In this interview, the Director General of Development Agenda for Western Nigeria Commission, Seye Oyeleye, tells ADEMOLA ADEGBITE the causes of current insecurity in the South-West
What are the new things the commission wants to bring to the table this year?
Well, as you quite know at DAWN, we work assiduously for the development of the South-West region. All we do is South-West development, nothing else. In 2019, five years ago, we conceptualized the idea of Western Nigeria, a security network that we all now call Amotekun and by the grace of God, in the last five years, no one has come round to say something else.
The fear some people expressed then was that the governors would misuse it, oh it would be an army for the Yoruba. It has not materialized because we conceptualized that idea and handed it over to our governors who graciously implemented it properly. There is a lot of beauty in its mechanisms that ensure that it would not be abused by anyone. So we did all that and today we are proud to see Amotekun growing. Yes, there might be hitches here and there, but of course that’s expected of a toddler that is growing. But apart from that, by and large, it has been a success story with Amotekun, particularly in the states that have adopted it. Lagos State does not have Amotekun at the moment, we know for some reasons, particularly because they have the Lagos neighbourhood watch.
The challenges we are facing now have again brought up new ideas. As a development commission, we need to also think out of the box. Don’t forget that we always say that when we talk of development it is because there is security. If there is no security, there can’t be development. I always like to use the example of North-East Nigeria. If an investor is coming to Nigeria tomorrow morning for the first time, he will not be thinking of North-East. So, here in the South-West, we have to continue working to make our environment very secure, and what do we do? We have seen the fresh challenges facing our people in the region, and the cry has come back to us again at the commission that we need to think of fresh ideas on how to confront the imagined threat in the security spaces.
Without giving too much away, I would just like to say that the DAWN commission is working closely at the moment with those who should know, experts in the security sectors to strengthen the security process. Within the security matters, there are things that I must not be putting out, but I can assure the people of South-West Nigeria that the challenges we are facing are not unique to us and we will confront them with unique solutions. It has become a sacrilege that three of our Kings (one in Kwara State and two in Ekiti State) were killed. One was killed in his domain while two were caught on the road and killed.
So, what we’ve been doing at the commission is to find a better way against these challenges for the region. I have said it and I will say it again that if there is no security, there is no amount of development work that you do that will work.
What efforts are you making to influence the South-West governors to get things done security-wise?
Unfortunately, while looking at both sides of the coin, we can only say that on the part of the governors, I think and we think that they are playing their parts. I mean regularly as an example, the state governors deep hands into their pockets to get our policemen resources, communication gadgets, vehicles, and the rest. So, what has happened is that the South-West Governors are alive to their responsibilities.
Oyo State Government is funding over 2,000 Amotekun, that’s a lot of money but the challenge at the moment is that there are still some enabling laws in the Federal Government that are hamstrung the populace from doing the right thing. So, Amotekun, as an example, is not allowed to carry AK47 and the people they are dealing with are carrying AK47 riffles; so you can’t tie my hands behind my back and then tell me to come and eat at the same time. It doesn’t work.
So, we need to ensure that Amotekun personnel are properly equipped for the task ahead. Some said we need to insure their lives, a lot of the states now have insurance policies for them but they still need adequate weapons to combat insecurity in the region.
Why can’t we have state police? I argued that if Plateau had had state police, maybe the Mangu attack where a lot of people were killed, might not have happened; because a lot of recruitment would have come from local areas. If you can recruit your personnel from within a community, you will feel safer. If I want to go and talk to the policeman, I will go to the one that grew up in my area. So, what I will just say is that the issue we are confronting now is different from what we confronted five years ago. But new measures are being considered.
What do you think is responsible for the insecurity in recent times, especially the killing and kidnapping of Obas in the South-West region?
It gets multifaceted. I used to hear this word about 20 or 30 years ago that there will be trouble if you don’t do this. Nigeria is sitting on a time bomb and a timebomb is meant to explode at a point when the timer goes up. So, for the Nigerian state, Western Nigeria in particular, the timer has its set up. That’s why we have a lot of kids going into crime because nobody is checking them. So, when you have bandits, check their ages, kidnappers check their ages, a lot of them are in their 20s or early 30s. These are the children born after 1990 as an example. So, what have you done to help them so that they won’t turn into bandits and criminals?
About the recent kidnapping and killing in the South-West region, do you think the GSM service providers are to blame because all lines are registered with a name and biometrics?
How can somebody kidnap you and he is using a phone number to negotiate? And you cannot track that phone number. That’s what I don’t understand in these days of technology. And I’ve been asking several people and nobody has given me a satisfactory answer. If I’m calling from somewhere in Cocoa House, there should be a device that can say that at exactly 5:45 pm somebody was using this phone at Cocoa House. So, I don’t want to believe that there is a bit of complicity on the part of security agencies but the question we are asking is how come somebody is collecting ransom and nobody is checking?
What do you proffer as permanent solutions to the farmers/herdsmen crisis?
We need to enforce our laws in the South-West. We said no to open grazing! Let them range. In my years in the UK and America, I didn’t see people moving cows around. Our South-West governors must enforce the laws that our parliaments have enacted. If the law says in my state I don’t want cattle grazing then implement it. We have to decide what we want.
There was a time they said they were looking for a grazing route; so who is going to give his fatherland up for grazing routes? Who? The best thing is to call your brother in the North that you are meant to ranch. So, if your states have said no to open grazing, then enforce it. You see, part of the problems we have in Nigeria is that we are trying to put political correctness at times above the law. I am aware that there are states that have passed anti-open grazing. When you see anybody grazing openly then impound… If you ban open grazing, people will not be taking cows to go and destroy farms. You are a cow farmer and I am a crop farmer, your farming must not disturb my farming. The laws are there. That has been enacted by various Houses of Parliament, please let’s enforce it. That’s all. We don’t want open grazing. That’s all.
When Amotekun was being created the fear was it would be turned into tools by some people. Five years down the road, has it been turned into tools? No. We have to crush that demon that is holding us down. A federal country like Nigeria cannot survive on one police force. The United Kingdom has about 43 or 44 different Police Forces and their population is below us. But in Nigeria, we want the IGP of Police to say I am the Inspector General of Police for Nigeria. No, it’s not working. The metropolitan police in the UK has its head of police, Manchester has its own too.
What is your message for both the South-West governors and the people?
Yoruba must remain focused, South-West must remain focused.
The governors must not be despondent. They should continue to think of new ways to fight insecurity which we always do at DAWN. New ways of confronting the present realities in the area of security. That’s the job of a governor. And we must send hope and not hopelessness. We know there is a problem, and some of us are already sitting down and thinking of ways of solving that problem.
Where do you see DAWN in the next five years?
In the next five years, DAWN will continue to be a reference for development for this country. The template for development to be followed is what we are doing here at DAWN, bringing six states together, to think alike, and to do things together. We will do more of this, and ensure it becomes impactful in the country where other regions will now say we want to come together and do things together.
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