Sunday Igboho: Hero or opportunist?
The Irohinoodua Editorial, January 28, 2021
The entire Yorubaland was charmed last week when Sunday Adeyemo, (alias Igboho) stormed Igangan, an ancient community in Oyo State. He led hundreds of men and women, old and young all with one message to armed invaders: Quit or We Quit you.
Before that day, Igboho had visited the same community where he gave the Seriki Fulani seven days quit notice. Oke Ogun area where Igangan is located has been at the mercy of armed Fulani men who rape, kill and traumatise the indigenous communities. Residents waited endlessly for intervention from the state government and the police, but succor did not come. The atrocities continued unabated. One of the most intriguing incidences was the cold-blood murder of Dr Aborode who had employed some 200 people to work on his farm with aspiration of employing 500 people more in the next two years. The armed herdsmen murdered him. In few months past, locals put the number of deaths at over 20 persons while mothers and young girls were picked and raped by the armed groups, who came some 1000 kilometers away. The Seriki Fulani was said to be an accomplice, accused of acting as middle man between kidnappers and victims. In what looked like a taboo, the son of the traditional ruler of Igangan was kidnapped. Sources said the Seriki Fulani ordered to be locked up locals who challenged him on suspicion of collaboration with the criminals. While the killings, rape and destruction of farmland by the armed Fulani men continued, the Oyo State Governor, Oluseyi Makinde did nothing. Even with the seven-day ultimatum, the police and Makinde watched like mumu. There were no peace meetings, no visit to the communities by the Governor, no invitation of Igboho and no attempt to provide security for the long suffering people of Ibarapa and Igangan. The Governor did absolutely nothing, until it was too late.
Before now, the name Igboho had been identified as an undercover political actor who could be hired by any of the contending parties. His critics describe him as a brute, a thug without education and a man whose mood swings and alliance are fluid and unpredictable. Some even put a tag of political violence and murder on him. However, his visit to Igangan completely erased any stigma. The suffering people wanted a liberator. He came forward and led them. That is heroic. His raw courage, his mien, his power of oratory rendered in the language of his ancestors, his stone-cast will untie the fetters of iron that for years have kept Ibarapa people in bondage in their motherland. Igboho brought hope where anxiety loomed. He rekindled a new spirit of freedom for a people held hostage by evil. There is the argument that Igboho has no right to give quit notice to anyone, but this is a weak and infantile argument. Every land owner has the right to expel trespassers especially when such invaders are associated with glaring atrocities including mass murder. Igboho’s intervention reflects the failure of leadership both at the state and national levels. It reflected the weakness of the Yoruba leadership at all levels. It confirms the old saying that nature hates vacuum. It raises the challenge that Yoruba leaders are preoccupied with electoral politics instead of addressing the existential need of their own people. While Igangan spoke loudly, there are hundreds of communities in Yoruba land under the spell of Fulani armed dominion many of who continue to suffer in silence, held in awe. The audacious action of Igboho should not be seen as total victory, rather, an acid test that has brought succor to Igangan but at the same time will reinforce the propensity of the enemy for greater havoc. It will also be naïve see the sacking of the Seriki Fulani from Igangan as the total expulsion of the armed musketeers. The Seriki merely left to delude the local population and to immune himself from possible future payback. The exit of the Seriki is a mere illusion; those associated with mayhems are unmoved. It thus means that while commending the heroic efforts of Igboho, in substance the fundamentals are yet to be achieved. As we write, Igangan and Ibarapa forests remain the hub of the murderers, in large numbers. No one has disarmed them. No one has combed the forests to drive them away, not to talk of justice for hundreds that have been killed or raped. A superior logic, a loftier plan, less of mob, is thus needed to fix the problem once and for all.
For a race notorious for retribution and bitter revenge, Igboho, Igangan and indeed the Yoruba territories must be prepared for the inevitable reprisal. Yet, the open support of the Presidency for the armed herdsmen only shows how complex, and demonstrates the network of the savage clique. While many people have been kidnapped or murdered in Yorubaland, not on one occasion did the Presidency send condolence messages but was swift in condemning the visit of Igboho to Igangan and the order of the Ondo State Government that illegal occupants of forest reserves should quit. At hand is the free access to Small Arms and Light Weapons, (SALW) by the Fulani herdsmen, their desperation to establish a foothold on Yoruba territories and their stiff neck insistence that they have the right to occupy all forests and cities and fully take possession. Igboho has laid the foundation with a step forward, but the journey is far from destination and requires a more articulate, grandeur, regional and sustainable approach. The battle must begin with tactical intelligence gathering to understand the motive, the tactics, the operations and the network of the armed herdsmen and the strategic places they presently occupy on Yoruba territories. The State Governments in the South West as a matter of urgency should also deploy Amotekun to Yoruba forests to eject all illegal occupiers. The forests must be saved, there lay our future; farmers must be protected, else, food insecurity will hurt the Yoruba commonwealth. The State and Federal Governments should take proactive measures, not only to ensure the protection of indigenous communities from arrogant infringement, but to preserve forest and its resources for the benefit of the rightful owners.