•2 Hours With Oba EBENEZER AKINYEMI AKINTUNDE
The Eselu of Iselu, Oba Ebenezer Akinyemi Akintunde is a big traditional ruler in Ogun State. Over the last one month, he has been crying out for help over the incessant killings of his people in Iselu kingdom by Fulani herdsmen who bring in their cows to graze on the farms of the indigenous farmers. He spoke to City People Publisher SEYE KEHINDE and his crew about his bitter experience. Below are excerpts.
What is the situation right now in your community, in terms of all the challenges you have been through over the last 3 to 4 weeks now. What is the situation like?
Well, the situation we have now is the era of inviting those that went to the Republic of Benin to seek asylum to return back home.
Like last week 5 of them gave birth to children in the Republic of Benin, and the government of the Republic of Benin has been treating them like refugees. But presently, the Governor has sent delegations, security, palliatives to the people. We asked them to come back home, reaffirming to them that the situation is better than before. They have the assurance that their lives is going to be more secure now that the government has taken proactive measures in this regard.
One was surprised that the whole trouble and challenge came only few weeks back, but some people say it’s been going on for a very long time?
It has been an issue that I met when I became the Royal Father in 2005. And we approached the court because I believe we need to take some measures. So, I approached the court, the court gave an order that Fulani should not come there anymore because we don’t sell land to them, they don’t have a particular settlement in my area, but because we have plenty of green grass in my area, they can graze their cattle. So the majority of them came from the Niger Republic to Nigeria, but the resident Fulani in Nigeria; the approach they used to give them is to accommodate them in, take money from them, and ask them to bring in their cattle to the community. But quite unfortunate that they have a particular set of Cows, they called it “Baale”. I invited them and asked them what is Baale, they said those are the bigger ones, that they need carbohydrates, and by needing carbohydrates they don’t really want those Cows to die, so they Cello and give the place to their cattle for carbohydrate. So, by the time the farmers get to the farm and see them, they are already empty, then open fire and kill that person, some they matchet them, they see women going to stream they rape them, break the Cello and give the place to their cattle.
That has always been the challenge. And when you apprehend or arrest them with AK47, you won’t even know what will happen after that. But I quite agree and used to say that, there is no way cattle rearers will be in the same environment as farmers.
Because it’s just like putting a cat and meat in one house. Cattles are bigger and you will see a small boy rearing cattle of about 800, so what do you expect? When they see maize, they want to feed their cattle with the maize. I think the lasting solution to sustain this issue of crisis all the time and make sure they are not an issue between farmers and Fulani is for the Federal Government to give Governors Intervention Funds, let them set up a ranch for them. That is the lasting solution.
But some people are saying that the harders have enough land up there, why can’t they do their ranching there?
It’s quite unfortunate that they cannot do their ranching there because in the dry season they don’t have green grass to feed their cattles. And don’t forget that South West mainly is their catchment area in terms of selling their cattles. We kill over 10,000 in a month, so what do you expect?
It a different thing to have your cattle, it’s a different thing to have a place to sell it. So they have to bring it down to sell it in South West. This place is their market place. But you cannot do a private business at the deterrent of people’s lives and properties, so they are living peacefully in our land, that has always been the challenges, and that is why we continue to agitate for it. If the governors cannot give them ranch, they should go.
You don’t see Yoruba going to the North to cause problem or disobey the law, despite that aside from the Constitution of Nigeria, they still have some religious laws over there, that you need to abide to coming here in this kiind of situation, somebody needs to be very careful. Most especially we the traditional rulers, because chasing away bandits and calling the Fulanis; the bad ones to come into our domain and live with us peacefully is impossible.
Any attempt in calling them is like trading a baby Lion, by the time the need to take very drastic measures in putting peace, because Nigeria today as a whole, if you look at it, the most peaceful place we had in Nigeria is South West before. In the North, the Federal Government and every other person including our own Governors, Senators and Ministers here have been putting heads together with the President to ensure harmony and peace for everybody to live in peace and harmony despite the fact that it’s costly because when you look at our budget, you will see that majority of our money has been used for arms and ammunition, and fighter jets. Apart from logistics, that is in the North. But presently it has spread to South-South, South East and now South West. So, where will you call home, that you can live peacefully? Just between Abeokuta to Aiyetoro, they are kidnapping. Bandits, kidnappers everywhere. Fulani Herdsmen killing our people, and it has become a very serious issue. It’s even a threat. I want to really join those who say having state police is now
Because most of our Governors think that the security chiefs in the states are not working under any governor, they are working with Abuja. Whatever the instruction governors give to them, they will go back home and call their boss in Abuja, and those ones will give a counter order except if they have something in common with what the governor says. But if the Security Chiefs in Abuja have something contrary, they will not carry out the assignment. This issue of security threat in our areas, the issue of state police, absolute control over the security accident of the state by the governor is paramount and it’s going to give us results. So, that is why I said a lot of measures need to be taken so that we can put sanity in our land. So many things are going wrong and it’s becoming a problem. Even our children coming home is becoming a problem.
