By Dapo Akinrefon
FOLLOWING the massacre carried out by Fulani herdsmen in Benue State, which claimed 73 lives, leaders from the South West geo political zone, including but not limited to Chiefs Ayo Adebanjo, Ebenezer Babatope and Supo Shonibare; Yinka Odumakin and Wale Oshun, have been expressing their views on how to avoid such a carnage in the zone.
The pan Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, said the zone will not be vulnerable to herdsmen attacks, just as leader of the Afenifere Renewal Group, Mr Wale Oshun, said it is the obligation of the governors to protect the lives and property in the zone.
On his part, a former Minister of Transport, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, called on leaders of the zone to urgently come up with a plan to prevent the Benue episode from taking place in the South West.
They were all speaking on a day that Gani Adams, leader of the Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, was installed as the 15th Aare Onakakanfo – generalisimo and war leader – of Yoruba land.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government is s appealing to the media and public commentators to exercise utmost restraint in their coverage of the fallouts of the farmers/herders’ clash in Benue State in order not to further inflame passion and worsen the situation.
The plea was contained in a statement issued in Abuja on Saturday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said while the Federal Government is working hard to address the situation with a view to preventing a recurrence, not just in Benue State but anywhere across the country, it is incumbent on the media and public commentators not to engage in actions that can aggravate the crisis.
We’ll not be vulnerable — Afenifere
Speaking with Sunday Vanguard, Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr Yinka Odumakin, said steps are underway to ensure the region is not taken by surprise by the enemy.
Odumakin, who said the region will not be vulnerable to any enemy attack, noted that “the first thing is to condemn what happened in Benue and hold the authorities to ensure that it does not happen again. Once the Fulani herdsmen are done with the MiddleBelt, your guess is as good as mine where they will be going to next. But we believe that erecting a wall against these killers and ensuring that they are not able to perpetuate this evil again, is the first line of defense. For the defense of Yoruba land itself, by God’s grace, Yoruba will not be vulnerable to any enemy attack.”
We’re waiting for our leaders’ plan — Babatope
In his remarks, former Minister for Transport, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, said he would wait for the leaders to come up with a plan.
Babatope said: “The Yourba people are yet to react but eventually, the Yoruba people will react. We will wait for the leaders to put a meeting together and then we react.”
Govs owe us that obligation — Wale Oshun
Leader of the Afenifere Renewal Group, ARG, Mr Wale Oshun, said the South West governors should map out a plan to prevent the Benue episode from occuring in the region.
Oshun said: “You know we have elected leaders who are in charge of security. They are the ones who have absolute responsibility to protect their citizens from any kind of assault and herdsmen assault is a major one that should give them concern. So, they owe us that obligation to ensure that our land space is not overtaken by intruders, particularly when the claim is being made that the Fulani intruders are not Nigerians but from other countries.
Restructuring is the answer — Adebanjo
Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo reiterated the need for restructuring of the country, noting that nothing can be done.
Adebanjo, an advocate of restructuring, said: “ e are not waiting, that is what we went to Enugu for; we have been talking about it. We went to Enugu, we condemned it, what more can we say? We are pointing to the fact that all these are happening because there is no restructuring; if the local police had been there, they would have been able to protect their people. We have a governor who has no power to execute his right. We cannot do anything except we have constitutional powers, we cannot move against a moving train. We can only continue to talk.”
We only have have moral and advisory functions — Shonibare
Another Yoruba leader, Chief Supo Shonibare opined that they only have moral and advisory functions but the governors can proffer solutions to the problems.
Shonibare said: “Yoruba leaders only have moral and advisory functions, it’s those exercising legislative and executive powers who will be able to enact laws to reduce the impact of the marauding herdsmen who appear to now have militias in their ranks. They are the ones we expect to proffer solutions. Our governors and the state assemblies have powers to legislate on land matters. These powers must be used to monitor and ensure that ranching and animal husbandry is encouraged within the South West Region.”
On the way forward, he said “ ltimately, devolution of power and home rule will enable the various constituent parts of the country, be it regional/zonal, State and local government structures have autonomy in the operational and enforcement processes of State laws.
FG calls for responsible reporting
The statement, signed by Segun Adeyemi, SA to the minister, explained that ‘’lest we are misunderstood, we are neither saying the media should not cover the crisis nor asking public commentators to desist from commenting on it. All we are saying is that both must be circumspect.
”The current poisoned atmosphere of incendiary comments, unrestrained use of pictures and footages that offend human sensibilities and fingerpointing can only exacerbate the situation and complicate ongoing efforts to end the crisis,” he said.
He said the Federal Government has also mapped out short and long-term solutions to the incessant clashes between farmers and herders, including a planned conference of stakeholders, and assured of the government’s determination to find a lasting solution to the farmers/herders’ clashes.