Deconstructing the Igangan Fiasco

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RingTrue with Yemi Adebowale, yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 08054699539 (text only)

RingTrue By Yemi Adebowale

Phone 08054699539   Email: yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com

I meticulously followed the town hall meeting held last Monday in Igangan, Oyo State, motivated by Police Commissioner Ngozi Onadeko and the state’s government, as part of measures to fully understand issues surrounding crimes in the community. Activist, Sunday Adeyemo, alias Sunday Igboho, with his followers had on January 22 stormed the Fulani settlement in the ancient town to eject the Seriki Fulani, Salihu Abdukadir accused of complicity in killings, abductions, rape and invasion of farmlands. They also burnt Abdukadir’s buildings, evicted his family and ordered killer herdsmen out of Igangan.

The age-long issues of oppression of the host communities by Fulani herdsmen and lethargic response of security agents dominated discussion at the town hall meeting. The villagers provided facts, figures and photographs to support claims that some of the herders and their leaders are behind heinous crimes in the community. The natives are largely farmers and their only means of livelihood has been practically destroyed by rampaging herders.

The stories of rape, killings and kidnappings in Igangan and surrounding communities in Ibarapa land are heart-wrenching. The natives claim over N50 million had been paid in the last five years to kidnappers. Victims presented pictorial evidence, while accusing the evicted Seriki Fulani of Igangan of complicity because ransoms were allegedly passed through him. The traditional ruler of Igangan, Oba Abdulazeez Adeoye, whose cousin was abducted last year, tendered evidence of the ransom to secure his release.

Residents stormed the meeting with photographs of those killed and those who suffered attacks in the hands of criminal herdsmen. They spoke about popular herbal medicine practitioner, Fatai Yusuf, otherwise called Oko Oloyun, who was last year shot dead in Ibarapaland, while the wife of a traditional ruler, Fumbi Ojo and her daughter undergoing the one-year mandatory National Youth Service Corps were kidnapped by the hoodlums in April 2020.

There is also the story of a female farmer, Modupe Oyetoso, whose fiancé was shot dead by kidnappers. She was returning from the farm with the deceased when the incident happened. Modupe was abducted and the family delivered ransom before she was freed. A prominent Ignangan farmer, Dr. Fatai Aborode, was killed in December 2020 allegedly on the way back from Seriki Fulani’s house to report the destruction of his farm by herders.

The owner of a filling station, Mrs Sherifat Adisa, was kidnapped, killed and her corpse dumped a few meters away from her filling station along Igboora/Idere road. Two young boys of about nine years old, who were said to be cousins, were felled by the bullets of the woman’s killers. Barely 24 hours after that, a medical doctor, John Akindele, was abducted. The tales of horror are unending.

For years, Fulani herders lived peacefully with Igangan natives. The hosts accommodated the pastoralists and while the indigenes, mostly farmers, cultivated the land, the herders grazed their livestock without destroying the farms except on a few occasions. Things changed towards the end of 2015 when killers emerged among the herders and started traumatising the villagers. Herdsmen destroyed farms and sometimes intentionally set farms on fire to punish growers for chasing away cattle on their farms. Some herdsmen even uproot yam and cassava tubers to feed their cattle.

So, what happened to the peaceful relationship in Igangan? What went wrong? The answer is very simple. With the emergence of Buhari as President, the once peaceful herders became emboldened and started making demands for unfettered access to farmlands. A large number of Fulani herders also trooped into Nigeria from Niger, Chad and Mali “because their brother is now President,” and go about pummeling farmers and other natives.

When the killings started in Igangan, security agents failed the natives. While allegedly responding to the body language of Buhari, the police and army often ignore reports of killings, kidnapping and raping in the community. The Convener of Igangan Development Advocates, Oladiran Oladokun, openly stated that residents had protested and written numerous petitions about their ordeal without appropriate response from the police and other security agents in the state.

Oladiran said: “Seriki Fulani of Igangan must be arrested and prosecuted for any government to tackle the problem of insecurity in the area. He has been fingered in some cases. People are attacked on their farms and the assailants known and complaints lodged, but the police would not do anything about it. Police cannot arrest suspects from Fulani settlements. I believe there are people who he employed to carry out some nefarious activities for him.”

The major takeaway from the Igangan town hall meeting is that killer herders have been emboldened by the failure of security agents to perform their constitutional duty of protecting lives and property; that security agents have allegedly been responding to the body language of the President and that killer herders always get away with their crimes because of their strong Abuja connections.

The scenario is the same in other parts of the country where killer herders have been traumatising hapless Nigerians in the last six years. Security agents often look the other way. It is pertinent to state that Nigerian laws must be used to fight crime without fear or favour, religious prejudice or ethnic profiling. Unfortunately, this has not been the case for almost six years of the Buhari government. Nigeria has never been this disgracefully administered at the federal level. For me, killer herders and all other lawbreakers must be persistently dealt with by security agents. This is a struggle every right-thinking citizen of this country should join.

