How government’s weakness to tackle farmer/herder clashes strengthened Sunday Igboho.

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If there is anything that is a consensus in Nigeria today, it is the security challenges rocking every part of the nation.

People wake up every day doubting their existence for another 24 hours because of insecurity perpetrated by a growing band of murderers, terrorists, castle rustlers kidnappers, and other violent criminals crisis-crossing the entire length and breadth of the country.

The incessant killings and kidnappings across the country have further strengthened the debates around true federalism and restructuring which will allow state governors have control over state police that will help in curbing the rising insecurity in the country.

This newspaper, on several occasions, has reported the killings and kidnappings of some farmers by suspected herdsmen. In some cases, herders allegedly destroy farm lands with their cattle with practically done to make them face the wrath of the law.

The incessant killings and kidnapping, have, however, led to allegations and counter allegations between farmers and Fulani herders especially in southwest communities.

Kidnappings, killings

The red light on Fulani herders in the Southwest became clearer when a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Olu Falae, was abducted by armed herders on his farm in Akure, Ondo State.

He was forced to cough out N5 million to regain his freedom despite efforts by police to rescue him.

In addition, Olufunke Olakurin, a daughter of the Afenifere leader, Reuben Fasoranti, was also killed on her way to Lagos by suspected herdsmen along Ore road in Ondo State.

Aside these popular figures, many more individuals have been abducted and killed either on the highway, in the forest, or even in their residences by suspected herders.

Victims, who have the opportunity to pay ransom and left to return to their families, have, in the past, narrated sorrowful tales.

The aforementioned and many more triggered the establishment of a regional security network code named Operation Amotekun by South-west governors.

The security outfit was put in place to support the police and other conventional security agencies in ensuring safety of lives and property of the people.

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Scary scenarios in Oyo

Despite the creation of Amotekun and joint efforts of security operatives in combating crimes, many residents of Oke-Ogun and Ibarapa axes of Oyo State have been at the mercy of suspected herders kidnapping and killing residents weekly.

Last year, PREMIUM TIMES reported how Modupe Oyetoso, a young farmer, lost her fiancée to armed kidnappers alleged to be Fulani herdsmen in Lanlate.

They were returning from their farm at Igbo-dudu in Lanlate around 5 p.m. when four armed men accosted them, killing her fiancé in the process while she was whisked away.

Ms Oyetoso narrated that she spent two days in captivity until her family paid ransom to secure her release.

The place of the incident, Lanlate, is one of the seven towns in Ibarapa area of Oyo State. Others are Igangan, Eruwa, Aiyete, Tapa, Idere, and Igbo-Ora where agriculture is their major business.

Another victim in Igangan known as Fatai Cocoa also told PREMIUM TIMES then that he was kidnapped by those alleged to be Fulani herders while returning from Iseyin with his wife. He had to pay N10 million as ransom before he could regain his freedom.

Aside from the aforementioned cases, many more cases have been recorded in these areas and they continue to generate controversies.

But the Fulanis in the axis have also argued that ‘bad Fulani herdsmen’ are responsible for insecurity in the areas, citing instances where top Fulani traders living in the areas have also been kidnapped.

Sunday Igboho filling void for authorities?

As the security challenges in the Ibarapa axis appear unending, Sunday Igboho, a self-styled Yoruba warrior, issued an ultimatum to Fulanis in Ibarapa to leave the area.

Upon the expiration of the ultimatum, he led some youth to Ibarapa to evacuate the herders.

Properties worth millions of naira were burnt in the process, a development that has generated heated controversies both on the social media and offline.

Public affairs analysts, who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES, however, said Mr Igboho was simply filling the void not addressed by the federal and state governments.

A public affairs analyst, Festus Ogun, told our correspondent that Mr Igboho perpetrated all he did last Friday because the government at the federal and the state levels has failed.

“The government has failed in its duty to protect its people. Insecurity did not just start yesterday and since authorities failed, what will the people do than to defend themselves. If a government truly exists, folks like Sunday Igboho won’t be let alone have the power to carry guns.”

“The political leadership must show sincere commitment in its mandate to protect its people. We cannot condemn Igboho while trying to fix what the government pretends not to see and when the government fails, the Sunday Igboho of today will rise. What I will like to say is that we should not throw away caution.”

Another public affairs analyst, Kazeem Israel, said: “the fact that Sunday Igboho issued an ultimatum shows that there’s loss of trust and confidence in government.”

“The loss of trust and confidence in public institutions prompt the people to take matters of protection into their own hands which is actually not good for the continued existence of the country. It will also lead to a proliferation of self-protecting armed militia and cases of jungle justice in the country as was witnessed in the case of Sunday Igboho. In short, Igboho is a logical consequence of a failed State.”

Pedro Omolola, a rights activist, also disclosed that “if the government had acted earlier, there would not have been what we witnessed. It shows that the authorities need to work harder in restoring adequate security of lives and properties”.

In his own view, Jide Ojo said Mr Igboho was a metaphor for Nigeria.

“Sunday Igboho is a metaphor for Nigeria. When we have agencies who appear nonchalant, what will come next is for non state actors to take charge. It was because of this same crisis that led to the establishment of Amotekun but nothing seems to have been done and that’s why Igboho is having heroic acceptance”, he said.

“The herders have been fingered repeatedly from the case of Chief Falae and others. There is no way to justify Sunday Igboho action but if the state has acted promptly, there won’t be what we have. We just need to understand that Yoruba also have people in northern Nigeria. What happened is a challenge for the state actors to act correctly. When the state is abetting the lawlessness of some persons, you leave no choice to the people than to resort to self-help”.

Security failure

Adesina Ogunlana, a human rights lawyer, said that humans have fundamental rights to protect themselves.

“I don’t have to wait for the police to resist an armed robber from robbing me. The situation of farm destruction and others is rampant. Now, the security forces appear weak and a man must protect his people from bandits occupying the highways and farms.”

“People came to seek help from a militia because self-help is not illegal when official help has failed. Sunday Igboho appears to be the alternative helping to protect their lives and properties. The guy has not even fired any shot. The man provided leadership and talent that Buhari and Makinde are not able to show.”

Another lawyer, Dele Farotimi, said Mr Igboho “is a fruit of Nigeria’s madness.”

“There would not have been a need for Sunday Igboho if the Nigerian state had done the needful. He is a reaction of the government failure. While one may not support him, we cannot rant against him because he is an indicator of government failure”.

Meanwhile, Daniel Onwe, a Lagos -based lawyer, told PREMIUM TIMES that regardless of the circumstances that surround issues, Mr Igboho has no right to issue ultimatum let alone vacate people from their community.

“He doesn’t have that legal right to have done that. He isn’t a police officer or attached to any government security agencies He doesn’t have the power to even issue ultimatum that could disturb public peace.”

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