By Taiwo Adisa
Early in January, a torrent of bad news started emanating from the Ibarapa axis of Oyo State. The stories were about kidnapping, attacks by killer herdsmen and destruction of farmlands across Ibarapaland.
Incidentally, those attacks were on the heels of the alarm earlier raised by Governor ‘Seyi Makinde when he declared in Saki, a key town in Oke Ogun axis of the state in December 2020, that some criminal elements were crossing the international borders into the forests around Oke-Ogun and Ibarapa. He said that the state would not allow criminal elements seize the state and terrorise its people.
Though the state had deployed a combined team of state actors and non-state actors to comb the forests, reports of herdsmen attacks and violence kept emanating from Igangan, Idere, Ayete, Lanlate, Tapa and parts of Ibarapaland. On January 9, in the aftermath of the killing of Dr. Fatai Aborode and a business woman of note in Ibarapa, the Oyo State Security Network Agency codenamed Amotekun, embarked on a joint exercise to rid the forests of Ibarapa North, Ibarapa Central, Ibarapa East and Iwajowa Local Government Areas of criminal elements. That exercise brought together the Vigilante Group of Nigeria, Amotekun Corps and even Miyetti Allah Vigilantes and it marked the return of normalcy to the troubled area.
A government delegation led by the Executive Assistant to the Governor on Security, Sunday Odukoya, was deployed to ascertain the true situation and ensure peace.
As the bad stories won’t go away, the governor again on January 24 deployed the retired Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, Fatai Owoseni(retd) accompanied by the Commissioner of Police in Oyo State, Ngozi Onadeko, to the troubled areas. The delegation, which held meetings in Igangan, Ago-Are and Tede in Ibarapa and Oke Ogun axes, insisted on the need for peaceful coexistence after meetings with monarchs, youths, and Hausa-Fulani leaders.
At the meeting in Igangan, Owoseni debunked insinuations that Governor Makinde had abandoned the people, adding that at least 51 suspected perpetrators of kidnapping, rape and banditry were currently in police net. He emphasised the need for vigilance by all, saying “If you see something, say something.”
On Sunday, January 31, the governor launched a peace/fact-finding mission to the trouble spots of Ibarapaland. It was a two-day trip that afforded him the benefit of hearing directly from different layers of stakeholders and seeing the extent of the crisis firsthand. The trip also afforded the governor the opportunity of combining investigation with consultation, while he made critical declarations at the same time. He was able to silence those who criticised his style of first receiving detailed briefing before embarking on the all-important trip.
From Eruwa in Ibarapa East Local Government, the governor kickstarted his consultations; this continued in Igbo-Ora in Ibarapa Central Local Government, with a meeting that started at 9pm and lasted till the early hours of February 1.
At the meeting held at the Igbo-Ora home of the chairman of the Oyo State Water Corporation, Dr. Anthony Adepoju, leaders of Ibarapa community took turns to brief the governor on the extent of the crisis.
The Chairman, Ibarapa North-West Local Council Development Area, Okediji Olusegun, told the meeting that the displaced Seriki Fulani of Igangan, Alhaji Saliu Abdukadir, was the source of the tension that had grown between the Ibarapa people and the Hausa-Fulani, as according to him, the said Seriki was linked to series of infractions. Others who addressed the meeting included Olaoniye Sarafa(Ibarapa Central), Diji Odegoke(Ibarapa North-East), Adekunle Waheed (Ibarapa East), Gbenga Obalowo(Ibarapa East), Shittu Liazu(Ibarapa North).
A common thread that ran through their submissions was the fact that crisis rocking Ibarapaland started around 2007/2008 and that the Fulanis started coming to the area in numbers with the claim that they were invited by others who told them there is abundance of land in the area and peace.
The community leaders said that things took a sad turn when some of the Fulani graduated from ordinary vandalism of farmlands to attacking farmers, kidnapping, rape, and killings. The leaders said that the attacks became vicious from March 2019 and that different communities in Ibarapaland had altogether paid N50m as ransom for kidnap victims.
The Chairman of Lanlate LCDA, Odegoke, said that the attacks were already scaring agricultural investors from the town. He said: “We have since July 2020 put a hold on receiving Fulani visitors and with that decision, peace is returning to our area.”
Other community leaders who spoke included Abideen Olamilekan, Obande Sarafa(Ayete), Akeeb Salami (Lanlate), Shola Fakorede(Idere), Peter Ojedokun, a member of the state House of Assembly and Onifade Michael(Igangan).
The governor was told that the killing of Aborode, a well-known farmer and philanthropist and some business owners in Ibarapaland, angered the people and led to the ‘Fulani must go’ slogan.
Besides the Igbo-Ora meeting at Adepoju’s residence, early morning meetings were held at Igbo Ora town hall, Idere and Igangan. The governor equally visited the homes of victims of attacks by the killer herdsmen including the home of the slain Aborode.
While speaking at Igbo-Ora, the governor told the gathering that he felt their pains, adding that a failure of intelligence partly informed the inability of security agencies to nip the criminal activities in the bud.
“We regret the loss of lives of our compatriots who have been cut down in their prime and the thing is that we must not lose any more lives,” the governor said, adding that community leaders should request to see him as quickly as they want on security matters.
He also told the people that there was the need for enduring peace, adding that the people must correctly characterise the enemies to be able to work out an enduring peace.
At Idere, the stakeholders, who were largely traditional rulers gave historical perspectives of the crisis and asked for another meeting in Ibadan to speak with Makinde in close quarters.
At Igangan Town Hall, the governor met with youth leaders, the elderly and monarchs who narrated the tales of woes that spanned more than a decade. General Secretary of Farmers’ Union, Taiwo Adeagbo, said that he once in 2013 took some 14 victims of herders’ attacks to the immediate past government of Oyo State but that succour did not come. He said that activities of the killer herdsmen could threaten food security.
Jamiu Ogungbenro of Igangan Development Advocates, listed a number of victims of kidnapping and the ransom paid. Others lamented the terror the killer herdsmen had inflicted on the people in the past years and declared that enough was enough.
After listening to the tales of woes, Makinde declared the readiness of his administration to fast-track the state’s Identity Management Scheme and set up a peace and security committee in all councils. He also told the people that the state would compensate families that lost loved ones even though no amount of money could equate the lost lives.
He also announced that the state government would immediately take over the treatment of the three victims of herders’ attacks who were being treated in Igangan besides the deployment of more Amotekun corps to man strategic spots.
It is worthy of note that three victims; Isaiah Seun, 26; Emmanuel Aderogba, 71 and Adekola Adeyemo, 65, had been relocated to Ibadan, for medical attention courtesy of the state government.
Adisa is the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor of Oyo State