By Clifford Ndujihe, Political Editor
UNTIL Friday, January 15, 2021, Chief Sunday Adeyemo, also known as Sunday Igboho, was arguably an unknown entity outside the South-West zone of Nigeria. Even in the South-West, his popularity was not widespread.
However, all that changed on January 15. No thanks to the recurring herdsmen menace in many parts of the country especially the South-West, Middle-Belt, South-South, and South-East that has left sad and teary tales on the lips of victims.
On that historic January 15, Sunday Igboho and his supporters took the battle to end the ‘Fulani’ herdsmen crisis on their shoulders, thus adding their names to the January 15 stories.
Indeed, a number of life and trajectory-changing events in Nigeria happened on January 15. The first military coup in the largest black nation on earth took place on January 15, 1966. The 30-month Nigerian-Biafran Civil War ended on January 15, 1970. Nigeria celebrates its Armed Forces Remembrance Day on January 15.
January 15 was the day Sunday Igboho, a grassroots mobiliser and his supporters stormed the Fulani Community in Igangan, Ibarapa Local Council of Oyo State to issue a seven-day quit notice to Fulani herdsmen to vacate Igangan community, Oyo State, and all other Yoruba communities or be forced to do so. He confronted the Sarkin Fulani, Saliu Kadri, and issued the polity-shaking ultimatum.
As expected, the ultimatum raised dust in the polity. It pitted Sunday Igboho against Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, who asked the police to arrest the warrior. It also divided the polity with pro and anti-Igboho’s ultimatum supporters baring their fangs.
Without mincing words, Igboho accused Kadri’s subjects (Fulani) of killing Yoruba natives including Oyo businessman, Fatai Aborode, Alhaja Serifat Adisa, and her children, and an Igangan prince, among others. He said that his move and actions had the blessings of Yoruba traditional rulers.
Given the threat of Governor Makinde to arrest Igboho and his supporters because his government would not allow anyone hiding under the guise of protecting Yoruba interests to cause ethnic tension and perpetrate crisis, as no one has the power to expel another ethnic group from wherever in Nigeria, the nation waited with anxiety as the end of the ultimatum approached.
Will Igboho return to Igangan to carry out his threat? Will Makinde and the security agencies stop him? If any of the two happens what are the repercussions? These were some of the questions on the lips of observers.
Like he threatened, Ighoho, on Friday, January 22, 2021 when the ultimatum expired, mobilised a huge number of his supporters and marched to the Fulani, and drove them out of their abodes in Igangan.
The freedom fighter was received with ululation by hundreds of youths, who sang and danced when he marched into Igangan.
After carrying out his threat, an angry Ighoho, while addressing the people, vowed that Fulani herdsmen would be chased away from the town and the entire Yorubaland for inciting insecurity and banditry.
“What is happening will not be limited to this place, we will drive out Fulani from the entire Yorubaland. They want to be killing us. We will not accept this,” he said stressing that Sarkin, the head of the Fulani, must leave the town because he had been identified as a security threat.
In response to Igboho’s disobedience of state order, Governor Makinde asked the Police to arrest him and others causing tension in the state. The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, issued an order for Igboho to be arrested.
The governor while briefing the new Oyo State Commissioner of Police, Ngozi Onadeko, said his administration would continue to synergise with law enforcement agencies to fight criminals, hoodlums and bandits irrespective of their tribe or religion.
“For people stoking ethnic tension, they are criminals and once you get them, they should be arrested and treated like common criminals. I am sure that since you came in, you must have heard about some things happening at Ibarapa axis of the state. I will still say it here that we are not after Hausa-Fulani. We are after criminals,” Makinde said.
However, in a video that went viral, Igboho dared the governor to arrest him if he could. Igboho was said to have worked for Makinde during the 2019 governorship election but along the line their relations became frosty.
“You can bring all Fulani to Yorubaland if you like, you unfortunate ones. It will not be well with you. You are threatening me in my fatherland with Fulani. You will not prosper.
“Is it the Fulani that makes the laws of the land? Have you forgotten when you were ‘bankrolling’ me when you wanted to become Governor and all I did for you all during the elections, and now you dare threaten me?
