Exactly one year after the crisis that engulfed Igangan, a hitherto sleepy community in Oyo State, following the eviction of the Sarkin Fulani of the state, Alhaji Saliu Abdulkadir, from his settlement, by the self-acclaimed Yoruba nation agitator, Sunday Adeyemo aka Igboho, socio-economic activities remain at their lowest ebb amidst uneasy calm and misgivings over the incident, Daily Trust reports.
By this time last year (January 22, 2021), the Igangan community was boiling following the expiration of the one-week ultimatum Igboho gave to the herders in the community to vacate their settlement.
It was the culmination of the protracted farmers/herders’ clashes that had rocked the Igangan town in Ibarapa North Local Government Area of the state.
Igboho had, a week earlier, stormed the Gaa Seriki (the Sarki’s settlement) with dozens of youths to register his displeasure over killings, kidnapping and attacks allegedly by herders in the community.
He however told Sarkin Fulani to leave the area in seven days or he will deal with them. That was the beginning of tension in the community.
The one-week quit notice elapsed and Igboho made good his threat, storming Igangan in the early hours of January 22 to evict the Fulani including their leader and Sarkin Fulani for Oyo State, Alhaji Saliu Abdulkadir, who was raised and had lived in the community all his life. After the quit notice was issued, it was learnt that the state government mobilised 14 mobile police officers to guide the settlement but the police were overpowered by the rampaging youths of the town led by Igboho.
At the end, the entire settlement was razed while the Fulani leader, his wives and children and other members of his family scampered for safety.
The Sarki who narrowly escaped death as he relocated to Ilorin, Kwara State, said at the end of the Igboho-led invasion to his settlement, seven of his kinsmen died while his property worth over N500million was destroyed.
He said, “My houses, 12 vehicles belonging to myself, my children, and some visitors were burnt and seven of my people were killed. The corpses of two were yet to be found and some of my animals were carted away.”
Also razed was the veterinary clinic built by the federal government as well as a milk collection centre used by various diary companies.
But one year after the incident which brought Igangan to the limelight albeit negatively, the town is yet to recover as findings by our correspondent who was in the town for two days, interacting with locals and residents and businessmen revealed.
From Ayetoro/Igbo Ora Motor Park at Lafenwa, Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, the waning socio-economic activities in the town can be observed from the number of people going to Igangan which many locals confessed was due to the eviction of the Fulani from the town.
Since the event of January 22, 2021 which residents confirm remains a sad episode in the history of the town, there has been mixed feelings in the community.
Residents are also divided over the eviction of the Fulani in the community whom they said were contributing to the socio-economy of the axis.
But others also heaved a sigh of relief over their eviction, saying they remain eternally grateful to Igboho for making the eviction possible. They said since the eviction of Fulani, the community has witnessed appreciable peace and calmness while incidents of kidnapping and attacks on farmers on their farm have reduced significantly.
Our correspondent however observed an atmosphere of suspicion among the residents as many of them, who were not pleased with the treatment meted out to the Fulani leaders, were scared of speaking out in order not to be tagged as “outcasts” even as those who were ready to talk were careful in their choice of words.
Despite the uneasy calm, our correspondent was able to access the razed settlement of the Fulani which has become a ghost settlement. The burnt flats, mosque, the palace, the veterinary clinic/milk collection centre as well as a nomadic primary school in the area remain untouched and have been overgrown by weeds.
Not a single soul could be seen around except the birds chirping when our correspondent accessed the settlement through a local. He particularly warned our correspondent against alighting from the motorcycle as he managed to take photographs of the rubbles which the once sprawling settlement filled with countless domestic animals such as rams, goats, chickens, turkeys in addition to the cows being sold by the occupants, have now been reduced to. With bated breath, they toured the bushy and patchy terrains.
Our correspondent observed that the road leading to the settlement is virtually invisible owing to one year of inactivity – no vehicular or motorcycle movement – while the movement of people is now zero from the popular Seriki Bus-Stop in Igangan Road following the eviction of over 2, 000 Fulani in Igangan alone.
At the bus stop, there is a permanent checkpoint manned by two local vigilantes. It was also observed that no fewer than four military posts were stationed between Ayete and Igangan which is a stretch of about five kilometres.
