The Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba land, Chief Gani Adams, in this interview by BOLA BADMUS, speaks on moves being made by various Yoruba leaders and groups to tackle the growing insecurity in the South-West, especially as regards the Fulani herders menace in communities across the region.
The security situation in the South West in particular has become a cause for serious concern. What are you doing currently concerning this issue?
That is the issue that concerns everyone in Yoruba land and Yoruba leaders have agreed to unite to fight the battle against insecurity. The governors are also taking steps, but they don’t carry us along. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are doing theirs too. On that level, we agreed at a SouthWest security stakeholders meeting which held about two weeks ago in Lagos, that the organisations that have structures in the entire Yoruba land, the hunters, OPC, the true vigilantes and the Agbekoyas- Agbekoyas may not cover all the states, but they cover Oyo State, parts of Lagos and some parts of Osun State. But the three main organisations that have structures all over Yorubaland are OPC, vigilantes and the hunters- should put up a joint effort to tackle the insecurity. As a matter of fact, hunters’ group is the oldest organisation in the world. All over the world, there are hunters. In Yorubaland, hunters’ groups are some of the oldest. So we have to convince them to join efforts with others to reduce insecurity. This is because as it is now, it’s not only about Fulani herdsmen. We should be looking inwards, at the criminals among us. The external infiltrators cannot act without the connivance of the internal criminals. And we realise that the intelligence reports given to these criminal herdsmen are being supplied by the Yoruba people. You would even realise that some of them who are in the bush, our people are the ones that cook for them, both the kidnappers and the kidnapped. So now, our focus has gone beyond criminal herdsmen.
We have to tackle the criminals within our region and we have agreed to do that. We had the structure on ground before now, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we stopped the meeting in February last year. But the Yoruba leaders sent a delegation to me that I should prepare as insecurity is threatening and had become so rampant, and that we have to use whatever we have to support the government, that was what led to the reactivation of the SouthWest Security Stakeholders Group. We deliberated more on way and manner we can do this job without having clashes with the security agencies and we are working out the modalities. Soon, we will call another conference that would be expanded. Some Yoruba leaders would be there to address them. So we have it in two layers. Less than a week to the meeting of the Security Stakeholders, we called leaders of the six leading socio-political groups, Afenifere, Yoruba Unity Forum, Yoruba Council of Elders, Voice of Reason, OPC and the Atayese but Atayese was not there, but all the five names were fully represented.
We met at the home of Papa Ayo Adebanjo and agreed on a lot of things. One of the main decisions is that we will hold a pan- Yoruba Conference on March 17, 2021. We don’t want our region to be like the North-West. We don’t want our region to be like North-East and we don’t want our region to be like the North-Central. We have to prevent such early. So we have to prepare ourselves because we realised that the Federal and state governments are helpless on this issue. They are seriously helpless, so we have to do something to make sure we complement their efforts. The Oba of Imeko sent me a picture of a woman that was killed in a stream around where she resided. And the Fulani herdsmen killed and roasted the body, if you see that picture, you will shed tears. So we are doing something about it.
In Ogun State, the cry there is that a lot of the indigenes have relocated to Benin Republic and that is in spite of the steps you are taking.
The heat that is coming from Ibarapa/Oke- Ogun has forced some of the criminals to move to Yewa area of Ogun State and from intelligence reports, we have three different groups of Fulani herdsmen in Yoruba land now and they don’t know themselves. They are operating differently.
Can you name them?
No, I wouldn’t name them. They are operating differently and they are being coordinated by different sponsors, godfathers and patrons. So, we are still working and closing in on Wakili, who is the main terrorist in Ibarapa. We are closing in on him.
Is he still in Ibarapa or outside the place?
