Prominent Yoruba leaders of thought, on Thursday, rose from an emergency summit in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, with a threat that the Yoruba nation might reconsider its place in the Nigerian federation if the country is not restructured to reflect genuine federalism.
“If we do not see any step in this direction within a reasonable time, the Yoruba may reconsider their place in a union that cannot protect them and would not allow them to protect themselves and use all legitimate and peaceful means to attain self-determination,” part of the communiqué issued at the end of the meeting said.
The summit was held against the background of the kidnap of a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation and former presidential candidate, Chief Olu Falae, by the Fulani herdsmen and temerity of the herdsmen to return to his farm this week after his release.
The summit, for the first time in almost a decade, brought leaders of the various Yoruba groups together for a common cause of the ill treatment of the Yoruba nation in the country, particularly the incessant attacks of Fulani herdsmen on their hosts in the South-West zone.
The theme of the summit was: “National insecurity and the menace of Fulani herdsmen in Yorubaland.”
The Yoruba groups which were represented at the summit included the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), the Yoruba Unity Forum (YUF), the Oodua Foundation, Afenifere, the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), the Coalition of Yoruba Autonomy (COYA), the Oodua Democratic Coalition (ODC), the Ominira Yoruba Apapo, and the Agbekoya Organisation.
The communiqué was signed by the conveners, namely a former military governor of the defunct Western Region, Major-General Adeyinka Adebayo (chairman); Archbishop Ayo Ladigbolu; Professor Banji Akintoye; Sir Olaniwun Ajayi; Dr Fredrick Fasehun; Chief Gani Adams; Abitoye Tunde; Rasaq Oladosu; Oyebamiji Olalekan; Alhaji Hamad Raji; Dr Kunle Olajide (chairman, planning committee) and Evangelist Kunle Adeshokeru.
Governors Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State and Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State were represented by their deputies Chief Moses Adeyemo and the Commissioner for Environment, Chief Sola Ebiseni, respectively.
Other leaders at the summit included Chief Ayo Adebanjo; Dr Saka Balogun; Chief Kola Ogunjobi; Senator Femi Okurounmu; Chief Idowu Sofola SAN; Dr Tola Adeniyi; Chief Shuaib Oyedokun; General Raji Rasaki; Professor Lola Adekunle; Alhaji Rasaq Adekola; Chief Akin Omosebi and Chief Akin Onigbinde.
Others are Chief Seinde Arogbofa; Dr Olu Alabi; Chief Adebayo Akande; Professor Banji Akintoye; Professor Toun Ogunseye; Dr Gani Adams; Dr Fredrick Fasehun; Alhaji AbdulJelil Adesiyan; Mr Yinka Odumakin; Mr Sina Kawonise, Chief Supo Shonibare; Mrs Bola Doherty; Professor Olatunde Oluwasanmi, among others.
The summit asked President Muhammadu Buhari to see to “the immediate arrest and prosecution of the abductors of Chief Falae and all perpetrators of the violent crimes which have been reported at different police stations in Yorubaland arising from cattle rearing activities.”
The text of the communiqué tagged “Ibadan Declaration of Yoruba Leaders of Thought on Fulani Herdsmen’s Siege to our nation” was entitled: “We Shall Take it no More.”
“After an extensive and inclusive debate on the threats to our survival as a people, especially by the unprovoked, unwarranted and mindless serial attacks on the economic rights of our people by nomadic Fulani cattle rearers, which have snowballed into loss of precious lives, raping of our women and criminal abduction of our people for ransom; the following communiqué was adopted:
“Summit observed that despite the non-aggressive disposition of the Yoruba people, we have been victims of crude aggressions, violent violations from our hostile neighbours from pre-colonial days till modern time.
“From the 18th century, Fulani jihadists onslaught against Yoruba space, through the travails of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, through the June 12 saga to the latest war declared on our people by the Fulani herdsmen, we have always risen above the hurt inflicted on us to strive to make our neighbours see the need to deal with ourselves peaceably in justice and fairness not because we are cowards, but because God created us to fight only as a last resort.
“We have since the amalgamation of Nigeria gone to every part of the country to live and work, respecting our hosts and posing no threat to them, because our fathers say when you are in the city of lepers you have to fold your fingers.
