By Yekini Jimoh in Lokoja
The Yagba people and Okun nation in Kogi West senatorial zone of Kogi State have been charged to rededicate and commit themselves to the defence and transformation of their fatherland.
Former Nigerian Army Brigadier General Paul Okuntimo (rtd) gave the charge at the weekend at Isanlu, the headquarters of Yagba East Local Government Council during his 70th birthday celebration organised for him by Like Mind Group of the senatorial district.
Okuntimo, who was full of appreciation to God for taking him this far on earth, commended the Like Minds Group under the leadership of Dr. Toyin Akanle for putting up a befitting birthday celebration for him.
He said the gesture rekindled his determination to live the remaining part of his life standing up for the defence, protection and promotion of Yagba and Okun nation.
The former army general urged the people to devise means to legitimately defend themselves against external and internal threats, adding that he is always available to render his professional service at no cost to the people.
According to him, Okun nation is surrounded by Fulani herdsmen who keep destroying farm products of the people, stressing that under the law, the people have the rights to life and to use legal means to defend their lives.
He said: “The Yagba and Okun people under the Nigerian Constitution have the right to defend their lives and property. I call on communities to organise themselves using commonsense to protect our land. The remaining part of my life on earth is to defend the interest of Okun land. I’m a trained infantry soldier with wealth of experience. Call on me at any time, I will give my advice at no cost to safeguard our land.
“It saddens me that one of us went to his farm and was killed by the Bororo Fulani herders and the people are wailing and crying. This must stop. I have surrendered my life to defend the lives and property of our land.”
Okuntimo, who was the first chairman of Governor Yahaya Bello staff screening exercise, explained that his unceremonious sack was divine, noting that he decided to keep quiet over the issue because of the chains of events that heralded the administration.
He added that he worked assiduously to come out with time tested reports, but unfortunately, he was sacked, even as he challenged anybody to come out to compare his report with any other reports since he was sack from the committee.
Okuntimo said he had put the matter behind him, but urged the government to have the fortitude to pay the lingering salary arrears while praying to God to repose the souls of those who died of nonpayment of salaries in the state.
In his remark, Chairman of the central planning committee, Dayo Akanmode, said the celebrant has many parts, stressing that the group hosted him for his contributions to peace building and his resilience in speaking the truth to power.
He added that the occasion is the modest recognition of Okuntimo’s contributions to the development and progress of Yagba and Okun land, as he challenged other sons and daughters of the nation to emulate his courage, principle and forthrightness throughout his service years.