There are out-of-school children everywhere, child abuse, global terrorism. In Nigeria today we are breeding criminals because we don’t make basic education a fundamental right anymore and it’s a very sensitive issue that we need to take cognizance of.
When you compare notes with fellow Obas across the South West, are they facing the same thing or your own is slightly different?
Our own is slightly different from them because there are some Obas who are even inviting Fulanis to come to their land. That’s why I said, if you are inviting Fulani to come to your land, you are training a Baby Lion, and Baby Lion by the time they grow up and have nothing to eat they will go after the owner and eat it up. You should know that when you put in a stranger that is more powerful than you in your house, you are inviting a problem.
If they are Nigerians it’s a different ball entirely, but they are not Nigerians. Most of them are from Niger Their root is always from as far as Turuku. There is a place called “Turuku” it’s close to the Sahara desert. Some of them go from Turukus to Argahesh in the Niger Republic. Some will come from Miami capute, they will get to Gauya, go to Yaore, Some will go through Ilela Some will go through Paraku, Paraville down to the Republic of Benin, but because our border is very porous, they are just going in and out as if Nigeria is the Republic of Benin by extension. And this is becoming a very serious problem and we need to take cognizance of it. Look at our borders aside from the fact the borders are porous, the Federal Government refused to industrialise the border, so the children refused to go to school. So, what they see is to smuggle all sorts of things.
I still ask that question till tomorrow, that, where are the borders development commission? Where are they because they are not existing? And they are taking money in the budget. I think the government needs to take very drastic measures, look at our borders if we need to have sanity in our country.
How has the State Government come in to help?
Like I said earlier, the Government of the state has set up a Committee. I am a member of the committee. Hon. Oladele, former House of Rep is the Chairman of the Committee. We have 2 Commissioners Budget and Special Duties and Commissioner for Housing, and so many others. The governor said he wants to look at the Genesis of the problem, where we are today and how we can prevent future re-occurrences.
We are on it. The governor came personally for visitation, to see the areas and he has promised our people that he is going to build their houses because they burnt down a lot of houses, killed a lot of people, they even killed children in that area. The governor said he is going to do compensation but I will just implore the governor to look at measures that can bring a lasting solution.
Tell me about your community?
Iselu Community is the descendant of Oduduwa, Alaketu. When Gesu people were fighting for an expansion in the Idaomen Kingdom, Alaketu senior was captured, now the Republic of Benin, then Idaomen. And we are Nigerians. The Alaketu who happens to be the first son of Oduduwa is there, the 50th Alaketu is there now. So, it’s a border town to the Republic of Benin. We have been there, but surprisingly the government needs to wake up and make sure they industrialise the borders so that there will be a check to smuggling activities, if not total abolition. Because when you have things to do you won’t smuggle. They should industrialise the borders and create jobs for people so, that they can forget about smuggling and other criminal activities.
What’s your message for your people out there?
In my own capacity, I have been doing certain things for our people, and I want to use this opportunity to call everybody to come back home, that the government has assured us that there will no longer be loss of lives. And aside from that, I have invited 3 NGOs, I invited Red Cross of Ogun State, I invited Comfort Lighthouse Care and Initiative and Remi Ashiru Foundation, just for them to come together and see how we can support our people. I am also calling the attention of our public on what they can do to support the government because the government cannot do it all, except we want to deceive ourselves. There are people who were there, that they attacked, and some of them had their limbs amputated last year.
The most annoying and painful one is the fact that we have a whole lot of children out of school, and you know what that means. We are creating future criminals. I am sure with these NGOs, would be able to reach out to many people and seek assistance from the public.
Was the situation this bad when you came in, in 2005?
It wasn’t this bad, but there is no year we don’t record loss of lives over this same issue, but this year’s is terrible. In fact, it has attracted the attention of the Federal Government and the state, and they are not happy with the situation.
How bad was it?
So bad, that children were killed. Men were killed, lots of women were killed. They destroyed and burnt houses down. They even set a man ablaze in his house. It’s that bad, very horrible. Some people were saying it was a communal clash. No, it wasn’t. It was pure genocide. There are no two ways about it, but I am sure with the measures the government is putting in place we are going to get a good result.