Following the spate of insecurity across the country, most of the state governors are overwhelmed as armed herdsmen, bandits and gunmen operate in their states unchecked.
With Ondo State serving as a gateway to the northern part of the country, the activities of the invading marauders were recorded in most parts of the state as they used the state to spread their criminal activities to other South-West states.
Concerned by what the people had been subjected to, Governor Akeredolu stood up to protect the state.
With the armed herdsmen having a field day in the state, Akeredolu ordered that all herdsmen occupying the forest reserves across the state should vacate the forest and as well be registered with the state government regarding their presence in the state.
The governor who is the Chairman of the South West Governors’ Forum also announced the immediate ban on open grazing and underage grazing across the 18 Local Government Areas of the state.
To ensure that the activities of the herders were adequately checkmated, Akeredolu rallied his colleagues in the South West to establish the Western Nigeria Security Network otherwise known as Amotekun Corps.
After series of move by the federal government to frustrate the establishment of the corps, the governor stood his ground that the agency had come to stay and as well lashed out at the Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Federation, Abubakar Malami advising him to challenge the development in court.
Akeredolu who vowed that he will not fail in his responsibility as governor of the state, emphasized that the state and the people, particularly, the coming generation will not be mortgaged for political expediency under any guise.
According to the governor who reiterated his position on the eviction of those he described as trespassers occupying the forest reserves, “we will continue to eject and punish, in accordance with the law, anyone, either herder or farmer illegally occupying our forest reserves. We will not relent on our decision to rid our State of undesirable elements. We owe no one any further explanation or apology on this resolve to ensure peace other than our people.”
He emphasized that anyone who intends to engage in a private business of animal husbandry in the 21st century, must be ready to abide with the modern methods of operation or quit.
“We, therefore, reiterate our stance on the prohibition of open grazing by cattle rearers in any part of Ondo State. On this, there shall be no compromise. In a similar vein, we will continue to arrest any underage herders in the State. The Government will prosecute the mindless handlers of these unfortunate kids. We will insist on punishing any errant herdsman and exact compensation commensurate to the level of destruction of farms and businesses in any part of the State.
“Anyone who commits a crime under the guise of outmoded pastoralism shall be sanctioned severely. We will proceed to mobilize the people against this menace. The people of Ondo State will not accept any aberrant incursion into our space.
“We do not want to be seen as politically correct when our people are dying and/or losing their legitimate means of livelihood. We shall not embrace the counsel of the treacherous and wicked. The welfare of the people shall remain the primary focus of governance. No one will be allowed to trample on the rights of our people. The people of Ondo State shall not become underlings in their own space. We will also not be afraid to take decisions considered beneficial to our people.
“We will not cede the land of our ancestors to any person under any guise. All legitimate endeavours shall be supported by the Government for as long as they are of direct benefit to the people of Ondo State.”
To further ensure that the success already recorded in the South West gets to the entire southern region, Akeredolu again coordinated 17 governors within the southern states to ban open grazing in the region.
At the meeting held in Asaba, Delta State capital, the governors under the Southern Governors’ Forum explained that the forum observed that the activities of armed herders, criminals and bandits in the southern part of the country have presented severe security challenges such that citizens are not able to live their normal lives including pursuing various productive activities leading to a threat to food supply and general security.
Akeredolu who read the communique of the governors added that the continued grazing of cattle by herders had put pressure on available land and increased the prospect of conflict between migrant herders and local population in the south, hence the need to put a total stop to cattle movement to south by foot.
However, prior to the Asaba accord, the presidency had through the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu attacked Akeredolu over the vacation order given to herders in Ondo State.
Also, after the Asaba declaration, Shehu discredited the resolutions of the southern governors.
Shehu had in statement questioned the legality of the ban on open grazing by the 17 southern governors, adding that the governors offered no tangible solutions to the herder-farmer clashes that have “been continuing in our country for generations.”
The presidential spokesperson disclosed that President Buhari was already seeking what he described as deep rooted solutions to herdsmen attacks.
Angered by the position of Shehu, Akeredolu through his aides, stated that the suspicious defence of criminal elements under the guise of herdsmen is most unacceptable and goes a long way to show that Miyetti Allah, which is the umbrella body of herdsman could not have done better.
According to Akeredolu, the presidential spokesperson’s recent positions on national issues was a confirmation that he had been working in cohort with those fueling anarchy in the country.
While emphasizing that the utterances of Shehu cannot be the position of President Buhari, the governor said that Shehu’s resolve to place the recommendation of an appointee above that of the 17 governors was a confirmation of his involvement in grand conspiracy against the country.
Few days after Shehu’s statement on the governors’ move, the Attorney General of the Federation also kicked the Asaba meeting aside, as he compared herders involved in open grazing in the south to spare part dealers in the north.
Responding to Malami’s stance, Akeredolu, emphasized that it was worrisome for the AGF who is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, to compare a well structured business such as the spare part business with the archaic method of cattle grazing.
Akeredolu maintained that the ban on open grazing within the southern region has come to stay and will be enforced with utmost vigour, urging Malami to approach the court if he has anything against the move by the governors.
While emphasizing that the decision to ban open grazing was taken in the interest of the people, Akeredolu said “It is most unfortunate that the AGF is unable to distill issues as expected of a Senior Advocate and that nothing can be more disconcerting.
“This outburst should, ordinarily, not elicit response from reasonable people who know the distinction between a legitimate business that is not in anyway injurious and a certain predilection for anarchy.
“Comparing this anachronism, which has led to loss of lives, farmlands and property, and engendered untold hardship on the host communities, with buying and selling of auto parts is not only strange. It, annoyingly, betrays a terrible mindset.”
Meanwhile, with Akeredolu’s persistent clash with the presidency over the issue of herdsmen and open grazing some people are of the belief that the Ondo Governor might be considering quitting the All Progressives Congress, APC, for the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
According to political analysts, Akeredolu might want to follow the footsteps of his counterpart in Benue State, Samuel Ortom who took the presidency headlong over herdsmen activities in his state.
Speaking to a top official in Akeredolu’s over the possibility of the Governor dumping the APC to avoid being choked, source dismissed such insinuations.
According to the source who craved anonymity, Akeredolu had always been a progressive who has never been amused with the opposition PDP.
While disclosing that Akeredolu’s recent positions on national issues is the true reflection of who the governor is, the top official said the governor since his university days and his practicing period as a lawyer has always been standing for the people.
The source added that Akeredolu is a person structured in a way that will hit the nail on the head and will say the truth no matter whose horse is gored.