“The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny”
We as elders, have a mandatory responsibility to intervene, when we make observations about strange and unwholesome events unfolding within our environment. We are persuaded that the recent violent and unprecedented happenings in our country, occurring with increasing frequency and geographical spread, portend grave danger for the safety and security of the entire nation!
VOR holds that the primary concern and responsibility of any government should be the preservation of the life and property of its citizens. This responsibility must be fulfilled without any compromise whatsoever or political subservience to any authority other than the electorate. We were therefore shocked, bewildered and disappointed by the seeming apathy, indifference, silence and inertia of all our Southwest governors and legislators (both state and federal) in the face of this existential threat to the peace-loving people of Yorubaland.
As we were preparing to send this letter to the Press we were pleasantly surprised to read about the meeting of five of the Southwest Governors, touching on the vexed issue of heightened banditry across the Region. While we welcome the Governors’ belated meeting and their proposal for a Security Summit, we think that the response was not only coming rather late it was also inadequate. We expected words of assurance that could have calmed the fears of the people but also specific actions, no matter how ad-hoc, that would reflect that the meeting seriously interrogated the problem at hand with the benefit of the various security reports that they must be privy to.
Nevertheless, we urge all to co-operate with the Governors in the convening of the proposed Security Summit. We still urge the Governors to seek interim measures that can guarantee safety on the notorious roads on which so many of our people have been violently sexually abused, physically and psychologically traumatised, extorted and dispossessed of their assets and savings and in many cases gruesomely murdered. The promise of a Summit several weeks or months away cannot be comfort to citizens with a heightened consciousness of the immediate and present dangers on many of our roads. The Summit can deal with a long-term strategy.
What is needed is an immediate response informed by all the security reports to which we believe the Governors have access. The Governors are the ones vested with the powers to maintain law and order and must act now.
Evidently, the breakdown of law and order which had affected many parts of Nigeria, has now been brought into the South West. Incessant reports of armed banditry, kidnappings, rape, senseless killings and brazen land grabbing and destruction of private farms have flooded our print, electronic and social media. The alleged perpetrators of these heinous crimes, have frequently been identified by their victims as Fulani herdsmen. We must however acknowledge that these bandits are occasionally aided by some locals who either abet or harbour them (in the case of some natural rulers) or out of fear, fail to report their presence in the adjoining forests and bushes. We must also deal with their collaborators and ensure our people are assured of their safety and protection if they provide intelligence that can help us combat this menace. “Eti oba n’ile, eti oba l’oko enia lo nje be”.
We must move to eliminate the fear and terror that many of our people have been thrown into, so much so that they are now reluctant to travel by road to their various villages and home towns to visit their families! Many prominent Nigerians including former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Professor Wole Soyinka have already spoken out courageously and alluded to some nefarious agenda to subjugate our people and our rights to freedom of worship.
Those willingly elected to serve and protect us, must be heard and seen to be doing everything to protect the citizens or douse their fears when confronted with the incontrovertible evidence of a clear and present danger to our very existence as we currently have. This seeming indifference of our elected leaders in the last few months is made even more disappointing by the fact that our governors receive daily security updates, meaning that they are not unaware of the true situation of things.
Apart from the threat to the safety of lives of our people and the attempt by these bandits to extract resources from Southwest citizens, the economy of our rural areas anchored on agriculture is being destroyed by the twin evil of insecurity and destruction of crops by armed nomadic herdsmen. What is even more galling is the inconsistent response of our Governors to those insisting that they have a right to graze cultivated land under dubious Grazing Routes drawn up with scant regard to the ownership rights of the owners of the land. All these cannot but lead to the impoverishment and ultimate destruction of our communities if not extinction of our people. A government that cannot guarantee the safety of its citizens and their land and property, will soon lose its legitimacy and the right to stay in power.
The VOR urges all our Southwest Governors, federal and state legislators to live up to their responsibilities by first acknowledging the present state of chaos, and taking all necessary steps to stop forthwith, the slide to anarchy. We hope the Governors are not asking Yoruba people to heed the advice of a senior retired General who has told his people that if they wait to be protected by Nigerian security forces, they will be slaughtered .
In our opinion, living up to their responsibilities goes beyond convening the proposed Security Summit dealing with the institution of defence processes and mechanisms for the security of all Yorubas. It also includes a very urgent and immediate convening and holding of the Constituent Assembly of Yoruba representatives within the political boundaries of the 6 States, in addition to Kogi, Kwara and the diaspora beyond, to deliberate upon and affirm the position of the Yoruba nation in relation to other ethnic nationalities of Nigeria.
We note that DAWN has been asked to work on the modalities for the Security Summit. We hope that DAWN will be empowered to realise the hopes and aspirations that informed its creation. In the last eight years, it has been pressed into service for cosmetic and propaganda purposes. We urge the Governors to commit to giving meaning to DAWN with the necessary legislative and fiscal framework for its operations,
We note that the Governors at their meeting also discussed Odu’a Investments Company. Nothing will give the Yoruba people more joy than to see Odu’a restored to its former glory, in which it held significant shares in nearly all the companies in the Ikeja Industrial Estate, a platform for the employment of Yoruba professionals and the creation of entrepreneurs (now destroyed by the reckless management of the Nigerian economy in the last forty years). We must integrate our states and capture the spirit of service of old. This is why we are irrevocably committed to the restructuring of Nigeria. We cannot surrender our future to the current dysfunctional structures of Nigeria. Even while we await the inevitable restructuring of Nigeria, our Governors must urgently address and tackle the high rate of unemployment of our youths, many of whom are highly trained and educated.
Posterity will definitely not forgive our elected leaders if they continue to address, with levity and indifference, the issues affecting our people in the face of the grave terror, persecution and impoverishment of the law-abiding citizens they were elected to protect and serve.
How long must we wait?
The time is NOW.