The killing of Funke Olakurin, the daughter of the national leader of the Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Reuben Fasoranti, raised concerns about the security situation in the South-west of Nigeria.
She was travelling along the Kajola-Ore road in Ondo State when gunmen opened fire on her car, killing her in the process.
It was certain that the hoodlums were on a raid of the area for the purpose of kidnapping, as those who were spared the bullets were taken away as captives. Although they were later rescued, the suspects are yet to be apprehended.
The outrage is frightening, and there is tension everywhere as travellers fall victims to marauding gun-wielding criminals under the cover of the nation’s forest, particularly through the stretch across the South-west.
Not a few are apprehensive of the gradual slide down the valley of anarchy, in what appears to be a fast forward towards the predicted doomsday.
There is also confusion as to the nature of action or reaction from the people. The ethnic colouration is becoming offensive to the political correctness of some leading politicians in the region. Are they “Fulani herders” or “bandits” or could they be called “armed robbers?” This confusing scenario has further compounded the matter.
However, on the streets of South-west states and within the strata of ordinary citizens, the insecurity is considered by many to be synonymous with armed Fulani herders whose sacred cows graze farmlands with an audacity only exuded by landlords.
When challenged, they unleash machetes and AK47s., many residents believe.
‘One attack too many’
The latest attack on the daughter of the Afenifere has elicited reactions from esteemed quarters. The Alaafin of Oyo, Lamidi Adeyemi, broke his long silence on the menace.
His letter to President Muhammadu Buhari was succinct and timely, but not too different from the concerns already raised by both ordinary and high placed citizens of the South-west region.
He warned that the Yoruba people could resort to self-help against the “increasing and incessant menace of herders” in the face of “apparent helplessness” of Nigeria’s security agencies. This “threat” is the farthest a traditional ruler from the region has gone in response to the increasing state of insecurity traceable to herdsmen.
“I am worried about the security situation in the country, especially in the South-west geo-political zone, nay the entire Yoruba-speaking area of the country including Kwara, Kogi and Edo states,” his letter read. “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.”
The Alaafin by his letter had echoed an earlier subtle threat by the Aare Ona Kakanfo, Gani Adams, the leader of the O’odua Peoples’ Congress(OPC). He warned that the congress was not helpless and would respond ‘appropriately’ to the activities of the herders.
On Wednesday, President Muhammadu Buhari met with traditional rulers from the region as he sought to defuse the tension. The president outlined measures his administration was taking to resolve the security situation
Different strokes for different states
Ekiti State was the hotbed of herdsmen/farmers clashes in 2016 when in March of that year, two persons were hacked to death and several others injured in Oke Ako community in Ikole Local government area of the state.
The sorry incident was the precursor to legislation banning open grazing and restricting the time and place where such Could take place.
The then governor of the state, Ayo Fayose, in defiance of strong opposition from the federal government, went ahead to establish an agency to enforce the law.
Mr Fayose’s action attracted mixed reactions but was largely praised by the Ekiti residents. It, however, did not solve the problem.
In January last year, suspected herders killed a woman with an eight-month-old pregnancy at Orin, in Ido-Osi Local Government Area.
In February this year, one Elijah Ogor was shot dead on his farm at Ayegbaju Ekiti in the Oye local government area of the state by suspected herders, sparking a protest by residents of the community.
Also in April this year, a group of suspected herders went through Eda, one of the communities in Iyemero town, in Ikole Local Government Area of Ekiti State with their cattle and guns and by the time the dust settled, two persons were left dead.
Last month, residents of Orin Ekiti were on the streets protesting after suspected herdsmen opened fire on a popular hunter and APC member in Ekiti, Emmanuel Ilori, at a farm, killing him in the process.
The Ekiti experience is replicated in Ondo State, which is its closest neighbour in the southwest. It is not uncommon in Osun State. There had been reports in Ogun and Oyo States of similar threats to the security of lives and properties by the suspected armed herders.
Recently, several persons were killed, kidnapped and molested by bandits along the Ibadan-Ilesa expressway, a development that timely jolted the leaders of the region.
The Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, was also not spared as his convoy was attacked while travelling from Ibadan to Akure. His armed security personnel ensured no harm befell the governor.
Initially, political leaders tried to downplay the development. The governors from the ruling party did not do much to reassure the people that they were the chief security officers of their respective states. The speeches and assurances of safety did not stop the killings and kidnappings.
Comments by the Vice President, Yemi Osibanjo, on the true state of things also attracted outrage from the public.
Mr Osinbajo, who hails from the region, stated before an audience in the United States, that the reports on kidnapping and insecurity in the country were exaggerated or politicised. His comments were criticised by many people including the Afenifere.
The recent interjection by the National Leader of the APC, Bola Tinubu, faulting claims that Mrs Olakunrin was killed by Fulani herdsmen, also brought in a new dimension to the political colouration already attained by the security challenges of the region.
Mr Tinubu, like many other Nigerians, condemned criminality in the region but said it should not be blamed on any ethnic group. He said all hands should be on deck to tackle the criminals as criminals not as Fulani herdsmen.
After much politicking and pussy-footing, the governors of the South-west region appear to be taking cautious steps at dealing with the problem.
Beyond statements, condolences or sympathies for victims of the raging insecurity, the governors chose to express their willingness to tackle the problem through a summit which held in Ibadan on June 25-27, 2019.
Coming under the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN), the governors sought to articulate a common blueprint to permanently solve the security challenges facing the region, albeit with the support of the federal security institutions.
The summit offered the governors the opportunity to reassure the people that they were prepared to act in the face of the rising threats. But Gani Adams, the region’s generalissimo had raised issues about the ‘seriousness’ of the summit.
