By Ojo Oyewamide
He is simply known as Alhaji Ilyasu. Ilyasu is a Fulani man. He and some other Fulani reside and do their legitimate business of cattle rearing in Odigbo Local Government Area of Ondo state. But sometime in December last year, some cattle rustlers came to steal his cows. He ran to the State Security Agency, Amotekun Corps, to seek help.
After listening to Ilyasu’s complaint, Amotekun men ran to the scene. They thwarted the theft. The rustlers ran away and abandoned the Nissan Serena bus they wanted to use in stealing the cows. The vehicle was impounded and brought to the Amotekun office. Two cows were recovered and returned to Ilyasu, who is the owner.
Amotekun did not relax their efforts to bring the thieves to book despite foiling the theft. For ten days, they were on the trail of the hoodlums. They were able to trace the rustlers to Ijebu-Ode in Ogun state. One Sudauna Gombe was arrested. Also apprehended was the driver of the abandoned Nissan Serena bus, one Ogunyale Sola. They were handed over to the Agro Department of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps for detailed investigation. They confessed that they had been in the criminal trade of cattle rustling for some time.
It is a pleasant irony that it was Amotekun that saved Ilyasu’s business from the onslaught of a gang led by Sudauna Gombe, who is probably a Fulani man, considering his name. When it was created, Amotekun faced ferocious attacks from the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), a group that promotes the interest of Fulani herdsmen in the country. The security outfit was viewed as a threat to the lives and property of the Fulani in the South-west region. The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, declared Amotekun illegal.
The case of Ilyasu is a proof that Amotekun was created to protect all the residents of Ondo state, irrespective of their ethnic groups, religions and social status. The security outfit does not exist only for the indigenes of the state or the Yoruba people. It is in the interest of all Nigerians who have chosen to live and do their legitimate businesses in the Sunshine state.
Amotekun was established to tackle kidnapping, armed robbery, banditry and other crimes. Whoever is involved in any of these crimes – either an indigene or a non-indigene, either Yoruba or Fulani or Hausa or Ibo – is the target of the security agency.
Just as Amotekun is for all, the order of the state government that herdsmen should quit the state forest reserves is also in the interest of all the residents of the state, including Fulani. The controversy generated by it is needles. Unfortunately, the fuss was provoked by misinterpretation, misrepresentation and misinformation.
Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, did not ask the Fulani resident in the state to leave. The governor is a lawyer, a very senior one. He knows that the constitution of the country does not give him the power to determine where any law-abiding Nigerian can live. But he has the constitutional right to protect lives and property as governor of the state. This is his intention.
The quit notice is merely part of the strategies to secure the state. If the herders are registered and known, it will be easy to identify those perpetrating evil under them. And if the state is well-secured, the Ilyasus residing in the state will also benefit from the peaceful atmosphere. They will be doing their businesss without the fear of cattle rustlers like Sudauna Gombe.
The furore generated by the quit order has again brought to focus the fragility of Nigeria as a nation. Ethnic suspicion is as old as the country. And if care is not taken, it will one day snap the weak bind that ties the country together. Actions and statements of our leaders are always given ethnic interpretations. The remote cause of the Biafra war was the ethnic interpretation of the January 15, 1966 military coup. Because of the lopsided execution of the plot, it was interpreted to be an Igbo Coup. The coup set off a chain of events, including the Biafra war.
To continue to go on with one Nigeria, there is the need to evolve a system that will greatly help in effectively managing the plurality of the country. A system that will help the country tame the monster of ethnic suspicion.
However, the furore brought out the best of the people of Ondo state. They saw the courage of their governor and loved him more. Political affiliations were put aside in their show of solidarity. They queued behind the governor in the raging storm. It is great to be an indigene of the Sunshine state!
*** Oyewamide is Senior Special Assistant to Governor Akeredolu on Media and Publicity