By Job Osazuwa
For many years, Nigeria has been battling with different forms of security challenges. As the Boko Haram insurgency terrorises the northern part of the country, the South-West region also faces its own share in the hands of bandits.
And, sadly, the region that had once been so peaceful has suddenly become the epicentre for criminals, including killer herders and kidnappers that daily threaten the peace and perpetrate evil, making life unbearable for people across the region.
And like a thunderous storm, cases of their nefarious criminal activities spread like wildfire as the South-West region swiftly became a permanent abode for marauders.
From Lagos to Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti and Ondo states, stories of unrest remain mostly prominent across the region, leaving in its wake disturbing narratives of government’s seeming failure across board.
Notable on the list of killings and abductions were the murders of the late Olufunke Olakunri, daughter of Yoruba and Afenifere leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti; a first class monarch in Ondo, the Olufon of Ifon, Oba Israel Adeusi, and deputy registrar of the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Amos Arijesuyo, among others.
Apart from this, there are also records of rape and kidnapping by alleged herdsmen even on major highways. Similarly, there are cases of bloody clashes between the zone’s security outfit, Amotekun Corps, and some Fulani herdsmen. In addition, clashes between herdsmen and farmers have become pronounced, causing a nagging headache to everyone in the region.
It is not unexpected that the ugly development has brewed concerns and interests from stakeholders, thereby necessitating the urgent need to address the spate of insecurity in the zone.
Therefore, on March 17, a new vista of hope beckoned the Yoruba nation as prominent leaders from over 30 socio-cultural groups gathered at Mapo Hall, Ibadan, Oyo State, to discuss the various issues bedevilling the region.
The event was organised by the Pan Yoruba Congress. The theme: “Our Destiny in Our Hands”, became the subject of discourse as Yoruba leaders came up with an all-encompassing communiqué proffering solutions to the identified problems.
Participants at the programme harped on the need for the unity of the Yoruba, warning that it might be difficult for the South-West to overcome banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery and other forms of criminality, unless they shunned socio-political and economic differences and united towards speaking with one voice.
They emphasised why all hands must be on deck to liberate the region from insecurity and economic hardship besetting the progress of the people.
The congress also unveiled the South-West Security Stakeholders’ Group (SSSG) to complement government’s law enforcement units.
Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde; the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Abiodun Ige Adams; chairman at the event and Afenifere chieftain, Sola Lawal; secretary-general of Yoruba Council of Elders, Kunle Olajide; leader of Yoruba Koya, Chief Deji Osibogun; the guest lecturer, Prof. Soji Adejumo; the Araba of Osogbo, Ifayemi Elebuibon; traditional and religious leaders, Agbekoya leaders and leaders of various groups across the South-West also lent their voices to the formation of new security outfits across the region.
In his address, Adams said the unity of all the stakeholders and groups in Yorubaland was a big project that was long overdue, adding that it was his duty and that of other leaders of the Yoruva to ensure that there was unity and among all the groups in the South-West.
Aare Adams maintained also that he had agreed to work with leaders of all socio-cultural groups in Yorubaland towards ensuring security of life and property.
He restated his belief in the unity and progress of the Yoruba, saying, with the success of the Pan Yoruba Congress (PYC), there was no doubt that their unity was a collective project. Adams said the gathering was also geared towards focusing the people’s energy and strengths in securing the South-West against criminals, and also re-strategising in bolstering tyhe South-West’s agricultural and economic prospects.
“Today’s event is a huge success, given the presence of personalities and contents of discussion, which is purely about our security, agric and the economy of the South-West. And I am sure we will continue to synergise and harness the potential of all other groups in Yorubaland in ensuring effective security of the entire South-West,” he said.
Commending the organisers of the congress, Governor Makinde, said that the calibre of prominent people at the congress spoke volumes of the impact of such a gathering in the life of the Yoruba people.
He said that non-state actors would be incorporated in ensuring security in the state. He also called on traditional rulers to support the government in addressing the situation.
“By virtue of my office, I can see certain things that you cannot easily see and I stand on my honour to say it openly that I will always take decisions in the best interest of my people.
“In the security architecture of Oyo State, non-state actors must be included. What we want to achieve is securing Yorubaland and Oyo State in particular.
“Now, some are saying presidency should be zoned to the South-West in 2023 and making some unfounded comments. One thing I know is, the issue of 2023 should not be the main discourse for now but how we can ensure we give people what they deserve in this federation called Nigeria,” he said.
Lawal said the that congress was timely, coming at a time when the South-West region had been engulfed in multiple security challenges that had since turned the region to a volatile zone.
He said the region had been jolted by incessant kidnapping and killings, adding that such crimes could only happen in a situation of complete breakdown of law and order.
The guest lecturer, Prof. Adejumo, said that the Yoruba resolve to seek peace in the South-West could not be overrun by mere banditry. He explained that the South-West had the capacity to boost its economy through enhanced agricultural templates and effective security.
He said the region was the engine room of national progress, adding that the position of the Yoruba could not be overlooked in developing the country. He stated further that if a cow was sold for an average of N120,000, it means the South-West consumed cows worth N1.3 billion daily.
Adejumo, however, urged the South-West governors to urgently work out what he described as short-term and long-term goals for sustainable agricultural growth and development across the region, stressing also that the region needed an all-inclusive and efficient security network.
While reading the communiqué, YCE chieftain, Olajide, said it was a complete affirmation of the group’s resolve to address all the issues affecting the region.