He said the governors were yet to cease from politics. He complained about the manner in which the region’s governors handled the summit, warning that the governors failed to address the issues frontally but had chosen to be diplomatic and playing politics.
“I wrote letters to the governors of the South-west asking for a security summit, but they did not respond. I sent reminders and copied the traditional rulers. The governors I wrote to organised a summit on Tuesday, I was seated and wasn’t invited to speak. There was no resolution from the summit as immediately the governors rose to leave, the event ended abruptly,” were Mr Adams words while granting an interview to the media.
In spite of the concerns raised, the governors reconvened on Monday, July 21 in Akure to consider a report of the committee set up to draw up proposals for the new security architecture for the region.
Mr Akeredolu, who is the Chairman of the South-west governors’ forum, said the governors were prepared to tackle the problems ‘frontally’.
“You are all aware that we held security summit in Ibadan, you are probably in the know of the first day of the summit, but subsequently as you are aware, we have the technical committee,” Mr Akeredolu said.
“We have received the reports of the technical committee, and the governors of all the states in Western Nigeria have now discussed the technical committee report, and we are set to take immediate action on the very key areas recommended to the governors.
“And we are assuring our people that we are prepared, and we will deal ruthlessly with anybody who within our space commits any criminal act. But the details of what we want to do cannot be discussed in the open.”
While waiting for the unravelling of the contents of the governors’ security plans, they had earlier taken some stop-gap measures.
First, there was a general rejection of the Ruga policy of the federal government. The policy would have allowed willing states to cede land to the federal government for large cattle ranches.
In Ekiti, the killing of Mr Ilori by suspected herdsmen had forced Governor Kayode Fayemi to devise some measures to stem the tide. While addressing the bereaved community of Orin Ekiti, Mr Fayemi assured of a heavy deployment of security forces to check further attacks.
“Government will do everything possible to prevent a reoccurrence of what happened, and from now, you will see more security people not only in Orin but in other parts of Ekiti. They are not here to fight you but to protect you,” he said.
Measures by other states
In Ondo, the state had been under siege of kidnappers. The kidnapping had become a weekly occurrence, and the victims are paying heavily without any support from the government.
The state’s commissioner for culture and tourism, Yemi Olowolabi, said effective strategies had been put in place and were being implemented to deal with the crisis. He said some of the strategies could not be discussed ”on the pages of newspapers”.
He noted that a trust fund is underway to ensure effective funding of security campaigns and the protection of lives and property.
In Oyo State, the newly elected governor had turned to traditional rulers to help monitor their communities and get the state agencies informed about developments that could compromise the safety of the lives of the people.
This is coming after the son of the former minister of health, Isaac Adewole, was kidnapped. He had since been set free by his captors, but the “tirade” is still on.
Osun, which had taken over as the new epicentre of kidnappings in the region, has also risen to the challenge. According to the Osun State Governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Niyi Adesina, joint security patrol teams of the police, the military and paramilitary outfits to patrol the dark spots in the state and route criminals from their hideouts, was the immediate approach to the problem.
“During a meeting with top security officials on Wednesday, chaired by the Governor, the situation was reviewed, and a decision to halt further attacks in any part of the state was taken,” Mr Adesina said.
“The meeting was attended by the leadership of the Police, the Army, the Air Force, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), the Department State Services (DSS) and the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS).
“The mandate of the joint patrol team is to support the activities of the Police Operation Puff Adder, which has raised the stake in the battle against kidnapping and other forms of attacks on the people.”
For Lagos, a new security policy is needed to stem the tide of kidnapping and other genres of insecurity.
Speaking recently on the need for a stronger and secure Lagos, the governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said the current dimension of the problem would require a new approach. “We will not sit back and fold our arms. We will work with the security operatives so that in the next couple of days, we will make a very definitive pronouncement on security,” he said.
“The pronouncement will include what we need to do and how we will achieve a better-secured state.”
The Afenifere and the Yoruba Council of Elders, fronts for the promotion of the region’s political values and economic aspirations, have been screaming “danger” following the influx of armed herders and their unchecked criminal activities.
The Afenifere said it believes President Muhammadu Buhari is condoning the increasing hostilities because he is of the same tribe with the ‘aggressors’.
Both groups have recommended the adoption of ranching as a way out of the farmers-herdsmen clashes across the country.
Their cries point to the obvious fact that the federal government remains the major factor in determining a safer Nigeria and the region in particular. The president’s body language so far has been construed by the region’s opinion leaders as rather fanning the crisis.
The strategies of the governors are not independent of the federal security agencies, whose efforts at dealing with the situation had left much to be desired.
Meanwhile, Chika Obiakor, a retired Army General and former Force Commander, United Nations Mission in Liberia, and Sadeeq Shehu, a retired Group Captain and Senior Research Fellow, National Defence College, at a recent dialogue organised by Nextier SPD in Abuja, weighed in on the crisis.
They agreed that the existing security framework has shown that there is no clear chain of command making it difficult for the security authorities to deal with the rising wave of insecurity.
“A decentralised framework (with both state and local government policing) could help provide a swift response to hostilities,” was their joint submission. This recommendation is close to the demand by South-west states for state police, an issue that is still widely debated across the country.
The regional governors’ attempt at finding solutions via a talk shop is salutary to the extent that the resolutions will be followed with the needed zeal.
The politics is the ailment. Not much progress is certain if the old ways are merely garnished with a new lexicon. The people are not expecting much from the regional security summit.
This is not because they have any solutions from other sources, but because the leaders have yet to change their perception of governance and responsible leadership.
Attention will now be on implementing some of the solutions President Buhari agreed with the monarchs on Wednesday. These include prompt commencement of community policing in the South-west and deployment of drones and other technological solutions across the forests and other dark spots of the region.