By DELE ADEOLUWA
The tendon of peace enjoyed by the Southwest zone after a spell of marauders’ activities suddenly snapped last week. Some terror- tinged incidents rudely put paid to the months of respite enjoyed in the zone from these dare-devil elements bent on turning the otherwise peaceful enclave into a killing field. Ondo State is particularly the butt of the resurgence of terror.
First, kidnappers, suspected to be herdsmen, last Thursday killed a first class traditional ruler in Ondo State, the Olufon of Ifon in Ose Local Government Area of the state, Oba Israel Adewusi. The monarch had attended the monthly meeting of the state Council of Obas in Akure, the state capital, and was returning to his domain when his car ran into the kidnappers.
The heavily armed vile elements, who were hiding in the bush along the highway, attacked the monarch’s vehicle at Elegbeka on the Ifon-Benin highway and rained bullets on his vehicle to force his driver to stop. But some of the bullets hit the monarch, fatally injuring him. He was rushed to the Federal Medical Centre, Owo, where he was confirmed dead.
Second, barely hours after the monarch was mowed down, setting off a bedlam of terror across the zone, the news again hit hard that the wife of the Chief of Staff (CoS) to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, Mrs Sade Alex, had been kidnapped, also by suspected herdsmen, who have obviously reinforced and set abode in the vast expanse of the zone’s luxuriant vegetation, turning the highways into death-infested traps.
The woman was abducted on the Ondo- Owena Road on Thursday while returning from Lagos. She was, however, luckier, as a combined team of local hunters, members of the state security outfit, Amotekun, and security agents rescued her 48 hours after her kidnap.
Again, the day after, another alarm touched off. Suspected herdsmen murdered a cleric, Rev. Johnson Oladimeji, as he was travelling on the Igbara-Odo- Ikere-Ekiti Road, this time in Ekiti State. According to reports, the cleric was killed in circumstances similar to the murder of the Ondo monarch.
The man of God, who was returning from Ipetu-Ijesha in Osun State, was waylaid by the gunmen, who came out of the bush along the highway, and shot sporadically at his vehicle ostensibly to prevent the driver from fleeing. But some of the bullets hit him, snuffing life out of him instantly.
His family and church members, who had become apprehensive after he failed to return from the trip on schedule, organised a search party for him. His blood-soaked, lifeless body was discovered in his car on the road side.
Most highways in Ondo State, in particular, and many other parts of Southwest, in general, have once again become almost no- go areas due to the activities the egregious messengers of death. Travellers now dread to move on those roads. Those who, because of business commitments and other exigencies, have little or no other choice than to ply those highways, now do so with their hearts literally tucked in their mouths!
On July 12, last year, the activities of those fiends peaked with the callous murder of Mrs Olufunke Olakunrin, the second daughter of the Afenifere leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti. She was gunned down by suspected herdsmen in a kidnap attempt at a spot between Kajola and Ore along Ore-Ondo Road while returning to Lagos.
Her death stirred national outrage and prompted the six Southwest governors to expedite action on their planned security outfit, code-named Operation Amotekun, which they eventually launched on January 10, this year.
The coming of Amotekun appeared to have for some time quietened the pernicious activities of herders and bandits who had turned most of the highways in the otherwise peaceful zone into a nightmare.
As it is, the Governor Akeredolu-led Southwest Governors Forum must move swiftly to strengthen the Amotekun corps to, as soon as possible, comb the vast forests in the zone and flush out those ‘goons’ holed up there. The operatives need to, however, be kitted with sophisticated, modern weapons to be able to outrun the killer-herdsmen and bandits because they appear to have been entrenched in those forests and heavily armed.
The speed with which the Ondo operatives rescued the wife of Ondo governor’s CoS shows that they pack a lot of potential. They only need a little more push. Of course, the governors will encounter stiff opposition from the central authorities, which have been making subterranean moves to whittle Amotekun’s strength because of misconceptions about the governors’ motive. But with the deft interplay of legal instruments and sheer will power, they are bound to succeed.
Meanwhile, the insecurity morass in the North, about the same time, nosedived further in a dangerous whirl. As security forces are battling to tame implacable bandits who have almost turned Kaduna into a killing field, insurgents swooped on a community in the terror-ravaged Borno State last Friday, killing at least 43 people who were working on a farm.
The victims, said to be labourers from Sokoto, were attacked in Kwashebe Zabarmari in Jere council. They were reportedly decapitated in the horrendous circumstances. The slain farmers were buried on Sunday, as security forces are still searching for scores missing.
The chief mourner, Governor Babagana Zulum, at the burial, captured the far-reaching implications and the attendant dilemma of the incessant killings in a few but loaded words.
“On one side,” the Professor of Agriculture said, “they (farmers) stay at home, they may be killed by hunger and starvation; on the other, they go out to their farmlands, they risk getting killed by the insurgents.”
This statement succinctly hinted at the danger the incessant killings, especially of farmers, portends for the nation’s strive towards self- sufficiency in food production. This is more so as the nation has slid into the second economic recession in five years and the worst in 36 years.
As in other parts of the country, the farming belt in the North is under serious security threat, as farmers are increasingly being scared away from their farmlands in Nasarawa, Zamfara, Katsina, Benue, Plateau, Kogi and other areas, some of which are regarded as the nation’s “food basket.”
Food prices in the country are already shooting up and with the inflation that comes with recession, the prices are bound to further spiral in the coming months.
That is why President Muhammadu Buhari needs to listen to the consistent admonition of Nigerians to urgently rejig the security architecture of his administration, heavily tilted towards a particular ethnic stock. Diluting the security appointments with equally good officers from other parts of the country and replacing the service chiefs, who have been in the saddle since 2015, to reinvigorate the anti-terror war, as have been consistently admonished, could well be the game changer needed to win the war. Let Mr President listen.