Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Chief Gani Adams, speaks on issues of national interest, especially the controversial establishment of Ruga settlements across the country, in this interview with BOLA BADMUS. Excerpts:
THIS issue of suspended Ruga settlement threatened the country and polarised the polity. What is your own view of the programme as initially planned by the Federal Government?
The plan to establish Ruga settlement was a result of trying to revisit the jidadist agenda that was started in 1804. We didn’t see the policy as a way to settle the crisis of herdsmen. We saw it as a dangerous trend that was coming to our abode in the South-West.
And we saw it as a way of imposing on us those who had been threatening our lives and properties. We called on the whole world that we didn’t want Ruga settlements policy at all.
If they were settling the herdsmen who deal in cows, what about the people who deal in piggery? What about the farmers who deal in livestock like chicken and farmers who deal in various other animals? Why is the Federal Government laying emphasis only on those who deal in cows?
As a matter of fact, the issue of ranches is private. The Federal Government does not have business involving itself in it or even using our resources to build communities for them.
Before the issue of these criminal Fulani herdsmen who are maiming, killing, raping, kidnapping our people, destroying their farms, burning them and collecting money from them, we had had some Fulani living in Yorubaland and they were living in peace and harmony. Nobody documented the lands given to them; they were being given lands by our royal fathers or landowners in the community, based on relationships, not by allowing a state government to give them 31 hectares of land on the basis of issuing documents to them and processing certificates of occupancy (CofO).
Now, should they succeed in doing that, as contemplated by the Federal Government, they would now install an emir on that land. Our memory is still refreshed about what happened between 1818 and 1824 when some Fulani came to Ilorin as Islamic scholars. In the process of settling down, Afonja was killed in 1884. That was how we lost the leadership of Ilorin. The same thing happened elsewhere.
Though people were not killed in Lokoja, systematically, the Yoruba, the Oworo who founded Lokojo, now called Lokoja, are not on their original land; the land has been taken over and the prominent traditional ruler of Lokoja now is an emir. The Oworo are now living in the hills of Lokoja. We don’t want to repeat the past mistake and we have communicated to our royal fathers; we have communicated to our governors who are the chief security officers of every state in the South-West; that in Yorubaland, history is very important. You should not cause a repeat of the problem we had in some of our towns in Yorubaland. The problem should not reccur.
Yoruba people had never wanted Ruga. It is unwarranted, needless and a dangerous policy. It is a policy that can break this nation, just as it has overheated the polity.
Four main zones in Nigeria, Middle-Belt, South-West, South-East and the South-South kicked against it. We said we didn’t want Ruga as a policy for settlement.
People said in a situation like this, consultations ought to have been the first approach. Why would you think the Federal Government never consulted before this kind of decision was taken?
Even if there was dialogue, nobody would agree with them on this.
I said that because the Federal Government appeared to be saying there would have been advantages, among which was that the settlements would boost economy, apart from creating job opportunities. Didn’t you see it that way?
The advantages, as reflected in the statement of spokesperson to the president, Garba Shehu, were watery. It was just cajole. It was as if they were playing on the intelligence of an entire country. You don’t play on the intelligence of a whole country. Are you telling me people were not doing their cattle businesses in kara (in Lagos) and different locations in Yorubaland, in the South and even in Nigeria as a whole?
So, what you are telling me is that if you gave them land, they own the land and you put some packages there. Why couldn’t you hand over such money to the state government? The state government should provide facilities for kara in places where they exist already. The state government owns the land and you rent it to do the business. So, those people would be paying to the state government. You could go and rent your house anywhere. Why did you want to build a community and put structures there? Is it so that in the process, when you put up those Ruga settlements, they might even be more beautiful than the main town?
The money should have been channeled to different areas. So it is not about dialogue. There is no dialogue about this issue other than for security operatives to move against the criminals. It is criminal to say you want to dialogue with somebody who maims, kidnaps and collects ransoms. When he kidnaps somebody, you have to pay N10 million. You want to dialogue with somebody who went to somebody else’s farm worth billions of naira, grazed his cows on that farmland and made his cows eat all the crops and later burnt down the rest of the farm? That is arson; it is criminal.
