Friday’s attack on a Fulani settlement in Igangan in Ibarapa North Local Government Area of Oyo State, after the expiration of the seven-day ultimatum given by a youth leader and secessionist, Sunday Adeyemo, popularly known as Sunday Igboho, was the climax of two weeks of tension that had pervaded the Ibarapa axis.
A week after the purported clash between the operatives of the Oyo State Security Network, Amotekun, and herders in Okebi settlement of Ibarapa North, Sunday Igboho stormed Igangan, specifically the settlement of Sarkin Fulani, Alhaji Abdulkadir Salihu, and asked them to vacate their land.
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This was at a time the dust raised by the purported ‘clash’ where three Fulani herders were killed was yet to settle.
What was the mission of Amotekun operatives in Okebi Fulani settlement in Tapa on Saturday, January 9, 2021?
This is a poser that has been generating ripples, deepening the tension among the herders and farmers in the community.
Daily Trust reports that dozens of Amotekun operatives stormed Okebi village on the fateful Saturday in what the outfit called a clash between it and herders suspected to be kidnappers terrorising communities in the axis.
But the Fulani herders, majority of whom have lived in the village for decades, insist the attack was premeditated, saying the claim that it was a clash with kidnappers was unfounded.
Amidst the claim and counter-claim, the state police command has commenced investigation into the purported clash even as the state governor, Seyi Makinde, sent a delegation led by his Executive Assistant on Security Matters, Mr Sunday Odukoya, to the scene of the attack to ascertain what went wrong.
The Commandant of Amotekun Corps in Oyo State, retired Col. Olayinka Olayanju, said there was no clash between his men and Fulani herdsmen. He told newsmen in Ibadan that his men launched six operations in four local government areas but that the team at Aiyete was attacked in the forest by suspected bandits and three of them were killed by his men.
According to him, the operations were fully supported by Fulani leaders living in the areas, adding that a number of Miyetti Allah members were part of the operations.
The commandant also indicated that the operation around the forests was embarked upon following incessant reports of killings and kidnapping in the area.
He said, “When our men entered the forest at Aiyete, they were attacked, leading to a gun battle where three of the attackers died. One of our men sustained injuries.”
- Those killed were not bandits but herders – Residents
But during a visit to Okebi Fulani settlement (Gaa Okebi) which was about two kilometres from Aiyete town, the residents claimed those killed were not bandits but herders who have lived in the village for decades without any criminal record.
Those killed were one Alhaji Usman Okebi who was said to be the deputy Sarkin Fulani of Oyo State, Abdullahi Usman, a Fulani farmer and one Saidu Usman.
Residents of the settlement who are said to have been living there for decades are still mourning the death of their kinsmen who lost their lives in penultimate Saturday attack. They said linking them to kidnappers amounted to painting the Fulani in bad light.
Besides, they said on the day of the incident, preparations were on for the wedding ceremony of one of the children of the deceased Alhaji Usman.
One of the sons of Alhaji Usman, Ahmadu Usman, who spoke with Daily Trust in Gaa Okebi insisted that there was no kidnapper in their midst.
He took our correspondent round the settlement where several houses were burnt down by Amotekun. According to him, the attack came to them as a surprise.
He said, “On the morning of Saturday, we were hearing gunshot as we were preparing for the wedding of Alhaji Usman’s daughter but to our surprise, we saw that they have shot at Saidu and Alhaji Usman came to the rescue with Abdullahi to provide some help but they shot at him and Abdullahi who was carrying him on his bike and they died immediately.
“Another victim of the incident, Bello, is currently at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) Abeokuta receiving treatment. Two others have been discharged.”
He disclosed that Saidu, who was alleged to be a kidnapper, was attacked at his settlement known as Gaa Gege.
Also, Fatima Usman, whose husband, Alhaji Usman, was killed by Amotekun, said she was yet to recover from the shock of what happened that day, insisting that her husband is not a kidnapper.
From Gaa Okebi, our correspondent went to Okebi village occupied by the Yoruba speaking people to get their perspective on Saturday’s incident.
The Baale of Okebi, Azeez Busari, who spoke with one of our correspondents said he was not in the village on the day the incident happened. He said Alhaji Usman, who was the leader of Okebi settlement, had been living with them peacefully.
Asked if they were aware of kidnappers hiding in the settlement, he said it could be possible but they have no proof about that.
- Our fear over Amotekun coming to reality – Fulani
Our correspondent also met the Sarkin Fulani of Oyo State at his palace in Igangan before it was razed down on Friday. The palace was about one kilometre away from Gaa Okebi where the attack by Amotekun took place.
