From Femi Adeoti and Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
Prince Ademola Ayoade is a prominent community leader in Ibarapaland, Oyo State. The community was brought to global attention on January 15, 2021, when a youth leader and Yoruba freedom fighter, Chief Sunday Adeyemo, aka Sunday Igboho, gave Fulani herdsmen a seven-day ultimatum to quit the area.
Septuagenarian Ayoade, who hails from Igbo-Ora, one of the seven towns that make up Ibarapa land, insisted it was the whole Ibarapa community that actually invited Sunday Igboho to “rescue us from the killer Fulani herdsmen.” In this interview, he spoke on how the relationship between farmers in Ibarapa land and the Fulani herdsmen transited from good to bad, bad to worse and worse to worst.
Before relationship went sour
I grew up in Igbo-Ora. During my younger days, we had Fulani Gaas, not even far from my primary school. Then, the Fulani would not come with their cows until it was around 2p.m., after school hours to graze on the football field.
Some of their children did come to school. We would go to their Gaas to take cheese. They were very friendly, good and nice. They were not monsters. They co-existed with the people in a friendly manner.
Though in those days, there were some of them that were criminally minded. There were cases of rape, here and there. But they were not as common as we have these days. We grew up with some of the Fulani children.
But of late, the situation has become bad and terrible. They have their Gaas scattered at the boundaries of most our towns, such as Lanlate, Eruwa, Igboora, Idere, Tapa, Aiyete and Igangan. The crime and criminality in Ibarapaland did not start with kidnapping. It started with robbery. Between the boundary of Igbo-Ora and Ogun State, before getting to Oyan Dam, there are about four spots where herdsmen would use their cows to cross the road. When they see any vehicle coming, they would stop it and rob the passengers.
The military barracks at Alamala in Ogun State established a post on the road to checkmate them. Local vigilantes were also used to stop them. Then, they used dane guns, cutlasses, bows and arrows. But of late, you would see them with Ak-47 rifles and other sophisticated weapons.
These Fulani are different from the local Fulani. They are Bororo and the types from Niger and Mali.
About 28 people have been kidnapped. Out of these, about nine persons were killed including Dr. Abdulfatai Aborode; a petroleum station owner, Alhaja Serifat; husband of a lady who has a farm in Lanlate; three other staff of the petroleum dealer; some people were killed and their corpses were left on the road. I have a cousin, a primary school teacher, who was coming from his farm, and he was kidnapped and was kept for about six days before we were able to raise N3.8million. His farm was very close to Kara, on Abeokuta-Igbo-Ora Road.
There was a food seller, Hossana. She was kidnapped and she paid. Even, they kidnapped the wife and the daughter of Baba-Iso of Igbole, and the paid ransom. It got to a stage that we were helpless. We did not have anybody to assist us. Most of the children that live outside Ibarapa are even afraid to go home. As I am talking to you, I have not been to Igboora since September, 2020, because I am afraid to go home.
Unfortunately, those kidnappers are making use of these Fulani commercial motorcyclists and some indegines who gave them information about the rich people and those that have relations in overseas countries. When they kidnapped, they tortured. Those that could not pay ransom, they killed them.
It was also unfortunate that traditional rulers cannot do anything. The so-called Sarkin Fulani in Igangan was so powerful that anytime his children committed crime, he would threaten the police, by saying he would call the Inspector General of Police and he would call the presidency. Those people that do not want to lose their jobs, would release them. The man has become a monster. He has a detention cell in his house, before the place was burnt. Most people that were kidnapped, he is the man in-between when the families of the kidnapped want to pay ransom. He gave criminals and protection. Everybody is afraid of him.
Government ought to have stationed policemen in Igangan. They could have moved inside the forests. Honestly, these people carry sophisticated weapons that are more powerful than what our policemen are carrying.
Sunday Igboho’s intervention
The intervention of Sunday Igboho was not his own personal decision. Also, it was not because he decided to show strength. When we became helpless, and people are being killed and kidnapped every week, then some people started looking for help. Then, some people within the community approached him, when they heard that he chased away Fulani herdsmen in Igboho and Igbeti. They sought for his assistance. It was the appeal of the youth from that area that he hearkened to. So, he was invited by the youth and the community leaders in Ibarapa to rescue us. They took the step because the government has abandoned us to our fate, knowing fully well that he had done similar thing in Igboho and Igbeti. The community and the youth don’t have where to run to.
He came to study what was happening and what he found out surprised him. These herdsmen would tell any woman they wanted to rape: ‘Where is your pussy? I want to fuck you.’ If the woman refused to cooperate, they would shoot her. The rape had no grade. They raped girls below the age of 14. They raped elderly people too. There was this case of a 65-year-old woman they raped. They raped a woman of 70 years old. Most of the women kidnapped, they raped them. The herdsmen committed a lot of atrocities.
