By Femi Ezekiel
One needs to understand the crisis in Somalia (a country in the horn of Africa) to be able to appreciate what lies ahead for Nigeria if its leaders continue to fail in their various responsibilities. Somalia is a country that ordinarily has everything going for it, but has failed to harness any of the factors that should have worked in its favour. However, the psychological trauma inflicted in the hearts of the people of Ogun West, following the recent invasion of their communities by suspected cattle rustlers is yet to heal and has called for great concerns.
The sleepy communities, namely Eggua, Owode-Ketu, Ebute-Ero, Oja-Odan, Moro, Bamajo, Iyana-Meta, Gbokoto, Ijoun, Iselu, Ibeku, Igan-Alade, Ohunbe, Ibaayun.and Orile-Igbooro (all in Yewa North) and Imeko, in Imeko-Afon Local Government Areas, respectively, falling within the purview of Ketuland located within Yewa North and Imeko-Afon Local Government Areas (Ogun West), came under scathing attacks. Invariably, Ketu-speaking people are unique in culture and tradition. They all share close proximity to neighbouring towns and villages in the Republic of Benin. And hardly would a first-time visitor to any of these communities distinguish between a Nigerian and a Benionese, because the inhabitants of these two West African countries speak the same local dialect called, ‘Ketu’. The locales whose economic lives are predominantly peasant farmers, are hardworking, peace-loving and hospitable. Not until recently, not much had been heard about the Ketu people who are the true descendants of the first son (Alaketu) of Oduduwa, the progenitor of the Yoruba race whose headquarters is located within the shores of the Republic of Benin. Ketuland came to the public glare, penultimate Monday, following the invasion of the various communities by suspected criminal Fulani herdsmen who killed about 12 inhabitants, maimed a score and also torched about 30 houses.
At least, for a week, stemming from the morbid fear of a renewed attacks, some inhabitants fled to the neighbouring communities in the Republic of Benin and took refuge. But when it appeared that hope was almost dashed, the state government swiftly swung into action. It should be noted that, one of the basic responsibilities of any caring, responsive and responsible government is the protection and safety of lives and property of its citizenry. In this regard, the state government deserves a pat in the back for its swift intervention in bringing the situation under control. Thus, the Ogun State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, had demonstrated his uncommon passion, wisdom, knowledge and resilience to stave off the imminent escalation of the attacks which could have taken ethnic colouration. To a large extent, with his methodical, inclusive, responsive and responsible approach to governance, his on-the-spot assessment tour of the affected communities ravaged by the carnage and arson on the host communities by the rampaging cattle rustlers had offered hope of a better deal.
Next in line to the recent “stakeholders parley on farmers/herders conflict” to broker a peace deal, witnessed by five governors drawn from Ondo (Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu), Kano (Alhaji Abudullahi Ganduje), Niger (Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello), Zamfara (Alhaji Bello Muhammad Matawalle) and Kebbi (Alhaji Abubakar Atiku Bagudu), respectively, the state government went a step further on Saturday, February 20, 202 and consummated its trouble-shooting mission, when it inaugurated a 20-man Peace-Keeping Committee on Farmers/Herders Conflict. The committee headed by Barrister Kayode Oladele, an immediate past lawmaker who represented Yewa North/Imeko-Afon Federal Constituency, between 2015 and 2019, was charged with the responsibilities of looking into the remote and immediate causes of the clashes and proffering lasting solutions.
The Committee which has four weeks to submit its report, the governor charged; “Government believes in the committee. What really happened that disrupt the peace of the areas will be made known, because knowing what happened would prevent future occurrences and how to solve it. “You will ensure that the clashes do not happen again. But, if it happens again, you would know the steps to be taken. You will also look at any other matters that threaten peace in the state”. With a clear mandate to fostering peaceful co-existence among the residents in the state, the directive of the Governor to the Ministry of Housing and Special Duties to rehabilitate all displaced persons within 24 hours and work out compensation for all the affected victims is an avowed commitment and testimony to the fact that the administration has the interest of the people at heart. True to type, barely 24 hours of the directive, the government, through the committee, made good its promise, with the provision of relief materials on Sunday. Items delivered include rice, beans, garri, groundnut oil, Indomie noodles and other foodstuffs to the affected victims in the area.
Soon afterwards, precisely, on Monday, February 22, 2021, without delay, embarked on tour of the affected communities. Suffice to say that, the barrage of criticisms that had earlier greeted ‘the government’s tardiness’ (in respect of the wildest imagination of the political opponents), in response to the attacks was erroneously misplaced. The traducers stopped at nothing but started making mountain out of a mole hill. The state government has given it all. No wonder the method adopted to resolve the imbroglio has become a recommended model in conflicts resolution mechanisms to other states which also had the same encounters in the hands of the invading Fulani herdsmen.
There is no better place like home. Thus, Yewa Traditional rulers, led by the Olu of Ilaro and Paramount Ruler of Yewaland, Oba Kehinde Olugbenle, and supported by the Onimeko of Imeko, Oba Benjamin Olanite, and Eselu of Iselu, Oba Ebenezer Akinyemi, have braved the odds. Their exemplary leadership acumen is a beckon of hope in calming frayed nerves of their aggrieved people. They have raised the alarm over the arms build-up within their respective domains. Onimeko of Imeko, who spoke during a stakeholders’ meeting in Abeokuta on Tuesday, February 16, 2021, said the whole of Yewaland had been infiltrated with sophisticated arms and ammunition. The monarch averred that the development had exposed people living in the area to serious attacks by armed herdsmen.
Ezekiel writes from Abeokuta, Ogun state