I am from Owo. I was born and bred there. Readers of my columns must have known that by now. My primary school, modern school and secondary school were all at Owo. I did not step out of Owo to live anywhere else until 1975, first at Sobe and later at Usho, both under the then Owo Local Government Area, where I worked for a few days each as an auxiliary teacher (with my West African School Certificate) before I packed it up and returned home.
In mid-1976, I made my first real foray out of my cocoons when I heeded my elder sister’s plea to team up with her at Ede in the then Oyo State (now Osun State). From there to Osogbo, then Ilesa, then Ife, then Ibadan and, finally, Lagos. But I remain a true son of Owo.
The dastardly attack of Sunday, 5th June might have happened at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, Owaluwa, Owo but it was an arrow shot directly into the heart of every true Owo son and daughter. Only a bastard Owo person will not see it as such. And only a bastard Owo son and daughter will allow it go unreplied. It may take some time and a lot of effort but, certainly those responsible, and the tendencies they represent, will be held accountable. They will pay! In diverse ways, in ways more than one, from now till eternity, they will pay. They sowed the wind, they must reap the whirlwind.
Some of the dead – at least 40 persons died in all – were given mass burial last Friday; the first of its kind in the history of Owo. And, suddenly, Owo looked like a town in the Middle Belt region of the country, which has become accustomed (sorry to say) to such spectacle. We must let the perpetrators of this heinous crime and their generations to come pay a heavy price for their unprovoked assault on Owo. Generations of Owo sons and daughters must, down the ages, carry the burden of due recompense in their heart. We will pass it from generation to generation. We shall not be assuaged until the vile murderers and whatever and whoever they represent have paid a heavy price for their insane action.
The dead were buried last Friday: May the soul of the departed rest in peace! The wounded are in various hospitals recuperating: I wish them quick recovery. Governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, and his wife, Betty, were seen at the Catholic mass for the deceased shedding tears: They did well! I commend Akeredolu for his “frank talk”, especially on the twin issues of insecurity in the country and rotational presidency. He speaks the mind of most of us in the South, more so the southwest. When someone said the Governor neglected the Police and Army and focused only on Amotekun (Western Nigeria Security Network codenamed Operation Amotekun), I told myself I would do likewise if I were in Akeredolu’s shoes. Honestly, that is exactly what I will do! Why should I fund agencies that will turn round to take orders from Abuja? If Abuja cannot adequately fund and equip them, like Akeredolu was reported as insisting a few days ago, then, to hell! But if I were Akeredolu, I would then make sure Amotekun is built into a real fighting force and not the tokenism that it is at the moment. What is worth doing at all is worth doing well.
Time to strengthen Amotekun is now! What is their entire strength: 750 or 1,000-strong? That is not enough! If Owo alone is said to have about 300 policemen to police it – and that is still seen as grossly inadequate – how can 1,000 Amotekun police and protect the entire Ondo State? Again, what is worth doing at all is worth doing well. If you know you don’t have the capacity or wherewithal, then, apply wisdom, swallow your pride and cooperate with the Police and Army for a more robust security arrangement not only for Owo but for Ondo State as a whole.
Some people said the Owo Local Government Chairman is more of an absentee Chairman, residing more at the state capital, Akure, than in Owo itself. I sincerely hope that is not the case but will not be surprised if it is. In Lagos where I live and work, many council chairmen abandon their locality and live in VGC (Victoria Garden City) or on Banana Island. That is the tragedy of the poverty of leadership that has today become the lot of the people of the southwest, and indeed Nigeria. Let the Owo council chairman stay at home and effectively administer the town or resign and be free to reside in Akure or any other location of his choice. No one must be allowed to administer Owo from outside of Owo.
Importantly, the provision of security is also a responsibility of the local government as the third tier of government; so, there is nothing wrong if the local government complements the state government on Amotekun. Why not mobilise, organise, and empower local hunters and vigilantes to complement the efforts of the Federal and State governments? I have it on good authority that a Yoruba self-determination group came up with a security blueprint that would use local hunters to secure Ondo State in the aftermath of the murder of the daughter of the erstwhile Afenifere leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, and that Akeredolu enthusiastically received the blueprint but went quiet and cold on it afterwards. We must ask the Governor what happened. I understand only N25 million was required to execute the project. So, Akeredolu, what happened?
