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Iskilu Wakili: Fulani Warlord or Case of Mistaken Identity

Ordinarily, the arrest of a man identified as the fiercest Fulani warlord in Yorubaland should lead to banters, celebrations, and excitement among his captors and their supporters. Surprisingly, the reverse seems to be the case. It has been arguments, claims, and counterclaims.

Recall that immediately after the arrest of the alleged warlord, Iskilu Wakili, last weekend by a crack team of Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) members, former Aviation Minister, Fani-Kayode was one of the first few to congratulate, the Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Adams on the success of the operation

Within 24 hours, Fani-Kayode made a u-turn and declared on social media that the man apprehended was not Wakili.

Before the current confusion, the media was agog with the reported arrest of an old man, Iskilu Wakili, who was described as a Fulani warlord by most media reports. Wakili, a 75-year-old man was accused of leading attacks on communities in Ibarapa area of Oyo state. He was also alleged to be behind several murders and kidnappings that took place in the state.

His arrest attracted a lot of comments with many hailing the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) for championing his arrest. To many, Wakili had overtime assumed a larger than life image and literally became a legend in Oyo State for his alleged atrocities, which included kidnappings, killings, rape, and forceful takeover of hectares of farmland.

Reports abound of his alleged atrocities, including creating a no-entry zone for locals and owners of farmlands he had taken over, in concert with his gang of suspected criminals. He had in fact become a Lord of the Manor, who was greatly feared and even venerated.

It is believed in some quarters that security agents, including the police and Oyo State Security Network officers, known as Amotekun, despite having reports of his alleged criminal activities, were unable to storm his camp to effect his arrest, owing largely to his dreaded image and reports that he was endowed with metaphysical powers, just like his hoards of equally dreaded lieutenants.

The Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland and leader of the OPC, Gani Adams, confirmed the attack in a statement recently, while also commending his men.

According to Adam’s, the Fulani warlord was arrested around 7 am on Sunday and had been handed over to the Divisional Police Office in Igbo Ora, Oyo State.

Describing Wakili as the ‘most dreaded, notorious kidnap kingpin’ who had operated in Oyo State, Adams said: “I am happy that the notorious kidnapper has been captured alongside three others. It is a good development and a positive signal to other criminal elements that the Southwest is no longer an abode for bandits, kidnappers, and criminal herders.

“I commend all the members of the joint security team that made this possible because, with the video at my disposal, it was purely a neat job.

“With this development, I think the whole world will agree with me that the fight against insurgency, kidnapping, and banditry needs native intelligence, information gathering, and grassroots support from local securities and operatives.

Also, the pan-Yoruba social-cultural organisation, Afenifere, in its reaction, commended the OPC for the feat.

The National Publicity Secretary of the group, Yinka Odumakin in a statement on Sunday, said: “Afenifere gives tremendous commendation to OPC under Iba Gani Adams for the arrest of Iskilu Wakili, a Fulani bandit who has been spreading terror on our people in Ibarapa area and the Nigeria Police and other security agencies unable to do anything about him.

The state of affairs has created fear and uncertainty with a tendency for people to believe that this is not actually the case. Propaganda and attacks on ethnic groups have become a source for concern.

However, many Nigerians, just like Fani-Kayode, remain skeptical of the allegations against the 75-year-old, Iskilu Wakili. For instance, Fredrick Nwabufo, a writer and Journalist says: “the man I saw in the video could barely walk. He looked incredibly frail and is said to be partially blind. He was also reported to have been captured because he could not run. I have cogitated on the possibility of an ailing old man of this nature leading armed groups on onslaughts against citizens in Oyo, and could only stew in doubts.”

Further stating his doubt, Nwabufo asked; “I really wonder why the same lexical sculpturing was not applied in the case of Sunday Igboho who was famously described as an ‘’activist and youth leader’’ in the media – even after he broke the law by asking the Fulani to leave Ibarapa?”

Worried about how Nigerians easily accept anything thrown at them especially when it is along ethnic and religious line, he said; “some media reports have described Wakili as ‘’Fulani warlord’’. But on what is this framing grounded? Has he been found culpable for leading armed attacks? Is there any evidence to prove he is a warlord? Has it been confirmed – in any way — that he is behind the attacks in parts of Oyo? And how many ‘’wars’’ has he led?

Wakili, a Fulani leader who denied leading attacks against Oyo communities said he is even a victim of kidnapping.

His words: “Sometime last year, two of my children were kidnapped and I paid millions of naira as ransom before they were released. I am not a kidnapper. Two days after my return from hospital in Cotonou, Republic of Benin, I was lying down because I was ill and suddenly some women came and started shouting that armed OPC men had come looking for me.

Read Also: Fulani Herders Crisis: Reality Check on Nigeria’s Unity

“I asked them to flee but I could not run because I was sick. Two men later came and picked me from where I was lying, they threw me in their vehicle naked. I fainted many times before they drove me to the police station in Igbo Ora. From there, we were taken to SCID, Ibadan. I am not a criminal, my children are not criminals. I don’t know anything about kidnapping or any crime. I have many cows and I know they stray into farms at times but I don’t have criminal records anywhere and this can be investigated. After they took me away from my home, a woman, Tande, was killed.”

In all of this, there are growing concerns on why the media would be so quick to tag the 75-year-old man a ‘’Fulani warlord’’. Is there any evidence to substantiate such a claim? The Nigeria police even asked the people that effected his arrest to present evidence against him, a request they are yet to oblige.

With so many claims and counterclaims, the public is eagerly waiting to know the fact, which many believe should come after detailed investigations and eventual trial. Is the 75-year-old, frail-looking man in police custody the dreaded Wakili or is this just a case of mistaken identity?

Charles Danson

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