The Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Chief Gani Adams, in this interview by BOLA BADMUS, speaks, among other things, on the worsening security situation in the country.
You recently raised the alarm that terrorists were hibernating in the forests of Osun and Ogun states. Is the situation still the same?
I think it is still the same. From all indication, we are yet to hear that they have been flushed out of those places. You will remember that when I gave the information about Ibarapa about two years ago, before the issue of Igangan started, I told the whole world that there were bandits between Igboora and Igangan. I also issued a statement about Kisi; that there were some terrorists attacking and kidnapping them. I said the terrorists had taken over the forest reserve there, the Oyo National Park. We moved to Kisi for a rescue operation, during which we apprehended some suspects, seized some arms and ammunition. That was about two years ago. We, in conjunction with the OPC, hunters and vigilantes, handed the suspects over to the Area Commander. They (the terrorists) were there in Oke-Ogun.
Before the issue of the Sarkin Fulani of Igangan and Wakili arose, I had informed the public about Igboora, in the Ibarapa area. At the end of the day, Sunday Igboho went to Igangan and challenged the Sarkin Fulani. He went there for a rally against the Fulani terrorising the two and other areas. The development led to attacks from different Fulani communities in that area. The killing and maiming of our people was coordinated by Wakili in-between Igangan and Ayete. We moved to apprehend Wakili’s second-in-command in Igboora, the same place I raised the information that they were. We apprehended Wakili and three other suspects. Wakili is still in Agodi prison.
You knew what happened to our members who handed over Wakili to the police. They were arrested alongside Wakili and were slammed with different charges by the Nigeria Police. It was because of our legal application that we were able to secure their freedom after four months in prison. That experience is one of the things that impeded us from moving to security-threatened areas without clearance from the government. Without the police, without clearance from the traditional rulers of the communities, it would be difficult to embark on rescue operations. If the police did not frustrate our efforts on the issue of Wakili, we could have moved to flush them out of the forests without even giving this intelligence to the public. What we experienced regarding the Wakili issue gave us a lot of concern; we are aggrieved. We don’t pray for anarchy but we can’t act without the approval of the government and the traditional rulers of the communities. Even if the government did not give approval, the traditional ruler of a community has a say in what is going on in his community, and so with his consent, we can move. That was one of the reasons why we released the information that there was a band of terrorists with a lot of arms and ammunition in the forests.
There is another one in the forest between Ido (Oyo State) and Abeokuta (Ogun State). You will recall that one of the leaders of Boko Haram was arrested in Abeokuta on Saturday. I had not heard about that before I released my intelligence. I realised that some Yoruba leaders are not serious about the issue of insecurity. They are so concerned about the politics of 2023. With this information, we received limited response from them because they are only interested in political patronage.
The wave of terrorist attacks is coming to the South-West with each passing day. Many communities have been overrun. About 70 per cent of major communities in the North-East have been attacked. Apart from Kano, there is nowhere in the North-West that is free from attacks.
A friend of mine went to Yobe. He said some people carried rifles to defend themselves from terrorists and the police did not arrest them. He said in parts of the North, people, including women, now go to farms with rifles. So, before we begin to get overrun in the South-West, I must alert the Yoruba that we should brace up because the Aare is just an institution in Yorubaland, he can’t do it alone. One of my jobs is that if a well-meaning Nigerian provides information, I should disseminate it to the public. You will recall that I called the governors to organise a stakeholders’ security conference. But they held the security meeting with the obas and excluded the Aare Ona Kakanfo.
You mentioned Kano as being free from terrorist attacks. What does that state have that is going for it?
I don’t know the magic. From the information at our disposal, Kano has the lowest number of attacks in the North-West. Kaduna is an eyesore. Almost all the communities in southern Kaduna have been attacked. Even the Fulani there have been attacked. Kaduna was where terrorists abducted the train passengers that were going to Abuja. They are collecting N100 million on each person they want to set free. For any kidnap victim in Kaduna, they (the terrorists) would demand a ransom of N100 million. So we (in the South-West) definitely have to brace up.
How did Nigeria arrive at this state of anomie?
I think the worst situation is happening under the government of [Muhammadu] Buhari. We are being enslaved.
What did the country do wrongly that brought about this unfortunate situation?
Well, what we are hearing but which we cannot substantiate is that when they were planning to take over power from President Goodluck Jonathan, some of the terrorists were brought into the country. That is what we are hearing the people say but I don’t say anything that I cannot substantiate. That is what is coming from the rumour mill. People are saying that these people (terrorists) are making demands because there was an agreement between them and those who brought them in. As opposition, when they wanted to wrest power from Jonathan in 2015, they promised those people but when they got to power, they could not meet the demands. These guys then scattered themselves to different communities and started terrorising those areas.
