BY VICTORIA N. IKEANO
Just as the rather heated conversations on the Ruga settlement scheme and Senator Elisha Ishaku Abo slapping saga were dying down following their suspension and court arraignment respectively, another issue albeit an unfortunate incident, surfaced to keep Nigerians talking. We seem to have become in recent years, a talking people with every Dick and Harry under a plethora of platforms expressing his/her views on every happening with our counrty literally turned into a talking shop. It becomes a talking point at every gathering – pepper soup joints, beer parlours, social media fora, majalisa (men’s discussion arenas), women’s gossip groups, the legislature, political, youth, socio-cultural meetings, and so on and so forth.
It was no different with the recent attempted kidnapping and consequent death of daughter of the Afenifere (an influential socio-political organisation in the south-west region) chieftain, Mrs. Funke Olakunrin. Since the news of Pa Fasoranti’s daughter’s death by people the police described as ‘unknown gunmen’ at the weekend, all shades of strong opinions have been expressed by influential persons and groups. Pa Fasoranti’s Ondo state country home has become into a Mecca of sorts as all manner of persons – political, religious, community leaders as well as ordinary folks have been trooping in to commiserate with the 94-year old Afenifere leader. When the sad news first broke, sections of the media reported that Mrs. Olakunrin was ‘shot by Fulani herdsmen in a failed kidnap bid’. This immediately raised tension in the southwest zone, coming just when governors and traditional rulers in the zone were rounding off a consultative confab on how to checkmate the “menace” of herdsmen in their region. In fact in the aftermath of that untimely death it was as though the drums of war were being beaten as some of the views expressed were rather extreme.
The former leader of the Odua Peoples Congress, OPC – a rather radical vigilante group in the southwest – now the Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland (a title once held by the late M.K.O. Abiola) in his reaction to the killing reportedly said that the south west should not be blamed when they fight back against the perceived killers, apparently believed by them to be “Fulani herdsmen”. Remarked the Aare, “We only want the whole world to know what has been done and being done to our people. They should be aware of the actions that preceded our reaction when it eventually comes. We are not bereft of ideas of how to stop this criminality on our land. It is just so that we should not be blamed when the reaction comes.” The Ooni of Ife a foremost Yoruba king whose kingdom is regarded as the cradle of Yoruba race, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi in his own comments stated, “I call on all the people of Yoruba race at this time to be united. The time has come to end these killings. These killings must end, enough is enough”.
And Senator Femi Okunrounmu, an elder statesman declared, “I feel very bitter and very angry and feel like finally, the herdsmen have declared war against the Yorubaland. Yes, it is nothing short of declaration of war. We have always known that we, Yoruba are not cowards and this is the time to demonstrate that truly we are not cowards and as a result, I expect a strong reaction from the Yoruba people because this is not something we should just follow up with just condemnation and recriminations Enough of that; it is time to react and show that enough is enough”. Publicity Secretary of the National Association of Nigerian Students, Azeez Adeyemi averred, “As much as I don’t want to speak as a Yoruba person … the fact remains that the act is highly condemnable, it is a clear signal of war…” Chipping in, President of the Yoruba Council of Elders, Col. Dansaaki Agbede (rtd) opined, “It is sad that now we are struggling with the invasion of Fulani herders … it is time that we as Yoruba nation use our combined efforts, commitment and unity to fight this… it’s a clear signal of war …”. Pa Fasoranti himself reportedly said something to the effect that his people are under siege as they can no longer go to their farms for fear of attack by herdsmen.
It is noteworthy that the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) has sent a condolence message to the Afenifere leader over the killing of his daughter. However, MACBAN condemned the “profiling of Fulanis” and the “jumping into conclusion that she (Mrs. Funke Olakunrin) was killed by herdsmen”.
Notwithstanding the extremist voices seemingly readying for war, there are a few moderate ones notable among which is that of the former governor of Lagos state and national leader of the All Progressive Party, Ashiwaju Bola Tinubu who viewed Olakunrun’s death as destined to happen while urging that the incident be seen as an opportunity for government to improve security in the area/region. President Mohammadu Buhari apparently tried to douse the tension by personally calling Pa Fasoranti to condole with him while ordering an investigation of the killing. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has also just weighed in on the issue. He used the opportunity of the killing of the Yoruba chieftain’s daughter to write an open letter to President Buhari, urging him to find a solution to the general insecurity in the country. According to him the latest violent killing of Mrs. Olakunri could cause a conflagration in the land.
Compounding the tension is media reports that herdsmen have converted the Ondo Government forest reserve located in the Odigbo local government area into a “militia camp”.
Let us assume for the sake of argument that herdsmen are the suspected killers of the elder statesman’s daughter. Is it not possible that mischief makers who do not wish the country well could be hiding under the cloak of herdsmen to stoke unrest and conflagration in the southwest region? Come to think of it, the east was the epicentre of a devastating, bitter civil war in the late 60s, the north east is suffering under the yoke of Boko haram insurgency and the south south zone is hotbed of youth restiveness in the form of militants. The south west is the only region that is relatively more peaceful. With the nation’s commercial nerve centre in the south west the agents of darkness may be stoking some fires of destabilization there through some tricky means as this. The south west people who are a sophisticated and enlightened people should not fall to the temptation of war mongers.