Secretary-General of the Yoruba Council of Elders, Dr Kunle Olajide, tells FEMI MAKINDE that Fulani herdsmen have laid siege to the South-West, where they have continued to destroy peoples’ means of livelihood while security agents fold their hands
The YCE recently raised the alarm that herdsmen have built 1,123 cells inside the thick forests across Yorubaland. Are you saying the Yorubaland is under the siege of herdsmen?
Yes, that is what we are saying. There have been kidnap cases in recent times and a few of the victims that were lucky to escape told us that their abductors were herdsmen speaking Fulfulde and Hausa languages. That really embarrassed us. So, we are under the siege of the herdsmen, and that is what we are saying.
Do you think they are planning to unleash terror on the Yorubaland and overrun the people?
Personally, I do not think they are planning to do that. I do not think they are planning to do anything other than committing crime. In my own view, I think they are just interested in committing crime; kidnapping people for ransom; killing and raping those they can lay their hands upon. And this, I think, is as a result of desertification in the North and the drying up of the Lake Chad. They are moving southward because of the harsh climatic condition as well as the insurgency and banditry in northern states. This threat to security in the South-West is a spill over of criminals from the northern states. These Fulani herdsmen are nomadic and they are always on the move. I don’t think they are planning any major attack on the Yorubaland. Their intention is no other than to continue to kidnap for huge ransoms in order to make a lot of money as well as corrupt the police system here. But I don’t think anybody can contemplate ‘Islamising’ or ‘Fulanising’ any ethnic group in Nigeria in this age.
Have you reported the discovery of these criminal cells to security agencies for appropriate action?
We have been shouting about these cells but it appears that security agencies do not want to do anything concerning the alarm. I don’t understand the inertia. We expect them to have combed these forests and arrested the criminals with their arms and ammunition. But when you hear the story told by the victims who were lucky to escape, you would know that there is a kind of connivance and collaboration between these criminals and some security agents. You will be amazed that these people have many cells in the thick forests in Yorubaland. They have their cells in forests where most Yoruba people do not even know. They are nomads by their culture but that is an archaic method of raising livestock now. They have to change because they cannot continue to destroy other people’s means of livelihood. Government must, as a matter of urgency, compel those who want to raise livestock to establish ranches and stop the Stone Age method of raising cattle. Whoever wants to do it must do it in ranches and stop kidnapping, killing and raping women.
What are the South-West governors doing about this threat to security in the region?
You know that we are in a period of transition and the exiting governors were not happy with the in-coming ones. The outgoing ones were not happy and those coming in were complaining that their predecessors had laid landlines for them. I think there was cooperation between the exiting governor and the incoming one only in Lagos State. We will draw the attention of the new governors to this situation as soon as they settle down and we believe that they will see reason with us.
Are you not working with vigilante groups in Yorubaland such as the Oodua People’s Congress to tackle this threat?
We have the Yoruba Summit Group and that is an organisation that consists of over 100 Yoruba socio-cultural organisations. The OPC is there; the Aare Ona Kakanfo is also there. We have the Afenifere and others too. We have issued statements, communiqués and all that. But we will draw the attention of the new governors to the issue so that they will know the enormity of the problem.
How do you want the Federal Government to address this problem?
There is a short-term measure and that is to equip the police and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps. They should be given good vehicles and motorcycles to enable them to get to everywhere. They must also employ technology by using drones to fly over these forests to identify the locations where these criminals are.
The final solution is the agenda, which President Muhammadu Buhari had set when he said we would need true federalism at this stage of our democratic evolution. In this his second term (in office as President), Buhari must hit the ground running by putting the nation in motion for true federalism. True federalism will lead to decentralisation of the police. And until the police are decentralised, policing cannot be effective. The President has declared that it’s only true federalism than can save this country. So, I don’t think the same person that is talking of true federalism can be thinking of ‘Islamising’ or ‘Fulanising’ the country. We should get that out our minds because this siege we are talking about is from criminals.
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