What we had in 2015 was a few elements of Boko Haram in Borno and Yobe states. They are now in all of the North-East and have moved to the North-West. The Middle-Belt was not feeling the pain then. But after the coming of the government of Buhari, there were allegations against some personalities in the government that these people hired them to come and support Buhari; that if he didn’t win, they should cause a civil war, which we cannot substantiate. But there seems to be elements of truth in that rumour because what we have never witnessed before what we are witnessing in Nigeria today.
Normally, when you see northerners coming to Yorubaland, you would be happy that they are coming for trading, for business. Some of them would go for petty jobs, some for security jobs and others would engage in shoe shining. But now Yoruba people are seeing them as security threat. Even genuine northerners, when they are coming loaded in trailers or buses, we now see them as security threat. Something like this had never happened since independence. In Agege, Lagos, there are some northerners that have lived there for about 70 years. Even in Idi-Araba there are northerners that have live there for close to 50 years who speak Yoruba fluently. Also, if you go to the north, to areas where there is a concentration of southerners, you see Yoruba and Igbo people speaking Hausa language fluently. But now that religion and terrorism have been mixed with politics, we are having this problem.
President Buhari has repeatedly ordered the security forces to flush out terrorists but the insecurity brought on by these elements has persisted. Who is to blame, the security forces or the government?
Nothing can change because our security architecture has been seriously infiltrated. In the South-West, you will see a common Hausa/Fulani person being apprehended on a security matter and the next thing is that he would pick up his phone and call a Commissioner of Police at the Force Headquarters and the commissioner would call to say, ‘release him immediately’. If you arrest them on an issue and you don’t put it in the media immediately, they would get away with it. If a Commissioner of Police does not parade them and make a case to the public, they would order him to release them, no matter the weight of the atrocities they committed.
Look at the Ogun State scenario, the DSS apprehended the suspect only to realise that he was one of the leaders of Boko Haram in the state. They called the DSS headquarters, they called the police but there was nothing they could do and the issue became a media affair. That was when they held the suspect. We don’t know where they have put the suspect now.
So, the situation has got bad to the extent that if care is not taken, we will have on our hands a situation like that of Somalia or Afghanistan. I think they are planning to replicate what happened in Afghanistan. A situation whereby they infiltrated Abuja and freed Kuje prison inmates, hardened criminals, bombers that had been operating since 2010, is worrisome. Top commanders of Boko Haram, they released them from Kuje prison.
They went to Oyo prison, too, and released some suspects. Intelligence was provided by the DSS to the Commander-in-Chief or the National Security Adviser (NSA) but they didn’t act on them. The Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives said several intelligence was provided but they refused to act on them and the attack eventually took place. The terrorists spent about four hours in Kuje, attacking the prison. Where were the military officers stationed at the prison? They left the place 24hours before the attack.
Do you see any end in sight to happenings like that anytime soon?
If we don’t act fast, the situation will persist. There are criminals operating with impunity. They are upgrading their strategies. They have access to funds, foreign money and money they are realising from kidnapping.
A lady called me this morning (Wednesday) from Botswana and said her husband was kidnapped in an area in Ilesa. The guy was kidnapped while trying to buy solid minerals in that area. On leaving the area, they ambushed him in Iregun and took him away. The kidnappers are requesting for N100 million. I provided intelligence that this thing was happening between Osu forest and Ile-Ife, Osun State. Osu is part of Ilesa. I gave the details. But they have abducted this woman’s husband, Musbau Adepoju, and are demanding N100 million. This is the same way they are operating in Kaduna.
Some days ago, in Kogi State, a traditional ruler and a local government chairman were suspended over alleged security compromise. Also, in Zamfara State a traditional ruler was suspended for conferring a chieftaincy title on a wanted bandits’ leader. From what Nigerians are seeing, will it be out of place to conclude that some traditional rulers are active collaborators in the insecurity that is plaguing the country?
With due respect to our Royal Majesties, some them are culprits regarding this issue. Some of them are trading with the herders. Some of them are buying cows and giving them to the herders to rear for them. They are being reluctant to act against the herders if they are doing wrong things in their communities. Some of them harbour Fulani people to deal with the solid minerals in their communities. A good example can be found in Ilesa. The Hausa/Fulani have taken over most of the communities in Ilesa because of the gold there, natural resources that coming generations are supposed to benefit from. If care is not taken, they will cause earthquake in that area because they are digging beyond the normal depth looking for gold.
Information at our disposal suggests that this thing is happening with the connivance of our traditional rulers. Even if you must do that business, you should have Yoruba people that could be trained to do it. When you allow 50 of these people to do this business, before you know it, they have brought 500 more people. They have built communities upon communities in Ilesa. Now they have started kidnapping in the area, having invited terrorists into their midst. That was what happened in respect of Owo.
