The Igboho mini series: Act one, scene one!
At the end of the raid, in the wee hours of that day, the security men led a convoy of their captives to Abuja. Some of these captives were released on the way and the rest were taken to Abuja. Among the captives was an online blogger identified as Lady K, who gave a live-broadcast of the invasion, calling repeatedly to “warriors” to come to Igboho’s aid.
Think of Christiane Amanpour at the battle of Bagdad reporting for CNN!
But their main quarry escaped. How he performed that feat is something that would emerge another day. His escape bolsters his image as a man gifted with supernatural powers. It was even said that the DSS operatives, disappointed that they did not see him cowering among the women, decided to arrest a stray cat, believing that Igboho, using his supernatural powers, may have transformed himself into a cat! I don’t know the veracity of this story, but that it emerged at all, shows the fecundity of our people’s imagination.
It was said that Igboho has spurned several invitations from the DSS and the police. He and his colleagues in the Yoruba Nation Movement have held rallies across selected cities in Yorubaland campaigning for the creation of a separate Yoruba country out of the Nigerian federation. They were billed to stage another rally in Lagos on Saturday July 3, which the authorities had warned against. Nonetheless, the rally held, albeit, without the presence of Igboho. Some of his supporters were arrested at the rally, including youths adorned with various ancient coats of Yoruba warriors. The protesters alleged that a youngster was killed by a stray police bullet, a claim that the police has denied. Hakeem Odumosu, the energetic Lagos State Commissioner of Police, who was present at the event with his men, said no live bullet was fired. A conclusive report is yet to be issued by the police on the tragic death of the girl.
The Igboho phenomenon has taken a while in coming. He participated in the Ife-Modakeke crisis of 1997, which was later inherited by the civilian regime of Governor Adebisi Akande. He fought on the side of Modakeke as one of the most notable imported warriors of that conflict. Since then, he had embarked on a carreer as a valued muscleman for Oyo State politicians. He started off in the camp of Chief Lam Adesina, the governor of Oyo State between 1999 and 2003 and later moved on to become a stalwart of Adesina’s successor, Chief Rashidi Ladoja. In the course of his career, he has accumulated a sizeable fortune, founded one or two thriving companies, sent his family abroad, and embraced a good life.
But the provocation that brought him into the limelight came in earnest. For generations, especially after the end of the 100 years Yoruba Civil Wars, that the late Professor J.F. Ade-Ajayi called the Century of Revolutions, Fulani herdsmen have found fortune in Yorubaland. They helped in raising cattle, most of which were owned by them and others by Yoruba entrepreneurs. They supplied meat and milk to the West. When Chief Obafemi Awolowo became Premier of the defunct Western Region (now divided into Ekiti, Lagos, Delta, Edo, Ogun, Ondo, Oyo and Osun States) in 1952, he found the cattle business an attractive one. He established eleven cattle ranches across the region and imported a new, studier and more productive breed of cattle from Argentina.
Awolowo left power in 1959. Then Chief Ladoke Akintola came. After Akintola was the Interim Regime of Dr Koyejo Majekodunmi. Akintola returned for the second and final time. After his violent death in 1966 came Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi, and then, Colonel Adeyinka Adebayo, Colonel Oluwole Rotimi, Admiral Akintunde Aduwo and Colonel David Medaiyese Jemibewon. By the time Uncle Lam Adesina became Governor in Oyo State in 1999, there were no more ranches anywhere in the former Western Region once ruled by Awolowo. The Yoruba elite have consumed the entire Argentine breed and the Fulani herdsmen were back in rearing business.
In year 2000, there was a violent clash between Fulani herdsmen and Oke-Ogun farmers in Oyo State. People were killed on both sides. In the aftermath of the clash, Major-General (rtd) Muhammadu Buhari led a northern delegation to Governor Adesina to plead the cause of the Fulani. The clash had occurred in the immediate constituency of Adesina’s Deputy Governor, Barrister Iyiola Opadokun. Later some of my colleagues and I met with Governor Adesina. He promised that he would build new ranches and revive the old ones of the Awolowo era after he must have won his re-election bid in 2003. He lost.
Five governors later, the herdsmen remain a terror to the people of Oyo State, especially in Oke Ogun. The emergence of Sunday Igboho is a metaphor about how much we have lost. No new ranch has been built and there is no apparent plan by the government of Oyo State to intervene decisively in this lucrative business. When Igboho emerged like a meteor, he was welcome as a hero by his people. Other areas of Yorubaland saw his style and panache as the ready answer to the nefarious trade of kidnapping, cattle rustling and serial violence perpetrated by criminal gangs, especially those of the Fulani variants.
Some people hailed Igboho as a Yoruba Liberator. He soon embraced another struggle when he has not even completed the first one. He now wants a separate Yoruba Nation, independent from Nigeria. I cannot put my finger on how this campaign started or who originated it, but it has gained currency with Igboho and his followers. Could this be a rear-guard campaign by those who want a state of emergency so that Buhari can remain in power beyond 2023? Suddenly we found the campaigners telling us there is no alternative to the dismantling of Nigeria! “Restructuring is already too late,” they chorused!! There is no document in the public space on what they really want except rambling dissemination of ethnic hatred and eloquence of violence.
When we fought the military, we believed we were fighting for the right to embrace alternatives. It is a pity that Igboho allowed himself to be dissuaded from his original campaign and to start a new journey for which there is no guiding map. Now he is on the run and in hiding. The DSS that attacked his house also stole the bodies of two of his men who were killed in the melee. I have never heard of any government in the world that is involved in the business of stealing dead bodies. The situation is getting darker, intriguing and interesting. Despite his verbal incontinence and occasional excesses, Igboho remains a cult hero to the people who appreciate his courage and personal sacrifices in the cause to rid Yorubaland of criminal elements. I wish Abraham Aderibigbe Adesanya, the Wise One, were still with us to tell us what to do in this matter.
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