By Dapo Akinrefon,
Deputy South-West Regional Editor
ACTIVITIES of marauding herdsmen in the South-West are worrisome. What is regarded as their siege to the region has sent shivers down the spine of everyone as many have been victims of kidnapping, rape and banditry. While governors of the South-West are proposing a security summit in the region, the Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Gani Adams, in this interview, says there is a need for all hands to be on deck to tackle insecurity in the region.
Do you agree that South-West is under any form of siege?
The information at our disposal shows we are having serious threat from herdsmen and some evil people in the South-West.
Afenifere has called on all Yoruba to activate the traditional system of self-defence. Do you agree?
It was not only Afenifere that made the statement. There was a statement credited to the Yoruba Summit Group which is the coalition of all social cultural and self-determination groups in Yoruba land. They took the decision and a statement was issued by their Publicity Secretary of the group, Dr. Gboyega Adejuwon, before Afenifere issued theirs as an organisation within that coalition.
Definitely, it is a welcome development. One of the important laws in any society is self-defence.
We are looking forward to move beyond that. Last week, the representative of the Inspector General of Police was here and we discussed at length on how we can partner, not only with the office of Aare Ona Kankafo but also other groups in Yoruba land.
The meeting concluded that I should talk to some of the groups, informing them that the IGP is ready to partner them to stop the evil acts that are disturbing the peace and stability of Yoruba people.
Also read: HERDSMEN: Tension, anger in South West
The truth is that as big as Nigeria is, we don’t have food security. We have the potentials of producing agricultural products and exporting them outside the country.
But the activities of criminal herdsmen have affected their businesses, their lives and way of living.
This self-defence has not been coordinated; we need the support of law enforcement agents to defend ourselves.
What is your take on the proposed security summit by South-West governors to tackle insecurity in the zone?
The decision of South-West governors to convene a security summit is a welcome development. I proposed similar security summit in July last year and I thought this security summit would have come earlier before now, but the governors stalled it perhaps due the general elections. Perhaps they thought it was something that could be curbed by security agencies in the states. Now that the situation has become unbearable, they called for the security summit which is a welcome development.
We hope the summit would give us proper coordination in the region. Retired police officers, officers of Department of State Security Services, DSS, and Army Generals, would be attending. Also, hunters, members of OPC and relevant organisations like Agbekoya would be on the ground.
The state assemblies have to enact laws that anybody who destroys farms through cattle rearing should be punished. The assemblies should also stop herdsmen from moving around with AK47.
With the information at your disposal, do you suspect that some elements in the South-West maybe collaborating with herdsmen?
I believe some Yoruba are collaborating with them and I believe some Fulani people, who have lived in Yoruba land for more than 40 years, are collaborating with external aggressors. The excuse that these people are from Chad and Niger is not acceptable because we discovered that they know all the nooks and crannies of the forest more than the Yoruba living in that environment. We suspect collaboration, but our focus is security of people, irrespective of tribe.
As the Aare Ona Kakanfo, will you be leading the fight?
There has been serious pressure on me to lead the fight due to my office and our people outside the country are even more concerned. It got to a stage that I received more than 200 calls daily on this issue.-
We have begun consultation, because there is a need to discuss extensively about this security threat. Yoruba people are not taking it lightly. I believe there are many ways to go about it without going to war to solve this problem. People believe my office has power to move against these criminals. Yes, but in modern society and especially in a democratic era, we need to follow due process no matter the potentials we have to solve the crisis.
When Badoo was threatening Lagos and Ogun states, it was not until the police called us to collaborate with them, that we were able to solve the problem.
The issue of banditry and kidnapping in FESTAC, Abule-Ado, Barracks and Iba, the Nigeria Army called us through the Commandant of Ojo Cantonment and within one week, the issue became history.