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Southwest governors ought not have dialogue with herders, says Oshun

By Seye Olumide
12 March 2021   |   4:13 am
If they are talking about Governor Rotimi Akeredolu’s quit notice that criminal herdsmen should vacate the Forest Reserves in his state, I insist that what the governor did was entirely constitutional.

Wale Oshun

Mr. WALE OSHUN is the chairman, Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG). He spoke with SEYE OLUMIDE on issues of insecurity in Southwest and response by governors.

The southwest governors are being vilified by their people for not acting proactively on the menace of armed Fulani herdsmen and their atrocities, while at the same time some northerners hold the view that the governors were the one inciting their people against northerners in the South. How do you relate with that?
If they are talking about Governor Rotimi Akeredolu’s quit notice that criminal herdsmen should vacate the Forest Reserves in his state, I insist that what the governor did was entirely constitutional. Very top legal minds have spoken about the Land Use Decree and laws in this country, who agree that the governor of every state has a responsibility for all the lands in his domain.

Secondly, every state also has it’s own agriculture management policies and laws, which are consistent with the Constitution. A Forest Reserve has a purpose for being set up; it is for the management of all forestry holding, like the livestock, crops and others. That is what the Forest Reserve is for and essentially not allowed for trespassers. It does not allow for people to come in and live there. In any case it is only animals that live in the forest. So what are human beings looking for in the forest, especially reserved forestry areas.

The governor of Ondo State acted within his rights and his powers to say that those living in our forests or in the forest in Ondo State and are causing hardships to the people of the state, should quit. There are two significant things to the quit notice; those affected are essentially in the forest where nobody is even aware that they are there. They have taken occupations there but in addition they are committing crimes against the people and the state. The governor asked them to leave because they are not contributing to the state but rather decimating the state by kidnapping, stopping farmers from working and others. It is within the governor’s rights by virtue of the fact that he (Akeredolu) has to protect his people and the farmers living in the state; he also has to protect all the resources in the state including livestock, plants and rare breeds of plants that are in the forest. That is exactly what Akeredolu did.

But the Federal Government and majority of the northern stakeholders took Akeredolu’s quit notice to mean an affront on citizens constitutional right to live and work wherever they like.
The first thing to ask from those who reacted to Akeredolu’s decision is whether, they can allow any outsider to visit any part of their forests and take up residence and start committing crimes like the herders were doing in Ondo State and across the Southwest? I doubt if they will take it because that would be complete trespassing. Would they accept that any total stranger is taking up residence within their own abode? But it is much more than that, they are also committing crimes and using their abode as a cover, would they accept that? They are not likely because they are human beings. They are not likely going to accept criminals from using their abode as a resort and this is very significant. If they are now challenging Akeredolu, it means they are been disingenuous or are the ones sponsoring these criminal herders.

In the first instance, have they (the critics) ever attempted to establish who these purported criminal herdsmen are to know whether they are Nigerians or foreigners? Statistics are there that Nigeria has a herd of cattle of about 20 million but then you have Chad, Mali and Sudan. Sudan has more than 28 million herd of cattle, Mali and Chad have almost 20 million and because they are in the Sahel region, they all come down to Nigeria during the rainy seasons to feed and if they will come they come through our borders; who monitors these borders because Nigeria is a sovereign nation. Not even the ECOWAS treaty would allow that kind of undocumented movement and of what benefit is such movement to Nigeria?

Another thing is that how many of these herdsmen are of Nigeria origin? We have lived for years with those herders of Nigeria origin and like the Biblical herdsmen, what they carry is their staff. They are usually friendly with their host communities simply because they are Nigerians. But these ones, who are not Nigerians, who have never by any means been civilized by any structure, come in carrying AK47 rifle simply because they have participated in the Libyan wars, ISIS wars and nobody is even checking. We are supposed to be a sovereign State and even if we are of the same ethnic nationality, should they be allowed to enter the country without documentation? Not even the ECOWAS treaty will allow that.

Were you surprised that the leadership of your party, APC, also kicked against the decision of Akeredolu, who also belongs to APC?
The truth is this; sometimes people say blood is thicker than water. Yes we are Nigerians but this depends on having or sharing the same love, values, cultures with another person and that’s another matter because we are different people.

