Yoruba leaders must stop fanning embers of division — Sani

Anthony San

A chieftain and erstwhile National Publicity Secretary of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Anthony Sani, in this interview with BAYO AKINLOYE, says that the clash between indigenes and Hausa Community in Ile-Ife, Osun State is a criminal act and not an ethnic conflict

On Tuesday, various Yoruba groups, Afenifere, Afenifere Renewal Group, Yoruba Progressive Movement, the Ife Development Board and the Yoruba Socio-Cultural Association, condemned the arrest of some Yoruba following the March 8 clash between them and the Hausa community in Ile-Ife and accused the police of favouring the northerners to the detriment of Ife indigenes. What is your view?

I do not know the facts. All I read was that there was a communal clash in Ile-Ife which resulted in the loss of lives. And in such a situation, the police are brought in to stop such internecine conflicts. Also, arrests are made of those suspected to be masterminds to serve as a deterrent for the future.  No one expects the police, whose place in the order of things is to ensure the  maintenance of  peace and security of lives and property, to take side, considering the fact that peace and injustice do not coexist in any polity. It is against such backdrop that I doubt that the police would take sides in the arrest that is meant to identify the culprits. So that the law could take its due cause in the interest of peace and unity of the country. But since the arrested people must be investigated before they are prosecuted, there is no cause for alarm. I expect justice to be done.

So, what Yoruba groups are expected to do is to help the police identify and arrest any culprit, irrespective of tribe and religion, rather than try to fan the embers of divisions because the two tribes have a lot in common in terms of culture and ethos. I am not in support of giving every action of government an ethnic or religious colouration. This is because such attitudes tend to promote the division of the country along ethnic lines. Furthermore, ethnic or religious colouration provides criminals the platform upon which to stand and perpetrate crimes.

They also wondered why the arrested Yoruba individuals would be taken to Abuja to be paraded, claiming that Buhari has a hand in the arrest. What do you think?

While I do not know the wisdom of taking the arrested persons to Abuja and paraded, I don’t think anybody should imagine that President Buhari would have a hand in anything that promotes violence and disunity, considering the campaign promises by the All Progressives Congress such as taming insecurity and corruption in order to pave the way for the economy to be diversified, as against dependence on oil wealth which is not a result of hard work.

When some Yoruba leaders accuse President Buhari of complicity in the clashes, one wonders, to what end? Yoruba leaders are too intelligent not to know that it is not in the interest of President Buhari to promote communal clashes among groups, knowing that such can hinder the peace and unity of the country which he embodies.

We learnt that the investigation into the clash and eventual arrest of the suspects was ordered by the IG, Ibrahim Idris, a northerner. The Yoruba leaders claimed that this lends credence to the acusation that this is a case of ruling northerners trying to deal with ordinary Yoruba fighting against the Hausa community in Ife. Don’t you agree sir?

Who, besides the Inspector General, can order the investigations, arrest and prosecution of the culprits? I insist that the tendency to give ethnic, religious, partisan and regional coloration to purely criminal acts is unhelpful.

Do you think such arrest will douse or further deepen tension in Ife?

As long as the arrests made were people who caused the killings of innocent people, it would not deepen tension. This is because, most people prefer peace and justice over violence and killings. Therefore, in order to ensure that the arrest does not deepen tension, the police must be thorough in their investigations so that people can see that justice has been done.

Will you say the Ife crisis is an isolated matter or an indication of distrust and divisiveness that exist between Nigeria’s ethnic nationalities?

Surely, most of the crises are due to the collapse of national ideals and moral values which some people cash upon. They promote distrust and suspicions among groups to the extent that little misunderstanding creates crises which are not helpful, considering the fact that urbanisation and inter-ethnic marriages should bring about relative pluralism and national solidarity instead of insular particularism that goes with cloistered communities which have strong historical ties to places. This is not helpful.

What will be your recommendation to resolving the Ife crisis?

What is needed is for the leadership at all levels to revamp our national ideals, moral values and rejig our sense of what is right and what is evil through justice. One way of doing this is to rewire the politics, re-engineer our sense of justice, make mercy smarter, make hope more strategic for the youths and dare the rest of us to follow.

Do you find it curious that those fingered as suspects in the crisis by the police are said to be only the Yoruba?

I do not expect the suspects to be only Yoruba, considering the fact that the fight involved more than one group. I, therefore, plead with the Yoruba people and leaders to help the police in the search for all the culprits instead of protecting criminals by giving the whole shebang ethnic coloration that would do no group any good.

Why should it be the Yoruba that should be asked to search for all the other culprits? Why are you not appealing to the Hausa community sir?

I mentioned Yoruba specifically because they are the ones complaining that only Yoruba have so far been arrested by the police. I expect other groups to also help the police in the investigations with a view to fishing out the violent elements who caused the problems.

With the prevalence of ethnic killings in the country, will you recommend a national conference of all ethnic groups where issues of distrust and hatred for one another can be discussed?

Do we need a conference to tell us that we need to change our ways of doing things and promote justice through socio-economic inclusiveness? Do we need a conference to inform us that insecurity, peace and healthy economy have no meeting point and that corruption has stolen our empowerment, stolen our opportunity and our future to the extent that some Nigerians live on cutting edge while some others are on the knife edge of survival with dire consequences? The solutions are clear for all our leaders at all level to see.

To avoid any reprisal in Ile-Ife or elsewhere in Osun State, what should all stakeholders do?

What our leaders and stakeholders need to do is to appeal to the people not to allow our current challenges and frustrations to redefine our destiny and set our national agenda. This is because our situation is not beyond redemption, given purposeful leadership and the best in everyone. No society thrives through victory of its faction but by ultimate reconciliation.

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