By Dayo Johnson
PALPABLE fear has continued to grip farmers across Ondo State following the menace of Fulani herdsmen whose activities have left many dead and also led to wanton destruction of properties.
The menace of the herdsmen has left many farmers devastated as most of their farmlands remain in ruins.
Also, as a result of the destruction of farmlands by the Fulani herdsmen many of the farmers, who took loans from banks to revamp their agricultural ventures, are now indebted to banks.
Findings in the state have revealed that there is hardly any medium scale or large scale farmer that has not had one encounter or the other with the herdsmen.
Lamenting the activities of the herdsmen, which is affecting farm produce, the chairman of farmers association in the state, Akin Olotu expressed worry that the murder of an Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, member by the herdsmen has created fears in the farmers of the state.
Olotu wondered that if a security guard of an influential politician could be killed like that what would be the fate of lesser farmers across the state.
He noted that the activities of the herdsmen had become a serious threat to the security of state saying farmers had called the attention of both the state and Federal Governments to the hydra headed problems of herdsmen, who he accuses of rape, robbery, kidnapping and destruction of their farms.
Aside, continued attacks on the farmland belonging to former Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Chief Olu Falae is becoming worrisome.
As a matter of fact, within the space of six months, the herdsmen have paid three unwanted visits to Falae’s farmland.
Apart from the kidnap and eventual release, the herdsmen have continued to invade the former SGF’s farmland.
As if that was not enough, the herdsmen again invaded the same farm located at Ilado, Akure North area of the state but were chased away by the security guards employed to man the farm.
Killing of OPC member
Another visit was paid to the farm by the herdsmen last week but they were again prevented from invading and destroying it by some OPC members employed by Chief Falae to defend the farmland because of the menace of the cattle rearers.
Reports had it that the herdsmen returned to the farm few days later and succeeded in kidnapping one of the OPC security guards, Ayodele Ige.
Ayodele was missing for days only for security operatives deployed to search for him to discover his corpse floating on a pool of water far from the farm.
The death of the OPC member created tension. In the state as other members of the congress planned a reprisal attack on fulani cattle rearers in Shasha areaa of Akure, the Ondo State capital that weekend.
Vanguard gathered that the foot soldiers within the group have been mobilized from across the council areas of the state and several meetings have been held.
They were to strike the following day but their meeting was leaked to the governor, who swiftly moved in to douse the tension.
Security reports had it that the intention of members of the group was to retaliate by killing at least five herdsmen and not less than fifty of their cow after which both parties can then resolve to bury the hatchet.
But the timely intervention of governor Olusegun Mimiko, who pleaded with the founder of the group, Otunba Gani Adams to speak with his ‘boys’ not to turn the state to a theatre of war averted what could have been a bloodbath and invariably an ethnic battle in the state.
A detachment of policemen were immediately deployed to the Hausa community in order to prevent a breakdown of law and order.
Otunba Adams immediately summoned the leadership of the congress in the state to a meeting where he pleaded that the killers of Ayodele should be fished out and made to face justice.
After this, the governor then invited all the members of the congress across the 18 council areas in the state to a peace meeting where he appealed to them to allow security operatives handle the matter and not to resort to self help.
Governor Mimiko assured them that wherever the killers happen to be hiding, they would be smoked out and made to pay for their sins.
The state coordinator of OPC, Pius Ogunsanya said that they have restrained from carrying out reprisal attacks following the prompt intervention of their leader, Otunba Adams, the governor and Chief Falae.
The state OPC had given the security operatives in the state 48 hours to produce the killer of Ayodele or they would go on a revenge operation across the state.
But the governor pleaded with them to drop the idea of retaliating saying the security operatives are on top of the situation .
Speaking with newsmen after the peace meeting with the members of the OPC across the state, the governor raised the alarming prospect of the country heading towards a precipice following the unchecked activities of Fulani herdsmen.
Mimiko wades in
Dr Mimiko said: “We have put in place a lot of fire fighting efforts in the last 48 hours to ensure that there’s no retaliatory attack from the OPC.
“There’s no question about the fact that this is becoming a monster of sorts. I have had cause to express my view on this and I think we all ignore this menace as a nation, I can see us moving towards a precipice and we must do something about it, it’s getting dangerous, the audacity is very disturbing. When it comes to killing now, killing people over their own property, or land that is a very big challenge.”
Police holds stakeholders meeting
As a follow up to the peace meeting, the state Police command met with stakeholders, Hausa/Fulani farmers, traditional leaders, village heads and Miyyatti Allah in Akure on the need to stop further blood shedding in the state and to allow peace reign.
The State Police Commissioner, Hilda Harrison expressed concern over the killings and the menace of the herdsmen noting that the police command would not take it lightly with troublemakers in the state.
Speaking with Vanguard, the OPC state Coordinator, Ogunsanya said the group would no longer tolerate the act of impunity by Fulani herdsmen in the state.
Cattle breeders deny involvement
Also, the Chairman of Miyyati Allah Cattle Breeders Association , Alhaji Bello Garuba, denied allegations against his men saying those perpetrating the acts were not from the state.
Garuba said herdsmen in the state are peace loving who will not destroy the existing peace in the state.