Tension: OPC alarmed by herdsmen influx into Kwara state
By Oluseyi Dasilva, Ilorin
A faction of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) New Era, has raised alarm over what it called the influx of herdsmen into territories in Kwara state, saying it was suspicious and might be a time bomb if not addressed quickly.
This was disclosed by the group’s Kwara state coordinator, Comrade Bayo Fabiyi, during a chat with newsmen in Ilorin on Tuesday. According to him, OPC operatives stationed all over the state give him security reports about the suspicious movement of cattle herders into some Yoruba-speaking areas of Kwara state and that they have eventually outnumbered the inhabitants.
He said that the Seriki and his men, chased away from Igangan and other areas in Oyo state, have found their way into Kwara as he reliably gathered adding that settlements like Esie, Arandun, Omido, Agbamu, Oro Ago, Amori, Oke Ode, Buhari, Igbaja up till Share had been overwhelmed by the influx of these herders and that most of them were arm-carrying herders, making it dangerous and suspicious.
Fabiyi explained that local hunters at Esie and Erin Ile had denied them entry into their domains but they decided to stay in forests.
The coordinator, who is also the national treasurer of the organisation, said that Kogi and Kwara states must be ready to collaborate to dislodge these herdsmen to avoid future situation of managing a crisis instead of nipping it in the bud.
He cited cases of herders reported to the Congress by inhabitants when their cattle eat up farmlands. When these cases are reported to their traditional ruler, the herders get fined for damages. He said that the heady ones among them go back to destroy the rest of the farm, claiming they had been made to pay for the entire farm.
He lamented: “The people in those area live daily in fear of being overrun by these herders. They can no longer go to farm; their wives and children are being raped and they increase in numbers by the day.”
“Just yesterday, nine trailer loads of herdsmen were chased back from Esie by local hunters. If they had been allowed to stay, imagine the danger they would pose to the environment. These people lament that before invasion by the Fulani, they sent farm produce to their children living in Lagos and other places outside Kwara but that, since their sources had been blocked, they now live at the mercy of those children, considering the state of the nation’s economy, thus making things more difficult.
The OPC coordinator reiterated that the attitude of Fulani herders to their host does not portray a people who came in peace adding that no Yoruba person living in the north can ever try what they do here without being killed.
He questioned the commitment of federal government in tackling the herders/farmers clashes in the country. “All herdsmen cases taken to police stations over accusations are never allowed to see the light of day because there is always an order from above that stalls such matter. Are we not under same constitution? How are they better than us? If the educated Fulani talk sense to their people, things would have been different but when their tribesmen commit a crime, they would rather shield them and when we talk, they would say we are generalising. Let me ask you, will any Yoruba man shield their criminal inclined sons and daughters? Never!
“We all have kinsmen all over the world and we warn them not to tarnish family names and these go a long way guiding them but here is a people who perhaps have an agenda to usurp our lands and kill everybody and then lord over us. If not so, why would presidency close eyes to killings everywhere. They are killing in far north; we said they are brothers. Why would they extend such to us. If we had spoken over Zamfara, Yobe, Borno, they will ask what is our business? Now we have a business, we must speak out,” he concluded.
Speaking on Sunday Adeyemo, popularly known as Sunday Igboho, Fabiyi said that the young man is doing what the great names in Yoruba could not do adding that he had taken the place of a true born Yoruba, not a bastard and those who dissociate from him do so at their own peril because the people see him as the hero which he truly is.
“Sunday Igboho may be a young man, a small boy to so many of us but he is a hero; give it to him. There are a thousand of us who can ask Sunday to kneel down and hands up but he is very courageous and committed to defending his father land. I heard some of our dissident Yoruba politicians call him names. I pity those people. They chose to sell off their fathers’ houses to play politics. So, ask them who is the true born?
“A man stood up, laid his life down to fight against injustice meted on his people and here you call him a miscreant. I heard what Aare Gani Adams said about him, but in the spirit of the struggle, I will not join issues with him. I am of the opinion that we all should first fight this battle together and later, we shall tell each other some bitter truths.
“Sunday Igboho was a bona fide OPC member. I will remind them that Sunday was brought in by Alhaji Lawal Akintolu, National Baba Oodua of OPC, then in Ake, Abeokuta, Ogun state. We were together for a long while. Though he didn’t rise to become coordinator or commander, he went into politics. So, his travel with politicians made him more popular than many of us, but he is a bona fide son of Oduduwa. Why we seem to distance from him a bit is because OPC in those days abhored involvement in politics because we believe that partisan politics will split us. We cannot force all members to be in one party; so we chose that whoever is in politics must do so on his own individual basis not using our name.
“Somebody tell Aare Ona Kakanfo that he is not appointed for political reasons but as leader of Yoruba warriors. We are yet to see him rise to this challenge. I won’t say more than that; we don’t wash our dirty linen outside; we are ‘Omoluabi’ people, custodians of moral values.
“We all started this struggle to maintain the name of our fatherland more than 30 tears back, so any Yorubaman who say OPC is a group of miscreants must be insane. Fatai a Ph.D holder went to Seriki in Igangan to report how herders ate up his farm and was tied down, mesmerised and killed. If he had been with an OPC member, such would not have been his fate. All those educated Yoruba, speaking grammar against their kinsmen, remind them that when the battle is taken to our door step, most of them would just travel abroad. If they have opportunities, we are the ones to ward off attack, so if they call us names, God will judge them.”
He lamented the attitude of President Muhammadu Buhari in taking sides with his kinsmen, saying “We all voted for him, ignoring his tribe and past atrocities. Now, he is biting the fingers that fed him. Obasanjo was a president, too. When it seems our boys were misbehaving, he gave shoot on sight order. Though we were not happy then, we realise today that he is the only true Nigerian president who really understands patriotism and statesmanship.
“No tribe, under Obasanjo, can claim being marginalised and if any was being marginalised, it’s the Yoruba people. Obasanjo will ensure that your credentials are right before he puts you in an office, not a people that ignore qualification but just fixing square pegs into round holes on sentiments in a nepotistic manner. Nigeria is too large for such an attitude if we must remain united. No one wants Nigeria split but all these acts of lawlessness by other tribes could make us have a rethink.”