The Coordinator of the Odua People’s Congress in Oyo State, Mr Rotimi Olumo, tells OLUFEMI OLANIYI that despite the detention of his men who were part of the team that arrested the Fulani warlord, Iskilu Wakili, by the police, the group will not stop fighting against criminal herdsmen
How long did it take your men to arrest Iskilu Wakili?
If you can remember, about two months ago, one of our brothers, Chief Sunday Igboho, went to Igangan to warn the Seriki Fulani there that the insecurity in the area had become unbearable. He went there and gave him seven days to leave the area. But immediately Igboho did that, it was like stirring a hornets’ nest and the herdsmen also started boasting that they would revenge. After Seriki had left the town, Wakili started boasting that they could pursue Seriki but nobody could chase him away. This baffled us that such a man could be so daring and be telling us that in our land. For an alleged kidnapper to be making such a boast in our fatherland is something we could not understand. Have you heard of any Yoruba man tormenting them anywhere in the North like that and still boasting that nobody could touch him? We were surprised but that could happen because these people had been given too much room to operate without checks. Ibarapa people have suffered too much in the hands of criminal herdsmen. Dr Fatai Aborode, after working in Germany, came back home and invested massively in agriculture. This he did to provide jobs for youths in the area and many youths were working on his farm. He was killed because he did not allow the herdsmen to be destroying his farms unchallenged and anyone who did that, he reported him to the police. That was why they killed him. The owner of a filling station, Alhaja Sherifat, was also killed. Many other people who were not very popular had been killed, some were maimed, women were raped on their farms. Iskilu Wakili was said to have tormented the people for so long. The traditional ruler in Ayete invited Wakili but he never honoured the invitation; it was that bad. The Odomofin, one of the high chiefs in Ayete and the owner of the land which Wakili is occupying illegally, sent people to deliver a letter of invitation to him, so they could talk and resolve the issue, Wakili was alleged to have opened fire on all of them; some of them are still receiving treatment till now.
He prevented farmers from going to their farms and the people started making appeals to the police and the government to help them flush out Wakili from the area but nobody could challenge him.
Do you mean he was too powerful for the police to confront?
There was a time the governor ( Seyi Makinde) deployed Amotekun corps in Ayete, they could not do anything about Iskilu. Iskilu’s camp is about three hours trek from Ayete. Which Amotekun will go in there? Even Operation Burst went there; they could not do anything about the man. The people of Ibarapa and especially in villages like Kajola, Konko and others could no longer go to their farms because of Iskilu and they were hungry. That was what forced our members and vigilantes in Ibarapa to decide to go and capture him, daring the consequences. They trekked there and immediately Iskilu Wakili’s men saw them, they opened fire on them. But they forgot that ‘while some persons manufactured metal objects, others manufactured magnet’. The white people manufactured the guns that Wakili’s men used but the Yoruba people have manufactured ‘bulletproof’. So, that was why our members were not affected by the gunshots fired by Wakili’s men. As they shootings raged, Wakili fled but he was captured and our men arrested three persons along with him.
Were those three others Wakili’s biological children?
They are some of his boys, who work for him. Others ran away. Our men took them to the police station at Igboora but the police arrested our men. If these people (Wakili and others) had been wasted during the raid, nobody would have been responsible but after doing what government security agents could not do, it is a pity that they arrested three of them and detained them. It is painful that that happened. But if the police had gone to arrest Wakili or the military had gone there to pick him up, there would not have been any need for our boys to go and raid his settlement. The boys risked their lives, they trekked for three hours to get to the place and another three hours while returning.
When they came back, instead of applauding them, they were hurled into detention. It’s a pity. We are not saying the police should not investigate. But despite the way we were treated by the police, we still found some police officers and men who are professional. The Commissioner of Police in Oyo State, Mrs Ngozi Onadeko, is an example of a professional police officer. We were told that our men who were detained fell sick, they could not eat and they would die if that should continue, so we went and pleaded with the CP to release them to us for treatment, with a promise that anytime they needed them, we would bring them back. We thank the CP and the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of State Criminal Investigation Department; they listened to us and the doctor that went there with us. I was allowed to stand as a surety for them and I promised them that I would produce them anytime they are needed.
The police said your men were detained for murder and arson. Did they kill during the raid?
The first question the policemen at Igboora asked our men was who gave them the order to go and capture Wakili. But I, in turn, asked the police: ‘Did Wakili take order from you before he started the attrocities he was accused of, including the destruction of farmlands? Did he take order from you before he settled on the land where he was?’ After that, the police accused our men of arson. But our men were not responsible for the burning of Wakili’s house. It was his men who ran away when they discovered that they could not harm our men that later came back to set the place on fire. Our men did not burn anything.
The police also accused our men of murder and I told them that in a situation where Wakili’s boys were shooting our men, their bullets could have mistakenly hit the woman (who died). Wakili’s men started shooting immediately our men arrived there and their bullets could have hit the woman while she was also trying to escape. Our men told me that they did not kill anybody; they only captured Wakili alive and handed him over to the police.
But Wakili said he was lying down sick when the OPC members and others got to his settlement. How was he arrested?
Wakili is a cunning liar. You should not expect a suspect like him to confess easily. He fled when he knew that our boys were there to capture him. He ran away but he was caught by our men. After he was caught, he started behaving like somebody that was about to die. It is a lie, he was just acting. He said he could not walk but when the Kabiyesi sent for him, he shunned him and claimed he went to Cotonou.
But despite the arrest of Wakili, killings and destruction of farms have not stopped in Ibarapa. Who do you think is behind these recent atrocities?
Wakili was captured on Sunday and on Monday morning four persons were killed at Idiyan village. Wakili’s men were said to have gone to the place and killed four persons and burnt down their houses. His followers who were angry that their boss had been arrested went to carry out that attack and other criminal activities. That is enough evidence for the police. You know when a leader is arrested, his followers would stage a protest. More killings and destruction of property are the ways Wakili’s followers are protesting his arrest.
Konko, Dagbere, Aba Baba Pupa and other farmsteads were reportedly torched. Are you saying his followers were responsible for this as well?
Yes. That is the way they have chosen to protest the arrest of their leader.
There have been claims in some quarters that the old man arrested by your men is not the real Iskilu Wakili troubling the people. How do you react to that?
Don’t mind Femi Fani-Kayode. He is an agent of the northerners. He stays in Abuja and claims to know Iskilu Wakili who is in Ibarapa. If he knows him, he should come down here and show us the real Wakili. The people in Ayete, Idere, Igboora, Igangan and others have said the man we arrested is the man terrorising them but Fani-Kayode sits in Abuja and claims to know the real Wakili. He should go and bring the real one out.
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Is the OPC going to review its activities of going after criminals after the arrest of its members by the police?
We won’t stop. We have started and there is no going back. We are working to stop killings in our land. There are good men in the police but there are few bad eggs there but that won’t stop us from working to rid our land of criminal herdsmen and others hoodlums.