Between January 2021 and now, a lot has happened to the community deeply in search of peace, having experienced several deadly clashes between farmers and herders which have claimed lives and properties.
While the residents confirmed that there has been relative peace since the incident, another attack blamed on herders in June last year claimed no fewer than seven lives. The Asigangan of Igangan, Oba Lasisi Adeoye, who later joined his ancestors on December 21, blamed that attack on the ‘mercenaries’ of the evicted Sarki, which he denied. Also, last year, it was learnt that a couple was kidnapped in Igangan and were only released after four days in the kidnappers’ den.
However, there was calm in the village square when our correspondent alighted at Baale’s residence. But following the death of the monarch, the community is yet to appoint another Asigangan hence Daily Trust Saturday was directed to the second in command popularly known as Chief Agoro.
Recalling the incident, Chief Agoro of Igangan land, Salaudeen Kolawole, in a chat with our correspondent, said while there has been an appreciable calmness in the community, the land is still in search of peace and stability. He said the community is in dire need of funds to mobilize and equip vigilantes to guide other communities within Igangan.
“One year after, I can tell you we still don’t have peace in the community. Once in a while, we hear of one or two attacks in Igangan environs. So far, we have been relying on the vigilantes and hunters to secure the community but we need the support of the government to come to our aid to mobilize our hunters against the marauding herders.”
He however added that the attacks on farmers have reduced since the eviction of the Fulani, saying, “Farmers can now go to farm without fear or intimidation. We can say we are relieved after their eviction and we are grateful to Sunday Igboho for making this possible.”
Daily Trust Saturday reports that Igboho who is one of the protagonists in the whole crisis is still in detention in Cotonou, Benin Republic, after he was arrested on July 19, 2021 attempting to flee to Germany. Since then, he has remained in detention despite efforts by some Yoruba nation agitators to secure his release.
Chief Kolawole however said members of the community are praying to God for the release of Igboho whom they described as their saviour.
Asked if the town would accept the evicted Fulani if reconciliation is carried out, he said, “The matter is now before the government and we can only abide by whatever the government decides on the matter. And if the government makes such a decision, it is left for the community to accept but certainly not for one person. Government should act on the issue on the ground so that we can have peace and harmony once again in the community.
“There are losses on both sides. The Yoruba people lost their lives and properties just like the Fulani people also lost valuables including lives. So whatever intervention from the government must be comprehensive on both sides,” he said.
‘Farmers now stay late in their settlement’
Another chief in the community, Asipa of Igangan, Chief Joseph Oyediran, added “Since the Fulani were evicted, our farmers are happy and can go to their farm. People can now reap what they sowed in their respective farm settlements without fear that cattle would eat up their crops.”
Chief Ogunmola Olaniyi, the Olori Ode (Chief Hunter) of Igangan land, also added his voice, stressing that many farmers now stay till night in their farm. “We are trying our best to police the villages under Igangan town and we thank God we can see some difference. Though we still record pockets of attacks in our villages, this is not to say that the issue has not reduced,” he said.
‘Dialogue should have resolved the farmers-herders’ clash in Igangan’
There are quite a number of indigenes of Igangan who are still pained by the eviction of the herders. One of them is Mr Olayinka who pleaded that his full name should not be disclosed for fear of being tagged as being pro-Fulani.
According to him, since the incident of January 2021, the community has witnessed a decline in socioeconomic activities. For instance, he stated that the weekly market on Tuesdays which used to host hundreds of the Fulani has been witnessing low turnout since last year.
He said, “What happened could have been resolved with dialogue. It shouldn’t have degenerated to that level. Yes, the farmers herders’ clash was prominent in Igangan which destroyed the age-long relationship among the indigenes of Igangan and Fulani residents. But we have been managing it over the years until the issue of kidnapping for ransom became rampant and many people blamed the Fulani for the increasing spate of attacks.
“The truth of the matter is that I have known Sarkin Fulani from my childhood. He was brought to Igangan at a very young age by his late dad who was buried in that settlement. He grew up in that settlement, he had his children there. To be fair to him, he tried his best to stop the attacks. He continued to let people realize that the attacks were not being carried out only by the Fulani.
