8am. Based on the warning he got, he decided to lodge in a hotel in Ibadan that evening to continue on the journey the next day. He said his wife told him that she had never seen him that “sober and visibly defeated” in the 30 years she had known him.
Their stories and that of others who had become victims while travelling on the highways in the southwest gave credence to the stories making the rounds that the region is under siege. But in spite of all the evidence, many people took the kidnap stories with a pinch of salt. It sounded far-fetched that people of Fulani extraction could have the effrontery to camp in the southwest forests, kidnapping people and creating enormous fear in the region.
This might be the reason why the situation is being politicised in some quarters. Some reasoned that since the ethnicity of those accused of this kidnapping is Fulani, some people could be trying to demonise and stereotype the ethnic group and get back at President Muhammadu Buhari, who is also a Fulani. And that some people want to fabricate stories of insecurity to create a narrative that the president is failing in his duties.
Irrespective of the divide where someone belongs, the fact remains that helpless and innocent people are being killed by armed herdsmen. And the authorities seem to be helpless like the citizens. The lamentation by Tukur Buratai, chief of army staff, over lack of commitment by some officers showed that those, who are trained and paid to protect the people are equally helpless.
Buratai, who spoke on Tuesday June 18, at the opening of a five-day leadership workshop for mid-level officers and soldiers in Abuja, said the rising terrorist attacks were due to insufficient commitment to a common national and military cause by those at the frontlines. He noted that there are proven cases of soldiers unwilling to carry out assignments given to them, adding that reluctant troops should leave the service as the army would no longer tolerate them.
Worried by the growing insecurity across the region, Gani Adams, Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, has ordered the Fulani herdsmen to vacate Yorubaland now or face the consequence. He said the Yoruba people will not fold their arms and watch their people being killed, raped and kidnapped. Arising from a crucial meeting of the Aare Onakakanfo in Council, Adams warned that the Yoruba people would be forced to retaliate if the Fulani herdsmen continue to maim innocent people.
“We cannot continue to fold our arms and let these bandits continue to soil our land with the blood of the innocent. Consequently, we hereby ask these Fulani marauders to stop their murderous activities and vacate every inch of Yorubaland they currently ravage.
“Failure to reconcile themselves with these terms may warrant maximum retaliation as the principle dictates that a bully only respects a bully. The campaign of blood by Fulani herdsmen, who have been ravaging our land, kidnapping, killing, maiming and raping our people in recent years has become a serious source of concern for the Yoruba race; a race renowned for their staunch passion for peaceful coexistence, national cohesion and development.
“The threat posed to our existence by these blood-mongering marauders cannot be overlooked as we, as a people, believe that for peace and accord to reign among the multiplicity of people who occupy a common territory, all parties must play a role in ensuring that each and every unit in this country respect each other in all ramifications,” he said.
On their part, the Yoruba Council of Youths Worldwide, YCYW, also gave ultimatum to the Fulani herdsmen to vacate the region. The group said it would no longer condone the alleged criminal activities of the Fulani herdsmen in the southwest geopolitical zone.
The group in a communiqué signed by Aremo Oladotun Hassan, its president, described as unacceptable the killings and kidnapping of people. He said that the activities of the militant herdsmen and Boko Haram have heightened insecurity in the southwest.
Likewise, the Yoruba Council of Elders, Europe and America chapters on June 1, wrote a letter to António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, intimating him of the security situation in Nigeria. The group in the titled ‘Genocide on the horizon: Call for urgent United Nations intervention in Nigeria,’ said that there was need to save potential genocide situation in Nigeria.
The group noted that intelligence report available to them showed that genocide is about to happen on a scale never known before, executed by armed people with logistics back up and positioned strategically around the country.
“Urgent and decisive action of the United Nations Secretariat, the United Nations Assembly, and United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the responsibility to protect is required to save lives of millions of Nigerians. Indeed urgent, decisive and far reaching actions by the United Nations are required to prevent what even the world bodies are aware would destabilise the entire region on a scale never known before,” the groups said.
In finding a lasting solution to the situation, southwest governors have decided to hold a regional security summit that will bring all critical stakeholders together to brainstorm on the growing spate of insecurity in the region.
Speaking after a special meeting at the Ondo State Governor’s Lodge in Abuja on Friday, June 7, Governor Akeredolu said the DAWN Commission had been directed to coordinate the summit aimed at further promoting the developmental agenda of the southwest region.
“There’s an urgent need to stem the growth of criminal activities and banditry in our region and as leaders, we must be proactive in our approach to addressing the issue,” he said.
While efforts are being made by the state governors to tackle the spate of insecurity in the region, the conspiracy of silence by some political leaders like Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo and Bola Tinubu, national leader of the APC persists. Even APC supporters from the region who don’t hold any political position shy away from discussing the situation, because they believe that doing so will portray the president in bad light.
Be that as it may, there is a climate of fear and terror in southwest as the kidnappers continue to lay siege on the region, kidnapping and killing people on daily basis.
– June 21, 2018 @ 17:55 GMT |