Government shouldn’t toy with South-West — Arogbofa

The Secretary General of the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, Chief  Seinde Arogbofa, in this interview with PETER DADA, shares his views about the recent communal clash between Yoruba and Hausa youths in Ile Ife, Osun State

What is your view about the recent communal clash that took place in Ile Ife?

Communal clashes are not unusual but the one that is bloody should be avoided. Precisely, the one that took place in Ile Ife recently is unfortunate. When we were young, we used to interact with people from various tribes — the Hausa, Fulani, Igbo, Ebira and so on — without any clash. We would visit Hausa people, we saw them as friends. We even intermarried without any problem. But nowadays, one cannot but be disturbed by the number of inter-ethnic clashes happening in this country.

What is the best way to resolve communal clashes?

There should be state police. For example, the people drafted to Ile Ife are police officers from the force headquarters. Some of them do not know the people they arrested. How do you expect a police officer from Maiduguri to know what has been happening in faraway Ile Ife? This is why we are clamouring that every state should have its own state police. This is because a state policeman will know what is going on his community; he would be able to monitor the community properly and know the residents of the community. A state police officer would understand everything about the community he operates from. With that background, he would be able to provide better security to the people.

We are not saying the federal police should be scrapped. But we should have state police to complement the efforts of the federal police and ensure the provision of adequate security for the people. For example, we are battling with Boko Haram. I am convinced that Boko Haram would not have gone that far if the Federal Government allowed the state police to be instituted. So, I think the Federal Government should use this as a clarion call to allow states to have their own police.

Some Yoruba groups have accused the police of favouring the northerners in its investigations. Do you think the police was biased?

Any person who is reasonable, not just these groups, is bound to ask questions on the development. When the Minister of Interior came to Ile Ife to see what happened, he dismissed the tribal connotation to the clash. But later, we started hearing other stories. We saw pictures of the clash on television and on the pages of newspapers. We started getting worried. For example, all the names I have heard so far who were whisked to Abuja came from one tribe. So, it moves one to ask the question, why must it be so? Any reasonable person should frown on this type of situation and one should think that something is wrong somewhere

This is why I said in those good old days, we used to interact as brothers and sisters and this is why our leaders in this country have to be very careful. It is our leaders that caused a lot of bad blood. Our people at the helm of affairs have to be very careful. When two people fight, is it one side that should bear the brunt? No, we must hear from the other side because we have been hearing different stories from the people. Some said a Hausa man cut off the head of a Yoruba man and put it on a spike. No Yoruba man will take that. We also heard that a Yoruba lady slapped a Hausa man because of a love affair. From these, you can see now that it is not a one-tribe affair.

Some of these ethnic groups are also blaming the police for taking the arrested Yoruba individuals to Abuja to be paraded. What do you think?

We are not saying that justice must not take its course. Anybody found guilty must face the law but there must be fairness and justice. It is unbelievable. Even if members of the other tribe that was involved in the clash ran away, they must be picked up wherever they might have hidden. But to say members of one tribe are culprits, this sounds unbelievable, unfair and very unfortunate.

President Buhari was also faulted for not specifically saying a word on the clash. What is your take on this?

Honestly, this is one of the things that is embarrassing about this government. I must confess that governance is not an easy thing. Buhari, from what we see, is trying to do his best to see that all is well in this country, especially his crusade against corruption. The President doesn’t appear or come out on certain occasions that he should come out on. For example, the menace of herdsmen: we did not hear him say anything and it is not sufficient to say the security agents did this or did that. What the President says must be seen as an order, and this will go a long way to pacify the warring people and to stop mischief. But it is unfortunate that he has not been coming out in these types of situation.

It is not only in Ile Ife that we have clashes; there are other clashes here and there across the country.  The government should not toy with the South-West. We are peace-loving but when we are pushed to the wall, we will be forced to react, which is normal with any human being. I will love a situation where the President will not appear unconcerned about an issue that will snowball into a breakdown of law and order. I would appeal to him to look at this particular area, to come out more than he is doing now.

With the ethnic crises in the country, would you recommend a national conference of all ethnic groups where issues of distrust and hatred could be discussed?

The problem in this country is that we refused to take the right path. There are crises here and there. In 2014, we met at the confab, and we proffered solutions to most of these problems. One of them was the state police. Our leaders, whether Muslims or Christians, should desist from religious dogmatism. There are so many problems that have been tackled in the confab report and if this government adopts the recommendations in the report, things will be better. So, we don’t need any other conference again.

The 2014 confab has settled everything. It is now left for Buhari to make use of the recommendations.

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