By Chief Ayo Adebanjo
The Afenifere, the leading platform of the Yoruba nationality might have commenced a national jaw-jawing as opposed to war-warring on the Fulani herdsmen violence tearing the country apart. It would be argued that they have set a good example by using the aftermath of the burial of Mrs Olufunke Olakunrin (killed on Friday July 12, 2019) to advance its most comprehensive discourse of the herdsmen violence tearing Nigeria apart. If only other contending interests would do the same, the better as far as the possibility of searching for the common grounds is concerned. The press conference addressed by the author has only been minimally edited because of the length and even then, it is still over 3000 words. Narratives can be dangerous but there can be no peace without narratives. So, here we go – Intervention:
The past few years have been troubling for our country as we have witnessed mass killings of people in the country, most of which have been linked to Fulani herdsmen/militia and the Nigerian state has not been able to dispel the allegations by unraveling the brains behind the killings and applying the law against them.
We recall the Agatu Massacre in Benue State in February 2016 during which over 300 persons from the communities were massacred, while some 7,000 were displaced. These killings were accompanied by the destruction of houses and other property as well as allegations of rape. The attacks were said to be reprisals against the Agatu people for killing a prominent Fulani man and stealing his cattle in 2013. That it took the president more than one week to issue a statement of condemnation and order an investigation, and that his spokesman blamed his taciturn stance on the crisis on the grounds that “[the President] is not a talkative,” angered many Nigerians. Moreover, allegations of either inaction or outright collusion with the herdsmen have been leveled against the government and security agencies. In an interaction, the member representing Agatu in the Benue State House of Assembly, Mr. Sule Audu, accused the military of allowing the Fulani herdsmen to occupy the sacked communities, while their cattle numbering over 100,000, freely grazed on their farmlands.
On 25 April 2016, suspected armed Fulani invaders attacked Ukpabi Nimbo, a town in Enugu State, killing so many souls. It is surprising that virtually no successful prosecution or conviction has been secured on any of these incidents of killing and wanton destruction of property by the herdsmen.
To aggravate the fear in the land, the governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai, accepted settling foreign Fulani with money in order to stop killing the mainly Christian Southern Kaduna people. Kaduna was embroiled in a crisis involving Fulani herdsmen and southern Kaduna residents in December 2016. The most worrying aspect of it is that the attacks were carried out during the 24 -hour curfew declared in the state by Governor el-Rufai was in force.
As in the case of the Agatu Crisis, the Southern Kaduna Killings were said to be reprisal attacks by Fulani herdsmen for previous murders. Even if the compensation was made in good faith, that the governor, a Fulani, paid fellow Fulanis rather than bring them to justice, has been seen by many as emboldening the herdsmen. Even a UN report on herdsmen perpetrated attacks in Nigeria noted, “the complete impunity enjoyed so far by the perpetrators”.
0n January 1,2018 ;73 indigenes of Benue State were killed in one day with Miyetti Allah giving reasons for the circus that led to the deaths as the promulgation of anti-open grazing law and an official of the group threatening that “more blood will flow”. The Governor of the state, Samuel Ortom was invited to the villa where the President told him to go and learn how to “live with your neighbors .”It has not come to our notice that any of the “neighbors ” who carried out this dastardly act has been arrested or is in custody.
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State asked President Buhari some pertinent questions when he visited the state:“Your Excellency, how can a group claim responsibility for the killings that happened and are going about scot free? “How can a group make public these inciting and criminal declarations in an organized society and are not arrested by the police? Your Excellency, kindly order the immediate arrest and prosecution of the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore and Miyetti Cattle Breeders Association for carrying out their threats to attack Benue on account of the open grazing prohibition and ranches establishment law, 2017”. He got no answer on his questions and no action on his request that the criminals be arrested.
Even when former Head of State, Gen Yakubu Gowon visited Benue and demanded the arrest and interrogation of Miyetti Allah leadership over the Benue killings, the response of the group to him was so insulting. Plateau State Chairman of MACBAN, Mr Mohammad Nuru, in his response to Gowon’s suggestion, said old age was disturbing the elder statesman and should not be taken seriously. According to Nuru, “Gowon is talking rubbish and out of ignorance.”
