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Herdsmen (File photo)
Secretary-General of the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Chief Sehinde Arogbofa, tells PETER DADA that the Presidency demonstrated its ignorance by comparing Afenifere with Miyetti Allah
President’s spokesman, Garba Shehu, said Miyetti Allah was another group as Afenifere and Ohanaeze Ndigbo. Is the group comparable to yours and other socio-cultural groups?
Firstly, unlike some members of Miyetti Allah that carry illegal guns and weapons, kill people with reckless abandon, rape women in their farms, in their homes, terrorise people and destroy lives and property, Afenifere has always been concerned with the welfare of the people. Afenifere has always been concerned with fair play, justice, equity and the improvement of governance in the country. Only the ignorance can say Afenifere is criminally inclined. Afenifere has always been the conscience of the nation and its leaders have run the best administrations Nigeria has ever known. Therefore, Shehu’s comments were too provocative, ill-intentioned and it also demonstrated his ignorance of what Afenifere stands for.
Secondly, discussing proliferation of arms with a group well known for usage of illegal weapons is nothing short of the government running away from its responsibilities instead of bringing to book those they know had perpetrated heinous crime. After all, Shehu himself agreed that a lot of these elements owe weapons. Why has the government not dealt with them? Instead of the government romancing them and curdling them. Is it not a situation where one group is treated as sacred cows while others in Shehu’s words are criminalised? Finally, nobody is quarrelling with the security or anybody holding talks with Miyetti Allah but to compare that association with Afenifere is mischievous, provocative, derogatory and a proof of Shehu’s ignorance. We appreciate all those who want to make sure that all these killings and criminal activities associated with Miyetti Allah are resolved.
Is it proper for the Inspector-General of Police to invite the leadership of the Miyetti Allah for a meeting as part of the move to tackle insecurity in the country?
That is an acceptance of a kind of failure on the part of the government. How can you say the IGP is inviting them when he is part of the government to settle insecurity? Let the government take the bull by the horn. Shehu said they knew some of these miscreants among the herdsmen; then, let them bring the criminals among them to book. Hitherto some of us have not heard that criminals were brought to book, either jailed or fined. If the government is serious now, let them come to do this once and for all.
Some people are calling for amnesty for members of this group. Do you subscribe to this?
The people who have been killing, raping our women, devastating our land and not showing any sign of repentance, what is the essence of amnesty for them? Unless the government wants to be hypocritical and we should not , the government should call a spade a spade. It is even alleged that some of these people are not even from Nigeria, that they come through our porous borders. Let them block the borders and give us adequate security in this country.
Some herdsmen recently stormed the Ibadan-Ife road where a lecturer was kidnapped. Are you not worried that the bandits have come to the South-West?
The process is no longer gradual. They have penetrated more places in the South-West and I think what we should do is not to sit down and watch them. We should not fold our arms. Even then, our citizens should not just fold their hands. The Obas and the chiefs, they should be vigilant. They should know when strangers come into their communities and report to the police. These people carry weapons, but if they know that they are being monitored, they will be very careful because they are human beings; they are not spirits. We have to explore all these areas to fight these criminals. Our people should raise the alarm; we should inform security agents when new faces are noticed. If we inform the monarchs and security agents, the hoodlums will be afraid because they are human beings too. But once they see that there is nothing we can do, they will not just surrender. Like Baba Awolowo said, if you fall down and you refuse to stand up, nobody will raise you up and little children will start matching on you. Let us wake up and see what we can do to arrest the situation.
Garba Shehu also said the cattle breeders have issues to bring to the government and the more the dialogue with the herders, the more the peace could be achieved. What is your take on this?
That is why I said earlier that the government must not be seen to be hypocritical about this matter. Why do you give money, compensation to people who are doing the wrong thing? Is it right? When you deal with them, we will be saved. It is wrong. We are talking of Boko Haram; we learned too that one of the ways they get ammunition is to collect money from people and buy ammunition. How are we so sure these people will not collect money and buy ammunition and be stronger than they are now? If the government knows them like Garba Shehu said, they should deal with them.
What is your advice to the government in tackling insecurity in the country?
The government should not fail the nation security-wise. Things are becoming worse and worse. People are afraid to go out. Sleep is not even there. I think the government should brace and protect lives and property.
Culled from Punch.