He is still in the forest. If you know the forest in Ibarapa, from the farm of people of Ibarapa, there is still some thick forest stressing from like a distance between here (Otedola) to Iyana- Ipaja that we have the villages of some Fulani that harboured criminals within the villages; more than 10 to 15 communities are living there. But we have genuine Fulani living there but they harbour the criminals and when you watch the video of Igboora, you will see that our boys, their oga did not arrest innocent people. They only picked criminals and handed them over to the Civil Defence. The reason that criminal suspects were not handed over to the police was because the security people had connived with them. That was why we handed them over to the Civil Defence.
So we are working, it’s not about much publicity, about talking too much, we have been in this business for the past 28years and we know, tell me how many such situations we have rescued. Do you know that OPC was one that liberated the people of Akala? Akala in Mushin was a serious criminal den that every criminal, about 50 to 60per cent of criminal activities that happened in Lagos started from. OPC was one that liberated the place. Although we still have some pockets of criminals but they are very minimal, compared to what it was in 1999. They are not up to 2per cent anymore. Do you know that it was OPC that took the bull by the horn in IdiAraba that the Hausa/Fulani were no longer harassing our people again? The same thing at Mile 12, the same thing in Sagamu and in different places and not to talk of schemishes in different areas that our people are clearing on daily basis. Now, we have opened a Facebook page, we call it OPC Security Diary so that all efforts of our members, the pictures and the evidences would be put on that page so that people can know what we are doing because you hear some people saying what is Aare doing?
But our people are doing this job, we leave the credit to the police, by handing over the suspects to the security agencies without even identifying they are the ones doing it. But now we will hand them over to the police, they will record them, take pictures before we hand them over to the police so that people can know our efforts. We know Yoruba, Yoruba always forget those who assisted them. They have short memory of their heroes. So we have to work on that. If we don’t create a perception, you would lose out at the end of the day.
Whenever they are talking about Fulani, we see young Fulani herders with several cows and the conclusion is that this man cannot be the owner of the cows. Some of these cows are believed to be owned by Yorubas and still they allow them to go and graze on people’s farms and destroy them in the process. Why not talk to these sponsors, these owners in particular, these Yoruba who are also part of this problem? What are you doing about that?
Well, the chip is already down now, the Yoruba who bought cows for them and allowed them to destroy our farmland are part if the complicity.
Have you been able to identify some of them?
I would not talk about that for now, we know how to sort that out within our house. A suspect of a crime is the first to be apprehended, you first apprehend somebody who used gun to kill before using that person as a suspect to detect the person who sent him on such errand. You don’t first go and apprehend somebody who can claim innocence and leave the main suspect alone. So when you deal with the prime suspect, you now look for those who collaborated in committing the crime. So we don’t go there for now, when you go there it may result to situation whereby Yoruba would be fighting amongst themselves. Yoruba would tell you let us first chase away akaran before we now go for chicken. That’s strategical. There is a lot about that that I cannot mention outside, that can even affect our traditional institution, but at the same time the signal is already on the pages of newspapers and on social media for anybody who connived with external forces to destroy us. Now, they have given us a signal, I have never seen somebody who uses fertilizer to grow something in his own region and said he is sanctioning somebody who has fertile land that does not need fertilizer.
Now you are talking about the food blockade
It doesn’t make sense and this is a region that is not lazy. We are not lazy. If we want to talk about laziness, it doesn’t happen in even our civil service structure. Our people would resume normally by 8:00am, they would close by 5pm. In the North, they resume by 10am or 11am, they close by 1pm, we are not lazy. And when you are talking of business, we are entrepreneurs. Tell me anything, Yoruba are involved in many businesses, conventional. But your own businesses are sectional. I am talking about artisans, am talking of those who are into mechanical field, am talking of those who are welders by profession, those who are into carpentry; majority of their vehicles in the North, it is Yoruba that service them, Yoruba professionals repair them. Apart from being shoemakers, how many artisans can Hausa/Fulani boast of, so we can’t compare ourselves with them in intellects. Most of the best lecturers in their universities are Yoruba. Even the foodstuffs you want to block from coming to the South-West, they should know that majority of them, 90per cent comes from the Middle-Belt, that is Benue and Plateau state and partly Niger state. And we have positioned ourselves, the people that eat these foodstuffs that patronise them in the South-West are not only Yoruba.