When Senator Dagori Alkali led a delegation of MACBAN to the office of Chief Of Defense Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin on May 4, 2016 he gave him an inaugural lecture on why Fulani herdsmen kill.He said inter alia “The cattle rustlers have displaced the Fulani in Katsina, Zamfara, Kebbi, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Plateau and Benue and in some parts of Kogi. Millions of cattle have been taken from these herdsmen. So when somebody says a Fulani man killed somebody, I wonder why? How? It’s only a poor man that fights. “But you, as the military people, you know self-defense is an art. In the military, if you are attacked you have to defend yourself. You have been squeezed; you have to find a way to survive”.
Our Yoruba region has also witnessed serial attacks from the Fulani herdsmen/militia in forms of rape of our women, kidnap of our people for ransom and killings of innocent people. On September 12, 2015, a prominent Yoruba man and former Presidential Candidate, Chief Olu Falae was abducted by seven Fulani herdsmen on his farm near Akure and had one of his guards killed. He was kept in the bush for days, tortured and matcheted. He was not released until heavy ransom was paid. The seven Fulani boys were later apprehended, tried and sentenced.
We wonder what could have happened in reprisal if some Yoruba boys had gone up North to kidnap anybody of Chief Falae’s status. Like Chief Falae, Oba Joel Daodu, the Oniyani of Iyani Akoko in Akoko North West Local Government Area of Ondo State, has been kidnapped. On April 12,2017 and spent 4 days with. his abductors in a forest .He too was not released until ransom was paid. An orthopaedic surgeon at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, Prof Olayinka Adegbehingbe, who was kidnapped on May 3, 2019 said the Fulani herdsmen who kidnapped him were paid N5.045m before he was freed. The Professor was emphatic: “The people who abducted me were Fulani herdsmen and they had four guns and multiple rounds of ammunition as well as other weapons”.
A hunter, Emmanuel Ilori was killed in Orin-Ekiti on June 28, 2019 at midnight while hunting for animals with some of his colleagues. This gory incident occurred barely 48hrs after a female undergraduate identified as Maria was killed in her father’s farm in Ise-Ekiti by unknown gunmen. Mr. Adeniyi Ajayi, a hunter who escaped during the incident alleged that Ilori was killed by Fulani herdsmen. Ajayi told The Nation: “We met the herdsmen numbering about thirty in the abandoned piggery farm in the town. “And we attempted to inquire about what they were doing on the farm. Suddenly, they brought out rifles shooting at our direction. Thus, resulting in the death of Mr. Ilori”.
There have been several killings in different states in Yorubaland which daily reminds of the deadly assaults in Oke Ogun area of oyo state in year 2000 and how the pushback saw General Muhammadu Buhari leading a group of Fulani to then Gov Lam Adesina in Oyo state during which he made the infamous statement “I have come to protest the killing of MY people by YOUR people”. When there was conflict between Hausa community and indigenes in Ife in 2017, Afenifere decided to visit the town. After commiserating with Ife people we also went to see the Hausa Community. We were shocked when their Leader said to us “I can’t understand what the fight is all about. It is true God gave this land to Oduduwa but that does not mean he cannot give it to other people. “There is no better proof of the conquest and domination agenda in what is going on than that.
The most perplexing question surrounding the killings is how cattle herdsmen end up with sophisticated weapons like the AK-47 as has been noted in different communities across Nigeria. The specter of a fully-armed Fulani herdsman is new as we used to see only herdsmen carrying sticks in our communities. That there has been no attempt to disarm these armed herdsmen with sophisticated but illegal weapons in the last few years have been quite worrisome as it raises serious concerns about official indifference to the murderous activities of these elements .Instead the government has only attempted to withdraw duly registered ammunitions . Between 2015-2019, about 30,000 people have been killed by the Fulani herdsmen/militia across the country .And apart from not bringing them to book ,the Buhari administration has taken so many steps which betray the encouragement being given to these troublers of Nigeria among which are:
- The reported offer of N100b to Miyetti Allah by the Federal Government upon the demand of N160b compensation by the group for we know not what;
- The collection of an AM Fulani radio license by the Buhari administration for a station to broadcast in Fulfulde exclusively spoken by the Fulani as even Hausas don’t understand the language. We remember how such radio was used in promotion of genocide in Rwanda;
- The promotion of Ruga (Hausa word for cattle settlement) through which the Federal Government want to create Federal Cattle Territories all over Nigeria to give land to Fulani all over Nigeria in furtherance of Fulanisation agenda.
