It doesn’t matter what government’s land use acts or related laws says, the land bequeathed on us by our ancestors is ours to tend, keep and flourish peacefully on. However, as old as our written history, some groups of people have made this difficult for us. Our people suffered unprovoked assaults from Nupe raiders who by means of their blacksmithing skills, cavalry and Sultanate back up had upper hand in battles against our people who only sought to till the soil and live peacefully. Thousands of our people were killed, sold to slavery, condemned to servitude on farms and later with the collaboration of colonialists; those on motherland were subjected to exploitation through taxes and tributes.
After the death of Olu Abraham in the custody of kidnappers alleged to be herdsmen I have read so many prayers from people who pray that God should fight for us. I strongly believe that God does fight for people but before then, the people must have set themselves in order according to His will. What is God’s will? Responsibility!!! Napoleon Bonaparte once declared that ‘God is on the side of the most prepared Army’. This is a realist speaking. I share his opinion and that’s why I love studying realists and applying some of their principle as far as discipline is concerned. I wrote a piece recently on this subject matter and it drew some responses out of which two stood out and fits perfectly into my thought at the moment.
First, Chief Reuben Babatunde, a well respected man, the Maiyegun of Alu who taught quite a number of my mentors such as Engr. Kayode Emmanuel, former Director of FERMA in Kogi State as well as Engr. Afolabi Oludoyi a retired Director of DSS. He said, ‘The kidnapped government staff were not targeted. Kidnapping has become the order of the day. Anybody can be a victim. Some have been killed after they were held The Mopa woman died after two hours of nonstop trekking to which the three women were subjected. She fell down and rather than pity her the captors beat her mercilessly in that condition and she gave up. What made this case unique is the fearless action of Mopa hunters who traveled that long distance, combed the evil forest and secured the body. That to my mind is a clear indication that our hunters of different towns can secure us if mobilised. All of us must resolve to provide the funds especially as there is virtually no government in kogi. How can we work our own salvation in Okun land? It appears we are under attack similar to the historically recent NUPE attack.’
Secondly, an Engineer of high repute and telecommunication expert resident
in the UK for more than 30 years now Theo Alonge also wrote, ‘Reuben, what you are saying here is banditry is more or less the order of the day in Kogi. What a hell of a state of affairs? This stinks of a state of siege in a state that is barely making ends meet. The only recourse to security is to turn to the local hunters for succour. I shouldn’t ask this question but I will. Where are the “police and the state security outfits” when all this rampaging was going on and even after? Kidnapping is carried out for one goal, which is ransomed demand for exchange of victims. The villages are not safe anymore’.
I remember vividly, over 20 years ago, as a young boy in Okun land, herdsmen killed some farmers, destroyed crops and raped women on farm roads. The elders rose up and took drastic decisions to curb such reckless and heartless behavior. It indeed stopped for so many years. But then it came back again gradually. This time our people were advised to always report trigger issues to the Police, and we have done so since then with very negligible headway. Today, from Zamfara to Wukari, Kafanchan to Agatu, Enugu to Bunu, Akure to Eruku and beyond, people are terrified at the havoc these marauders are causing. The spread of their evil trade clearly signify that Okun land is not an isolated case.
We are not alone in the grief but we can do something about it. Thank goodness the Okun Development Initiative recently convoked a seminar that discussed the security of Okun nation. As a matter of urgency, the resolutions arrived at from that noble effort should not be allowed to lie fertilizing the pages, they must be turned to actions as fast as possible since it is rightly posited that no meaningful development can take place in the midst of insecurity. However, if it is confined to conventional approach of government security agencies, I am very much skeptical of any enduring success from such arrangement.
I am a huge fan of communal policing and in this regard the Okun Hunters Association comes readily to mind. Take for instance, if not for the intervention of Mopamuro hunters which collaborated with their counterparts from Bunu land, her remains by now would be decaying in the forest leaving the entire family and her loved ones in imaginary torture as to what has befallen her. Because it is our land and our daughter was involved, these men dedicated their time and energy to locate her corpse far into the jungle so we can grief together and give her a befitting burial. If I must ask you, where are the policemen that are supposed to detect such crime and make proper analysis cum documentation as Engr. Theo Alonge rightly asked?
Recollecting now, the very noble idea unveiled by the Administrators in Okun land whereby some vigilante men were hired to secure the same Obajana route that has now assumed a frightful standing by all measurement. I painfully wonder why that scheme was stopped? As a matter of fact, the first thing that Okun Development Association must do immediately is to hold a meeting with Okun hunters at Agbarakin. Let the Okun Hunters Security Trust Fund be established with alacrity. Okun people must not be cowardly in the face of this very daunting challenge. All forms of politics must stop at the throes of human life. We must not wait in horror expecting these bandits to come and kidnap the next set of victims, and then we run around organizing how to pay ransom.
This is the time to be pro active and if it means asking questions from our Kwara, Ekiti and Niger neighbors how they are dealing with this menace, let us ask. Let all our retired Generals and officers across all security units offer us their ideas on this threat, they are all aware of the successes recorded with the involvement of civilian JTF in the North East region. Just like our fore bears used to say, ‘tori were ode koni iti ni tile’ meaning it is because of the ‘crazy’ guy outside that we have the ‘crazy guy’ at home too in case he comes visiting.
In conclusion, our elders used to admonish us to act ‘tori alaborun unmoun dawu’ this means so that the ‘hunting toga won’t turn to normal clothing’ or by extension ‘to prevent the abnormal turning normal’. This point of death must be our turning point from indecision, cowardice and division amongst us in Okun land. Everyone must be involved in one way or the other to combat this evil. In the words of Franz Fanon, ‘every spectator is either a coward or a traitor’, the days ahead will reveal our status as Okun people and will determine to a very large extent our willingness to defend our land.
– Elere Samuel, Poet and writer, studied Humanitarian Studied at University of Ibadan’s Peace and Conflict Studies and Conflict Analysis from United States Institute of Peace (USIP).