“Well, I don’t believe that you are serious with your threats yet, until you bring all the soldiers and policemen to arrest me in my house,” he said in response to the governor’s directives to the police to arrest him
Origins of the warrior
Igboho was born on October 10, 1972 in Igboho, Oke Ogun, Oyo State. However, his father relocated to Modakeke in Osun State where he grew up. He started off as a motorcycle repairer and later ventured into automobiles, selling cars. He was able to start Adeson Business Concept, which has today morphed into Adeson International Business Concept Ltd.
Igboho became famous for his roles in the Modakeke/Ife war of 1997 to 1998, where he fought on the side of the Modakeke.
Igboho reportedly fell out with Modakeke people, when they denied him a title and relocated to Ibadan where he met former Oyo State Governor, Lam Adesina through a courageous step while trying to defend the rights of the people at a fuel station. He also worked with former Governor Rasheed Ladoja and became one of his most trusted aides.
How Igboho’s ultimatum, actions electrified the polity
The Fulani Nationalist Movement, in a statement signed by its West African Regional Coordinator, Baadu Salisu Ahmadu, said that herdsmen would not leave their respective settlements in Nigeria, adding that any attempt to evict them from the six South-West states as threatened by Igboho and Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State would lead to war.
Making good his promise, Sunday Igboho arrived in a convoy on Friday January 22 to Igangan where kidnappings and killings were rampant.
Youths from all the towns in Ibarapa zone joined Igboho’s convoy in their hundreds with the motive of driving Fulani herdsmen away following their refusal to leave Igangan as demanded by Ibarapa people.
Shortly after Igboho left Igangan, the house of the Sarkin Fulani of Oyo State, Alhaji Saliu Abdulkadir, was set ablaze by aggrieved youths.
Sarkin Fulani, Alhaji Saliu Abdulkadir, confirmed the incident, saying his house and all his vehicles had been set ablaze.
“As we speak, we are in the bush. Our cars numbering about 11 have been burnt. Some of my children sustained injuries and we are finding a way to take them to the hospital.
“My children have left their houses for the bush. We need government to help us. Police, Operation Burst and other security agencies were there when they set my house ablaze,” he said.
Chairman of Miyetti Allah in the state, Alhaji Ibrahim Jiji, described the incident as unfortunate, urging the government to find a lasting suction to the Fulani/farmers unrest in the state.
“As we usually say, not all Fulani’s are evil; good people are among us. What can we call this now? The man is a gentleman and see how he was chased out of his house. We need government to act now,” he said.
Yoruba leaders, groups back Igboho
In the thick of the crisis, Yoruba leaders and groups including the Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, threw their support to Igboho and cautioned the government against actions that could destabilise the country
The Agbekoya Farmers’ Society kicked against the Inspector-General of Police’s order to shoot, arrest, and bring Sunday Adeyemi Igboho to Abuja, describing the order as biased “because the armed Fulani herdsmen, kidnappers and bandits who have been kidnapping and killing innocent sons and daughters of Yoruba land have never been arrested and prosecuted since the inception of this administration.”
Former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, warned President Muhammadu Buhari not to arrest or kill Igboho. Fani-Kayode who gave the warning on his official Twitter handle said such would be dangerous, reckless and counter-productive.
Also a host of prominent Yoruba leaders and elders vowed to resist Igboho’s arrest, warning that such an attempt is capable of setting the country on fire.
The Elders also warned the six governors in the South-West zone not to negotiate the continued stay of Fulani herders saying all of them should toe the path of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) by issuing an eviction notice to the violent herders.
The elders said unless the government wants to set the country on fire, that’s when they touch Sunday Igboho. He is not fighting for himself but for all Yoruba people. “They are not going to arrest Igboho unless they want war. We are ready for them If they touch Sunday Igboho, they have assaulted the whole Yoruba race and we are not going to take it lightly,” they vowed.
Ojudu’s unmaking of Igboho
As Igboho’s popularity soared, Special Adviser to the President on Political matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, published his encounter with the freedom fighter, wherein he painted Igboho as an enforcer who has lately been ”crowned a hero in Yoruba land by the reign of terror by herders and bandits.”
Titled: ”The Sunday Igboho I Knew,” Ojudu narrated his encounter with Igboho in 2009, how together with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, he got Igboho (after a golden handshake with Tinubu) to drop his plans with ”a band of 50 thugs ” to violently disrupt the Ekiti governorship rerun between Segun Oni of PDP and Dr Kayode Fayemi of ACN in favour of the PDP.
