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Makinde and the Ibarapa conundrum

By Lawal Ogienagbon

137

WHAT is happening in Oyo State should be of concen to every well-meaning person. The government, it seems, does not appreciate the enormity of the problem. If it does, it will be more serious in tackling the issue. As it is, it believes it is one of those problems over which you make some noise here and there and it blows away. It is more than that. What we are seeing in the Ibarapa communities of Oyo State is a crisis of monumental proportion which must be tackled frontally and the rootcause removed.

Governor Seyi Makinde

 

A war is brewing in Ibarapa. That war can be averted if the government is tactful in its handling of the feud between the villagers, who are mostly farmers, and the herders. The herders are settlers in Ibarapa, where they have lived for hundreds of years. Many of them know only that place as home and they have lived peacefully with the villagers until something broke. What broke? Is it trust? Is it a business deal gone awry? What is not in doubt is that peace has since broken down in that area.

The absence of peace has led to a breakdown of law and order, resulting in killings, maiming, raping and kidnapping. All these are said to be perpetrated by herders. Why would herders take to kidnapping? That’s the question. Is it that it is more lucrative than cattle rearing? Is kidnapping such an easy task that people can just take to and start making money from it to the knowledge of those who know them well? Something just does not add up about what is happening in Ibarapa, especially in Igangan where Sunday Adeyemo aka SundayIgboho had to come in for a rescue job on January 22.

Since he stormed Igangan to flush out those he described as “criminal herders who have been killing my people” the town has not been the same again. Igangan has since become a reference point in the farmers/herders clash in the southwest. What the nation is experiencing in Oyo is similar to what happened in Makurdi, Benue State, not too long ago. Then, almost on a daily basis, herders were invading farms with their cattle, destroying crops and killing people. Governor Samuel Ortom moved swiftly to check the herders’ atrocities. Lawmakers in the House of Assembly, who saw the clear and present danger in what was happening were on the same page with him. They quickly passed the anti-open grazing law.

Under the law, it is an offence to take cattle about to graze on people’s farms. Although, the herders are not comfortable with the law, they have no choice than to comply with it. Most often, they do so in the breach, but the law is being applied to put them in check. Sadly, the same cannot be said of Oyo State, where Governor Seyi Makinde keeps talking, without acting with the utmost dispatch required to address the problem. His soft touch approach is not helping matters. He needs to be tough because a drastic situation requires a drastic action. Being tough does not mean that he hates the herders or does not want them in Oyo. That would be missing the point.

He needs to be tough so that they would know that what they are doing is not good. It has been said times without number that not all the herders are bad. What he needs do is to sift the bad from the good for there to be peace in Ibarapa. If he continues to hold to its postulation that you do not resolve criminality with criminality, which is a way of saying the problem is beyond him, he would leave the people with no choice than to resort to self help. This has already happened, with the emergence of Sunday Igboho. The problem in that is that the crisis may snowball into an ethnic war, which some of the herders are secretly wishing for. By his action, Igboho has woken the government from its slumber. The government should take things up from where he stopped and bring back the herders and farmers in Ibarapa as brothers.

It can still be done. But first, the government must check the growing menace of an herder, described as Iskilu Wakili, who is said to be making life difficult for Ibarapa people. The government cannot be talking of peace and people like him will be involved in quite the opposite. Wakili, according to a report in this paper on Monday, has mounted a ‘no-cross zone’ on some farms in Ibarapa. Consequently, people can no longer go to their farms. Those who dare to do so know the consequences of their action. Two brothers were said to have been shot when they attempted to cross the forbidden zone, which is designated with a red flag. How can an individual become so powerful as to stop others from going about their lawful businesses.

This is the same area that Makinde visited last weekend in the search for peace. No individual can be more powerful than government. No matter how connected an individual may be, his friends in power should let him know that government is for all and that they would do everything to protect the country and uphold the right of everyone to life and peaceful assembly. Makinde wants peace, but the way he is going about it is not helping matters. The herders are cashing in on his meekness to wreak havoc, but presenting a peaceful face to him. What is happening in Ibarapa does not show that the herders are sincere in their desire for peaceful co-existence with others.

Wakili or whoever he is, is overstepping his boundary and he should be called to other. He should stop his inciting actions which could lead to a war of attrition. Enough of bloodshed in Ibarapa. If the community, with the help of Igboho, drove the Sarkin Fulani out of the place because of these same atrocities, why should Wakili be allowed to engage in such evils? The earlier Makinde steps in to stop Wakili’s excesses, the better for the community. How can a settler become an overlord in another man’s land? This is the question on the lips of Ibarapa people.

Tony Momoh (1939 – 2021)

Late Prince Tony Momoh
Late Prince Tony Momoh

IT was at Anthony Village, Lagos, in 1990 that I first met Prince Tony Momoh. Then, he had just completed his tenure as Minister of Information in the Babaginda regime. I was in the law office of the late Chief Fola Akinrinsola when Momoh sauntered in. He was also a lawyer. Right from the reception, we knew that “Chief” as I called the late Akinrinsola had an important visitor. His booming voice rang into Chief’s office as he demanded from the secretary: “is your oga around?” Without waiting for an answer, he moved on. Chief met him at the door and taunted him: “you this Auchi man you don come be that. Meet your boy, Lawal”. Good afternoon, sir, I greeted him and he looked at me for a long time before responding. Momoh was a journalist’s journalist, who went through the whole gamut of journalism. Subediting, reporting, feature writing, proofreading, production and editing. He was also a trainer of journalists as pioneer head of the Times Newspaper training school. His death, last Monday, is a huge loss to journalism. May he find rest in the Lord’s bosom.

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