The June 5, 2022 attack on St Francis Catholic Church, Owo, in Ondo State, which claimed 40 lives out of the 127 involved in the incident, leaving 61 survivors currently on admission in different hospitals and 26 already discharged, is still generating controversies.
In this interview with Fidelis David, the Olowo Owo Kingdom, Oba Ajibade Ogunoye, speaks on efforts on the need to rejig the security apparatus of Nigeria.
Your Royal Majesty, the Owo massacre happened right at the backyard of the palace, were you in the palace when it happened?
I was in the palace, I heard everything.
What effort did you make, sir, maybe to call the security agencies, people around to go and see why is happening?
Actually, I made efforts, to call the security agencies and immediately I made a call to the Governor Of Ondo State, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu who was in Abuja then, so immediately he assured me that he will find means of getting back to Owo immediately and he was able to arrive here, I think less than three hours or two hours after the incident.
Sir, is this not a sacrilege to the gods of the land?
Of course, It is! It is!! Our position has always been that nobody can wage war against us and succeed and we will not fold our arms.
What effort has the community taken to forestall future occurrence of this?
We are discussing, we are taking steps, it won’t be a media affair but we wouldn’t relent, we will find means of protecting ourselves and take actions to forestall any future occurrence.
We learnt that those guys are from Abuja, they are criminals of Fulani herdsmen and we learnt that some people are planning a reprisal attack on the Fulani community or the Hausa community. Sir, are you aware of this?
Yes! I’m aware, it was some hours after the incident, a lot of our youths came out, they were very annoyed; they showed their annoyance. So I learned that some people wanted to begin action against the Fulani and Hausa community in Owo. So, I had to call everybody and advised them that these people may attack an innocent ones. They are the people that have been living amongst us over the years, conducting their businesses without trouble. We should please abstain from any attack on any form because those who masterminded and carried out the dastardly act are not around.
Those who carried the act have ran away, they should allow security agencies to do their work in terms of investigation, possible apprehension of those who came for the attack. So, as I have very good relationship with people, they all agree with my opinion and everybody just went home with their mourning moods and since then we’ve been mournung.
As a traditional ruler, what advice will you give the government on the issue of insecurity in the country as a whole?
It is the Federal Government that has the instrument of suppression, the security apparatus of the country is in the hands of the Federal Government. The Federal Government needs to be very proactive this time around. This is not just starting, Nigeria as a nation has been experiencing this over times especially in the Northern part of the country. So it cause the federal government practical actions rather than mere comments or whatever. It requires action and the security agencies should exercise the power, authority given unto them.
I know that the Nigeria Police and the Nigerian army are professionals and have the capability to forestall all these. They should know they are challenged to exercise the power given to them by the laws of the land and by the federal government.
Over time now, we’ve been complaining that our forests surrounding us in Owo here, even in the whole of Ondo State, and the Yoruba land, have been invaded by the Fulanis who have settled there. This environment is predominantly farming community. So, our people have been unable to access their farms for a long time and when this continues to be, that means these people will face famine — famine will lead to death.
I have made recommendations and requests pleading with the Federal Government that the forests should be combed and those who are there in totality should be flushed out and that has been the mission of the Ondo State Government as well and we know that the Governor of Ondo State has been trying in his own little way through the establishment of the Amotekun corps.
If not because of the presence of the Amotekun, its establishment, what we experienced on Sunday will have happened before now because we’ve been experiencing attacks here and there by the Fulanis on our people. So the government must wake up.
Then Nigeria as a nation, as often say, we said we are practicing federalism, why not allow the features of federalism to be so followed as it is elsewhere across the world, in Canada, in India, in United State of America, and others, whereby the states to have the authority to have their own police, well equipped face challenges like this but no state has the power. The Nigeria government has ‘federalism’ to do everything.
At independence, our fore fathers were aware that we are different from ourselves, though, we are all black but still different in terms of language, culture, traditional, ways of life. So, it was because of that, we agreed that federalism will be the best system of governance and then, it was very effective.
States have the power to have their police and the authority to equip them to function effectively. Until we are able to achieve that, a lot more will still happen in this nation.
So, I think we are challenged. Let us practice our federalism in line with its tenets. I think we don’t have any option. It is a challenge to the federal government. If the federal government is centralizing the instrument of operations, then, he should leave up to that expectation. I think we are very challenged in this country.
At times, when this things happen, it calls for questions and nature of humanity and the fact that are we ready to leave together as one? All other nations of the world are progressing, Ghana is progressing, Rwanda is progressing in lips and bounds but what are we doing as a nation for God sake?
If we begin to do this, when will we have any developmental increase?
Development can only take place in an atmosphere of peace, of good neighbour- lines, good relationship. Service and leadership are by those who are saddled with that responsibility. So, the leadership of this nation needs to wake up. We have been retrogressing over the years, we only boost that we are the giant of Africa but we can’t prove that anymore, so we need to take actions, to discuss amongst ourselves, so that our nation can progress.