By Moruf Oyeladun
The glorification of thugs, particularly in Southern Nigerian politics, is indicative of the atrophy and collapse of values and leadership. In a society where thugs are exhorted and elevated to positions of leadership, it leaves one to ponder the dismal nature of the whole state of affairs.
From MC Oluomo to Gani Adams, the list is endless. Sunday Igboho’s larger than life image, which has equally earned him tractions on social media following his role in the Fulani herders’ crisis in Oyo, is the latest attestation to the glorification of thuggery in Southern Nigerian Politics.
Sunday Igboho, whose real name is Sunday Adeyemo, rose to prominence after he issued a seven-day ultimatum to Fulani herders in Igangan, Ibarapa North LGA of Oyo State. Statements by Sunday Igboho incited some of his supporters to destroy many house and cars, including those of Saliu Kadri, the Seriki Fulani of Igangan. The Seriki Fulani was lucky to escape with his life from the hands of arsonists, causing mayhem under the guise of fighting for the emancipation of Yoruba land.
Governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, sensed this and particularly mentioned that he would not allow anybody hide under the guise of protecting Yoruba interests to cause ethnic tension in the state. Many however rebuked him and accused him of supporting the Herdsmen.
Interestingly, the Seriki Fulani was accused of being the chief negotiator of ransom by kidnappers? While the allegations may be probable, was it enough to incite the type of violent demonstrations that eventually led to the demise of two persons who reportedly died from the uneventful scenario?
Igboho’s character defies simple definition. To many he is a bully. Others call him a thug and a barefaced criminal who deserves prime place behind bars. Yet some see him as heroic, kindhearted and a man with the heart of a lion. His popularity is strongest in Ibadan land. He is believed to possess metaphysical powers. He is ranked with MC Olumo and Gani Adams whom, renowned journalist, Maiwada Dan Mallam, describe as “mad thugs elevated to the rank of nobles”. He has worked with former Oyo Governor, Rasheed Ladoja and rose to become one of his most trusted aides.
The story from Babafemi Ojudu, special adviser to the president on political matters, solidifies the position that Sunday Igboho is nothing short of a thug whom APC chieftain, Bola Ahmed Tinubu persuaded not to interfere with the 2009 rerun election in Ekiti.
To make it clear, Ojudu explained that after Segun Oni of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had defeated Kayode Fayemi of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the 2007 gubernatorial election, Fayemi, with the support of Tinubu challenged the outcome of the election in court. An appeal court in Ilorin was gracious to grant a rerun in some contestable polling units.
In his piece, Ojudu noted that Tinubu summoned him after the ACN became privy to the information that the PDP was planning to recruit thugs to rig the election. According to him, “The plan was to kill and maim as many as possible, snatch ballot boxes and win by any means possible.” In his words:
“Tinubu summoned me to Lagos where I suggested that we dissuade the thugs by engagement and inducements. After all they are in the business only for the money and not for ideological reasons.
“We reached out to both Ade Basket in Akure and Fada Geri in Ondo. Both were dreaded in political circles. We had a series of meetings with them and were able squeeze an agreement with them that they will not make themselves available to PDP for hire. I got them to even sign documents for me that they were going to stay off Ekiti elections.
“The biggest headache for us then was Sunday Igboho who we learnt has been hired and paid by a Senator from Osun to come and cause mayhem in Ekiti. Tinubu instructed we must get him at all cost.”
Ojudu noted that six days to the election they were able to get to Sunday Igboho, and had a meeting with him at a small hotel not far from Premier Hotel:
“We were able to convince Igboho to ditch any plans of interfering with the electoral process after a meeting with Tinubu in Ondo state” Ojudu stressed.
It is the same, ageless thug, Sunday Ighoho, that is now being exhorted under the label of an activist and a defender of the Yoruba people when he should be chided for carrying out actions capable of ripping an entire country apart and throwing it into a state of upheaval and possible disintegration.
Muideen Olalekan Olagunju, a lawyer and politician, in his article titled “Sunday Igboho: The Mouthpiece and the Enforcer” also backs Sunday Igboho. In his words, “Sunday Igboho is right to take the stand he currently takes. Any form of condemnation from any section of the Yoruba nation is tantamount to gifting the balance of convenience in the intractable matter of Fulani excesses to the Fulani.”
Olagunju continues: “There is always a threshold for tolerance. That threshold has been broken in Ibarapa. Sunday Igboho took action, perhaps crudely so, but Ibarapa got the attention it craved from authorities. He is right to feel aggrieved.
“Who is that Yoruba individual who would begrudge him for that? Igboho has spoken like a thoroughbred Yoruba man.”
Although Olagunju admits the possible consequences of Sunday Igboho’s crimes, yet he endorses them as a sign of not yielding to weakness: “While it is reasonable to de-escalate the anger by putting the lives of Yorubas living up North into consideration, on the flip side, silence and condonation for fear of reprisal is a sign of weakness.” That is the irony of the elites of the south west.
