Tuesday Column By VICTORIA NGOZI IKEANO
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Last time I focused on one of the three persons that are involved in one way or another in the nation’s current security challenges and are consequently always invariably in the news over it, viz, Nnamidi Kanu, leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). Another is Sunday (Adeyemi) Igboho. Igboho is a rather new entrant to the scene because until now he was relatively unknown to Nigerians generally. Today, Igboho is more or less a household name in the southwest. He was apparently catapulted into the limelight when he unilaterally gave an ultimatum reportedly to Fulani herdsmen to quit Igangan, a community in Oyo state after the residents allegedly complained of being ‘terrorized’ by the alleged herdsmen. He has since extended this his apparent fight against them to other parts of the south-west. Igboho however, insists that his fight is against “criminally- minded killer” herdsmen. He says his mission is to rid the southwest of killer herdsmen, free the Yoruba race from the shackles of slavery, injustice and to engender good governance, according to reports. When you watch Igboho speak in his native Yoruba language, you decipher seething anger within him. One can summarise his grouse thus, ‘how dare this people commit these atrocities against us in our very own soil, who do they take us for, weaklings?; look at the long list of our people that were killed by herdsmen, suspects were arrested by the security agencies but none has been brought to justice?’
Igboho is right to feel emotionally pained especially as there was no solution to the issue with news of farmers/herders clashes in the region increasing and the casualties rising too. The impression is that because of the perceived lukewarm attitude of the authorities in tackling the problem Igboho now took it upon himself to lead some people to put a stop to the alleged atrocities of the herdsmen his own way; by flushing them out from the forests and their places of abodes. This amounts to self-help. And I ask, is there no other option to solve the problem. True, Igboho’s way is popular with the masses, his media visibility is high. He is now variously described as a Yoruba activist, Yoruba freedom fighter, Yoruba nationalist
However, this his (action) way has led to other actions, reactions, counter reactions etc., some of which negative effects we are still experiencing till-date and the closure by way of healing would take a rather long while. As a saying goes, it is easier to destroy than to build. After giving a seven-day ultimatum to killer Fulani herdsmen to leave Igangan, he and his people visited the Fulani leader in the community and in the process the leader’s house was burnt. Days later news broke that one of Igboho’s houses in Ibadan, the Oyo state capital had been torched by unknown persons.
Later, apparently following the nationalistic fervor lit by Igboho, there were grumblings in the popular Shasha market in Oyo state with Yorubas reportedly querying why leadership of the decades-old market should be Hausas…. A fight ensued, erupting into a crisis that lasted for some days and which left many dead and injured, houses and other properties destroyed. In the end many northerners relocated back to their home states with apparent deep-seated hatred for the Yorubas with whom they had been co-habiting for centuries. Then they reacted by declaring a five day food and cow blockade of the south by the Amalgamated union of foodstuff traders and cattle breeders association in the north. Expectedly the result was sharp rise in prices of commodities and meat in the south, the north being the nation’s food basket. Igboho, Odua Peoples Congress(OPC), Afenifere and the like counter reacted by declaring a ‘No cow’ day, urging people of the southwest in particular and southerners in general to totally boycott cow meat on that day. To what end, I ask? ‘An eye for an eye’, you are told. However, human beings on earth cannot justly implement that principle because we are not perfect and cannot overlook the whole; we are short sighted so that it often happens that the good (innocent) is tarred in same brush with the bad. The aforementioned actions, reactions and counter reactions are further deepening the suspicions amongst these peoples.
In all of these the governors and traditional rulers in the southwest seem to be passive. I mean there has not been any concrete actions by them to broker enduring peace among the fighting groups by tackling root cause of the problem. Yes, the governors met sometime ago and banned open grazing in their states. But an association of cattle rearers have said that that is not possible. None of them appear to have sat down with Igboho or called him over to proffer another way to approach the fundamental issue. So far, he has been having talks with private individuals only. I understand that they view him generally as a political thug with whom they should dine with a long spoon. But this is a matter that requires all hands to be on deck for a beneficial solution. The governors should remember that part of the reason Igboho literally took matters into his own hands is because the issue has been lingering without the governments seeming to do anything tangible to nip it in the bud. Suspects are yet to be prosecuted several months after their arrests. Justice must always be seen to be done to dispel speculations of favoritism and sacred cows.
And now following on the footsteps of Igboho, the OPC that had seemingly been on recess has woken up and also taken it upon itself to go fish out and arrest “the most wanted criminal in Ibarapa land” said to be one Iskilu Wakili. He was handed over to the police. But the police also detained the OPC members because according to them they allegedly committed murder and arson in the process of effecting Wakil’s arrest. They were later released.There is also unconfirmed but widely reported news that Wakil’s son has allegedly ‘killed’ some people since arrest of his father.
Needless to state that tension is brewing anew in Oyo state. Both parties appear to be sheathing their swords.
It should be noted though that war is sweet only to the ears of those who have not experienced it. All those directly and indirectly involved in this matter, including civil society groups, cultural organizations, traditional and faith-based institutions, opinion leaders, etc., should come together to deliberate on a viable option out of this growing quagmire which if not handled with wisdom could engulf the whole country. Self-help is no solution because of its cyclical effects.
…To be concluded