Femi Falana (SAN) has also cried hoarse that the southwest Governors should employ drone technology to secure the region: Why are our Governors not doing that? Is it that the Federal Government will not licence drones? Falana says they should go to court and challenge the FG! Why are they afraid to do that? Falana also insists that the southwest states should apply for licence to arm Amotekun with sophisticated weapons that can match the weaponry of the bandits and if the FG refuses, go to court: Why are they reluctant to do that? But for the noise that was made over Amotekun, it would not have seen the light of the day in the limited form that we have today!
Now that the presidential primary elections are over and the dreamers have woken up from the dreamland, it is time to face reality and stop playing games with the destiny of the people of the region. Our Governors take us for a ride because we are not holding their feet to the fire. While we focus all attention on President Muhammadu Buhari/Fulani and restructuring, our Governors live life to the hilt and smile their way to the bank at our expense. It is time to call them to account! Time to hold them accountable is now! They are the proverbial “iku ile” (the death within) that kills faster and assuredly than “iku ode” (the death that comes from outside: bandits, terrorists, herdsmen, etc).
Last Wednesday, my socio-cultural club, Owo Krown Klub, paid condolence visits to the Olowo of Owo, Oba Gbadegesin Ogunoye III; the Ojomo-Oluda of Ijebu-Owo, Oba Kofoworola Ojomo; and the Bishop of Ondo Diocese of the Catholic Church, Bishop Jude Arogundade to vent our spleen over the Owo massacre, as well as make our token donation to the victims of the vile attack. The statement read at the occasion captured the mood of the moment: “We members of the above-named social club express shock, anguish and disgust at the dastardly act of reckless and wanton destruction of lives and property by yet-to-be-known assailants. Men, women, children, couples, even members of the same family were callously dispatched to an untimely grave. By attacking God’s own house, those vile elements exposed themselves as ungodly people. And by offering no reasons for their dastardly act, they showed themselves as insane and barbaric elements not fit to live in civilised societies. In all, not less than 40 lives were so bestially and unconscionably wasted by agents of darkness – and for no just cause!
“The historic town of Owo was vandalized. Its peace and quiet rudely disturbed. The psyche of our peace-loving people was viciously assaulted. The sight was gory! The hallowed sanctuary of God was desecrated by the unknown gunmen at the St. Francis Catholic Xavier Church, Owaluwa, Owo on Sunday, 5th June. We condemn this barbaric act. We say without mincing words that this kind of behaviour has no place in a civilised society and in a country under law. We must, therefore, fish out the vile elements and bring them to book. Impunity reigns when criminals escape with their acts of criminality. The three tiers of Government – Federal, State, and Local – must swing into action and bring the fleeing criminals to book.
“The authorities must redouble their efforts to secure life and property all over the country. We also call on all Owo sons and daughters at home and abroad to rally round the authorities to secure our ancient town, its people and civilisation. All hands must be on the deck and we must not rest on our oars until the attackers are brought to justice. On this note, we commiserate with Governor Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu; our royal fathers, the Catholic Church, and the victims and their families.
“Securing life and property is the basic, fundamental and primary duty of governments all over the world. We thank the international community for their prompt response to, and strong condemnation of, the attack on Owo. We hereby join forces with the international community to demand that the Federal Government become alive to its responsibility of securing life and property of citizens. We also ask that everyone should succour the affected families and St. Francis Catholic Xavier Church. The peace, progress, prosperity and security of Owo remain the duty of each and every one of us.
“We also commend the southwest Governors for the actions they have outlined to make the region more secure. It is important at this juncture for the Federal Government to reconsider its opposition to State Police. The local government as the third tier of government and the one touted as closer to the grassroots must also complement the state government on security matters.
“In this wise, we call on all well-meaning sons and daughters of Owo, home and abroad, to rise up as one man to the clarion call of our homeland. For, no matter how long we may sojourn abroad and whatever means we may acquire there, home is home! Let the state government reinforce, reinvigorate and enlarge Amotekun for it to become more effective and efficient.”
That was the statement Very apt! Very poignant! Straight to the point!
Like Karl Marx posited: Philosophers have interpreted the world; the duty remains to change it! The myriad of problems militating against the security of our people are well known. Solutions have also been proffered. Implementation remains the sore issue!
Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Deputy Editor-in-Chief and Chairman of its Editorial Board, Bolawole was also Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of The Westerner newsmagazine. He writes the TREASURES column in the New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays and the TREASURES column in the Sunday Tribune newspaper. He is also a public affairs analyst