Definitely, the Federal Government should go and dialogue with those armed robbers robbing banks too. The same for those hired killers that collect money to murder people in cold blood; the Federal Government should go and dialogue with them. This is not an issue of dialogue; it is about putting adequate measures in place to stop the menace; arresting those who are involved in it. The government should apply speedy trial and let justice be done. You don’t pamper criminals.
From the beginning, you would see the way the Federal Government had been making steps. They wanted to give The Miyetti Allah N100 billion; the people rose against it and they stopped it. Now, the issue of giving them communities, spending billions of naira on those locations, making them modern communities is the least. Why?
We have our farmers in Yorubaland. Even from the bogus budget of the Ministry of Agriculture, they were not giving loans as similar packages. They were discouraging our farmers and running their agricultural system in their area. Now, even concerning private initiative, many people want to be involved in agriculture; they want to spend their money, but are afraid that if they go to farm, they (kidnappers) would kidnap them. The way this thing is going, within a period of time, there would be shortage of food. There would be famine in Nigeria.
Are you talking about the implications now?
Yes, that would be part of the implications of kidnapping.
Do you mean both immediate and long-term implications?
Now, we have Boko Haram in the North-East. We have bandits in the North-West and we have Fulani herdsmen in the Middle-Belt and the entire South. How do you want to portray a nation? The economy is in state of comatose and you still want to encourage something that would discourage investors from coming into the country. This is not only about investors that are coming, but also about those who are already in the country with their investments. They would move out of the country, when there is no security.
Even those of us that spoke with some investors when we travelled out of the country, by the time they heard the name of Nigeria, they would say it was a no-go area. They would just trick you saying they didn’t want to come to Africa for now. But when you probe them further, they would say they didn’t want to come to Nigeria; they preferred to go to Ghana or other West African countries other than Nigeria.
You can see that hardly would people from another country come to study in Nigeria. It is Nigerians that go to study in other countries, even Benin Republic. About 70 to 80 per cent of students of universities in Benin Republic are Nigerians. Even their main secondary schools are populated by Nigerians. You don’t see Ghanaians coming to Nigeria to study anymore. It is only Nigerians that go to Ghana to study. It is only Nigerians that go to Kenya to study and ditto for other countries in Africa and outside it, including Britain, America, among others.
However, in the 70s and 80s, we had a lot of foreigners coming to Nigeria to study and what that meant was that we had education tourism. That would have been part of ways of making money for the country. Britain is making not less than €10 billion on education tourism annually. India is making up to $15 billion annually on education tourism. So also is Britain making money from health tourism.
All we talk about here is oil. And we start taxing companies that we don’t even supply with electricity.
So, I think a lot of things are wrong with this country. It is not at this stage that Nigeria should be talking about herdsmen destroying our farms.
So, I think the issue of Ruga, from the start, had been a no-go area in South-West and I believe the entire South did not want it. What we want is that the government should flush out the criminals. I am not saying they (people) should attack the Hausa/Fulani in their areas. We are not tagging all the Hausa/Fulani as our enemies. We are talking about the criminals who are in Nigeria and those who came from Niger and Chad, etc. who are criminals; who are machineries that pretend to be farmers only to come to our communities to kidnap people and engage in other criminal activities.
What were the actions taken by the South-West that ensured that this Ruga policy was prevented from being implemented?
I think the two conferences that happened in Yorubaland recently sensitised the entire Yoruba people that we have to be security conscious; we have to be proactive on the issue of security. We have to watch our neighborhood. And the traditional rulers should know the kind of strangers who come to their communities. The traditional rulers should make sure they call community meetings and inform all their chiefs and subjects to report any strange face they notice in their communities. They should come and report and bring those strange faces to the palace to register their arrival and stay in that community.
So, all the traditional rulers were told to have the data of Fulani in their communities and that some of them, should they want cows from them, should buy with their money and not on credit, so that they (Fulani) would not have a leverage over them or have any excuse to control them when they intend killing people in that community.