I raised the alarm about Owo in the past; that there was a bush there that some terrorists had taken over. They did not listen. Look at what now happened in Owo two times in two months. I said on television that I was given information that there is a village in Owo where there is a solid mineral and the governor was saying that these people should leave but the Federal Government did not allow the order of the governor to prevail.
Southern governors made a law that there should no open grazing but they are still grazing openly in most Yoruba states. They have a penal code in the North. If they say you should not consume alcoholic drinks and you do, you will pay dearly for it. If a lady wears a short skirt in the north, she will face the law. However, our governors in the south made a law that there must not be open grazing but they are still carrying out open grazing and nothing is being done. Are we second-class citizens? Just because they want to get political patronage, the people in authority have constituted themselves as their puppets. They worship them. They fact that they made themselves puppets is not my problem but the security of lives and property. Who knows who their next target is? Although some of us have security around us, what about our family members? What about our extended family members. What about the entire Yoruba people?
These people killed the Oba of Ifon in Ondo State. They killed him while he was returning to Ifon from a meeting of the Council of Obas. The cruel attack in Igangan led to the early death of the Oba of Igangan. The trauma of the burning of his palace by the Fulani led to his untimely death.
In Igbo-Ora, about two months ago, a farmer had his hand cut off. Two people were killed and this led the community to call a meeting and demand that they don’t want Fulani in their area anymore. The commissioner of police went to the governor and the governor said ‘you don’t have the power’. They stopped them. They made the demand because they were frustrated. They can’t go to the farm again in Igbo-Ora.
Fulani herders have constituted themselves into a nuisance in about 10 villages in Yewa in Ogun State. They constitute a serious threat to those communities. To make matters worse, we have our internal security challenge. We have people who are found in secret cults. They create threats in urban areas. If you are talking about security threat, it is not about external enemies alone; we are also talking about enemies within.
Are the governors not doing enough on internal security?
They are the chief security officers of their states. They are trying. At least, they created the Amotekun Corps. But the strength of Amotekun is not enough. Amotekun is not allowed to carry serious arms to fight this menace. What is the strength of Amotekun in entire Osun State? It is not up to 1,000. It is only Oyo State that has about 2,000 Amotekun personnel. There was a time I drove through the bush because I couldn’t pass through Osu. I passed through the bush from Ilesa to Ile-Ife and found that all the forests from Ilesa to Ife have been taken over by northerners. They have created many communities there. There are about 100 hamlets between the two towns, and they are digging gold. And when they have the opportunity, they bring criminals in.
There have been lots of talks about restructuring and candidates of the political parties that are gunning for the leadership of the country in 2023. What are you demanding from these candidates for the country?
I don’t want to talk about politics or candidates of political parties. I am not interested in those now. What I am interested in is that before the president, General Muhammadu Buhari, leaves office next year, he should restructure Nigeria and return the country to regionalism. For Nigeria to have cohesion, he should restructure Nigeria into six geopolitical zones such that every zone will be able to coordinate its internal security. The Federal Government will be in charge of external security and they will have the federal police, DSS, Immigration, Customs, civil defence and the military. The regional governments will have their own regional police, state police and local government police. With that, there would be wonder within six months. These criminals would be forced to go back to Chad, Niger and the other places where they came from. You can’t police my house for me. Let my people police my house for me. If you say you want to police my house for me, there could connivance with those who do not belong to the house to cart away my goods or kidnap me and collect ransom which they would share among themselves.
Anybody that is talking about statism is a criminal. Such a person is being selfish because of the political patronage he is enjoying in a state; he doesn’t want normal coordination from the region.
The constitutional conference of 1995 under General Sani Abacha has given zonal arrangement for this country. We should leverage on that zonal arrangement to the region. If they don’t do that, within two years, Nigeria will break. With the way Nigeria is going, economically, we are zero. Security-wise, we are zero. There is no improvement in infrastructure. We can’t pay salaries anymore. The amount we are paying to service our debt is too much; it is nearing the total revenue we are making. The economy has collapsed. If we allow the regions to have autonomy, they would be able to raise money for the central government to survive based on percentage. That should be enough for the Federal Government to sustain itself.
With this, security will not be a problem again for the Federal Government. But there would be federal police like the FBI in the United States. Internal security will no longer be a problem and nobody would blame the president. On the issues of water supply, agriculture and infrastructure, nobody would blame presidency. The items on the Exclusive Legislative List, they don’t need them. What is the Federal Government doing with the control of agriculture, mineral resources and women and youth Affairs? They don’t need those things. The contents of the Exclusive Legislative List should be reduced. If we don’t do that, there is no prophet that can say Nigeria would be sustained for another two years.