Olufemi Atoyebi, Peter Dada, Ademola Babalola, Abiodun Nejo, Bola Bamigbola and Tunji Bosun
In response to the increasing cases of kidnapping and robbery by bandits and suspected Fulani herdsmen in the South-West, traditional rulers from the region have vowed to defend their people and flush the marauders out of the region.
The monarchs made the declaration just as governors from the South-West announced plans to hold a regional security meeting to address growing insecurity in the region.
The governors spoke at a meeting at the Ondo State Governor’s Lodge in Abuja on Friday.
A statement issued after the meeting quoted Governor Rotimi Akeredolu as saying, “There’s an urgent need to stem the growth of criminal activities and banditry in our region and, as leaders, we must be proactive in our approach to addressing the issue.”
The meeting, which was attended by Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu; Ondo State Governor, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu; Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi; Oyo State Governor, Mr Seyi Makinde; and Osun State Governor, Mr Gboyega Oyetola, unanimously adopted Akeredolu as the chairman of the South-West Governors’ Forum.
Traditional rulers from Osun, Oyo, Ekiti, Ondo and Osun states, who spoke in separate interviews with Saturday Punch, said the time had come to adopt traditional approach against the activities of attackers terrorising the region.
In Ekiti State, the Ajero of Ijero Ekiti, Oba Adebayo Adewole, called on all monarchs in the South-West region to prevent Fulani bandits from invading the region.
Oba Adewole said, “We are all aware of the move of the Fulani to invade our land and up till now, we don’t know exactly why, but we know that it is already happening. We have no choice but to defend ourselves and defend our land.
“The issue of kidnapping is making our people to stay away from home. Really, the monarchs in the whole of Yoruba land should get together and other groups should be involved in checkmating this invasion and make sure we protect our people and property.”
The Oluyin of Iyin Ekiti, Oba Ademola Ajakaye, expressed the need for Fulani bandits to be stopped from further invasion.
Oba Ajakaye, a former chief judge of Ekiti State, said, “No, we should not allow them to invade the South West. We have discussed the issue at a meeting of obas with the governor to find the way out. We just feel the proper thing is to find a way of engaging the herdsmen in dialogue to make sure they don’t heat up the polity.
“We intend to make use of our own local hunters and so on to be able to checkmate them. We still have to find a way of dialoguing with them through their leaders in the various towns. We can make use of their leaders to checkmate them rather than violently engaging them.”
In his comment, the Olohan of Erijinyan Ekiti, Oba Omoseebi Adegoroye, said, “We told Governor Fayemi during the meeting that neighbouring states should work together while traditional rulers will work on traditional ways.
“Government should work with traditional rulers in order to be effective on our own traditional way. The traditional way will be effective if government cooperates. With necessary support, we will also be able to organise local hunters or Oodua Peoples Congress members to comb the forests. That is a way out.”
The Alara of Aramoko Ekiti, Oba Olu Adeyemi, said, “We must deploy all, including traditional approach. We, monarchs, should support any genuine means secretly, openly, overtly and covertly. What is bad is bad and should be rejected. That is our position. Whatever we have, whatever powers, traditional powers inclusive, must be deployed.”
The Elemure of Emure Kingdom, Oba Emmanuel Adebayo, said traditional rulers in the state were monitoring and discussing with a view to proffering solutions.
In Osun State, the Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Abdulrosheed Akanbi, said he had engaged local hunters to provide security.
Oluwo said, “When the attacks became rampant, especially along Osogbo/Iwo road, I summoned all traditional rulers in my domain. Since then, I have been meeting with them regularly.
“We also pay close attention to movement into and out of our domain here. It was a difficult time for us then; but we were able to stem the tide then. I also provided patrol vehicle for security men. My border stretches to Ibadan, Ikire, Ede and Ejigbo axis.”
Reacting to the development, Oba Adejoro Otebolaku, the Owalare Ilare, a town in Obokun Local Government Area of Osun State, said, “When two people were kidnapped in my area last month, I held meeting with our hunters. They have been given marching orders.
“I won’t allow such invasion here; but we need cooperation and support of government to further secure our area. We will resist them because our people can no longer move freely. They cannot go to their farms and the situation is becoming worrisome.”
In Oyo State, the Olugbon of Orile-Igbon, Oba Francis Olusola Alao, said since the time former President Olusegun Obasanjo raised the alarm over the alleged “Fulanisation” of Nigeria, he knew Nigeria was sitting on a keg of gun powder.
Oba Alao said, “I concur with the statement made by Obasanjo and I think we need a conference of all traditional rulers and the leaders, including all stakeholders in the Nigerian project to discuss which way forward for Nigeria.”
