Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba land, Gani Adams, shares his views with GODFREY GEORGE on the security threats in the South-West among other issues
You raised the alarm recently that some terrorists were now in the forests of the South-western region. How did you come about this intelligence?
Raising the alarm has been something that has always been done for the past four years. Immediately after I was installed as Aare Ona Kakanfo, I wrote the governors of the South-West that there was a need for us to have a security conference. After writing them, I copied all the paramount rulers in Yoruba land and even the Council of Obas. I stated vehemently then that it was very important that we met to discuss the security of the South-West. I wrote that letter around March 2018, and the governors responded to that call in July 2019, one year and three months later. So, the conference was held in Ibadan, Oyo State.
However, we that gave them the intelligence were not allowed to talk at the conference. After the six of them spoke, a professor also spoke and they all left. As they left, I joined them and left. After that conference, there was a committee established by them. So, the committee came up with the South-West security outfit, Amotekun Corps. We had no choice but to support them. There was opposition from the Federal Government but we resisted. They have Hisbah in the North; they cannot stop Amotekun in the West. At the end of the day, they agreed with us and told us to go ahead with it.
Before the issue of insecurity along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, I raised an alarm that the terrorists were now in the forests of Ilesha/Ile-Ife and Abeokuta/Ibadan. This was about three or five months ago. At the end of the day, systematically, we began to hear that some Fulani herdsmen had started kidnapping people along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. When I first said it, the State Security Adviser to Oyo State Government came out to dismiss it. This is normal with many government officials. Now, it is happening.
What really can you make out of the kidnappings on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway? How did we get it this bad?
The kidnapping on the expressway is getting out of hand. Recently, they kidnapped a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan and released him after ransom was paid. When this happened, we wrote a letter to the Department of State Services and commissioners of police of the South-Western states, telling them that we can assist them by partnering with them to fortify the forests and to help patrol the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway but they refused to grant our request. Later, people will start asking, “What is Aare doing?” We have the followers but what can we do when the government in power is not helping out? The government owns everything; so, when one wants to be involved in security without synergy with the government, one will find oneself in a serious problem. Now, the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is a death trap in recent months; I had to challenge the governors to protect the Yoruba people in their land. If we are not safe on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway; where else in Yoruba land can we be safe? This highway is one of the busiest in West Africa. The Oyo State Government listened to my cry by rolling out Amotekun to patrol the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. So, if we didn’t talk, would they have responded to it?
There have been incidents of kidnapping, especially for ransom, in some states in the South-West. There has been this recurrent allegation that the crimes are perpetrated by herders, which the Miyetti Allah leaders have denied. What can you make out of this?
Well, not every herder is a criminal. We have some criminals among them. But, those who are not criminals have refused to divulge information about the criminals among them. So, that was one of the reasons people in the South-West think that most of them are criminals. When you have a criminal who has joined you in a business and is about to tarnish your image, the first thing to be done is to report that crime to the police or community leader, so that they can sanitise that system because you need to have a good name. Apart from the herders, the natives themselves are also involved in the kidnapping.
We have some professional terrorists that were imported from Mali, Niger, Chad and other areas in West and Central Africa, including those that were dislodged from Libya into Nigeria because of the 2015 elections. An Emir confirmed this. The assignment given to them was not completed and they no longer want to go back to their lands because the lands in the South are fertile. Apart from that, unconfirmed information is that some people from the North know where the solid minerals are in the South-West. So, in most of the communities they are terrorising, one would find one or two solid minerals there. A good example is Igagan. Even when the community may not know they are blessed with mineral resources, these foreigners know.
We also have some credible information that the herders could not find good grasses for their cows in the North. So, they believe they can find good pasture in the South-West by taking advantage of the region, but this has been politicised. Some of these herders believe that they own Nigeria and that they have the right to take over the country. So, they can do as they please.
Do you think the governors of the region are doing enough to end this crisis?
I believe that all these issues that warrant these threats are because the Federal Government is not doing anything to stop them. The Federal Government is not interested to stop these people. We had to start reporting them to the international community. I have written about four strong letters to the United Nations and more than 400 international agencies in the global village, warning that something like this was going to happen in the South-West, and we don’t want to be pushed to the wall.
In our history, the Yoruba people are not known to be cowards. We have fought many wars and we will continue to defend our land with the last drop of our blood. These herders just invade farms, destroying crops and killing our people without any regard. We won’t accept it. As for the governors of the region, inasmuch as they are making their money and are becoming politically relevant in the national space, they don’t care what happens in Yoruba land. They must not betray the Yoruba people. This is one of the reasons I will defend Yoruba culturally, militarily and with everything that I have at my disposal.
Will you say that the security officers are overwhelmed by the situation?
I don’t think the Nigerian security services are overwhelmed. There are some powers that be that do not want them to do their job. Secondly, there is the ethnicity sentiment that has also come to play in this problem. If you listened to (Hamza) Al-Mustapha, you would realise that the genesis of the crisis in this country is from Boko Haram. The little we heard from him in the viral video in the public domain now gives us insight into the cause of the problems in Nigeria through Boko Haram in Borno State and the bandits in the North-West and North-Central. What caused most of the problems we are having is resource control of the solid mineral. The kind of mineral resources they found in Borno State was what metamorphosed into Boko Haram. We will not disagree with the fact that these people have changed their name now to Fulani herdsmen. From that, they became terrorists. They now terrorise communities and do not allow them to sleep; they kill, maim and take over communities at will. This is a name change. All the blame goes to the Federal Government which aided these things. The government in power is not helping the situation.
The security agencies have a lot of blame in this matter. The late General Sani Abacha, when he was alive, said any crisis that the government could not solve in less than 24 hours had the element of the support of the government. This issue has been lingering from B’Haram to where we were now. This has degenerated from the North-East region to the once peaceful North-West region. Take a look at Southern Kaduna; the international community is now tired of getting the news of Southern Kaduna. Where are we going as a nation? It gets worse whenever there is a transition to a new government. How much is the budget that they are fighting themselves, destroying and assassinating people’s character?