By TUNDE THOMAS
A group of eminent Yoruba leaders have vowed to put an end to the wave of kidnapping and terrorism allegedly being carried out by Fulani herdsmen, and Ijaw militants in several parts of the South West, declaring that they have had enough of what they described as desecration of Yorubaland by criminal elements.
Saturday Sun investigations revealed that the new group, whose membership included: Dr. Fredrick Fasehun; Chief Ishola Filani, former Deputy National Chairman, Peoples Democratic Party; Chief Doyin Okupe, one-time presidential spokesman; Prof.Tunde Adeniran, a former Education Minister; Chief [Mrs] Priscilla Kuye, former President, Nigeria Bar Association, NBA; Aare Latosa of Ibadan and a host of others drawn from across the six states in the South-West geo-political zone, was aimed at giving a stronger voice to issues affecting the Yoruba people.
It held its inaugural meeting recently at a popular event centre in Lagos under the banner ‘‘Yoruba Nationalities Conference.’’ Top on the agenda of the meeting was the issue of insecurity in the South-West, especially the menace of Ijaw militants and Fulani herdsmen who have turned kidnapping into a lucrative venture in the zone.
Participants at the gathering openly expressed concern that Yorubaland was being turned into a haven of kidnappers by people of other ethnic origins, who left the comfort of their own geo-political zones to perpetrate crime and constitute a nuisance in the area.
At a point tempers flared as many attendees felt that drastic action needed to be taken to checkmate perceived excesses of the miscreants.
Chief Filani, a chief participant at the talkshop, told Saturday Sun that the menace of herdsmen’s attacks and kidnapping, which appeared to have become big business, especially in Ogun and Lagos states, leaving the police and security agents helpless was one of the issues discussed. He, however, added that other issues affecting the interest of the race were also on the agenda.
“The issue of Yoruba unity is most paramount on our mind, because we believe that it is when we are united that we will be able to act and speak with one voice. That is why we are floating this new group. We want to set up a group that will serve as an umbrella body for all other Yoruba organizations. We need a group with a stronger voice that will be respected by the government and other ethnic groups in the country,’’ he declared.
Filani said:’’Enough is enough, this has to stop. It is either these herdsmen and Ijaw militants conform with the laws of the land, or they face the music. We won’t fold our arms while some miscreants turn Yorubaland into den of crime. Enough is enough, it is no longer acceptable to us that a group of criminally-minded elements should turn Yorubaland into a land of fear and anxiety.’’
Warning the Fulani herdsmen and Ijaw militants not to play with fire, Filani said Yoruba’s liberal attitude should not be misconstrued as a sign of weakness.
‘’By nature, Yorubas are liberal. We welcome people from other places into our midst, we allow them to settle down, no harassment, and we regard them as one of our own, but in a situation where our lives are being endangered, we have to protect ourselves. We implore the Federal Government and the security agencies to flush these criminal elements out of the South-West. There is a limit to human endurance.’’
Calling for vigilance, Filani further urged his kinsmen: “We have to be on our guard and also be our brother’s keepers. Yorubaland has always been known as haven of peace. We are known as people of honour, why should we now allow our land to be polluted by some criminals who also behave as if they are above the law?
He called on President Muhammadu Buhari to caution his Fulani brothers, especially the herdsmen, to show respect for the feelings of their host communities as well as the laws of the land.
His words: “I believe that if drastic action had been taken against these Fulani herdsmen, their excesses would have been curtailed, but in a situation where the body language of Mr. President suggests that he is not inclined to take punitive measures against any of his kinsmen that erred, then that’s setting a bad precedence, and that also encourages impunity. That’s where Yoruba are different, if a Yoruba man is doing what is not good, a fellow Yoruba man would not support him blindly. We will always call a spade a spade.”
He implored South-West governors to emulate Ekiti State governor, Mr Ayodele Fayose, by passing laws that would protect South-West territories from incursion by herdsmen. “As the saying goes, heavens help those who help themselves, the governors don’t need to wait till eternity for help from the Federal Government; constitutionally ,they are empowered to protect their territories, and that’s what Fayose of Ekiti has done. Since that grazing law was passed in Ekiti, have we been hearing about menace of herdsmen again? At times, drastic problems require drastic solution,” he said.
On his part, Dr. Fasehun vowed that the new group would resist any attempt to oppress or subdue Yoruba people. “No way , it will never happen, we are going to resist it. Yoruba people will never become second class citizens in their own land. It is either these criminal elements whether they are Ijaw militants or Fulani herdsmen leave Yorubaland or we will flush them out. Nobody should dare our ability and capability to act with decisiveness. Yoruba believe in living in peace with others. However, our good nature should not be misinterpreted as a sign of weakness. This new pan-Yoruba group is determined to fight for the interests of our people,” he declared.
While he denied that the new group was formed to rival Afenifere or supplant the renown Yoruba socio-cultural organization. His words:
“Far from it, our new group should not be seen as a rival to Afenifere. This new group is coming up, because some Yoruba are disillusioned about Afenifere. Some also believe that Afenifere is no longer apolitical. Others also felt that Afenifere has become weak.
These are some of the factors that led to the birth of our new group. Based on the clamour for a new association that will act swiftly on issues pertaining to Yoruba interests.”
Fasehun who stressed the importance of unity among the Yoruba , added that the ethnic nation would no longer play a second fiddle to any other group in the country. “Yoruba unity is not negotiable. A lot of injustice is being meted to Yoruba under this dispensation, and this is why Yoruba need to close ranks, and come together as one and for one common purpose. We’ve set up a steering committee that will finalise arrangements on the name the new group will take and also resolve other issues that will facilitate its smooth operation,” he added.
Fasehun who expressed concern about the current socio-economic situation in the country lamented that expectations of Nigerians were not being met. He implored President Buhari, and the All Progressives Congress (APC)- controlled Federal Government to quickly put measures in place to alleviate the sufferings many citizens faced now.
His words: “Before this present Federal Government came on board, APC and its candidate, Muhammdu Buhari, now our President, promised Nigerians a lot of goodies, and following that, there was a clamour for change, and that change eventually came when Buhari was voted into office as the new President. But talking about dividends of democracy, it has been promises upon promises by APC, and Nigerians appeared to be getting tired about these unfulfilled promises, and this is why many Nigerians that were initially cheering this administration are now jeering at them.