“Summit paid glowing tributes to the memories of our illustrious sons and daughters who became sacrificial lambs in the course of these aggressions against us over the years, such as Adekunle Fajuyi; Bashorun M.K,O Abiola; Kudirat Abiola; Alfred Rewane; Suliat Adedeji; Layi Balogun and hundreds of our people mowed down on the streets of Lagos by ethnic cleansing forces of the late General Sani Abacha;
“Summit recalled that in spite of the untold injustices meted on us over the years within the Nigerian project, we remain the only one out of the biggest tribes that has never questioned the corporate existence of Nigeria even with the obvious and sustained agenda of forces of domination to deny us the opportunity to live our civilisation, build on our golden achievements of the Awo years and move at our own pace;
“Summit was alarmed by the recent abduction of a foremost Yoruba nationalist and Nigerian patriot, Chief Olu Falae, by Fulani herdsmen on his farm the day he turned 77. His violent abduction during which machete cuts were inflicted on him was sequel to the running battles he has had with nomadic Fulani cattle rearers who at various times destroyed his crops, and thereby, denying him the sweat of his labour.
“In one instance, two months before his kidnap, he sought police intervention and the effort led to the herdsmen being asked to pay him compensation. His abduction and payment of ransom before he was released is an assault on the Yoruba nation and all that we cherish.
“The return of the herdsmen to his farm on Monday, October 6, to continue their mindless grazing is to us an open declaration of war on the Yoruba people by these invaders;
“Summit was not unmindful of the fact that the ordeal of Chief Falae is a continuation of the series of attacks these herdsmen have inflicted on our farmers over the years in their contempt for our land and the people therein which now appear to mean nothing to them than a grazing reserve.
“They have violated and killed our women like Mrs Ayesi Balogun, who was raped and killed by Fulani herdsmen on February 7, in Asa in Yewa North Local Government of Ogun State. A newly-wed lady was reported to have been raped by the same Fulani herdsmen in the same community.
“Regrettably, the Nigerian law enforcement system has woefully showed it cannot protect our people given the plethora of reports that different communities have made to them with little or no action at all;
“Therefore, given the gravity of the situation and the apparent unwillingness of the Nigerian state to put an end to this siege and also because we cannot afford to leave our people at the mercy of violent herdsmen who not only destroy their economic activities but also rape our women and kill innocent people;
“Summit demands immediate end to the lawless nomadic cattle grazing in Yorubaland and ask all those who want to engage in cattle business in any part of our land to do animal husbandry by establishing ranches.
Our people are no longer prepared to tolerate further encroachment on their farmlands and brutal attacks on them. To this end, all nomadic herdsmen are to wind up their criminal nomadic activities in Yorubaland. Failing to do so may attract several consequences;
“Summit asks the Federal Government to ensure immediate arrest and prosecution of the abductors of Chief Falae and all perpetrators of the violent crimes, which have been reported at different police stations in Yorubaland arising from cattle rearing activities.
“Realising that the crisis that we are witnessing presently over the actions of the Fulani herdsmen is a function of the refusal of Nigeria to practise true federalism which would guarantee significant autonomy to the constituent units, Summit demands an immediate restructuring of Nigeria with the implementation of the report of 2014 National Conference as a starting point,” the communiqué said.
Governor Ajimobi cautioned that the development should not be viewed as a North versus South situation, but one which should be considered through the perspective of illegality versus legality.
He stressed that the people of the South-West should refrain from taking laws into their own hands, while vowing to ensure the security of life and property in the state.
Mimiko’s representative, however, noted that with the Fulani herdsmen, knowing the geography of Yorubaland even more than their hosts and their nefarious activities posed a serious threat to peace in Yorubaland.
He emphasised that a situation, where the Yoruba would be led in the nose by strangers must never be tolerated in any part of the Yoruba nation.
Founder and national coordinators of OPC, Dr Fasehun and Chief Adams, said patience of the Yoruba nation was no longer elastic and expressed determination of the group to secure every inch of Yoruba territory.
Chief Adams said OPC would mobilise men and materials for the security of Chief Falae and his farms henceforth and threatened war against the Fulani herdsmen, should they dare to make a third visit to the septuagenarian.