The gunmen attack on Akintoye’s residence
The reported attack by yet unknown gunmen on the residence of Prof. Banji Akintoye, leader of self-determination group, Ilana Omo Oodua Worldwide, in Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State, is ominous. It is not a matter that should be treated as a non-issue by law enforcement agencies, given its antecedents of Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Adeyemo, also known as Sunday Igboho. The duo, acting separately, propagated self-determination of their ethnic groups; only to end up in detention and branded as terrorists. It is not unwarranted or unduly apprehensive to wonder if Akintoye’s case will end up the same way. The pending cases on Kanu and Igboho have escalated tension in some parts of the country; there is no doubt that visiting violence on Akintoye, either by state or non-state actors, will only add to the tension in a way that does nobody any good.
It is fortunate that nobody was hurt in the reported attack on Akintoye’s residence which, according to the Communications Secretary of Ilana Omo Oodua Worldwide, Mr. Maxwell Adeleye, happened on Saturday, October 30, 2021. “Gunshots were fired into the house by assailants who apparently climbed a chair outside the gate to shoot in. Luckily, Prof. Banji Akintoye was not around at the time and nobody was hurt,” Adeleye said, adding that “bullets, suspected to be from AK47 rifles, were recovered after they dropped from the ceiling onto the floor.”
The news is not cheery because the sorry tales of Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho started in fairly identical manner. Before he jumped bail and escaped to Europe, the residence of Kanu in Afara Ukwu, Abia State was attacked by soldiers supposedly in pursuit of trouble makers in that area in 2017. Kanu’s action in jumping bail has been attributed to that attack and belief that his life was in danger. He has since been clandestinely brought back into the country and charged with offences bordering on treason and terrorism.
Similarly, the residence of Ighoho in Soka, Ibadan was early this year attacked by gunmen who were never investigated nor apprehended, months before security agents of the Department of State Service (DSS) eventually stormed the residence on July 1, 2021 in a gestapo-like, night operation, killing two persons and destroying his vehicles and other personal properties. The incident prompted Igboho’s attempt also to escape to Europe but he was accosted in neighbouring Benin Republic and detained for offences relating to alleged violation of the country’s immigration laws. Nigeria’s Attorney General Abubakar Malami has since alleged that official investigation has linked both Igboho and Kanu with terrorists.
Instructively, just like government has been mute on the attack on Akintoye’s house, there were also no official reactions on the attacks on Igboho and Kanu, as if the assault signified nothing. Yet, it was clear, as it is now, that the attacks should not have been treated as insignificant considering that the persons involved were propagating better deals for their ethnic nationalities in the Nigerian arrangement. It is important therefore that relevant security agencies, including the police and the DSS should not only respond to the attack on Akintoye, they should fish out the attackers and unravel their motive for so dastardly an action. Failure to do so will only encourage the attackers and embolden them to perpetrate more heinous actions on the warped belief that they had government’s backing.
Curious is it that for more than 10 years that Boko Haram terrorists and other Jihadist groups operating in many parts of the north have not been visibly prosecuted to the knowledge of the public, despite the enormous atrocities in killings and displacement that they have caused. Rather, government is proposing to rehabilitate them; and has been unwilling to pronounce the terrorists operating in the North Central and North Western parts of the country as terrorists, an action that would justify tougher measures against them.
The fact remains that the mishandling of security issues in the country, including the Federal Government’s warped priority against ethnic agitators, and seeming official endorsement of open grazing style of Fulani herdsmen, has continued to fuel tension in the country. Open grazing naturally pits herders against farmers, a factor that has occasioned thousands of untimely deaths and massive displacement of farmers. Yet President Muhammadu Buhari is manifestly in support of the system despite the declaration of 16 southern governors and some northern governors against it.
The tension and instability prevalent across the country will likely not go away with the recent attack of Prof. Akintoye’s house. Already, pundits are wont to relate the incident with the invasion, some months back, of the house of the scion of the Akintoye dynasty, Ademola, an engineer in Agbor, Delta State. The attackers in that instance allegedly exterminated the building, including his rich fish pond. No one has been arrested till date. The incident on Akintoye is said to have been reported to the Ekiti State Police Command. The public awaits the results of the investigation.
Beyond this, the Buhari-led Federal Government should come to terms with the fact that Nigeria is far from working; most of the various ethnic nationalities have tales of dissatisfaction in the union; states producing commodities and minerals are complaining of being short-changed; revenue sharing has been a mismatch of revenue generation; some ethnic groups are encroaching violently on the communities of other ethnic groups, often destroying their means of livelihood; the entire country is ravaged by insecurity; security apparatuses like the police and the armed forces are stretched almost beyond their limits and yet, government cannot protect citizens’ lives and properties, a basic constitutional duty of government that has crashed.
This spate of tragedies befalling the country has continued without ceasing even though Kanu and Igboho, who government has touted as being largely responsible for violence, have been in detention. By extension, the agitations for a better country and better life for Nigerians will not cease. They may get worse, because events in the South East can easily be replicated in other less volatile regions thus further tasking government.
It is therefore time for government to earnestly reconsider its hard-line posture against ethnic groups canvassing for separation or self-determination; embrace dialogue and begin a restructuring of the country to address their concerns and, importantly, move the country away from precipice to a path of order and progress.