What government failed to do
I think what government should have done before the ultimatum that Sunday Igboho gave elapsed was to send security people to that area. The government should have invited the Sarkin Fulani and the community people to come. Though most of the community people could not confront Sarkin Fulani because he knows where they live.
Government should have sent people to Ibarapa and investigate why the people wanted this man to leave. But they did not do anything. I don’t see anything wrong in posting Police Area Command to Igangan.
They said Sunday Igboho gave ultimatum, what happened was that it was a threat. The government that did not do anything when our people were being killed, raped, kidnapped and paying ransom, is now saying that anybody should not take law into his hand. The first constitutional duty of a government is to protect lives and properties of citizens of that country. When people were being killed, maimed, raped, and kidnapped, economic properties were being destroyed, government did not do anything. They have failed in their constitutional responsibility. All what happened was self-defence. You cannot tell me that the constitution of Nigeria says people should live anywhere and somebody should come to my house and rape my wife in my presence, asks me to leave my house, and if I have a way of facing him, I should not do it? If somebody is coming to your house and he wants to kill you with a gun, and you have catapult, you not will use whatever you have to defend your life or property.
Arrest order on Igboho can’t be true
Federal Government ordering that Sunday Igboho should be arrested or shot at sight, I don’t believe it is true. I don’t expect that a government to give such order in a situation like this. Giving such order will create more problems than the one they are trying to solve. Look at what is happening in Ondo State. Why is the Federal Government talking, saying what they are saying now? Were they not there when Chief Olu Falae, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) had his farm destroyed by herdsmen? Were they not there when Falae was kidnapped? Were they not there when a first-class monarch of Ifon was killed? Were they not there when Fasoranti’s daughter was killed? All these things are pointing to the Fulani herdsmen.
Now, state government said leave our forest reserves, and they are saying they have rights to be there. Nobody has rights to be on my inheritance and wants to kill me. We are being unfair. We are not sincere in this country because our government is not protecting us.
Assuming these Fulani herdsmen are not Nigerians, they are bandits, is our government not supposed to protect us against the foreign criminals that are killing us? Why is the government on the side of the criminals? The Federal Government should ensure that they protect lives and properties of the Nigerian citizens. The idea that they want to arrest this or that should not come up. Lasting solutions should be proffered to the problems of rape, killings, maiming, kidnapping and so on in our land.
We cannot negotiate with criminals here. When you negotiate with them, you are giving them power. When the goodies from the negotiation get exhausted, they will come back for another negotiation. I don’t wish Nigeria to break. Whatever that can bring crisis, I am begging the Federal Government to address it.
Yoruba leaders not talking are cowards
There are some people that are not talking because they are eating now. Some are not talking because this thing has not affected anybody in their families or because of their political agenda. Who is the human being that can guarantee 2023?
All these things have been in the public domain as they occurred. The security agencies should work on intelligence reports to investigate matters.
Seriki Fulani alleged taht insecurity in Ibarapa fuelled by illegal mining site at Igangan which attracted nationals from different African countries. Why can’t he make that report to the police when he knows he is not involved? If they have not committed any offence, why are they apologizing? The Sarkin Fulani of Igbo-Ora and of Eruwa were begging, asking for forgiveness when the Oyo State Government delegation, the police met with them on Sunday, January 24. Then, who made them Sarkin Fulani? Any Sarkin Fulani is not as big as a Baale of a community.
Buhari and Oyo herdsmen
I can remember that when the late Lam Adesina was the governor of Oyo State, President Muhammadu Buhari, came to Oyo State, as the patron of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, to ask that the Miyetti Allah members were badly treated and that he wanted government to make sure that they were not badly treated again. He was in Ibadan and he spoke to the governor.
What he did then is more or less what Sunday Igboho did now. The Miyetti Allah people complained to Buhari that they were being badly treated. He came here to tell them that they should be fairly treated. So, if people went and complained to Sunday Igboho, that they are being unfairly treated, and Sunday Igboho decided to help them. There is no difference between what Sunday Igboho did now and what Buhari did the last time. If Buhari could stand for his ethnic brothers, there is nothing stopping any Yoruba man too to stand for his people that are being unfairly treated
I appreciate the new Commissioner of Police in Oyo State. She is a wonderful woman and a mother in a million. God will bless and bless her family, for the wisdom she used in dousing the tension. She has been very magnanimous. She has used wisdom. I am promising her that in my little way that whatever I can do to assist the police, I will do. The people of Ibarapaland should know that this Commissioner of Police in the state is a good person. She is ready to work with the community. You should volunteer information to her.