In this interview with FAIZAT ADEBOYE AND FLORENCE AYOOLA, HRM Oba Abdul-Rasheed Balogun, the Olu of Akinbo land, Ilu Gbemiro 1, spoke on matters bordering on security challenges in the Country, with emphasis on Ogun State particularly. According to him, the erosion of community policing is responsible for the escalation of local security challenges in the Country. To address the challenges, he believes local communities must be proactive in creating their own community police without waiting for the Government to help them do so. Excerpts:
Looking at the security challenges in Nigeria especially in Ogun State, as a traditional ruler, how do you think these challenges can be tackled?
To tackle security challenges, be it that of Fulani herdsmen, kidnappers or whatever insecurity, we should go back to our forefathers’ ways; that is those things our fathers used back then to fight insecurities with wisdom and knowledge. For some of us, the traditional rulers, we need orientation especially in terms of security. Everything in life has procedure; in modern day government, there are offices such as the Chief of Staff, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Agriculture etc. All these are things we traditional rulers need to inculcate in our ruling system. We need to hold security and business or trade in high esteem. If we give security agencies the necessary equipment needed, there won’t be insecurity here and there. They are kidnapping people in our area and we are not suspicious; we are not careful enough as to what kinds of people are entering our communities. You find out that someone will just enter a community with loads, and people do not mind; we don’t know what is inside the loads. If we are conscious about security, when a visitor enters our communities, there will be people that will challenge them, know where there are coming from and what their loads contain. These people in charge will be the ones who will report to the king or community leader that there is a new person or visitor in town, with details of what he or she came with. It is our nonchalant attitude that has made criminals to enter our midst. We are different from those from the other side who don’t care about who enters their land. Our forefathers were always conscious of their environment; they knew when something was coming. They don’t need to be told; their instincts always tell them things but in this present day, we are not security conscious; we only care about our business, farming, making money and all that. We will see a visitor on the road coming into the community, we won’t challenge him or her. This is unlike before which when they see a new face, they ask the person questions. They don’t ignore like we do now; they challenge new faces or visitors.
If we are all security conscious, there won’t be any security issue. If a visitor goes to one community, if they challenge him or her and I do the same in my community, this way, war won’t come to destroy us. In foreign countries, they have security personnel in charge of this. When they see a visitor or new face, they challenge him or her. Our forefathers too did this back then. We need to be security conscious. We should have security personnel in charge of this; when they see a visitor, they should ask questions and report to the king or head of the community whatever answers they got from the visitor. We all don’t care about security in this present day; we only care about making money, being rich and all that. We have forgotten that criminals can come one day and take all these things from us. We really need to be security conscious. We should set up community police. We don’t need to wait for government approval; are we not the ones the police will protect? It is your village, these people (community police) will be in charge; they will be up and doing to protect the town or community. Our forefathers used to do that in the olden days. One person could be in charge of a whole town or village; all the things the person needed to protect the village would always be with him. We might not have those kinds of things anymore but there is technology now; phones to communicate. We can have four people or more doing this; when they see anything suspicious, they call themselves on phone. We don’t need to wait for government, they can’t be here and there. Now, if something happen, we call the Police. The Police naturally doesn’t know what is going on in your domain, so you are the one in charge of protecting your community or town; don’t wait for the government to approve community policing, set it up yourself.
On the recent kidnap in the North, one of the people in government while talking about it said “Police cannot be everywhere” which is true. So, each village should set up community police and set up laws that will guide the community. Here, we have our own laws that citizens of this community must not disobey. What is obtainable in my community might not be obtainable in yours. Government will not complain as far as it is for the good of the community. In implementing laws in terms of security, trade or whatever, anything that is good for your community, the government will not condemn it. Also, you don’t have to disobey government rules.
Was Ewekoro affected by the insecurity caused by Fulani herdsmen just of recent in Ogun state?
Yes, it affected Ewekoro. In this community it happened, it became rampant, and there were complaints here and there. Whenever we report to the police, the police will ask if you saw them; did you catch them? Can we enter the midst of 500 cows? We were not trained on that, so how do we do it? We came up, had a meeting and we decided to chase them away and we did. They also now came together, had a meeting with us and they said we are one Nigeria, that our people are in their states too. So, we asked them if our people are disrupting their source of income over there? If they are not disrupting your source of income there, why are you disrupting ours here? So what is the solution now? They said, they want to live with us and we said if you want to, go and bring the ways in which you can live with us that we can be comfortable. They came and said their cows won’t eat our crops again, that there won’t be disruption anymore. Ok! If you can guarantee that your cows won’t eat crops, won’t put farmers in debt, you can live with us and how can you achieve this? We said to them, the number of cows you brought here is too much, reduce it. There is nothing we can do, we have to live with them since we are all claiming one Nigeria. Our people are investing in their states too, but we need to manage ourselves pending the time final solution will come from the government. For instance, our land might only be able to take 50 cows but they will bring about 500 cows. So now, they need to reduce their cows to either 50 so that there will be space enough not to eat crops. Then, how can one person or one small boy be able to control 100 or 200 cows? So we are progressing on this, we have held the meeting, The head of the Fulani herdsmen, South-west, the National and the State leaders came; we discussed and they said they will get back to us, that the government already set up a committee which the Commissioner for Agriculture is involved. They promised that they are going to come out with solutions to our problem; we are still waiting and expecting. They said they are going to have meeting with the government. Presently, out of 100 per cent of our problems, it has gradually reduced to 70 per cent.
Do you go with the idea of self-defence, and since you have said we should not wait for government to do everything for us, does that mean you will be in support of Sunday Igboho’s activism?
No! No! No! We should not harm ourselves; just find solution to your problems without harming yourselves. We have to settle things amicably. God has blessed the SouthWest, especially the Yoruba people. We have knowledge; there is nothing we can’t manage in Yoruba land. If the Yorubas see a dull person, they will know, same with a smart person. So, they don’t give anyone more that what they can handle; they know who to put in one position or not. So, the final conclusion is that, we should have self-defence like community policing; we should follow government directives.
Has Ewekoro been able to set up community police?
My community, Akinbo community, has been able to do that. I set up a six-man committee to secure my domain. If they see any suspicious person, they challenge him or her; if he/she is someone we can harbour, we do that; if he/she is not, we report to the police; that is we are helping the government to do their job.
Aside security issues, what else do you need the government to do for your community?
Security first. Well, the government is trying because whenever there is an issue and we call the Divisional Police Officer (DPO), he responds quickly; the same with the Area Commander. The Area Commander was present during the herdsmen issue and we were able to tackle it amicably.
So, is that the only thing needed?
Generally, we have electricity problem. Power is needed for everyone to be ok. Also, water is needed because this area is a limestone area. Before you can get drinkable water, you have to dig down deep because there are lots of stone underground. So, if we want to inject borehole here, it will cost us a lot of money. We need borehole here, we need pipe borne water, the one in Papa area that serves all these places have problem. So, we’ve not had water for a while now. We also need accessible roads to farm. Then our major issue, the Lafarge issue is a general problem in terms of air and environmental pollution which we have complained several times and they promised us very soon we won’t experience pollution anymore.