The Yoruba man is different from the Ibo, just like the Hausa and Fulani are different in terms of value, culture, the food we eat and philosophy. The message the north or some Fulani leaders have passed across to other fellow Nigerians is that they are more committed to their fellow Fulani in terms of ethnic nationality than they are geographical entity that fused us together as Nigerians. They have clearly told us that Fulani people, irrespective of their countries of origin are the same.

I can even go, as far to speculate that the statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity to the President, Mallam Shehu Garuba, which condemned Akeredolu’s quit notice to the herders was a stray bullet. I can even speculate that President Muhammadu Buhari himself would not have approved such a statement; I mean, it would be necessary to speculate that because the President swore to an oath to protect Nigerians and not to favour one nationality against the others. I am even in a position to speculate that maybe Shehu Garuba issued the statement on his own but the presidency would not just sell him out and disown him, that is why it kept quiet, otherwise what he (Garba) said was totally and exceedingly irresponsible. These criminal herders are mostly foreigners. Somebody recently said on one of the broadcast media that AK47 sells for more than a million to N2 million. Somebody must have supplied the guns to the herders or they must have acquired it during some civil war, but Nigeria didn’t fight a civil war in the last 50 years, so the AK47 of that time would not be in application. Now almost all the herders are carrying guns, which means they are foreigners. If they were foreigners coming to terrorise Nigerians, in fact, no real Nigerian would come out to say what Garba said.

The Governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed and the Senate President Ahmad Lawan also accused Southwest governors of inciting their people.
Did you also listen to Governor Samuel Ortom’s reaction to what Bala said? Come to think of it, Bala spoke in respect of two major issues. One, he spoke about the right of herders to carry arms because they need it to protect themselves and that the Fulani race is one and that they have a duty to one another. We do have people of Fulani origin who are Nigerians because they were born in Nigeria or their parents were born here. So we are talking of antecedents but we cannot have a Fulani man who just came into the country today and someone says because you want to be your brothers’ keeper he is a Nigerian, I beg to disagree, such a person cannot be one of us. So Bala’s comment was arrant nonsense. The Fulani that has just moved and come into the country is not a Nigerian. There are Yoruba people in Benin Republic but nobody has called them Nigerians because they are not provided for in our Constitution.

The Senate President would need to make clear in what way anybody has incited another. In fact, the average Yoruba person believes that most of the Southwest governors have sold them out cheaply and they (governors) have not stuck out their necks to protect them, particularly those in the rural economy. The farmers, transporters and others in the rural economy and then ordinary Yoruba people who must visit their original homestead are afraid to go back home because they are afraid that the routes leading to their hometowns have been taken over by marauders and kidnappers. We are of the belief that the governors need to do more in terms of the herders’ excesses. They should stick out their necks and make sure that they take all necessary steps to protect their people.

But asking the governors to do more when they are not in charge of the security architecture in their states is a big challenge…
If you were a careful watcher of Nigerian governors, you would have seen a denunciation. The southern governors and particularly those of Southwest want to be good nationalists that believe in and work for Nigeria; but one day, a governor stood up in Zamfara State and introduced Sharia law, insisting that his own enclave needed not be a secular state because majority of his people are Muslims. He eventually got away with it and other states that are Muslims dominated in the north more or less adopted the Sharia law and started implementing it. They went ahead to introduced the Hisba Police, which could arrest, seal shops and could even prosecute because they do prosecute for violating Sharia laws. But here we have our governors, who were afraid to introduce equivalent system that would protect their own people.

And that is why we are very happy that they have the foresight and courage to come out with the Amotekun security outfit. All they need to do now is to find all lawful means to make Amotekun functional and a biting force that can protect their people and ensure that criminality is reduced, if not completely eliminated. They owe us that. If somebody could come up with the Hisba Police, introduced Sharia laws and get away with it, there is absolutely nothing stopping our governors from coming up with an appropriate policing facility that will protect the basic interests of their people.

We want our governors to protect our lives and property and they are obliged to do so. They should not listen to the sentiments of the Senate President and Bala. What does Lawan want the governors to do? They should look aside when strangers come into their states to attack their people, where there are laws that say you have a right to self-defence when you are attacked within your own property. What do you want the governors to do?

