By OLUSESAN LAOYE
The recent security challenges in the South west, which seemed to had been resolved after the visit of some northern governors is boiling over again with the arrest of an alleged kidnapping kingpin, Wakili by the Odua People Congress, OPC.
However, the arrest led to the death of some people and torching of the house compelling the Police to move in and arrest the OPC members.
The region had has in recent times come increasingly under attacks by Fulani bandits and herdsmen, who invaded farms with the cattle destroying crops, kidnapping people and killing farmers who challenge them.
From Oyo, Ondo, Ogun and Ekiti states, there were stories of woes from the activities of the herdsmen.
The zone before now had adopted series of measures in tackling kidnapping, killings and various crimes when it was glaring that the zone is open to attack by first initiating the establishment of a security network, Amotekun, which became a controversial issue across the country with the Fulani accusing the South West governors of targeting them.
Despite the heat which Amotekun generated, the activities of the herdsmen did not stop but continued unabated and this gave the impressions that the security Amotekun was just a toothless bulldog that can’t bite.
The forest in the region became more dangerous and many incidents of killings and kidnapping were witnessed with families of victims paying huge ransoms. This however was part of the reasons, which made the Ondo State government to enforce its grazing and forest reserves laws and ordered the herdsmen and those who are not registered to vacate the forest.
It was however the same period that the ethnic rights fighter Sunday Adeyemo aka Sunday Igboho ordered the Fulani alleged to be terrorising farmers and people of Oyo State residing in Igangan, Ibarapa zone of the state, to quit.
Both the Ondo state government and Sunday Igboho effected the quit order the same week. But the one that generated so much heat was that of Igboho who drove the Serikin Fulani in Ibarapa out of the place with his followers.
But while that was effectively carried out, it was discovered that Oyo state was still harbouring a more notorious and dangerous kingpin Iskilu Wakili in Kajola, Ibarapa North, which is the same axis where the Serikin Fulani and his men were flushed out by Igboho. The man Iskilu Wakili continued his alleged activities unleashing more terror on the people and boasting that he could not be arrested or evicted from his abode by anybody.
But due to the fresh security initiatives in the South West, which now involved all local security outfits, the leaders of the zone met and unanimously agreed that all suspected criminals in the region be fished out to face the law. This prompted the Odua People’s Congress (OPC) to go after Wakili and his gang.
He was subsequently arrested and handed over to the police. But his arrest brought a new poser as to who could actually be behind his operations and the manner with which he was boasting, as the OPC members who attested him were detained after he was handed over to them.
The detention of the OPC members got the people of the South West angry, as the youths in the entire region threatened to go on rampage if the police refused to release them.
After much pressure, the OPC members were released and despite this, the people are still not happy about the development because there could be miscarriage of justice in the Iskilu’s case sensing the involvement of some powerful people behind his operations. The bandits operate on the highways in the South West which is now posing serious security challenges as they no longer demand ransom but kill their victims outright.
There had been reported fresh cases on Lagos-Ibadan highway, Ibadan Ijebu Ode, Ore Ondo, Ilesha Akure, Ado Ekiti Oye, Abeokuta-Sango-Ifo roads.
Those operating on these highways were suspected to be the herdsmen who may have been driven out of the forests in the region but don’t have permanent place to stay as usual but roam about and strike when and where it is convenient for them.
What is also worrisome to the people of the South West is the attitudes of the police believed to be one-sided and the way they now treat the Yoruba against the Hausa/Fulani when riots broke out between the two tribes. The Sasa market incident in Ibadan, Oyo State, was said to be a clear example of the police partisanship.
The people and the leaders in the South West especially, Oyo State, are worried that only the Yoruba were charged to court last Friday for the mayhem in Sasa without the other party involved and this raised more questions as to the intention of the North, especially those in government, against the interests of the south West.
Reacting to the recent development about the security of the South West, Are Onakakanfo of Yoruba land and the leader of the OPC Iba, Gani Adams, said that the South West leaders, including traditional rulers and all native security organisations have met to deliberate on the matter. He said a new security strategy would be adopted now to ensure that the South West is fully protected against criminals, especially bandits.
According to him, “a larger meeting would be held later this March that would include all the stakeholders to determine where the South West is going on the issues of security and restructuring of Nigeria, which would guarantee how each region would develop and protect its people”.
“The larger meeting would also discuss the issue of food security based on the recent action of the North to sanction the South West with the food produced in the place. This has now made us to know where the North is going and we no longer want to be caught unaware anymore because we too have greater potential to produce the agricultural products more than they do.”
Iba Gani Adams said “the antics of the North to keep destroying our farms so that we would find it difficult to produce what we would be able to consume has been discovered. Their aim is to colonise us with food and the game is now over as we would no longer tolerate any destructions on our farms any longer.”
A political scientist Mr. Bayo Faleke posited that the arrest of Wakili and the detention of the OPC members that arrested him by the police has raised so many questions, which should be answered by the Federal government that controls the Police. He pointed out that the OPC should have been commended and not treated as criminals.
He described the police action as very hasty and a miscarriage of justice. He also commented on the Sasa incident in which seven people arraigned in court were only Yoruba without the other ethnic group involved in the mayhem.
He asked “why are the Hausas not arrested. This is irrational, not fair and does not show that we are in one country”. He further argued that it was funny to him that the ethnic group which suffered most in terms of properties destroyed were brought before the law. This is sad indeed”
One of the OPC leaders in Oyo State Comrade Rotimi Olumo said, it was sad that after the police had failed to apprehend Wakili and the OPC did what they ought to have done, the police now turned around to accuse “us of disturbing the peace of the environment where Wakili was staying before we arrested him.”
According to him, “the police also came up with the allegations that we burnt his house and in the process a woman died. To us this was not the true position of the matter as our men carried out a neat operation and went for our target without any casualty and we wonder where the police got their information from”.
He said that it was funny that the police who refused to go to arrest Wakili despite series of allegations about his atrocities, now had the effrontery to go to the scene of the incident after “we have arrested and handed him to them, that our men was responsible for what they saw at the scene.”
“This is why we want all Yoruba leaders to wake up and rise at any time to defend the people against those who want to enslave the people of the South West”.
Also a Yoruba commentator, Comrade, Segun Salawu said “the matter is painful to the people and the government should be careful as not to witness another end SARS by the South West youths, a situation, which could boomerang and lead to a nationwide protest which the government won’t be able to control”.
In his reaction the police image maker in Oyo State Gbenga Fadeyi said the police was not in favour of any party but trying to do justice to the issue, saying that they were still investigating the matter.
“We want to assure the people that we are not going to take sides but carry out thorough investigations into all cases and bring culprits to book”.
Meanwhile of Oyo State governor, Engineer Seyi Makinde, who had remained silent on the Wakili issue after too much pressure on him to react, eventually came up with a Press statement through his Press Secretary Taiwo Adisa that his administration will do everything possible to prevent miscarriage of justice on the recent arrests of some members of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) and an alleged ethnic warlord, Iskilu Wakili in Kajola area of Ibarapa North Local Government.
The Statement also, quoted the governor as saying that the Commissioner of Police, Oyo State Command, CP Ngozi Onadeko, has already given the assurance that a thorough investigation would be launched into the security situation. He also urged the people to have trust in government, as it will continue to work in the interest of the people of the state with a view to ensuring that there is no miscarriage of justice.