Two very sad and revolting events took place in the south-west and in the north-east of Nigeria last week. They were equally gruesome but unequally treated in public discourse.
On Friday July 12, Mrs Funke Olakunrin, daughter of Pa Rueben Fasoranti, a pillar of the Yoruba socio-cultural group Afenifere, was unfortunately killed along the Akure-Ore road in Ondo State.
Earlier on in Muchalla Ward, Mubi North Local Government area of Adamawa State, Senator Elisha Ishaku Abbo’s uncle was allegedly killed by gunmen who had attacked his family home. They also abducted his stepmother Rifikatu Ishaku, who had a baby very recently.
According to the spokesman of the Adamawa State Police Command, Suleiman Yahaya, the gunmen attacked the family home early morning at 3 o’clock. They succeeded in abducting the senator’s stepmother. When Abbo’s uncle came out of his house nearby and raised an alarm, he was shot dead.
As for the Akure-Ore road incident, there is dispute on who killed Mrs Olakunrin. Almost immediately after the incident occurred, the social media was agog with news of another atrocity committed by the infamous Fulani herdsmen. As the story was told, it appeared as if Mrs Olakunrin, who had just visited her father Pa Rueben, had been targeted and killed by the so-called herdsmen.
And this was based on “eyewitness” accounts. These eyewitnesses were apparently able to identify Fulani herdsmen as distinct from armed robbers, kidnappers and other bandits from any other part of Nigeria. Not a mean feat.
Furthermore, because the incident happened in Yorubaland, it obviously stoked anger through the length and breadth of the south-west. Indeed, some usual suspects canvassed that the incident was a war against the Yoruba. The matter has now become a political football. But lost in the din is the truth about what really happened. How an innocent Nigerian got killed and how to track down and arrest her killers.
A statement from the spokesman of the Ondo State Police Command, Femi Joseph, sheds some light on the incident. Bandits operating in the area had targeted three vehicles. They include a bus belonging to the Young Shall Grow Motors Limited, a Toyota Landcruiser SUV, in which Mrs Olakunrin was, and a Toyota Camry. Mrs Olakunrin’s car had five passengers but inexplicably she was shot.
According the police spokesman, “they shot the woman, we rushed her to the hospital but we lost her. Other four occupants that were abducted, we have rescued them. Inside the Camry too, we had three occupants. They were also abducted, but we have rescued them. We have rescued a total of seven persons taken during the attack.”
Even this explanation hasn’t cut ice with some opponents of the Buhari government, whose aim is to muddy the waters, and probably render whatever the police investigation eventually uncovers unacceptable.
While we have been playing political football with the Akure-Ore road incident, no one has heard anything about the killers of Abbo’s uncle who also kidnapped his stepmother. It is as if it didn’t even happen.
Granted, Senator Abbo has become notorious for assaulting a young lady at a sex toy shop in Abuja. Though the viral video of that incident has only earned him opprobrium, the death of an innocent man and the abduction of a nursing mother deserve equal attention no matter what we feel about Abbo. Former president, Olusegun Obasanjo said Mrs Olakunrin’s death diminishes us. But I will rather say that the death of any innocent Nigerian, no matter where he’s from, diminishes all of us.
No matter. Both cases are further evidence of the security woes of Nigeria and the near paralysis of the Buhari administration tackling them. The government and its security agents appear not to have a grand strategy to tackle this murderous menace. Our police and other security agents are forever reacting to incidents. As a matter of fact, they seem to have run out of ideas on how to get ahead of these hoodlums, robbers, bandits and herdsmen.
President Buhari is also forever condoling and spitting fire about how perpetrators would be brought to book. Of course, we soon forget one incident until another one occurs. Then the cycle of how the government will tackle the menace and bring offenders to book starts all over again.
It is this ineffectual response of the government to these atrocities that has brought its opponents out of the woodworks to attack its soft underbelly. While some of them are well meaning and truly want a solution to our problems, many of them are still reeling from their defeat at the last general elections. They really thought they’ll win but they lost.
In the event, some of them don’t mind setting the nation on fire with their rhetoric. They don’t like Buhari and they want him gone by any means.
So, using incidents such as the Olakunrin killing is ammunition for them to push their agenda. And those who don’t agree with them are traitors, particularly in southwest. Here, having any opposing view means you are a traitor to the Yoruba Agenda, in the opinion of this vocal few who arrogate all wisdom to tackle our problems to themselves.
There is no doubt that this government needs to show Nigerians it is in haste to tackle our problems. So far we haven’t seen that. This second tern is an opportunity for redemption for the president. If truly his government has run out of ideas to solve our security problems, he should listen to those who want him to convoke a non-partisan national meeting to trash out the issue.
A variant of it is what Senator Tolu Odebiyi (APC-Ogun) advised last week when he urged the Senate to sit down with the Presidency and “security formations in a meeting to take immediate action.”
He said: “There’s nothing we do here that is safe if we don’t get security right. We can’t be coming here every day moaning and observing one-minute silence when Nigerians are being killed.”
It is important that government takes heed and gets something done. Buhari needs to look at his security set-up and determine if he needs to change its top personnel. The law of diminishing returns has set in. The president has argued that you don’t change a commander in the middle of a war. I believe Nigeria’s own war history doesn’t back him up.
We all know what happened when the late Brigadier General Benjamin Adekunle, who commanded the famous Third Marine Commando during the civil war, had problems with some of his top- flight officers, a situation which stymied the war in that sector. Adekunle was removed and a new commander, Obasanjo, sent to that command. And, as they say, the rest is history.
The president isn’t doing himself or Nigeria any favours keeping the security architecture the way it is at the moment. He needs to rejig it.
Nevertheless, the words of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu rings in my head.
“We must not use this (death of Olakunrin) divide ourselves; but we must use it as a cure to the security problems. Additional police, additional patrol and additional security reinforcement along Ore Road and in the various flashpoints.”
Importantly we need to bring to justice to those who killed Olakunrin and Abbo’s uncle and abducted his stepmother. Government must show its mettle. It should stop sitting on its haunches.