By Adekola Afolabi
In a scenario similar to that of pre-establishment of what is now known as Western Nigeria Security Network codenamed Amotekun Corps in the South-West States when there were hues and cries by some Nigerians, mainly of the North extraction, stood against the establishment of the regional security outfit, the history has again repeated itself in its usual ugly manner.
The Executive Order of the Chairman, South-West Governors’ Forum and Ondo state Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, to Fulani herdsmen illegally occupying the state forest reserves to vacate within seven days with effect from Monday January 18, 2021, would not be forgotten any time soon. The order elicited reactions with various opposition political leaders, interest groups, bodies, associations and prominent Nigerians within and outside the country throwing their weight behind the Governor’s directive.
This is not the first time Governor Akeredolu would get such accolades across political divides. The establishment of Amotekun Corps, was another courageous stance of the Governor in the defence of the defenceless citizens. Despite the stiff opposition to the establishment of Amotekun Corps, especially by the same northerners, the Governor remained unperturbed, he stood his ground and won for his people.
At a point the Chairman, South-West Governors’ Forum was advised to thread softly because of his second term ambition then. If it were to be some timorous politicians masquerading as leaders that are serving the interest of their people, the South-West region would not have had Amotekun Corps today. Of course, we all knew everything that transpired including those who stood with him and those who were temporarily elusive and unavailable. Many thanks to ‘Mr Talk and Do’.
On the vacation order, at the initial stage, the Governor was misconstrued and misquoted by a section of the media, particularly the Social Media, as ordering all Fulani herdsmen living in the state to vacate within seven days. This was far from the exact words of the Governor. Of course the misconception and the violent outbursts by the northerners that followed the order may be another ploy to advertently give it ethnic colouration to cause tension where there is none and possibly frustrate the Governor’s good intention and genuine effort at addressing growing rate of insecurity in the state.
The Governor was not asking for much or anything unusual, he is simply asking the criminal occupiers of the reserves to vacate while those with genuine business would have to register for the purpose of identifying criminal elements masquerading as Fulani herdsmen among them. This should not even generate any controversy in the first instance if the antagonists of the order do not have criminal intentions. The unfortunate statement from Garba Shehu in the name of the presidency further fueled the already tensed situation. Many prominent Nigerians and groups described the statement as being in support of criminals; the statement attracted wide condemnation from different quarters.
Before the Governor’s vacation order, the reserves have been used by kidnapers, armed robbers and bandits as centres of coordination. Many lives have been lost while millions of ransom have also been paid to faceless herders who have made the reserves their hideouts.
All these among other criminal activities are what Governor Akeredolu is saying enough is enough by vowing to make the forest reserves uncomfortable to criminals. The sole aim of the leading protagonist of the two separate moves, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, was to ensure adequate security of lives and property of the people regardless of their ethnic, religious or political leanings, not only in the state but the entire South-West region. None of his determined actions was targeted at any law-abiding resident in the state.
The Governor has repeatedly said the people of the state and the South-West at large could no longer continue to live in fear occasioned by incessant killings, kidnapping, armed robbery, banditry and other form of criminal activities. The primary responsibility of government is to provide security and protect the lives and property of the citizens, and any government that fails in this constitutional responsibility has lost its salt and value.
One thing that stands Governor Akeredolu out among his peers is his credibility and integrity; when he talked he meant it. Little wonder he is commonly referred to as ‘Mr Talk and Do’. One uncommon quality of governor Akeredolu is that he does his thing following his conscience without any recourse to the usual political or party dogma, inasmuch it is in the best interest of the people he is serving
Each time Governor Akeredolu sneezes, the north catches cold. His words have always formed national discourse. Akeredolu has redefined governance not only by matching his words with action but by always standing in defence of the people as against his personal gains. In fact, somebody like him is not easy to come by, and if we see one let us all support him regardless of ethnic, religious or political differences.
Little wonder when he gave the order the entire nation shook to its foundation, knowing full well that he meant what he said, and that action would definitely follow his older.
It is Worthy of note that 24 hours to the expiration of the vacation order, an emergency peace meeting was called at the instances of the Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum and Governor of Ekiti state, Dr. Kayode Fayemi to further agree on how to not only douse the tension created by the order but to holistically address the security challenge. The expanded peace meeting held at the International Culture and Events Centre (The Dome), Akure, had in attendance, the Governors of Ekiti, Kebbi, Jigawa, Osun, Oyo, and Ondo states, the leadership of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders’ Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), both at the national and zonal levels, as well as heads of security agencies.
At the end the peace meeting, it was unanimously agreed that illegal occupation of state forest reserves, night and underaged grazing as well as grazing in the cities remain banned. A communiqué issued at the end of about three hours meeting, among other things, agreed to find lasting solutions to the incessant killings, kidnapping, banditry and crises between herdsmen and farmers in the South-West geo-political zone of the country.
It was jointly agreed that the security and welfare of the people of Nigeria is the primary purpose of government as enshrined in the 1999 constitution as amended, and that the stakeholders are committed to the unity and indivisibility of Nigeria, even as MACBAN is ready for any peaceful move by states to engender security.
The communiqué called for the registration of unregistered herders for the purpose of identification, and the apprehension of criminals with appropriate punishment no matter their origin, class or status, while the security agencies must step up their efforts in the fight.
Speaking on the “quit or register order”, the Ondo state chairman of MACBAN, Bello Garba, said they are fully in support of governor’s move to address insecurity in the state. According to him, the registration would not only bring about lasting peace and reduce crime rate but would expose criminals masquerading as herdsmen in the state
While saying he has been mobilising all genuine herders to register to identify bad elements among them, Garba said after the registration of the genuine members he would join hand with the government to flush out criminals in the forests. He described Governor Akeredolu as friendly and accommodating leader who always want peace for his people. The state MACBAN chairman added that after the registration exercise, all the people living in the state and the South-West including the Hausa/ Fulani herdsmen would be happy, because according to him, they are also victims of the criminal activities in the region.
On his part, the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor Akeredolu on Security, Alhaji Jimoh Dojumo, believed that the Governor order would greatly address high level of insecurity not only in the state but the entire South-West region.
Dojumo stressed that, “Mr Governor remains the voice of the voiceless. He remains the only one who always takes the bull by the horns,he is courageous and bold. He will address issues squarely and that is what is happening here. You know the issues generated by his move. So, we must commend his courage and give him the necessary support because he has the interest of his people at heart”.