By Abiodun Fanoro
Characteristic of the tradition of the Nigerian government, it has condemned the terror attack on St. Francis Catholic Church, Owo, Ondo State and has made the usual promise to fish out the perpetrators, a promise that has been severally made in the past but had yielded little or nothing, especially in the very recent past.
While it is in line with federal government’s tradition of motion without action when incidents like this happened and relegating them to the background after a few days as was with several similar occurrences in the past, a new dimension government has added to the whole issue, blaming the attack on ISWAP, is very worrisome, it raises suspicion and calls for analytical interrogations.
The claim by the government is no doubt bereft of empiricism, when till this moment, no suspect has been arrested in connection with the horrendous attack, no video clip of the incident where identities of the perpetrators could be deciphered, neither has ISWAP claimed responsibility for the attack, as it had gleefully done in the past when it attacked targets, the closest but unsubstantiated lead given by some survivors was that they, “were Fulanis.”
This hasty claim of government, has in a way indicted both the government and its agencies and further queries the effectiveness of the numerous police and military checkpoints that litter most highways across the country, because if they were ISWAP elements as claimed by government they must have passed through some of these roads either in the day or in the night; they were not spirit, how come none of these check-points could notice them. Is somebody in government saying they came through the air, using public aircraft or private jet!
This disingenuous claim by government is at best a propaganda which expectedly is not without its mission and objectives, And simply put, the mission and objectives were to divert the attention of the Yorubas, who had never had this kind of horrendous attack on their land, (not even during the civil war), from focusing on the real direction where the attackers were likely to have come from. The claim was meant to dislocate the well held and extremely logical perception who the attackers had been and who they are judging by antecedents and previous threat. It was meant to pacify the victims and possibly prevent reprisal attacks, which in any case, the Yorubas are not known for.
Another objective of the propaganda was to effectively demobilise the Yorubas from strategising and taking measures to safe-guard and fortify their land by putting structure in place to ward off any further invasion, protect their land and the people, as they did with the Amotekun regional security outfit when the menace of Fulani herders reached a crescendos. This of course substantially curtailed their capacity for violence and crimes and may have (probably) made them to upgrade or upscale their destructive capacity.
If it has now been proven that there was no way ISWAP elements could have moved their attack forces to Ondo State without being noticed or ignored by security forces on our roads, empirically speaking; then the direction of the attackers, naturally points to those whose identities, population and activities in the “evil” forest could not be verified. Who is that individuals or groups who want to stay alive that would dare visit them or try to monitor their activities (government) in the forest even if nefarious plans or plots were being hatched! in the buses!
Juxtaposing the above with the threat by the leadership of herders in the country to fight back when Amotekun was established and to teach our fearless, visionary and resolute Ondo State Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu lesson for spear-heading the birth of the much needed outfit, what further compass do we need to locate the direction of the attackers.
The loud murmuring and threat by the leadership of the herders were well heard when the state government courageously and defiantly told the federal government that the state had no land for ranching when Abuja resorted to arm-twisting states’ government to surrender land for cattle ranches.
It is also on record that the Owo axis had been a notorious area for kidnap and farm invasion by killer herders. It was in this axis for instance that the herders kidnapped two traditional rulers about a year ago, it was also from this axis that a former Finance Minister who is also a traditional ruler, Chief Olu Falae had his farm severally invaded by Fulani herders, who also nearly shot him dead.
What this means is that the Owo axis had for long been “colonised” by herders who knew the in and out of the area, making it easier to give sensitive information about the area to their collaborators and for attack with ease. This brings to fore the fact that the attack on the Catholic Church may not have been easily possible, if there were no “local” informants and monitors. These local informants could be no other persons than those who have colonised the Owo -Ogbese forest.
The choice of Ondo State and the choice of Owo, (home town of Governor Akeredolu), an axis incidentally well “colonised” by herders, was not by accident; it was premeditated.
Aside the physical attack on Owo and the state, the attack was also aimed at Governor Akeredolu with the view to silencing him, frustrating or intimidating him to abandon the purposeful leadership he has been providing in the state and in the region against the destructive activities of herders. Our message to Governor Akeredolu is that he should not be deterred or despair, doing so will help our tormentors achieve their mission. He should be rest assured that the whole state, the whole region, all Yoruba in diaspora and all civilised countries led are behind him.
Like the Nobel laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka said, the attack/attackers have sent an unambiguous message to the Southwest (Yorubas), in the loudest form, meaning that they had only used Ondo State as a take off point, in the region. The message and the clarion call in it must not be heard by Prof. Soyinka alone; all the region’s political, religious, opinion, economic, academic, students and youths’ leaders, must also listen to the message and act decisively by engaging in crucial consultations and summoning critical meetings at all the various levels, the battle line has been drawn.
Another clear message from the barbaric incident is that now is the moment for the region to take drastic and strategic measures that will make it self-sufficient in food production, including, rice, beans and live-stocks. This is the time to revive the comatose Development Agenda for Western Nigeria, DAWN, with a mandate to work out the modalities to achieve this.
Once beaten, twice shy, they say, the Yorubas must not wait for another incident before taking action. Ki oju ma ri ibi, gbogbo ara loogun e, ni Yoruba nwi.
Fanoro is the National President, Congress for Rights, Ondo Southern Nationalities CROSN.