That does not mean they should not have relationship with non-Yoruba. As traditional ruler, you have to have good relationship with all non-Yoruba living in your community, because Yoruba are living in the North. You have to relate with them with respect.
We also agreed that every community should prepare their native intelligence gathering mechanism. All the traditional rulers should establish their intelligence gathering units. Even in a community of a hundred thousand people, they may hire people not up to hundred and put them on stipends, salary or some privileges. All they are expected to do is that they would be giving first-class information of what is happening to the palace. The palace will be coordinating it and giving it to the police and if the divisional police officer (DPO) is not acting enough or the director of State Security Service (SSS) is not acting appropriately, you report to the state command.
At the same time, we said the state government should prepare for rural security. We don’t prepare for rural security in Nigeria. All our preparations for security are for urban areas; we don’t prepare. That’s the major problem. That was the advantage the criminal Fulani herdsmen took over most of the communities. We have bushes, farmlands and villages, but there are no police posts around all these areas, not even patrol of bicycles.
So, we said the state government, as a matter of urgency, ought to prepare to have no fewer than between 2,000 and 3,000 forest guards, while each local government area should have a minimum of 100 forest guards each. The forest guards would be saddled with the responsibility of monitoring what is happening in the forests, because apart from Fulani herdsmen, some of our people are involved in evil rituals. Not all the kidnappings are done by the Fulani. There are some Yoruba who kidnap and use their victims for money rituals. There are some too among the Yoruba who kidnap for ransom. Some of these Fulani have some Yoruba as their agents who give them information.
And it is essential, based on the principle of federalism, which Nigeria is supposed to be operating, that we have state police. We also need local government police.
State police is very important and we are not even talking about it. We are saying let the federating units develop at their pace. There are certain responsibilities the Federal Government is just putting on which it doesn’t have the capacity to shoulder. The issue of electricity generation and distribution should not be for the Federal Government; so also is agriculture.
So, I think by the time you allow the federating units to run and power is devolved to the federating units, there would be synergy among the federal, zones, states and local governments; and they would compete amongst themselves development wise. Definitely, everyone would be running to put his house in order. Nigeria as a country is like a man that can’t take care of four wives, but has married 36, including one concubine. That is the problem we are having in Nigeria. We got our independence on the basis of federalism. We called the country Federal Republic of Nigeria. We now sat after independence, wrote a constitution and called the country a Republic in 1963.
The military then came and turned it to a unitary system and since then, Nigeria had never had rest. Since then, we have been running from one problem to the other. Since then, Nigeria has never survived stability for one year.
Our politicians now have the opportunity to write their names in the good book of history of the country. So, we must make sure we move this country forward.
If Buhari had insisted on having his way on Ruga, what would have happened?
It is not possible for the Federal Government to impose settlements on the people. It couldn’t insist. Land matter is a state affair; it is not a federal issue.
What if all the governors had agreed on the establishment?
The governor who does that would put himself in problem. It would not even be a four-year or eight-year problem; it would be an everlasting problem. And given the tension this issue generated, the Yoruba, especially, won’t forgive such a governor for life.
Look, they have to learn from history. How many people remember governors of any state in Yorubaland in 1999 anymore? It is not that all of them are bad, but how many people remember them again; even those who served up till 2007? There are few people that are relevant among these people. So, power is momentary. Don’t say you are governor of eight years and, therefore, you are Almighty God. Play your role; show to your subjects, your people, that their wish is your command. Show to them that you are their servant, that you are ready to do at least 80 per cent of what they want. Don’t tell them that they have given you the mandate and they could go to blazes, if they don’t like what you are doing. Such a person would destroy his own future and that of his children.
Do you know the Yoruba? We haven’t forgiven those who betrayed us in the 60s. We haven’t forgiven those who betrayed Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the 60s. We haven’t forgiven those who betrayed us in the cause of June 12.
So, you are talking about somebody who would bring another enemy; another Afonja scenario? Such a person would be treated as such. You know what happened during Aare Afonja’s reign. If such is repeated, it will be a path to destruction for that governor.