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Yoruba Nation under siege

By Jide Oluwajuyitan
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With tepid response to the spate of herdsmen killings and kidnapping for ransom by bandits across the country, Nigerians are, in spite of President Buhari’s impressive outing in last March’s presidential election, becoming increasingly impatient with a ‘government of excuses’ after recurring harvest of deaths. Amnesty International’s report late last year indicted the federal government for failing to stop the killing of 3,641 Nigerians by herdsmen in the last three years. Many frustrated Nigerians who understand that the primary responsibility of government is the protection of life and property have asked the president to act his position as commander-in-chief instead of appearing in tears as ‘mourner-in-chief’ after each cycle of senseless killings. Abubakar Atiku, Buhari’s main rival in the said election captured the frustration of Nigerians when he reminded the electorate that ‘After every attack, either by herdsmen or by kidnappers, the government will vow to get the culprits and punish them. Then more deaths will occur and the government will repeat its vow’. He had then appealed: ”Unless Nigerians vote out the All Progressives Congress administration, killings by herdsmen will continue and ultimately spark series of ethno-religious crises that will be irreversible”.

Atiku might have lost the election, but his warning seems to have become a self-fulfilling prophesy with the renewed spate of killings in Benue, Plateau, Southern Kaduna, with Kaduna- Abuja road taken over by kidnappers and Zamfara state seized by war lords in spite of government show of force. While government’s apparent loss of grip in the besieged communities in the north has led to increased hostilities among the restive ethnic groups, the southwest that has always been home to those fleeing from the war zones of the north and others that seek peaceful environment to actualize their potentials is fast becoming the new theatre of war. The Yoruba whose leaders have striven to create a more egalitarian society are now being forced to suffer from the follies of northern political elite that want freedom for themselves while scheming to preside over an empire of slaves. Herdsmen, unfortunate victims of a culture of ‘labourer born labourer’ ideology instituionalised by northern political elite have brought their war home to the southwest.

Yinka Odumakin, speaking for our war-weary Afenifere elders, recently cited the murder of a Permanent Secretary of Osun origin, Mrs. Funke Kolawole along Okene-Lokoja road on her way to Abuja as one more example of ‘renewed onslaught of herdsmen in Yorubaland while the ‘federal government turned the other eye. The peace meeting brokered by Oyo State Commissioner of Police Abiodun Odude between herdsmen, farmers and leaders of agrarian communities of Oyo State in Eleyele, Ibadan had hardly ended when his officer-in-charge of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Saki area of the Oyo State Police Command, Sheu Magu, and a member of his team were brutally murdered by suspected herdsmen. With last week’s abduction of Olayinka Adegbehingbe, a professor of surgery at the Obafemi Awolowo Teaching Hospital, the war was finally taken to Ife, the ancestral home of the Yoruba. He identifies his abductors as six Fulani herdsmen bearing Mark –IV machine guns with several rounds of ammunition. Their ransom demand of N30m, negotiated down to a little over N5m was paid by his family members and friends in order to secure his release.

There must surely be a cheaper way to win this war. Fortunately President Buhari is not being called upon to re-invent the wheel. Close to a century ago, faced with insurrections, interstate wars, and world wars, Europe discovered a cheaper alternative to coercion was a workable federal arrangement that allowed all the warring groups to imbibe the values of compromise and coexistence. President Buhari who many regarded as the only stumbling block against restructuring of the country, as CPC candidate in 2007, 2011 and APC in 2014 mouthed restructuring. In 2015 his party had restructuring as parts of its manifesto. His victorious APC also set up a committee that came up with a recommendation in 2017. The president who often defies public opinion by behaving as if he is doing Nigerians a favour for being elected once again mouthed workable federal arrangement last week.

The Yoruba nation is today under siege with people neither safe on their farms, on the roads nor in their ivory towers. The peaceful and accommodating Yoruba people who want the best for themselves as they want for others are also dying from side effects of imported substandard products including drug and food items. I think it is time to tell the president what the Yoruba want. This is the time our elders, political leaders and elected representatives must demonstrate they are ready to secure freedom of our people. Many perhaps can no longer remember that not all the federating units in Nigeria secured self-government at the same time. Nigeria became a federation in 1954. While the Eastern and Western regions gained internal self-government in 1957, the Northern Nigeria achieved the same goal two years later. No sub unit of the federation should therefore be allowed to hold the nation to ransom. We don’t need war to achieve this.

Our elders who jar our hears with name of Awo and young politicians who go around wearing Awo cap as St. Christopher’s badge for good luck should revisit the template Awo and his visionary group set up for the liberation of the southwest. ODUA conglomerate was once the largest cooperative organisation in Nigeria with diverse business interest across the southwest with interest in manufacturing, packaging, hospitality, travel and tourism, corporate security and hygiene services, agriculture, real estate oil and gas etc. Its objectives include promoting economic empowerment of members at the grass roots, according to cooperative values and principles, allowing market needs to determine choice of products and services, driven by the zeal to do the right thing at the right time for customers and other stakeholders.

It is a sad commentary on the quality of leadership the west has thrown up over the years that the same area is today at the mercy of peddlers of fake drugs, killer vegetable oil and vehicle spare parts.

There are enough resources to reactivate some of the moribund companies ran aground by successive military and civilian Yoruba administrators. These include such loose monies as the N250m constituency project funds from the 18 senators representing the Yoruba states, their counterparts in the lower house and part of the security funds the governors collect monthly. If setting up industries is out of fashion, nothing stops them from using some of the moribund companies for importing genuine drugs and other goods needed by our people.

Bola Tinubu, Wale Oshun and all the elected governors and lawmakers must remember this is exactly what Awolowo, Abraham Adesanya, Adekunle Ajasin our forbearers who saw government as service would have done.

And of course with the reported directive of the minister of defence whose village in Zamfara State has become headquarters of kidnappers, to emirs to start community policing in their domains, our governors will have no excuse for not protecting our people from deviants among us and deal decisively with settlers who want to impose their values instead of living by our own rules.

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