Alhaji Saliu Abdulkadir, who was sitting in his palace at Igangan, expressed worry over the killing of Alhaji Usman whom, he said, was his deputy.
He said while the Fulani herders have no problem with Amotekun, recent killings attributed to the operatives is a cause for concern.
“We feel strongly that Amotekun operatives were established to confront Fulani herdsmen and stereotype us. We have criminals everywhere and we have instances where Yoruba people were arrested either as kidnappers or armed robbers and they were confirmed to be indigenes of Ibarapa here,” he said.
Abdulkadir, however, appealed to herders in Oyo State to remain calm and law-abiding even as he assured that the Fulani community would continue to support security operatives by exposing criminals irrespective of their tribe. But he said the recent incident must be thoroughly investigated while culprits must be brought to book.
- Amotekun remains our saviour – Yoruba leader
Locals from Igbo Ora, Aiyete, Tapa and other communities in Ibarapa Central and Ibarapa North told Daily Trust that they have been having sleepless nights due to the activities of kidnappers and armed robbers. They said many cases of kidnapping have been reported in the past few weeks allegedly perpetrated by herders.
The increased kidnapping activities is the latest dimension in the long-standing tension fanning the farmers-herders’ crisis which led to the shutting down of two cattle markets in the Igbo Ora-Ideere axis. This was due to the suspicion that some suspected kidnappers could mingle freely with herders after perpetrating their crime.
Despite the closure of the markets, they said kidnapping activities allegedly perpetrated by herders have been on the increase.
Meanwhile, the traditional ruler of Aiyete, headquarters of Ibarapa North Local Government, Asao of Aiyete, Emmanuel Okeniyi Borisabunmi, said Amotekun is a blessing to them despite recent criticisms against the outfit.
Oba Borisabunmi who spoke with Daily Trust in his palace said the seven communities under Ibarapa had series of attacks in recent times from kidnappers and bandits and many innocent people died while many others lost fortunes paid in ransom.
He said, “This is a bad occurrence which we are contending with and all our people who were kidnapped said their abductors were Fulanis. Though we were also told they are not from Ibarapa here, that they come from Chad, Niger and Sokoto to carry out their nefarious activities but all we know from the various accounts of the victims is that they are herders and they have been terrorising our people down to Oke Ogun.”
According to him, Amotekun has come to stay and must be supported by all and sundry to curb the rate of kidnapping and banditry in Ibarapa land.
- Why Fulani can’t be part of Amotekun?
Balogun Asawo of Aiyete land, Chief Raheem Gafari, who was also annoyed with the increasing activities of kidnappers in Ibarapa, said Amotekun remains a laudable initiative.
But he is of the view that their operation must be harmonised with the existing Operation Burst Unit made up of Army operating in the community.
“I would want the government to involve the Army in this Amotekun because they know the skills and tactics of handling arms. They can train these people so that they don’t misuse the arms and ammunition given to them,” he said.
The chief however said Fulani indigenes cannot be part of Amotekun because they don’t understand the traditions of Yorubaland, wondering if there was any Yoruba in Hisbah which is a variant of Amotekun in parts of the North.
- The Igboho, Akeredolu ultimatums
But in a twist to the incident, after Sunday Igboho stormed Igangan to issue his seven-day quit ultimatum, he went ahead to implement it as the palace of the Sarki was razed while several properties including cars were burnt down. Children and women in the settlement were all displaced with some of them unaccounted for.
While the dust in Oyo is yet to settle, Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu also gave the Fulani herders in the state seven days to vacate the state’s forest reserves.
Akeredolu also banned night and under-aged grazing, saying children of less than 18 years should not be involved in grazing.
The development has, however, opened up debate about the implication of threat, ultimatum and quit notices which analysts say threatens the peace of the entire nation.
A peace advocate and Executive Director of Foundation for Peace Professionals (known as PeacePro), Abdulrazaq Hamza, speaking on the development said, “The repeated quit notices being given to citizens of Nigeria within Nigeria in response to conflict or crisis will amount to mismanagement of crisis.
“Such notice, no matter the intention, will do more harm than good and government across the country should do everything they can to discourage such unhealthy practices
“The insecurity in the country affects everybody. PeacePro’s shows that contrary to popular narrative, even the Fulani herders are also victims of the insecurity and it would amount to double catastrophe to create an atmosphere of chaos under the guise of seeking an end to insecurity.”
Also speaking, an activist, Comrade Achike Chude, said giving ‘quit notices’ for people to leave a place within the country would only worsen the fragile peace and instability in the country, adding that the government must find a way of nipping the issue in the bud.