By Dapo Akinrefon, Ola Ajayi, Samuel Oyadongha & Peter Duru
THE Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, yesterday, called for the inclusion of its members and other ethnic groups in the Western Nigeria Security Network, codenamed Amotekun, in Oyo State, to overcome the language barrier, which sometimes causes misunderstanding.
The call by MACBAN, however, elicited angry reactions from other ethnic groups like the pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, and the Middle Belt Forum.
The leader of the Fulani herders in Oyo State, Ibrahim Jiji, made the call, while speaking with newsmen at the Ibadan palace of Sarkin Sasa Sardaunan Yamaa, who is also the Chairman, Council of Arewa Traditional Rulers and Chiefs, in the Southern states.
Jiji, who expressed sadness over the killing of his men at Ayete, called on the relevant security agencies and Governor Seyi Makinde to expedite the release of his men, numbering 46, who were mistaken for criminals and erroneously arrested by security agents.
While clarifying the issue, he noted that security agents arrested members of the Vigilante Group of Nigeria, who are the people fighting banditry, robbery and kidnapping in the area.
His words: “After the commandant of Amotekun called us that we should join in a clearance operation, we agreed that 50 men from us, who are members of Vigilance Group, would go with them.
“When Amotekun operatives wanted to go for the operation, we were in Eruwa. But, Amotekun operatives went for the operation without carrying us along. We were only informed thereafter, that they had gone and killed three of our members.
“We got information that some people were kidnapped at Igangan and our Vigilance Group was directed to go there and rescue the victims. But, on their way to the place, some security men arrested them; they are 46. They were taken later handed over to the Police Area Commander at Eruwa.
“They are not criminals at all. This Vigilance Group had arrested and handed suspected criminals to the police. How would they now be taken as criminals?
“We plead with Governor Seyi Makinde to expedite their release because they are certainly not criminals as being branded.”
Jiji urged the people not to brand any criminal they see as Fulani adding that criminality, robbery and banditry should not have any ethnic colouration.”
“A criminal is a criminal. He may be Igbo, Yoruba, Fulani or any other ethnic group in the country”.
They’re asking for too much —Afenifere
Reacting to Miyetti Allah’s request, Afenifere said MACBAN was asking for too much.
Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Yinka Odumakin said: “Why don’t they ask for them to come and mount traditional stools in Yorubaland? These people are climbing over the leaves of the tree in their unbridled ambition.”
Address worsening security problem in North —PANDEF
Also, the Deputy National Chairman of Pan Niger Delta Forum, Thompson Okorotie flayed the move by the Myetti Allah but urged them to address the worsening security problem in the north.
Okorotie said: “What do they really want to achieve? Though we do not have a direct link, as far as we know, Amotekun is purely a South West arrangement to help the region. It is a self-help arrangement borne out of the rising insecurity in the land. The security situation has so worsened that everybody is to himself.
“What is the role of Myetti Allah? Do they have any structure that is related to Amotekun? Amotekun, as far as I know from outside, is well structured and it covers the South West, the Yoruba states.
“So, I do not understand what they want to do. I think they have more jobs in the North. Although we have security challenges all over the country, there is a bigger problem in the North. But if they want to solve the security challenge, let them concentrate on Yobe, Borno and others where fellow Nigerians are dying in their droves in the North. So, I don’t think it is a good idea. I don’t even believe that the Amotekun structure will accommodate then.”
It doesn’t make sense —Middle Belt Forum
On its part, the Middle Belt Forum described MACBAN’s request as “irrational because it does not make any bit of sense.”
National President of MBF, Dr. Pogu Bitrus in Makurdi said: “What is their business with Amotekun? Is the South-West not predominantly Yoruba? So, the suggestion is just like saying that we should go and have traditional rulers like Emirs of other ethnic groups in the north. It simply doesn’t make sense, it is irrational and there is no justification for that.
“Amotekun is a Yoruba outfit to save the Yoruba people from aggression. Aggression from which people? From Fulani herdsmen.
“So, it is only proper that Amotekun should be a Yoruba affair. We are not saying that Nigeria should not be plural in all spheres. But what we are saying is that when a particular ethnic group takes it upon themselves to attack others unprovoked, for whatever reason, those people have the right to defend themselves. And that is what brought about Amotekun.
“Amotekun is a Yoruba answer to the aggression by the Fulani herdsmen and of course other insurgent groups on their people.
“If they are not happy with it, they should go to their own states and have their own outfit. The truth remains that even in the north, different ethnic nationalities have vigilante groups of their ethnic nationalities to defend their people.
“So there is nothing wrong for the Yoruba to defend themselves. It is up to the Fulanis to ask their people to stop killing others, to stop attacking farmers, to stop carrying out unprovoked attacks on communities so that Amotekun will not be necessary.”