On kidnapping, the Olugbon described the development as worrisome, saying, “We need a surgical operation in terms of all of us rising up to confront it.
“We need state and local police because the federal police have failed us. And I wish to call on our vigilante to rise to the challenges posed by these herdsmen.”
The Olubadan of Ibadan land, Oba Saliu Adetunji, called on local hunters in the South-West, socio-cultural organisations and government in the region to protect the territory from invasion by bandits and suspected Fulani herdsmen who block major highways to attack people.
The monarch spoke with one of our correspondents through his Director, Media and Public Affairs, Adeola Oloko.
Ogun State monarchs
In Ogun State, some traditional rulers who spoke with Saturday Punch, said hunters must be empowered to defend the region.
Some of the monarchs who spoke with our correspondents were Towulade of Akinale, Oba Olufemi Adewunmi Ogunleye; Olorile of Orile Ifo, Oba Abdul Ogunjobi; and Elejio of Ejioland, Oba Oluwasesan Ogunmuyiwa.
They condemned the invasion of South-West states by herdsmen.
Oba Ogunleye said, “All those that are licensed should be mobilised to protect the interest of the people.”
Oba Ogunjobi said the action of these herdsmen who have taken over some lands in South-West should be condemned.
The monarch said, “If Federal Government calls for our intervention, we are ready. There are many things we can do as traditional rulers. We can go back to our elders and make use of what our elders used in the olden days.”
In his submission, Oba Ogunmuyiwa said, “We believe as traditional rulers there is something we inherited from our forefathers which we can use to curb the challenges.”
In his comments, the Deji of Akure, Oba Aladelusi Aladetoyinbo, said there was a need for community policing and state police to check criminals entering Yoruba land.
He said, “The security situation in the southwestern part of the country is assuming a dangerous direction. It is highly disturbing and calls for urgent and proactive approach. It is a fact that the issue of kidnapping was strange in the South-West in the past, now it has suddenly turned out to be a lucrative crime in the region.
“The traditional rulers should be given a definite role and be involved in the security arrangement. There are traditional means we can use, this is very important if we must get out of this threatening situation. There are ways through which we can contribute effectively to stemming the tides of insecurity.”
The traditional ruler of Auga Akoko in the Akoko North East Local Government Area, Oba Samuel Agunloye, whose wife was kidnapped by suspected Fulani herdsmen and later released after some days, noted that the criminal elements among the Fulani should be flushed out of the region.
YCE asks monarchs to mobilise local hunters
Lamenting the attacks, the Secretary General of the Yoruba Council of Elders, Dr Kunle Olajide, stressed the need for traditional rulers to mobilise local hunters to patrol major forests in the region.
He said, “The traditional rulers have roles to play even when the councils are still battling to function. They can mobilise traditional hunters and traditional medicine men to invade forests and flush these people out. The problem of this is that the traditional rulers lack the fund to do it.”
He said the attacks might not be linked to “Fulanisation,” saying they were motivated by economic gains.
Olajide said, “Most of these invasions cannot be linked to either “Fulanisation” or “Islamisation” of the country. Nobody can Fulanise, Islamise or Christianise Nigeria. What we have mainly is crime because these are criminals.
“It is left to the traditional rulers, government and the people of the South-West to push them away from here. Part of the problem is that some security agents are collaborating with them for money sake. That is the tragedy of the situation.”
Agbekoya vows to flush out bandits
Meanwhile, the President of Agbekoya Farmers Association, Kamorudeen Okikiola-Aremu, has said the organisation is mobilising hundreds of local hunters and members to invade forests in the region with the hope of flushing out bandits and suspected Fulani herdsmen from their hideouts. According to him, the fight will be won in the next 300 days.
He said, “We had a serious meeting on Thursday night which ended early on Friday on this security issue. I have issued an order to state leaders of the organisation to appoint 50 valiant men from each Yoruba state. The police are doing their best but they cannot enter the forest to face these invaders. We have told our men to be prepared; they will go into the forest and engage these people.
“They are not spirit and even if they are, we engage spirits. Wherever they are in the forests, they will be flushed out and handed over to the police if arrested. They only come out from the forest when they want to buy food. In the next one month, the invasion will be reduced to the barest minimum. Agbekoya cannot sit and watch while our people are being attacked.”
He added, “There have been cases of kidnapping and police have yet to win the fight. When the insurgents run away from the north, they come here and turn to kidnappers. I promise Yoruba people that in one month, the fight against Fulani invasion will be over. This is not just a matter of media talk.”