…to the shame of our detractors
By Dapo Akinrefon
Amid raging controversy over the identity of suspected Fulani kingpin, Iskilu Wakili, arrested by Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) and handed over to the police last Sunday, Iba Gani Adams, the Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, gives insight into how the alleged notorious herder was arrested in the battle of Ayete, Ibarapa North Local Government Area of Oyo State.
Some critics had claimed, last week, that the arrested ‘Wakili’ was not the wanted kingpin who has been credited with the claims of terrorizing Ibarapa, the reason activist Sunday Adeyemo, aka Sunday Igboho, and his group gave herdsmen operating in the area seven days ultimatum to quit last month. Recall that three members of the OPC who took part in the arrest of ‘Wakili’ were apprehended by the police but later released. They were accused of illegal arrest.
While Gani Adams, in this interview, faults the police for allegedly trying to change the narrative of Wakili’s arrest, he points fingers at some traditional rulers and politicians from the South-West of trying to frame him and members of OPC. He also bares his mind on other sundry issues in the polity. Excerpts:
Beyond the condemnation that trailed the arrest of members of your group who arrested alleged Fulani bandits, Iskilu Wakili, what steps are you taking to stop further arrests of OPC members who carry out lawful duties?
There must be an understanding with the OPC in an operation like the one that led to the arrest of Wakili. The understanding we will have with the police, henceforth, is that they do not take credit for operations we jointly do. We have had many operations that OPC members have carried out with security agencies but the police have not deemed it fit to say the operations were in collaboration with the OPC and the DSS. Oftentimes, they charge the suspects to court without acknowledging the OPC and it is portraying the image of the OPC in bad light because some politicians who do not believe in the OPC are trying to blackmail the OPC. They are also casting aspersion on the Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland asking: what have I been doing to tackle the security challenges confronting the South West?
What many people do not know is that we are doing a lot in tackling criminals but, with this, we are ready to let the whole world know what we have been doing. By so doing, people will appreciate our efforts; it will also send a signal to criminals that they no longer have a hiding place.
But why were only OPC members arrested during Wakili’s arrest since it was a joint operation with some other groups?
We had to classify it as a joint operation but it was the efforts of the OPC that led to the arrest of Wakili. The reason it was classified as a joint operation is to build unity among us (Yoruba) and to also encourage other groups to join the stakeholders in the South-West.
The operation that led to the arrest of Wakili was sensitive and anyone who is not bold enough could not have gone to where Wakili lived and we did not want to have any casuality among those involved in the operation. Only 40 people went to the village where Wakili was hiding and it takes you three hours from Igangan to get to the village. When the joint security members entered the village around 4:15 am, they were attacked with guns.
Wakili’s boys, led by his son, Abu, opened fire but when the OPC boys resisted the attack, Wakili’s boys jumped down from a tree and used cows as a cover to escape. Wakili has over 1, 000 cows in the bush he was; and from our investigation, we found that some politicians were also giving him backing.
Wakili is an old man and he has been living in that village for over 20 years; and he knows all the nooks and crannies of Ibarapa and Oke-Ogun. He also has a very large network because traditional rulers of Ibarapa and Oke-Ogun fear him. The traditional rulers and people of Ibarapa were happy that Wakili was arrested. We use this opportunity to appeal to the Yoruba people that backbiting will not help us to sanitise our region and when you continue to backbite during the struggle, such a person is at a risk. On the issue of security, all hands must be on deck for us to succeed. We must not shy away from ensuring that we ensure that peace reigns in our region.
But to many, the arrest of the OPC members has strengthened the suspicion that killer-herders have sympathy from the authorities in Abuja. What do you make of this?
The traditional ruler of Ayete confessed that some people from Abuja warned him about Wakili and that he must not be touched. This was before his (Wakili’s) arrest. The monarch also said that he was threatened. If not for the pressure that was mounted on the Oyo Police Command, the narrative on Wakili could have changed. The police said one person died during the operation but anybody that stays with a suspected criminal is an accomplice.
I want to appeal to the police to take the bull by the horn when discharging their duties because they are the mother of all internal security bodies in the country or anywhere in the world. We also take exception to the statement made by the spokesperson for the police. No group will hear what he said and he will not be psychologically down. They detained the OPC members who arrested Wakili saying they committed murder and arson and took him (Wakili) to hospital on the grounds that he is sick and now say somebody died during the operation. People had been calling for the arrest of Wakili, but if he was innocent, the police would have stated that they had carried out investigation and found him to be innocent and not a criminal. The police did not debunk that but after he was apprehended, they now wanted to change the narrative. The police first said it was not Wakili. Who do they want to deceive? We have Iskilu Wakili and his son, Abu Wakili, who allegedly killed four people some days after his father was arrested. We thank God that at the end of the day, the police said the OPC in Oyo State should work with them to sanitise Ibarapa and Oke-Ogun area, which is a good development.
Do you suspect that there are plans to clamp down on you and members of the OPC?
I have been a target of clampdown for over a year now. It is not even related to Wakili’s arrest.
I have information that some politicians and traditional rulers in the South-West are working with the Federal Government to do something against me.
