It is about a week since Sunday Adeyemo aka Sunday Igboho, ordered perceived criminal elements among herdsmen to vacate the Ibarapa axis of Oyo State. GBENGA ADERANTI looks at what has changed in the last seven days.
A day before an ultimatum issued by Sunday Adeyemo aka Sunday Igboho to herders living in the Ibarapa forest expired last week, some of the people fingered to have worked in cahoots with kidnappers and other criminal elements among the herdsmen, hurriedly left the community, but not without a warning that they would come back.
One of the sons of the leader of the herdsmen allegedly posted on social media that the herders were coming to get their pound of flesh. “Don’t worry, you will beg, and nobody will hear your plea. Just wait, Igboho will come and secure you every day,” he wrote.
The message sent chills down the spines of many natives but the community quickly conquered its fear. The people maintained their calm hoping that the ancestors of Ibarapa would protect them.
“We are waiting for him. Our ancestors will not allow their nefarious plan to come into reality. The people of Igangan did not threaten the herders,” one of the locals told The Nation.
True to his promise, on Friday, when his ultimatum expired, Sunday Igboho stormed Igangan. In fact, an unconfirmed report said that he slept in the town a day before. Though he has left the community, his presence had a positive impact on the residents and bolstered their security architecture.
Since Igboho’s intervention, the community has enjoyed relative peace. More security personnel are present both within the town and in the forest even as the Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde deployed 200 Amotekun operatives to the area.
A source told The Nation, that, except for the confrontation at Ayete few days ago, the criminal activities in that axis of the state have reduced.
A traditional ruler of one of the communities in Ibarapa allegedly sent a message to one of the leaders of the herders in the forest that the herders should leave the forest. “The message got the leader of the herders angry and there was a confrontation which prompted shootings from both sides. And there were casualties on both sides,” revealed the source.
Unlike the past, when the locals were always on the receiving end, any time reports were made to the police, they didn’t bear the brunt this time around. The source stated that, “If you report a herder to the police, their leader will lock you up because he has the money. That was the situation before now.”
Further investigations revealed that there is so much resentment against the leader of the herders. Most of the locals believe that as long as he was in the community, the criminal elements among the herders would continue to operate unhindered.
The locals vowed to resist any attempt to bring him back. Pleading anonymity, another source stated that, “We are so pained and we did not expect that the governor would treat this matter with levity despite the gravity of the allegations levelled against the leader of the herders. The governor didn’t call for investigations yet we are hearing that he is planning to resettle him in Igangan. The community would resist the move if he tries it. There is so much resentment against him and almost all of us have vowed to resist his return.
“They said the leader of the herders had been around for 40 years. What is special about the man? There are so many northerners living in Igangan. There are those who are not in the cattle business at all, they sell pepper, onions and so on. What is so special about him that he should come back? The government should look beyond saying we are stoking ethnic tension.”
Speaking to The Nation, Taiwo Olujide Habeeb, one of the town’s youths, said Igangan is relatively calm now and people have been going about their lawful businesses.
He confirmed the deployment of 200 Amotekun operatives by Governor Makinde stating that, “They are on ground right now. The vigilance group and local hunters are currently in the forest, fishing out the remaining criminals in the forest and the cattle rustlers.”
But while other non-natives who are not herders are still living in the communities, the majority of the herders have left some parts of Ibarapa. Habeeb said, “In my family house we have about five Hausas as tenants. The truth of the matter is that most of the herders in the bush, especially the pastoralists are criminals.”
He condemned a situation where some people tried to play politics with the crisis by ethnicizing it. “I’m just angry with the different narratives claiming that we are chasing Fulanis away. Who are the Fulanis we are chasing away? In my community, we still have markets for Fulani and Hausa.”
He stated that there was no relationship between the people of Igangan and Sunday Igboho until the attacks on the locals became unbearable.
According to him, before the intervention of Sunday Igboho, the community was under siege, but the situation is a bit different right now. “Those people had already surrounded us, they were in the bush, until Sunday Igboho came,” he said.
He likened the situation to that in which someone was in pain and seeking available remedies to the pain. He said, “That was what happened between Igangan and Sunday Igboho. We were crying. I had written lots of articles, made Facebook posts, sent petitions about my mother. Has anything been done? Has there been any arrest?”
Habeeb’s mother was attacked by herders while working on her farm. Her attackers cut off her fingers thus robbing her of the ability to farm and earn a living. Habeeb, who is a fan of President Muhammadu Buhari told The Nation that some of the herders were fond of dropping President Buhari’s name when committing crime.
Narrating his encounter with one of the herders, he said: “I had 10 hectares of farmland in my village at Akoya. One day, one of the herders brought his cattle to my farm. He said he would graze on my farm and I told him that I would make sure he was arrested, he said Buhari would rescue him. That is how they have been spoiling the President’s name.”
He advised that the herders association, Miyetti Allah, should support the community in its fight against crime instead of issuing threats after the deed had been done.
He also wants Governor Makinde to personally come to the region and assess the level of hardship and destruction. He said, “When the Oyo State Commissioner of Police, Ngozi Onadeko, came to this place, her jaw dropped when she saw the situation on ground. Before coming to conduct on the spot assessment, she probably felt that the situation was being exaggerated until people started bringing out proof.”
Before the current crisis, most of the herders and the natives had a cordial relationship; even the current impasse has not been able to separate them as some of them still communicate. Some of the locals still maintain cordial relations with their herder friends via social media.
Another local who pleaded anonymity confirmed that Igangan is peaceful now, stressing that, no case of kidnapping has been reported in any part of Ibarapa in the last two weeks, “since some of the herders were asked to vacate the forest before they were eventually evicted on Friday January 22nd.”
Other herders had been moving freely in the community. “They come to buy beverages and do one or two things like before. We relate cordially like before because we had never for a day disliked their tribe, but we don’t want evil minded ones among them. Now that the Seriki is out of our vicinity, the fear of banditry is evaporating and we hope the war we have conquered will never rise again.”
He confirmed the pockets of confrontations between the local youths and some herders that are still in the forest. “Apart from a herders’ camp at Kajola village, we heard some youths stormed the forest to dislodge herdsmen who were in possession of unlicensed guns, and there was a clash between them on Tuesday morning, but security men intervened and everything is settled now.”
According to him, the traditional councils and the community leaders had beseeched the hunters to cooperate constructively with the other security agencies towards securing lives and avert any possible attack from the herdsmen.
Qudus Odugbemi, another local, however, expressed reservations about the presence of heavily armed herders in the forest. He said, “They are well-armed like Boko Haram, ready to kill anyone.”
According to him, the community had been receiving lots of information about a reprisal attack but many hunters from the communities have volunteered to help secure the lands. Aware of the sophisticated weapons “being used by some criminal elements among the herders,” he said the community is ready to defend itself.
“I think it will be better not to discuss how the community intends to do that, for security reasons, but I can assure you that many measures have been put in place to curb any kind of attack by the criminal herdsmen,” he said.
The relationship between the locals and the herders in the forest has been marred by mutual suspicion. If a Yoruba man is seen talking with a herder, he might be called a traitor and that person could face molestation by angry youths.
The herdsmen in the forest are afraid to show up in town while the natives are also afraid to go to their farms, and this has brought about shortage of food and serious hardship. “Nothing is good for now because farmers are still unable to go to their farms, in short, Igangan economy is facing meltdown, because at present, everything is stagnant,” said Odugbemi.
Source: The Nation