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Southwest’s peace initiatives amid pervasive national insecurity

By Rotimi Agboluaje, Ibadan
02 April 2021   |   4:16 am
Disturbed by the state of insecurity now pervasive across the country, with particular focus on the Southwest, Governors of states in the region launched...

Olajide (left), Adams, Lawal and Makinde at the summit

Oyo’s eye on the ball
Disturbed by the state of insecurity now pervasive across the country, with particular focus on the Southwest, Governors of states in the region launched the Western Nigerian Security Network, code-named Amotekun corps, in January 2020.

In spite of the launch of the security network last year, Oyo State has continued to have a large its share of incidences of insecurity. There have been cases of skirmishes, carnages, and inter-ethnic clashes in Ibadan, Ibarapa, Oke-Ogun and other areas of the state.

To address the security challenge, Oyo State Government took some steps. One of such is the inauguration of a state security task force on March 15, 2021. While inaugurating the Task Force, Governor Seyi Makinde said it would serve as ‘War Room’ to tackle insecurity in the state.

The task force, which is chaired by Governor Makinde, has Mr. Olayinka Jimoh, the Director, Special Services, as the secretary. Other top government officials in the committee includes the Chief of Staff, Chief Bisi Ilaka, Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters, Special Adviser to the governor on Security, CP Fatai Owoseni (Rtd.); Executive Assistant on Security, CP Sunday Odukoya (Rtd.), DG Operation Burst, Col. Oladipo Ajibola (Rtd.) and the Commander of the Oyo State Security Network Agency, codenamed Amotekun, among others.

Makinde explained that task force became imperative because of the challenges of insecurity. “I will be chairing the Task Force. We are supposed to be on top of the security situation almost on a daily basis, so the scheduled meetings for this Task Force will hold weekly.

“We also hope that we can call an emergency meeting anytime depending on the security situation. The members have been carefully selected. The Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters, for instance, is supposed to be our link with the traditional institutions, the local government areas, and stakeholders at the local government levels,” he said.

The governor added: “We ask for support from our people, from the traditional institutions, political stakeholders and the different ethnic nationalities that are residents of Oyo State. We do not support ethnic profiling.

“We are looking for criminals and we know that if we are not careful, what goes around will come around. We have been hearing about the kidnapping of school children and their teachers and we do not want that to happen in Oyo State. So, we are seeking for every support that we can get.”

Briefing journalists after the first meeting, Special Adviser on Security, CP Fatai Owoseni (Rtd.), in company with the Chief of Staff and the Commissioner for Information, said: “At the conclusion of the first meeting of the Security War Room Task Force, certain decisions were made.

“First, it is important to state that at no point do we want to, by action or omission, supplant the activities of the security agencies in the state as they operate. We want to work in a way that is complementary to whatever they do.

“Second, we do intend to identify the various communities, contacts, and markets in our states so we can enumerate who is where and who we need to contact.

“Third, the Governor also stated that there is a need to have a meeting with all our traditional rulers within the week because all security matters without them will probably be unsuccessful.”

Owoseni disclosed that the meeting discussed the issue of voluntary policing, which could make room for non-state actors in the complete security architecture. He noted that entry points into the states were somewhat porous, and that there will be checkpoints at major entry and exit points of the state. These are to be integrated into the state control room and general state security architecture.

As part of new security measures, Owoseni said the government would further regulate commercial motorcycle riders so as to know who they are and what they are doing from time to time.

Earlier on March 17, an overarching Yoruba body, Pan-Yoruba Congress, which is also disturbed by the appalling security situation in the region, convoked a meeting at the Mapo Hall, Ibadan, Oyo State, to address the menace.

Speaking at the event, Governor Makinde said his administration was working round the clock to improve security so that residents could go about their lawful businesses without hindrance, adding that the state will incorporate non-state actors into the state’s new security architecture.

He said: “By virtue of my office, I can see some things that you cannot easily see. I stand on my honour to say that I will take decisions in the best interest of my people.”

He, however, emphasised that government alone cannot tackle insecurity, saying that all hands must be on deck to find a lasting solution to the issue.

He hinted that in the days to come, those who are not in Amotekun, who could be OPC, Soludero or Vigilante, would participate in what we call voluntary policing. “Government alone cannot tackle insecurity. Our security agencies cannot do it all alone. Our traditional rulers and the non-state actors must come together to support us. You installed this government and this government is ready to listen to you and do what you want; please give your support,” he said.

Earlier at the event, the Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Adams, admonished Yoruba people to work together and speak with one voice, noting that, “If the socio-cultural organisations and security groups are not united, it will be very difficult for Yoruba land to be united.”

He said, “I can assure you that this is a starting point for unity. We have agreed with some of the Yoruba leaders and socio-cultural groups that we will ensure every part of Yoruba land works together so we can speak with one voice.”

He appealed to Southwest governors to lay emphasis on infrastructure, security and creation of job opportunities for youths in their states.

On his part, founder of Yoruba K’oya Movement, Otunba Deji Osibogun, stressed the need to ensure safety of all and unity in Yoruba land.

The Secretary-General of Yoruba Council of Elders, Dr. Kunle Olajide observed that there was need to identify the challenges confronting the Yoruba nation and find ways to overcome them.

“Nigeria has not been this polarised along ethnic and religious lines. The current administration, in the last five years, has inflicted immense damage on the unity of this country. To make matters worse, Mr. President has not been speaking to us despite the daunting challenges. He speaks to us through those we did not elect. He has not come out to reassure us and demonstrate commitment to unity of the country,” Dr. Olajide said.

In a follow-up to the meeting on March 18, Governor Makinde held a closed-door meeting with Gani Adams. Afterwards, Adams told journalists that the meeting was also part of efforts aimed at improving security in the region. He disclosed that he earlier met Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, adding that there was the need to interface with the governors on the state of security in the region.

While disclosing that the state of insecurity in the region was alien to the history of the Yoruba nation, he said the meeting revealed that leaders in the region were on the same page in terms of improving security.

However, some analysts are of the view that the reported cases of insecurity in the region are being blown out of proportion by some political actors to paint the Governor Makinde administration black.

A security scholar and immediate past Director of Institute for Peace and Strategic Studies (IPSS), University of Ibadan, Prof. Olawale Albert, said it seemed that the enemies of Governor Makinde wanted to use the security issue to frustrate him.

Prof. Albert said: “It seems Makinde’s enemies want to use the security questions to get him out. The demonisation project seems to be selling fast. Paradoxically, the Governor doesn’t seem desperate to come back.”

Also, a retired police sergeant, Araoye Adeola, said: “There is politics it all that is playing out in Oyo State and l wish Governor Makinde could face the challenge without prejudice like former Governor Abiola Ajimobi.”

Adeola stressed that what Oyo state needed to tackle the blackmail unfolding was a governor who could act like a military man when it comes to security, because residents do not easily comply with persuasion.

REACTING, the Publicity Secretary of All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr. Abdulazeez Olatunde asked: “What has the taskforce got to do with security? There is a working template he met on ground. But he is jettisoning all simply because he doesn’t want to be seen as being under the shadow of APC government or former Governor Abiola Ajimobi. Had he continued with the template he met on ground, it would have been very easy for him to govern.”

Also, an Ibadan-based politician and member of Social Party of Nigeria (SPN), Abiodun Bamgboye, said setting up a security taskforce to address the problem is only on the surface without addressing the real issue.

According to him, “the step is cosmetic and superficial. There is no way insecurity can be tackled without first of all addressing poverty, unemployment and others.”