Friday, January 29, 2021 1:00 am
By Adeoluwa F. Olanrewaju
In the last few weeks, a rare voice from the wilderness got the government’s attention in probably, the most unusual way. The issues centered on killer herdsmen and their unending horror in the Oke-ogun/Ibarapa regions of Oyo State. It was probably the first time in many years that overwhelming attention was drawn to Oke-ogun. I recall having a chat with someone recently and he said, “Where exactly is that Oke-ogun?” He continued, “Is it a town?” As a thoroughly blooded Oke-ogun man, I did not waste time to school him.
Oke-ogun accounts for ten of the thirty-three local governments in Oyo State. It is unarguably the food basket of Oyo State and strategically positioned on the border route with the Republic of Benin; thereby making a significant international economic potential.
Oke-ogun, unknown to many, perhaps, due to its seemingly off-major expressway location, is one of the materially richest regions of Nigeria. And that ought not to be anyway, as there is an old route that links Lagos/Ogun to Sokoto transversing through Oke-ogun, perhaps, the beautiful ones to make the construction happen are not yet born. A region with inexhaustible resources; the best of solid minerals are domiciled in Oke-ogun with Igbeti’s marble, tourmaline in Komu, tantalite in Sepeteri, with abundance of columbite, talc, quartz etc. across the length and breadth of the region. As per tourism potentials, Oke-ogun cannot be ignored. Ado-Awaye’s suspended lake is an all-time nature’s beauty to behold. There are also the Asabari hills of Saki, the Old Oyo National Park in Akoto, Sepeteri, the Ikere Dam, Igbeti hills and much more. Little did many know that the revered Bishop Ajayi Crowther, the first consecrated African bishop, hailed from Oke-ogun. Just last week, the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), deemed it fit, to commission a landmark project in his honour, in his country home in Osoogun, near Iseyin in Oke-ogun.
Space will fail me to mention the long lists of eminent personalities that have emerged from the region and who have contributed enormously to the development of Nigeria. How soon do we forget that the National Pledge was written by Prof. Mrs Felicia Adebola Adedoyin, who hailed from Saki, in the heart of Oke-ogun! Painfully, all that the people have to show for these huge potentials is nothing but failed promises, too much neglect and underdevelopment.
How does one explain that a populace of about two million people, in ten local governments (recall that Bayelsa state has eight local goverments), cannot even boast of any Federal Government tertiary institution, whereas, Zaria city alone has at least five? The only tertiary institution in the region is Oke-ogun Polytechnic, which was for several years, a satellite campus of the state-owned, The Polytechnic of Ibadan.
Basic physical infrastructures are too much a luxury to make happen in Oke-ogun. The connecting roads are nothing but eyesores. Politically, the region, with its huge human capital, are only good to play the second fiddle. Agriculture, the natural occupation of the people, has remained at low ebb. Despite the huge potentials for commercial farming and export prospects, the human, natural and economic resources remain grossly under-tapped.
Have the Okeogun people been crying out? Oh yes! But no one has been pricked enough to answer. Back to the killer herdsmen’s activities, it is certainly not the first time that these heinous crimes are being perpetuated. Unprovoked attacks and unreported killings have been a norm in the region. The memory of a certain old man, in one of the Oke-ogun towns and how he was brutally killed remains fresh. He had gone to his farm and met a Fulani herdsman feasting his cows on his crops. A simple request from the harmless septuagenarian, asking the herdsman to leave his farm was greeted with hacking him to death. Till date, nobody is brought to book. Hundreds of persons and scores of communities have been repeatedly attacked with casualties reported.
In the DNA of the Oke-ogun people is incredible value for life, a trait that restrains them from reprisals all the while. Their openness to accommodate all kinds of peoples makes their land a home away from home for most non-indigenes; hence, the high influx of many “foreigners” including herdsmen, who find best of pastures for their cattle in the region.
The happenings of last week are simply confirmation of what happens when the tolerance level of a people is stretched to the limit. Oke-ogun people have been pushed to the wall, not only in matters of herdsmen attacks, but also in the deliberate neglect, as well as playing on the calmness of the people. It is quite shocking to see the speed at which the government responded to Sunday Igboho’s agitations. It is probably the first time in many years that attention is drawn to many cries from the region with “muscular and swift responses.” Desirably, should quarter of the speed at which government moved had been concentrated at developing this region, this incidence could probably have been avoided.
Or do we conclude that government responds better when its maladroit is marched with rehearsals of war beats? We are Oke-ogun people and we descend from the lineage and clans of the honorable. We are warriors and thick-red fluids of valor run in our veins. If the power that be would not consider our plight, there is perhaps no other option left to watch our race go extinct. There is certainly much ado about these agitations. It is never too much to ask to be secured in our land. It is the last thing we would not sacrifice. Sunday Igboho’s agitations have been applauded and rebuked from different quarters, this write-up is less interested in a critique of his approach. Rather, it is to articulate the ordeals of a people who have long groaned in pains and whose penchant for serenity have been taken for cowardice and unwariness. The struggle is not about Sunday Igboho, it is a people’s cry for emancipation, peace and progress. Anyone who has problems with these basic demands is complicit in the horror, decay and dehumanization that the Oke-ogun people have been through over the years. This is indeed much ado about something.
_*Dr Adeoluwa F. Olanrewaju hails from Sepeteri, Saki East Local Government Area of Oke-ogun region, Oyo State.*_