“In fact, he once arrested some people for kidnapping a Fulani herder and they called him demanding for N1m but he was able to round them up through a sting operation and that was how they were arrested, they are still in prison as I am talking to you. They were discovered not to be Fulani but Yoruba.”
It was also learnt from another resident that the eviction of the Fulani is responsible for the declining socioeconomic activities in the town.
One indigene recalled that women in the town used to make a thrift contribution of N5, 000 on every market day but this is no longer the case. “They were doing it conveniently but this is no more. Who is even making N5, 000 on a market day? Again, we used to slaughter between 10 to 15 cows on every market day and a cow was sold for less than N70, 000 but now a cow costs about N200,000. We used to buy it from Gaa Musa, a settlement around Iseyin. The cost of transportation alone is high,” he said.
The indigene however advised the government to explore a reconstruction and reconciliation option to bring back the people who have lived together for more than a millennium.
‘I am not against reconciliation’
Mr. Jabele Tunji Omodewu Francis, a popular youth leader in the town and one of the arrowheads of the crisis, was not in town when our correspondent visited. But in a telephone chat with Daily Trust Saturday, he stated that he has been “in and out” of Igangan after the incident. However, he stated that he had no regret for inviting Sunday Igboho to the town even as he declared that he is not averse to reconciliation because the Fulani herders are Nigerians.
“To the best of my knowledge, some Fulani are Nigerians and the indigenous Fulani people can live anywhere but they must be ready to chase away the foreigners among them who are causing a crisis in order for peace to reign. So, if the government wants to carry out a reconciliation, who am I to stop it? We are all under the government and we cannot fault what the government is doing to it.”
I’m only happy that I was not killed – Sarkin Fulani
The evicted Sarkin Fulani who has relocated to Ilorin since the incident said his only consolation was the fact that he was not killed on the fateful day because the intention was to kill him.
In an emotion laden voice, he said anytime he remembers the January 22, 2021 incident, he always bursts into tears even as he maintained his innocence over the incidents of kidnapping and killings in the community.
He said, “It is on record that only three Yoruba persons were kidnapped in Igangan since the problem started; others were Fulani.
“I lost my younger brother in the process. We lost several of my kinsmen. You cannot even count the number of cows that were rustled. It was a sad moment for me. I lost everything I laboured for all my life and life has been extremely hard since last year when Sunday Igboho stormed my settlement.”
Speaking on the earlier quit notice issued by Igboho prior to his eviction, Sarki explained that he did not handle the eviction notice with levity and he got assurance from the state government after the quit notice but he was surprised that Igboho carried out his threat without anybody challenging him.
He said, “For those seven days, the state government sent 14 police officers to us and they were guiding us but the police officers were overpowered by Sunday Igboho’s men. This is why I don’t support the call for the release of Igboho.
“I am sure he must be regretting his actions now. Any Nigerian can live in any part of the country and I have always said that there are criminals everywhere. There are criminals among Yoruba just like we have among the Fulani people. This is where we expected the government to come in and fish out those who are criminally minded.”
Abdulkadir said one year later, he still hoped that justice would be done and he would be compensated for the properties lost during the crisis.
Fulani not evicted – Oyo govt
From the perspective of the state government, it was not true that Fulani people were evicted from Igangan. The Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr Taiwo Adisa, in a chat with our correspondent said what happened was “a clash within the community” and the Fulani leader ran away because of Igboho’s threat.
“But that is not an official eviction. We are not going to be talking of eviction of Fulani when the government did not evict anybody.” He said Igangan is now calm because of the machinery of government that has been working since last year.
“If there is calm, does it not mean that the government has done something? I do not understand the call for reconciliation because if there was conflict and one year after there was calm, does it not mean that some things have been done?
“The fact that there is peace in a conflict zone means that there are certain critical steps that must have been taken by stakeholders and once the stakeholders do their own, then you will see the result. The result you will see is that peace will be returning quietly to the place and people will be doing their businesses in accordance with rules and regulations. So, once that is the situation, it means that government machinery put in place is working and is effective,” he added.