The population of Lagos is 25 million people and even in Lagos, Yoruba are not even more than 60- 65per cent, so 35per cent are non- Yoruba. So you will sanction your people too coming from North-West, North-East and the North-Central, who even produce the foodstuffs from their area. And talking economically, you make money from the South-West, you use it to develop your own region. There was a statistics that the average number of cows being consumed in Lagos on daily basis is between 13,000 and 15,000. And when you now do the overall statistics in the South-West and we realize that the entire South-West eat a total of 25,000 cows per day. Now quantify 25,000 cows at N100,000 each, that is about N2.5billion per day on cows alone. We are not talking of sheep, we are not talking of goats, we are not talking of rams, and we also not talking of perishable goods. So calculating all these things together, it means you are not making anything less than N6billion per day from us. So in a month, that would be about N180 billion and let us even say it is N150 billion. And N150 billion multiplied by 12, that would amount to N1.7 trillion yearly.
But they said they are now diverting the foodstuffs to other countries to sell
It would help us to wake up from our slumber. The only thing our governors need to do is that they should devote between 10 to 15per cent of their budgets to agriculture and also provide security in the land. When you give loans, people would go back to farming and you provide security through Amotekun and others like our own group should back them up. You will see wonders within one year. And bring cows from neighbouring countries, nurture them within one year, they would multiply, just one year. We can even sacrifice by not eating cows and their other animals for one year, we will be eating fish. At least, we do fast in line with our religious beliefs. We would fast and sacrifice and even eat vegetables more. We have a lot of options.
But we read in the papers that Afenifere and OPC were planning a campaign against eating of cow beef
Well, it was suggested and we agreed that campaign against beef will start because they have already sent a word to us, you don’t threaten Yoruba. The only thing Yoruba would not agree to is for you to threaten them. When you dared us, we strike back. You can’t threaten, you don’t threaten those who made you. Talking of Nigeria today, when you remove Yoruba from Nigeria, Nigeria is nothing. Forget about oil- producing states, where the oil is coming from; even we still have one state in Yoruba land where oil is coming from. What of the taxes there are making here? The quantum of oil being produced now is not even up to 30per cent again. The taxes they are making here is something of significance. Lagos alone consumes 60- 65per cent of petrol supply in Nigeria. And about the number of industries, about 60- 70 per cent of industries in Nigeria are in Lagos and Ogun states. I tell you anybody who is an investor and as a billionaire, who does not have his businesses in Lagos, is not in business. Dangote is from the North, majority of his businesses are in South-West, and he is the richest person in Africa, where did he make his money? Tell me any of them who is extremely rich and does not have his business or businesses in Lagos. Most of the oil companies refused to leave Lagos because they know the implication. There is spiritual advantage of wealth in Lagos, ‘asiri aje o was l’Eko.’ They share money in Abuja, they spend it in Lagos, so how do you dare threaten us? It is an insult to even threaten to sanction us. They should take away their cows and their sheep, take them away. I can now see that deliberately the Federal Government had had this plan for a very long time, that’s why our land ports were closed.
It was deliberate, I can see all this is a script being coordinated, they planned it. It is a script being written. You can see the criminal issue happening in the South-West is not even coordinated by ordinary person in the government. Why should you lock our borders and you now threaten us that the food is not coming in, that›s a psychological war. It›s purely psychological war. They›ve already fought us political war, you have fought financial war, and you are fighting psychological war now. Already you have turned Nigeria into a war-torn country, you don›t need to show us before we know there is war. It is all strategies of war. Almost six years in governance and this is the base of the propaganda that made you the president. The South-West was the base of the propaganda that repackaged Buhari for general acceptance and he turned his face against us in a bad manner. The Lagos- Ibadan Expressway which he promised to do, and we thought it would be ready and he would perform a miracle with it within two years, now it is six years, and it is not completed. I passed through the road a few days ago and I asked myself what a nation? When you say Obasanjo did not do well, and Jonathan too, you are six years in power by May 29, nothing tangible has been done.