Even when there are concerns that the arrest of Igboho can spark up outrage amongst the Yoruba natives, one wonders- is anyone really above the law? Or since when did the law become selective as to who and what situation should lead or not lead to the arrest of a particular offender, especially when the offense is designed to undermine the integrity, peace and unity of an entire country?
There is no doubt that Sunday Igboho walks with guided poise now as he has the protection and blessings of the Yoruba leaders. In a video shared by Femi Fani Kayode which made the rounds on social media, Igboho said he had the backing of Yoruba leaders. According to him, the leaders have voiced their concerns adding that it would be a declaration of war if he was arrested. These are Igboho’s words translated from Yoruba:
“Our fathers and leaders in Yorubaland have supported the move to give the herdsmen notice to quit in Yorubaland. Leaders like Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Dele Momodu, Femi Fani-Kayode, and Alao Akala have all expressed their support.
“We thank our traditional rulers like the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona, Ataoja of Osogbo, Oba Jimoh Olanipekjun, Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji, among others.
“All our fathers, we thank them, including the Aare Onakakanfo. They have all spoken up. Now that we are here, I beg you in the name of God, I don’t want us to disrespect any of our Yoruba leaders.
“You people are just unaware…I swear by God, they are also not happy with what is going on but now they are speaking up and I won’t condone what is going on.
“Look at all the Yoruba leaders that have spoken up; the Yorubas are warning them, that Buhari dares not. That now, it is war, if they dare arrest Igboho, it will turn to war.
“See the way Fani-Kayode has spoken up and he is not just joking with what he is saying. They are killing us, kidnapping us, treating us badly in our fatherland.”
The question that would bother any keen observer is that has Nigeria now gotten to the point where arsonists and political thugs receive general acceptance over actions that are not congruent with the law? Since when did we begin to give credence to people with little or no formal education and have no idea as to the common ethics of civil education? Who themselves are pencils in the hands of politicians and have been used to make our collective lives unbearable?
Unfortunate as it is, the glorification of thugs has already gained acceptance in Southern Nigerian politics. The 19-year wait for MKO Abiola’s successor as Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland ended and no matter whose ox may be gored, Gani Adam, and national coordinator of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) was the chosen one.
Recalling that in 2000, under ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, Gani Adams was declared wanted by police authorities for the alleged murder of Afolabi Amao, a divisional police officer at the Bariga Police Station in Lagos. He was also accused of being behind the series of attacks carried out by members of the OPC in Lagos and other parts of the South West. Today he is the third highest title holder in Yoruba Land. Question now is, how come thugs are the ones now leading the Yoruba race?
There is also Musliu Akinsanya, popularly known as MC Oluomo in Lagos. He is one of the most notorious thugs in Lagos who doubles as the Chairman of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) in the state. All of these reflect a decline and collapse of values and leadership and it goes beyond the Southwest as the likes of Tom Ateke and Asare Dokubo are also treated like megastars in the Niger Delta.
Ateke Tom is a full-fledged paramount ruler while Dokubo owns a University. These are individuals whose words and antecedents are known clearly.
Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, has further described as hypocritical, comments made by the Arewa Consultative Forum on the clashes in Ibarapa LGA of Oyo State. While advising the ACF to “call their criminals to order”, Afenifere warned that Yoruba would not want a repeat of the incident of 1966. Part of the statement released by Afenifere group reads:
“We are miffed that a body like ACF that has never shown any remorse over the killing of our people can open their mouths anyhow now because there are consequences for the irresponsible actions of their people.
“We advise them to call their criminals to order and not expect our people to sheepishly wait to be killed by those who value cow lives more than human beings.
“We do not want a repeat of 1966 event but if there are people plotting such event again, the rain will be over their heads.”
All of these reveal the ailing nature of the situation and the type of ethnic rivalry that would go on if praises for actions of people like Igboho continued to pervade the media space.
The noblest thing Sunday would have done was to use his influence to source for evidence to prove the allegations made against the Fulani Herdsmen, to back his grievance which should have been taken to the court of law. This would have been a better option instead of taking laws into his hands and carrying out actions capable of bringing anarchy and disintegration. While it is not surprising to expect this line of action from a man who has known nothing but thuggery in his adult life, what is quite strange is the irony of support given by statesmen and major stakeholders.
Logically elders and elites in the society are expected to work for peace and unity. It is a major threat to peace and unity when elites in any society elevate thuggery. This is exactly what led to Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in Germany. Till date, the world is yet to fully recover from the pains his NAZI regime inflicted on the Universe. Elevation of thuggery reflects the highest form of moral decadence in the society and ought to be checked before it snowballs into something the whole country might regret.