Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde (left) and Chairman, State Advisory Council, Hosea Agboola, at the Asigangan Palace during a visit to Igangan in Ibarapa North Local Council of the state, following attacks on the town by arsonists.
The people of Oyo State, particularly those in and around Igangan would very much like to believe Governor Seyi Makinde when he promised that the recent attack and killings of members of the community by suspected killer herdsmen would not happen again in the state. That was as reassuring as it could be but it needs be followed up with concrete action if the promise will inhere, given the absence of any apparent concern by the Federal Government, which has the control of law enforcement, on the incident.
There can be no faster route to disintegration than the ominous silence of the Federal Government to incessant herder-farmers’ killings in parts of the South and Middle Belt. The complicity of foreign herders and bandits has never been as graphic as it was in the recent Igangan killings. Unfortunately, the president’s characteristic aloofness at this time is not the way to justice, peace or keeping a bitterly divided country as one. More so, flaunting bigotry amid worsening apprehension is not a strategy to appease secessionists’ agitations either.
The incident in Igangan agrarian community in Ibarapa zone of Oyo State, in which about 30 persons were killed and houses including the palace of Asigangan of Igangan town, set on fire, was the latest in the mindless herder-farmers’ crisis in the South and Middle Belt region. The Igangan invasion left no doubt as to who the attackers were. And barely 24-hour later, armed invaders also stormed Idere in the same Ibarapa area of the state; some residents even claimed to have seen a helicopter dropping firearms to bandits in the forest.
The attack is most troubling given its foreknowledge and failure of the Federal Government-controlled security agencies to come to the rescue of victims. Couple of days before the raid, the Chairman of Oyo State Amotekun Security corps, an ex-General in the Army, Ajibola Togun, had warned that some foreign Fulani herdsmen and bandits of Tuareg extraction have perfected plans to invade communities in the Southwest, masquerading as commercial motorcyclists, pepper traders and carrot sellers. Togun raised the alarm that these are invaders from Mali, Guinea, Chad and other West Africa countries in the perfected act of killing and kidnapping. He had revealed that: “There would soon be a problem in the Southwest. These foreign Fulani herdsmen would soon come for the purpose of taking over Nigeria. This is because they (Fulani) have the backing of some people in government to take over Nigeria as a heritage that Allah has given them.” The person of General Togun, a soldier and military intelligentsia, is certainly not flippant, nor should he be ignored by a responsible state authority. But the intelligence community did nothing about the eerie alarm, until invaders struck in Igangan.
Normally, a responsive and non-complicit presidency should be alarmed, not only by the attack but the failure of security agencies. The president should ask his security chiefs to account for why the incident happened despite the prior warning, based on hard facts. How come the State Security Service and even the National Security Adviser (NSA), all failed in their core responsibility? Where were the policemen when the invaders laid siege and plundered the community for about five hours? Is the president complicit or surrounded by incompetent security officers? Or is he simply overwhelmed by the tenacity and frequency of bandits’ strike on hapless communities across Nigeria?
Lest they forget, the primary duty of government is welfare and security of Nigerians, without which socio-political and economic policies of the state are all flights of fancy, no matter how well-intentioned they are. There can be no sustainable development without peace and security.
For the president to suggest that he could not be bothered is inimical to national unity. It is indefensible that the president that was most audible and prompt against secessionists and perceived dissidents from the South could turn a blind eye when the same section he had sworn to protect gets murdered in their sleep. It is neither presidential nor democratic. To keep incentivising criminality is to drive the country into full-blown anarchy and avoidable war. For the country to remain together, it has to be an entity that works for all and not for a few that seems to appeal more to the president. The presidency should represent all sessions equally and not given to ethnic chauvinism and hegemonic tendencies. To do otherwise in the face of prevailing gruesome killings and apprehension, is to incite self-help, and fuel secessionists’ agitations among nations.
Governor Makinde’s anguish was palpable as he milled round Igangan town – all in ruins. But beyond the grief, this is another call to action for all governors to step up the game on regional security. It has been about a year since Operation Amotekun was launched in Southwest with a funfair. Expediency of the moment demands that the corps would have been well-trained, well equipped and incorporated into stronger partnership with the police to be responsive to local threats. The warfront is being extended deep into the South, just as it has been in Benue State. True leadership entails that governors act as the chief security officers of their states and not be quick on excuses!
Oyo, Ebonyi, Benue and all troubled states of the federation have representatives in the National Assembly and they know of the palpable dreads at home. The lawmakers are aware of the constitutional bottlenecks to state policing, as well as the near helplessness of the Nigeria Police as presently constituted. The National Assembly as a whole should not continue to play the ostrich, ignoring the call for restructuring the country, devolution of powers and state policing. Public sittings on constitutional review, without a proper restructuring, is just another expensive charade that will not save a country that is fast falling apart. It was the turn of Igangan the last time; does anyone know where next the fire burns?
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