The implementation of Ruga (not the project itself) has been suspended for now but the call for the amendment of the Land Use Act which put all lands under governors by the Senate President has confirmed the alarm raised by Southern and Middle Belt Leaders that the project was suspended to amend the Land Use Act so the Federal Government can directly allocate land for the project.
Presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, announced that the FG has gazetted lands all over Nigeria before they realized they had taken their illegality too far .We restate our call on our legislators to resist any tinkering with the Land Use Act.
We must not fail to mention the influx of Fulani across Africa to Nigeria with the immigration looking the other way as the levers of power in our immigration service have been under the control of officers of Fulani extraction over the years.
We have been perplexed that instead of the government enforcing the laws against these Fulani marauders-foreign or local-it has been a galore of excuses. When President Buhari visited the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2017, he blamed Ghaddafi who died seven years earlier for the killings in Nigeria “It has always been there, but now made worse by the influx of armed gunmen from the Sahel region into different parts of the West African sub-region”.
“These gunmen were trained and armed by Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. When he was killed, the gunmen escaped with their arms. We encountered some of them fighting with Boko Haram”.
Tired of the President’s lame excuses on the killings, The Punch in its Editorial opinion of September 4,2018 titled “Herders Terrorism: Buhari at it again”, commented as follows:
“President Muhammadu Buhari demonstrated his cluelessness afresh on Sunday when he blamed herders’ act of horrific violence on the shrinking Lake Chad and alleged biased media reports. His narrow narrative seeks vainly to explain away the campaign of terror and mayhem by bandits on the displacement of herdsmen from the lake area and hang the seeming helplessness of his administration in curbing the rampage on the mass media. This is ghastly. It is inconceivable that Buhari will attribute the rash of herders’ killings across the country to mere fallout of desert encroachment. But it is all in his character. Buhari has displayed a signal lack of understanding of issues and demonstrated an embarrassing low quality of empathy with the larger segment of the people he leads. For instance, while his Ghanaian counterpart, Nana Akufo-Addo, called for humane treatment of his countrymen making the hazardous desert journey to Europe and foreign investment to create jobs when Germany’s Angela Merkel visited, Buhari’s response was that Nigerian youths risking it were on their own. He was equally reckless at the recent Nigerian Bar Association annual conference where he dismissed the supremacy of the rule of law as sacred canon of democratic and civilized governance. Nigerian youths have not forgotten how he dismissed them as lazy and desperate for quick money rather than hard work. But justifying Fulani herders’ bloody campaign against mostly innocent people won’t wash. Insecurity on his watch has run riot precisely because of such wrong diagnosis and failure to apply the law objectively”.
The failure of the government to own this challenge and accept responsibility as well as identifying the culpability of the Fulani herdsmen working with the Fulani militia suggests that the existing security apparatus is modeled towards securing only those in government and not the citizens.
Killing of Funke Olakunrin Marks the Turning Point
While every life lost to these marauders is a deep wound in our hearts, the mindless killing of Mrs Olufunke Olakunrin on Friday July 12,2019 took everyone by surprise and dealt a devastating blow to the Yoruba nation in particular and all our friends who value human life across Nigeria.
Her killing followed an established pattern of raping, kidnapping and killing in a coordinated and apparently state-ignored attempt to create fear through insecurity across Nigeria. The fact that Mrs.Funke Olakunrin is the daughter of our revered leader, Chief R. F. Fasoranti and killed during the 30-day ultimatum given by Coalition of Northern Groups suggests a targeted killing! They struck where it hurts most. Let us take a look at events immediately after she died to ask some pertinent questions.
- Why was only her side of the car shot at?
- How promptly did help get to her?
- When she eventually died, what steps were taken to make sure thorough investigations were carried out-medical and forensic?
- Question one is for the police and investigating authorities.
They should be held accountable. The car in which Mrs Olakunrin died was the most valuable piece of evidence at the crime scene. The handling of the car showed poor investigation, lack of knowledge and/or lack of interest in unraveling the homicide. The car spent only one night at Ore police station where there was no investigation capacity and got released to the family the following day. It was only after we interacted with the top echelon of the police that they came for the car about 4 days after.