Our problem in the South-West is more internal than external but I will be the last person to insult our traditional rulers because they are the last line of our defence. Our traditional rulers are many but we have few and some ambitious politicians who connive with the Federal Government to arrest and detain me. They wanted to change the narrative of Wakili, they were working to play it down. Thank God for the media that was determined to state the facts.
The media did a thorough job because we got information that they were trying to kill the story on Wakili. I appeal to some of our traditional rulers and some politicians to desist from such acts because I know they are working to undermine my position as the Aare Onakakanfo of Yoruba land. We also learned that some of these traditional rulers and politicians are working with herdsmen to cause chaos in the South-West ahead of 2023.
There are fears that killer-herdsmen in the South-West are about replicating the insecurity in the North here. What is your take on this?
We have more than enough groups that can withstand criminal herdsmen that want to create problems in the South-West. The only thing we need is the backing of our governors, our traditional rulers and the stakeholders. Do you know how many weeks we monitored Wakili? We monitored Wakili to the extent that two weeks before his arrest, he came to Lagos to buy drugs and food for his cows at Kara Market along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway
Talking about traditional powers, there is no crime that the OPC or the South-West Security Stakeholders’ Group cannot arrest. We will investigate you physically and spiritually and we will get to you at the right time. We carry out both physical and spiritual investigation and if the OPC wants to do its job, we have our ways. If you don’t encourage them, they will do other things. We have had countless successful operations before Wakili’s arrest. We have our ways of operating but I will say that the major problems we have are some few elites in Yorubaland and some people who have benefitted from the system. Unfortunately, they have infiltrated the agitators and self-determination groups, especially in the Diaspora because of their ambition ahead of 2023. But when you betray Yorubaland, you will reap the fruit in future. You cannot escape it when you betray Yorubaland.
In the last two weeks, there have been killings and kidnappings in the South-West. For instance, it was reported that farmers called for help when herders drove them away from their farms. Do you see the efforts of Amotekun securing the region yielding results?
Amotekun is a good initiative but some of our politicians politicized the recruitment of the operatives. The recruitment exercise in Ondo State was politicized; the governor is doing his best.
I see Governor Rotimi Akeredolu as the most radicalized governor among South-West governors. We need to do things that will unify us.
I know the governor is so passionate about the success of Amotekun. Perhaps the governor is not aware that those he gave them the freedom to recruit operatives for Amotekun politicized the exercise. They cannot do the job. The recruitment exercise in Ekiti State is fair, while the governor of Oyo State gave the Director-General of Amotekun the go-ahead to recruit those who are capable. Ogun and Osun are also doing their best, but I will appeal to the governor of Ondo State to look into the recruitment exercise of Amotekun because Ondo is very strategic. It shares boundaries with Kogi, Ogun, Osun, Edo and Ekiti. Amotekun remains the best initiative of the South West governors. The South West Security Stakeholders Group can be a plan B for security but Amotekun must ensure the process of recruitment is transparent.
It was reported that the OPC intends to float its own outfit to fight insecurity in the region. Is this true?
We do not want OPC to be consumed by security issues. The OPC is a socio-cultural group; our aims and objectives have nothing to do with security. We decided to delve into security to help our people.
The OPC goes beyond the issue of security; it is a freedom-fighter organization and a pan-Yoruba organization. It was not formed solely for the purpose of security but because of our determination and the way we believe in traditional defence, that is why people believe that the OPC has the potentials to secure their environment.
Apart from the efforts put in by the South-West governors, do you expect other measures from them?
The South-West governors should strengthen their judiciary because if a criminal is apprehended, there should be a speedy trial. Amotekun should have a department securing the forest, while another one securing the urban areas. I will also advise the governors to inject 15% of their budget into agriculture. One of the reasons we have criminals in the South-West is because of unemployment, what is on the ground goes beyond herders. We have children involved in cultism, social vices and rituals because an idle hand is not only the devil’s workshop; it is also the criminal workshop.
Our governors should use agriculture to create jobs for the youths and create market for their states. We should also think of exporting our goods by revitalizing the cocoa industry, kola nut industry because cocoa, kola and coffee are good markets in the global village and their demands are high.
When we go into agriculture, we de-urbanize our urban areas, for instance, Lagos State is too congested. The population of Lagos rises every day and by 2025, Lagos will be 30 million in population.
We have a large landmass in Ondo, Ogun, Oyo, Ekiti and Osun; Lagos State can acquire land in those states for agriculture. I will advise our governors to intensify efforts on agriculture and security because when people are in their farms, they have to be secured. We believe that the strategy of the North is to chase us away from our farms. The North has realised that the Yoruba people are determined to go into agriculture and they know that it will affect their market and that is why killer-herdsmen are trying to frustrate the agricultural sector in the South West.
What advice do you have for the Federal Government as regards its approach to insecurity in the South-West?
The Federal Government should return to true federalism. If you don’t allow true federalism, you are wasting your time. When we return to true federalism, each region will be able to take care of its security. If I advise the Federal Government to allow state police and the states are not allowed to have laws to back it up, that is deceitful. The bane of our under-development and insecurity is the unitary system of government we are practicing.
We should return to true federalism.