It is the abdication of security duty by the federal government that often forces victims to resort to self-help as seen in the dangerous Igangan quit notice. The federal government can end this hazardous self-help by effectively protecting the lives and property of every Nigerian.
I am not sorry to say that the failure of our security agents is a product of the ineptitude and clannishness of the Buhari government. This is why Boko Haram, bandits and kidnappers are dominating. As a result, the North-west is bleeding while the North-east is in a mess. The Middle Belt is smoldering while the South-West is aflame. The South-east and South-south are blazing.

Sunday Igboho became the hero of his people because political office holders failed woefully to tackle their plight. Government at the federal and state levels also failed to secure lives and property. Our so-called human rights activists are only active on the pages of newspapers and on social media. They are hardly on the field to fight for oppressed Nigerians. This is the challenge Igboho took up.

Those still backing nomadic cattle rearing with the argument that the Nigerian Constitution supports freedom of movement should please note that freedom of movement is not a license to perpetrate crime. There should be a national accord to crush criminality. Offenders must be apprehended and punished, no matter their origin, class or status. It is unbearable that the Buhari government reinforces the horrible culture of the right of herdsmen to other people’s land.

State governors must also rise up to their constitutional responsibility of protecting their people. The Nigerian Constitution clearly states that governors are the Chief Security Officers of their states. They have a constitutional obligation to do everything lawful to protect lives and property of residents of their states. They must creatively enforce this. The 1999 Constitution also vests control and use of land on state governors. This is enough to curb the primitive, crude and intrusive practice of open grazing.

It is encouraging that the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN), at a meeting with South-west governors early this week in Akure, Ondo State, agreed that free range grazing must be stopped to avoid conflicts between the farmers and the herders. MACBAN must embrace and be committed to modern breeding process by cuddling ranching. Nomadic cattle rearing is an aberration in modern societies.

On the flip side, Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State has been a big disappointment in the struggle to emancipate the people of Igangan in particular and Oyo State in general, from the shackles of killer herders. Makinde failed to show courage when it mattered most. Those who said he downplayed the security challenges facing the people of Igangan were absolutely correct. The President of Ibarapa Development Forum, Etomilade Oduola, puts it fittingly: “At this critical point, the governor needs to connect directly with the region the same way he did when he much needed ‘peoples’ mandate. We are aware and we affirm that the governor must be the governor of all. His broadcast however only expressed sympathy to the cause of the marauding herdsmen and sheer insensitivity to Ibarapa lives that have been lost to the criminals in the recent past. Makinde makes a poor attempt at political correctness in an escalating insecurity crisis. The safety of the people must be paramount and the government must stop playing politics with our lives.”

I doubt if the people of Oyo State will ever forgive Makinde. As at press time, he was still struggling to put the killing of Dr. Aborode and other Ibarapa natives in proper perspective. What a shame! Makinde has committed political harakiri that may cost him a second term in this state.

A Word for General Attahiru

Dear General Ibrahim Attahiru, I received the news of your appointment as army chief with a lot of fear and disappointment. I am in the club of Nigerians that believe you don’t deserve this appointment based on your poor performance as Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole. I vividly remember that in 2017, the then army chief, disgraced Tukur Buratai, gave you a 40-day mandate to capture Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, dead or alive. You failed to actualise this, leading to your removal as Theatre Commander. Yes, none of your successors have been able to capture Shekau till date. Yes, your successors also failed to end Boko Haram. But the truth remains that your tenure as Theatre Commander was a tragedy, with a long list of brutal attacks on soldiers and civilians by Boko Haram.

Now, as army chief, I sincerely hope that you will prove me and other Nigerians wrong about your abilities. The task at hand is huge. You are commencing this job at a point that morale is at the lowest in the Army. Our gallant soldiers are poorly equipped and poorly motivated. Many have been needlessly killed by the terrorists. Videos of our soldiers lamenting about lack of basic things on the war front abound. Many have overstayed on the war front. This is why they are losing grounds to the terrorists. You have to committedly address these problems. The good thing is that you have been at the war zone too. I expect you to genuinely tackle the challenges of our gallant soldiers. You must truly lead from the front.

General Attahiru, if you truthfully desire to rid this country of terrorists, you must also insist on using foreign military contractors. Intelligence and technology are vital in modern warfare. We are in an era of fighting with drones. The Nigerian Army, as presently constituted, lacks the equipment and manpower for these. This is why you must impress on the Commander-in-Chief the imperatives of using foreign military contractors to end the madness called Boko Haram. This is the only way forward for Nigeria. Attahiru, please, spend quality time thinking about all these points.

Memo to Governor Bello Matawalle
A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja last Tuesday ordered the final forfeiture of huge cash found in the bank accounts of companies lined to former Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari to the federal government. Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu ordered that the funds, including $56,056.75; N12.9m, N11.2m, $301,319.99; N217,388 and $311,872 be forfeited because the former governor did not show good cause why the order sought by the ICPC should not be granted. The judge concurred that the funds were proceeds of unlawful activity.

The good news is that stolen public funds have been recovered. However, the bad news is that money stolen from Zamfara State is being forfeited to the federal government. This is illogical. I expect the fund to go back to where it was stolen. It is evidently not federal government’s money. My dear Bello Matawalle, I expect you as the incumbent governor of Zamfara State, to swiftly challenge this order in court. You must ensure the return of this fund to troubled Zamfara.