How promptly did help get to her? We firmly believe that if she had immediate medical attention, she would not have died. The lack of emergency medical response in situations like this is part of the general neglect and dereliction of duty that cuts across services.
It was certainly unbelievable that all that needed to done was not done:
- Help did not come timely.
- The car in which she was traveling and killed was not subjected to immediate forensic examinations.
We hold the Federal Government responsible and accountable for the senseless killing of a law-abiding citizen. The government has failed in its primary duty of providing security for life and property.
The activities of Fulani herdsmen/bandits/kidnappers and other miscreants would have been effectively dealt with if the governors as Chief Security officers of their states had control of the security agencies. The unhelpful unitary structure in our country keeps taking its toll on our people.
The current proposed security budget for 2019 is N1.76 trillion. A devolved entity would have enabled a better utilization of part of that expenditure; particularly in the over N300b for policing which is further subsidized by State governments additional allocations and over N600b intended for internal affairs.
The Federal Government has been careless and insensitive in the handling the menace of Fulani /herdsmen militias in the country. First, it was outright denial it was engaged in by saying those carrying AK 47 about and killing people were foreign Fulani. The President specifically said they were Gaddafi men let loose from Libya and yet they were not arresting them. Next they moved to accusing people of spreading hate speech against the local Fulani. It got to a ridiculous stage that when Miyetti Allah is accused of any crime it is either the Ministry of Information or Presidential spokespersons becoming the mouthpiece of the group.
The younger brother of the deceased, Mr Kehinde Fasoranti, has put in the public space: that the police in Ore told him she was killed by Fulani herdsmen/marauders and that was their established pattern of operation on that axis. This has not been denied till now. And the police were said to have arrived at the scene before the killers left.
We must say that the submission by the presidency a few hours after the incident that Funke was killed by armed robbers is very ridiculous as her jewelry, money and other personal effects were intact. This follows the usual pattern of always shielding a particular group of crimes whenever they are accused instead of allowing the justice system to take its course.
The several bullets discharged on her spot in the car suggests a targeted dastardly act. The bullets appeared to have been directed at only her person.
And as if God was out to shut up those talking about “stigmatization” of Fulani herdsmen, a lawyer ran into armed Fulani vigilantes mounting roadblocks on the same route where Funke was killed. The lawyer who snapped the ID card of one of the Miyetti Allah men said on Channels Television that he confirmed they had contacts with policemen in the neighborhood which would confirm Gen. T.Y Danjuma’s collusion theory.
We are miffed that those who will not allow our elected governors have police are now setting up Fulani bandit -vigilantes on our soil in addition to the Fulani militias terrorizing our land .
We demand their immediate exit from Yoruba land and if they refused to leave in reasonable time, we will not stop our people from confronting them. Yoruba land has now become the epicenter of the terror of these Fulani marauders and our people are fed up with the shedding of innocent blood that is quite anathema to our respect for human life which would see us remembering those who died peacefully 50 years down the line.
As a group, we acknowledge the clear tone of condemnations of this dastardly act by the Ooni of Ife, Alaafin of Oyo, former president, Olusegun ,Obasanjo, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Aare Ona Kakanfo and all leading Yoruba organizations. We equally appreciate our friends in PANDEF, OHANAEZE and MIDBLE BELT FORUM for standing by us in demonstration of our resolve of “an attack against one is an attack against all”. We do not take for granted the South West Senators who came to express condolence with our leader and the physical presence of the governors of Ondo, Oyo, Ogun, Ekiti and Lagos at the funeral service. We express profound appreciation to all Nigerians who have denounced this gruesome murder.
We cannot continue to live under these conditions. The blood of our people will no longer be used to water the tree of a dysfunctional unitary order. We demand immediate timeline for a return to a federalist Nigeria so that we can have autonomy to run our internal affairs and failure to do so will constrain our capacity to continue to restrain our people from embracing self-determination.
We task the Government to find the real killers of Mrs Funke Olakunrin and not the innocent people that the communities around where she was killed have alleged are being randomly arrested and put an end to the genocide in our zone and across the country.
It is now clear we Yoruba’s have had enough – as the Ooni of Ife, Alaafin of Oyo and prof Wole Soyinka and other Yoruba patriots have warned, we sound it very loud and clearly that corporate Yoruba have never questioned the continued existence of Nigeria and we hope no one pushes us to that.