The Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) has thrown its weight behind the call by Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka for a declaration of emergency in the Southwest, owing to the level of insecurity in the region, saying the forests in the region have been invaded and the people are in danger.
The literary icon stated this, last Thursday, at the Fagunwa Study Group second international conference, organised to mark his 85th birthday in Akure, Ondo State.The YCE National Secretary, Dr. Kunle OLajide, made the body’s stand known at the weekend in reaction to Soyinka’s call in a telephone chat with The Guardian on Sunday, saying Southwest governors should collaborate and rid the region of invaders.
He said: “Most people from the region kept blaming the Federal Government and President Muhammadu Buhari, and I tell them, we are the greatest apostle of true federalism in Nigeria.
“So, our governors must start preparing for true federalism by taking full responsibility for our protection and welfare. We don’t need to be looking up to Abuja all the time. I think we should take our destiny in our own hands and ensure that our zone is safe.
“I totally agree with Prof. Wole Soyinka on that. Southwest has been relatively peaceful since 1983. The eruptions we had in 1965 and 1983 were as a result of election rigging. Our people abhor cheating. When people cheat and flaunt it in our face, our people get angry. That was the reason for the eruptions in the Southwest, but ever since, our people have been living in peace.
“Yorubas are very liberal. They welcome visitors with open arms. We even celebrate strangers more than ourselves. That is our culture, but this is being abused. People are taking undue advantage of our hospitality. Our forests have been invaded and we are in danger…”
But Soyinka’s call has triggered divergent reactions among Yoruba leaders.While some agreed that declaring a state of emergency in the six states of Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti is a right step and a stitch in time that saves nine, others disagreed that the security situation has not worsened to the level of causing panic among residents.
It was also feared that such calls would give the Federal Government unfettered access to the states’ internal security arrangements, thereby making nonsense of the calls for true federalism, which the zone has been championing. Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu and his Ogun State counterpart, Prince Dapo Abiodun said the governors had already taken actions to make the region safe, through their collaborative efforts and assured residents of their safety.Akeredolu, who is the Chairman of South West Governors’ Forum, added that the security of lives and property had become multidimensional to be left for government without citizens’ collaboration and cooperation.
Abiodun, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Kunle Somorin, said: “We have not reached the stage to call for state of emergency. The governors in the Southwest are jointly tackling the situation with all the seriousness it deserves.”
The Governors, he revealed, had jointly put up a security team handling the situation.Somorin disclosed that the Federal government had released a helicopter to the state to assist in combating the menace, expressing conviction that the security situation in the region would return to normal sooner than later.
However, a public affairs analyst, Comrade Jare Ajayi, said: “There is no doubt that the Nigeria nation, including the Southwest, is under serious security problem. Security agencies have not done enough. I don’t think it should take the declaration of ‘state of emergency’ for normal security to be provided. Declaration in itself will not solve the problem. The core thing is for relevant security agencies to wake up to their responsibilities.’A former Deputy Governor of Oyo State, Alhaji Hazeem Gbolarumi shared the same view with Ajayi.