Some are you saying that the South-West was sleeping while terrorism festered in other regions? What is your reaction? It is the belief of some people that if the South-West had taken steps early, it would not have taken this dimension.
There is no step you can take with the structure we have on ground. No step you can take ahead. Look at it, Amotekun is helpless now, they have not allowed them to carry guns. They are helpless. You won’t blame our governors completely, sometimes I disagree with them that they are not trying their best, but they are helpless. Do you know what Governor Akeredolu passed through because he confronted criminals in the forest reserve? The body language of the Villa is that they were not happy with him for almost one month. From all that we have seen, a lot of things show why these people do not want fiscal federalism or true federalism. We now see because they want to use the wrong system to oppress others. And because of that you now lose focus on economy, you lose focus on security, you lose focus on cohesion, you lose your focus to make this country a great nation just because you want to oppress. So there is nothing you can do when the political structure is abnormal. There is no miracle. When you are given a wrong constitution, there is no perfection when you have a wrong plan.
Constitution is like plan of a house; constitution is like when an architect designs a plan of a house. It is like when an architect designs a wrong plan, the builder would not get it right no matter the level of his expertise. So when they give you a wrong constitution, they didn’t even give you a skewed constitution, they gave you a complete Unitary Constitution for Unitary System of Government, a country of multi-ethnic, multi-language, even multi-religious, a country of almost 250million people, a country of about 940,000 geographical spread, how would you run Unitary System of Government and succeed? We are not Gambia, Gambia is just about 5million people. Even Ghana with population of 25million, they have regions. South Africa’s population is not up to 40million, they have provinces in that country, about seven or eight provinces, they have Federal Police, they have State Police. There are lots of contradictions in our constitution. In one breath, you say governor is the Chief Security Officer and he doesn’t have his own security. In the same constitution, you say local government can be created in as much as the State Assembly approved it. In another section, you say it has to get the approval of the National Assembly,how can you bring about collision of the two parliaments, the State Parliament and the Federal Parliament? And another contradiction: you say there should be three tiers of government – the Federal, the State and the Local Government. The Federal is on the Exclusive List, the State is on the Concurrent List and the Local Government is on Residual List and each one of them has its autonomy. They have their own parliament and at the end of the day, you now say, the State and the Local Government should have a joint account, why should you do that? That was how they destroyed our local governments.
When you say state and local government should have a joint account, the governor is in charge of the money and when local government is given N200 million, the governor could just calculate the workers’ salary and then give N5million running cost. That is why we have not been able to produce grassroots leaders in politics again. A performing local government chairman should be warming up to become a governor at the end of the day, that’s why we can›t see a performing local government at the grassroots anymore because 90-95 per cent of the money meant for the local government had been taken by the governor and most of the roads in the local government cannot be done by the council authorities. You will see many communities dusty, those roads were ones constructed when the military was in power because then the allocation was coming directly to the local government chairmen during the military era. So deliberately, the Abdulsalalami or military constitution has now destroyed the entire democracy. They gave us democracy but they ambushed us, that›s the fundamental problem we are having today. The constitution reflects that there should be only one police, but Obasanjo used his initiative to create Civil Defence Corps. The man who headed the Corps was almost killed then.
With the arrangements you are putting in place, are you foreclosing the establishment of the state police which everyone has been calling for?
We are not even talking of state police; we want to organise ourselves, we want to put our house in order, and we want to forget about the crises that happened in different organisations. I have made up my mind in that regard. In the South-West Security Stakeholders Group, I am calling on different groups that I have issues with and we have talked to Baba (Adebanjo) and Afenifere, we should do the same thing at that level. So, we want to put our house in order. We should prepare for what is approaching so that we are not caught unawares.