Ojudu also claimed that Igboho admitted going through the tutelage of late Strongman of Ibadan Politics, Chief Lamidi Adedibu
Said Ojudu: ”According to Igboho he went through the tutelage of Chief Adedibu, the strong man of Ibadan politics. He said he was one of his most reliable and trusted thugs. At a point in their relationship, Adedibu, he said began to suspect he was getting too powerful and independent. Adedibu , he narrated, then invited him to a meeting and told him he will like him to run for the chairmanship of a local government.
”He said he knew this was an attempt by Adedibu to bench him and he therefore told Adedibu that he was not educated , not able to speak English and could therefore not be chairman of a local government.
Adedibu , he said , looked at him and barked an order Stand up! He stood up. “Sit Down!” He sat down. Adedibu then said “and you claim not to be educated. Whatever is left we shall add it unto you.”
I don’t know Femi Ojudu — Igboho
Reacting to Ojudu’s claims that he is a political thug, Sunday Igboho said: “I don’t know Femi Ojudu, he is insane; I understand that his head is not correct.”
Mr Igboho said Mr Ojudu lied to have said they met in 2009, in preparation for a rerun election in Ekiti State.
“I don’t know Femi Ojudu, he is insane. I’m not close to Adedibu as said in his piece but I know Ladoja. I understand that his (Ojudu’s) head is not correct. He should swear with his children that I ever met him,” Mr Igboho told journalists, who were at his home after one of his houses was set ablaze by unknown .
“He wants to spoil my name. He is a mere liar. No politician gives me money for what I am doing. Police and government are not helping matters (in Ibarapa on security).”
Mr Igboho maintained that he went to evict the Fulani leader in Igangan last week because those being killed and kidnapped are “my family members and that’s why I went there. I was not sponsored.”
Someone’ll stop oppression of Yoruba
While narrating what happened in Igangan in a video, Igboho said all the suspected Fulani herders that were handed over to the police were released after a DPO got a directive from above (Abuja).”
He said: “God will not allow destruction of Yorubaland. These herders, after holding their kidnap victims, would be asking the females among them to undress and rape them. Anyone they kidnapped, the least ransom they collect is N10 million.
“Imagine the case of that Dr. Aborode that they killed recently. He studied till he bagged a PhD degree and then went abroad to make some money; he came back to his fatherland and started a very big farming business with millions of naira.
“The herders grazed their cattle on the farm and he went to that Sarkin, Saliu to complain. They tied him to a stake and hacked him to death.
“The Yoruba warned him not to go to that Sarkin but he went thinking he would help warn his people. You dare not go to that Sarkin.
“Before you get to him, there are three different barricades to his palace here in Igangan. We now went to him to call his attention to the atrocities that his people were committing, the governor was now saying otherwise. I, with tribal marks?, only God knows when I will die.
“When I was nobody, I was fighting for my people and now that God has been gracious to me, would I now be fearful?
“I, already have children; if I die today fighting for my people, my children will say our daddy was an actor.
“After 20 years that God must have liberated Yorubaland from its oppressors, and then we can relax.
“They have turned our fathers to fools. In the time of the late Ooni of Ife, Oba Adesoji Aderemi, the then Prime Minister asked our king to come but Oba Aderemi said who? Never say that again. Ooni would never cross a river. They would rather go to him.
“If President Buhari goes to any of the emirs in the North today, he will do obeisance to him; if he comes to our own Ooni of Ife, he will stretch forth his hand for a handshake. You now reduced all of us to mere fools.
“We now spoke and you said I should be arrested. Who? Are we acting films? When the policemen came, I said they would turn away from that point and they did.
“My people too are ready to die for me. You see them. The whole thing will end in a day and it’s someone that will start it. At Iganna, herders kidnapped their local government chairman; they collected N20m ransom before he was released.
Gains of Igboho’s struggles
Coming at a time Ondo State Governor, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, issued a seven-day notice to herders in Ondo forest reserves to register with the state government or quit, the combined effect of the Igboho and Akeredolu’s ultimatums yielded positive results on Monday, January 25.
The Miyetti Allah conceded and accepted all the requirements Akeredolu put down for herdsmen to remain in Ondo forest reserves. This was after a meeting in Akure which was atteded by South-West governors and two northern governors.
The herders agreed and started registering with the Ondo State government, to stop night and under-aged grazing in South-West zone among others.