Apart from Akeredolu and Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, there is the perception that other Southwest governors, Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun) and Gboyega Oyetola (Osun) are playing politics with the herders/farmers crisis?
Maybe governor Akeredolu is in a class of his own, for standing firm and boldly and of course all the other governors can speak for themselves. I need to say this that in Osun State for instance, there is Amotekun; it is in Ekiti and Oyo State. Those three states aside from Ondo, the Amotekun have been functional. It carries out patrols and also stopped infiltration of foreigners.

But talking about Lagos and Ogun, those are the two states that up till date do not have the Amotekun facility. Enquiries upon enquiries would reveal that it is work in progress and these governors can speak for themselves why almost a year after they had made collective decisions; it remains work in progress in their states. However, I need to say this that Lagos State has had a very nasty experience at some point regarding kidnapping, cult wars and as at that time they had set up a security collaboration with a Security Trust Fund, which it used to fund the existing police. If it feels that the existing arrangement is working for them I wouldn’t know. But in a way the most exposed is Ogun and the governor in Ogun would need to be more proactive. He would need to come out and address the people as to what he is doing, particularly on the Yewa axis.

There are so many reports of attacks in Ogun State and it is not enough to carry out investigations, which are most likely to end up in civil service files. How do you stop such infiltration and protect your people? Citizens of Ogun would need to know what their governor is doing exactly.

The Federal Government would need to come down to assist Southwest in fighting the destruction of the basic economy. The Federal Government would need to come to support Southwest, where we have always had cattle ranches.

Should Southwest governors have had negotiations with the herders in the first instance, especially Governor Makinde’s visit to the Seriki Hausawa in the aftermath of Ibarapa mayhem?
For me, that’s an insult and I say this with due respect. For instance, did Makinde have the Seriki in his chieftaincy laws? It is not there. The chieftaincy laws of Oyo State will comprise of all the accredited chieftaincies and Obas that are statutory, so certainly the Seriki will not be there. In any case, was it Makinde that gave the staff of office to the Seriki, the answer is no. So, why go before him (Seriki)?

About two weeks ago, we read in the papers that the Emir of Kano appointed Oba Yorubawa, note appointed, the Emir was the one who gave the staff of office to Oba Yorubawa but did Olubadan of Ibadan or the Oba of Lagos appoint anyone to be the Seriki in their states? Using the chieftaincy law, the answer is no. You will recall that one Eze Ndigbo rose up in Akure sometime ago, but he had to be walked out of the palace of the Deji of Akure. The issue is this, who appointed the Seriki? What has Makinde gone to do in the seriki’s palace? Have you heard a governor in the north going to visit oba Yorubawa? The seriki is a creation of nobody.

There is a recent video in which you were seen criticising former National Chairman of APC, Chief Bisi Akande over his comments on the registration/ revalidation in the party, what’s the reason for doing that?
Baba Akande remains a leader and a father figure to most of us. What I said is that because he is a strong person, he is one that when he believes in a course you know he does, because he has a strong voice. I was pleading with him to put that his strong voice behind, and in the struggle for restructuring. He has written a book on the issue and I have met him several times to discuss the matter. I know where his heart lies with restructuring and all I was just asking for is that he should please put his strong voice behind the restructuring of this country. If we don’t restructure Nigeria, the coming generations will blame us. As we stand today, we know we are not co-equal. We can continue to deceive one another but the truth is we are not equal. All I was just saying, and it was with total respect to Baba Akande, is that he should put his strong voice behind those of us asking for restructuring.

The entire clamour for restructuring is a call by those who believe in negotiation that there are issues to discuss in our country. For instance, in 1983, the former governor of Lagos State, the late Alhaji Lateef Jakande had concluded all arrangement and agreement to build a metro line in Lagos State but because erroneously the Constitution speaks of the Federal Government having only the power to run a train, the military regime of President Muhammadu Buhari (1983) came and smashed the contract, which was at a very big cost to Lagos.

Former Governor of Lagos Bola Tinubu in 1999 to 2000 came up with the concept of Enron Power project but former President Olusegun Obasanjo came in and smashed it, all because only the Federal Government can generate and distribute electricity. The two issues are very big economic policy issues, which are not political. They are things that could have transformed the lives of the people who live and pay taxes in Yoruba land and in Lagos but here the Federal Government aborted it. It is an indication of the great damages the current unitary constitution is doing to the country. That is why we keep talking about renegotiating the Nigerian bond.