Nigeria is not at war, but the indices of war stare the country in the face. In January 1968, in the thick of the civil war, Nigerians probably felt safer, at least in some sections of the country, than today.
The situation is different now. Today, not only are Nigerians feeling unsafe, they are actually not safe in every part of the country – North-East, North-West, North- Central, South-South, South-East and South-West. Not a single part of the country is exempted. The life of a Nigerian is probably not worth more than a unit of the country’s currency – kobo.
There is insecurity in form of insurrection, communal strife, banditry, kidnapping, arm struggling, wanton killings by Boko Haram, ethnic militias and herdsmen, among others. Nigeria may not be at war, but the country is at war with itself. Unfortunately, most of the security issues are self-inflicted.
They are mostly products of management or lack of it by government, importantly, the hegemonic government at the centre. Today, almost every Nigerian believes, rightly or otherwise, that the Federal Government is sympathetic to criminals than the helpless and hapless innocent citizens.
The Federal Government, it seems, is quick to rise in defence of criminals, especially those from a section of the country, than giving justice to the afflicted. People embrace self-help, usually when avenues to seek redress are either blocked or compromised.
This explains the fledgling crisis in the South-West. A few days ago, the administration of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu ordered herders in the reserved forests in Ondo State to leave within seven days. Rather than seek solution to the seemingly intractable problem of kidnapping for ransom, maiming and killing of abductees associated with herders in the forests in the state, the Federal Government, as usual, has picked up the gauntlet against the state government.
As if taking a cue from Ondo State government, some Nigerians, mostly youths, led by an acclaimed freedom fighter, Chief Sunday Adeyemo popularly called Sunday Igboho, also gave a seven-day ultimatum to Fulani to vacate towns, particularly Igangan, in Ibarapa Local Government Area of Oyo State, over reported cases of abduction for ransom and killings, among other criminal acts.
Igboho said he was pained by atrocities being committed, allegedly by Fulani, in the area, particularly the recent killings, including the murder of Dr. Aborode. He said: “Dr. Aborode lived for several years abroad. He brought a lot of money home, established a very big farm and employed many of our youths. The herders led their herd to destroy his farm.
Dr. Aborode decided to go and lodge a complaint with the Seriki Fulani, but he was tied there and was cut to death with machetes.”
Igboho added that this and many other criminal acts on the part of the Fulani compelled him to declare war on the ethnic group in the area. But the ultimatum, which expired on January 23, like the Ondo State case, has generated ripples across the country. In their reactions, Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State and the Inspector-General of Police (IG), Muhammad Adamu, have ordered Igboho’s arrest.
However, Igboho has dared both Makinde and Adamu to arrest him.
But some prominent Nigerians have warned the Federal Government to handle the issue with tact and gumption in order not to create another militia group in the South- West like the Boko Haram in the North, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in the South- East and the militant groups in the South- South, among others. Some Yoruba leaders have, however, given tacit support to the move to evict herdsmen from the South-West.
One of such groups is the Yoruba global movement, Ilana Omo Oodua. Expressing support for the directive by Akeredolu, the Worldwide Leader of Ilana Omo Oodua, Prof. Banji Akintoye, accused the Presidency of supporting criminality by faulting the governor’s order asking herdsmen to vacate forest reserves in the state.
Akintoye wondered why the Federal Government has refused to prosecute many herdsmen engaging in criminal activities. Also, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) warned the Federal Government to stop the attacks on Fulani in the South or the country may face another civil war.
ACF National Publicity Secretary, Emmanuel Yawe, said in a statement that the Civil War of the 1960s started with such attacks. He said: “The government must be proactive and stop history from repeating itself. If this is not done, there may be counter-attacks in the North and the country will be up in flames.”
But in its reaction, the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, warned ACF to stop beating the drums of war. Its National Publicity Secretary, Yinka Odumakin, said that ACF had never shown any remorse over the killings of Yoruba by the Fulani.
“We must make it clear to them that they cannot threaten us with a war at this stage as we will not provoke war, but never are we going to run for anybody on our land,” Odumakin said.
While we urge restraint on the part of the Yoruba freedom fighters and the Fulani in Oyo State, we implore the Federal Government to be decisive in dealing with acts of criminality, no matter the form or from which ethnic stock, not only in the South-West, but in all parts of the country.
A criminal, no matter the language he speaks or the colour of his skin, must be seen as a criminal and treated as one. The Federal Government must be seen as a father of all and a father to all. That is only when it can bring the country back from the precipice of civil war