The unannounced massacre of women, kids, defenceless men in Iganna, Oyo State: What sins did they commit?

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Governor Seyi Makindeof Oyo State, in an Amotekun uniform.

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*They committed no sins but situation controversial, unfortunate – Investigation

*Iganna’s king, people have been our protectors, killings a surprise – Fulani source

*We are one of most peaceful communities around, best friend of Fulani – Sabiganna

*Links killing of settlers to unapproved activities of irate youths

*Describes development as most unfortunate, says ‘I and my Balogun have no hand in it’

*With Governor Makinde, we have taken steps for sustainable peace – Oba

*Reveals effort Gov Makinde made at supporting, restoring affected Fulani community to normal life

*Why there must never again be any fight, discord between Yoruba, Fulani settlers – Sabiganna

By BASHIR ADEFAKA

The bloodletting had happened seven days before the information came to The DEFENDER on Thursday May 19, 2023 and that was precisely Friday May 12, as killer agents suspected to have been consciously mobilised by traditional institution’s leadership stormed the Fulani settlement in Iganna town, Iwajowa Local Government Area of Oyo State, South West Nigeria killing. Estimatedly, 11 persons including a pregnant woman in labour, toddlers and other defenceless members were mauled to death with their homes, numbering up to 300, set ablaze.

Most shocking is how the massacre of that magnitude happened to Nigerian citizens from other section of the country, who have been settlers in that part of South West for over a century and have co-existed peacefully with their Yoruba hosts, and no single news report was made of it in the Nigerian press.

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It, therefore, called to mind, was the information a false alarm? Was it an attempt by the Fulani settlers or their leaders in other parts of the country especially other South West states – who alerted this medium among a team of other investigative media – to whip up sentiments against the host community of Iganna about what they described as the extremely difficult-to-stomach “wicked” killing of their members in the Oke Ogun, Oyo State township community on that ill-fated Friday?

Another question that came to mind in the course of our treatment of the information was, for what reason would a group of settlers whip up sentiments and serve as purveyors of false information of the magnitude of a massacre against their hosts? Then, we applied our investigative gear and got to work by first taking the same sources through stringent questioning.

We tried to find out what offence did the Fulani commit to warrant the attacks and killings.

It will be recalled the last time a major such killing and collateral damage of assets were unleashed on Fulani community in Oyo State was when self-styled Yoruba Nation tribalist fighter, Sunday Igboho, led a group of armed militants in the attacks that left Igangan Fulani community exterminated with killing of only brother of the former Sarkin Fulani of Oyo State and others, with all his cars and houses set on fire. Recall also that the situation led to the Sarkin Fulani’s relocation from the state to Ilorin in Kwara State.

The Iganna locals, on this latest development, had claimed that Fulani herdsmen beat one of their members in the farm and that he had been admitted in a hospital, hence the vengeful reprisal they did affecting all the defenceless Fulani people that were killed.

According to impeccable sources present during the visit of the deputy commissioner of police, when asked whether the warring Iganna people incidented or reported to the police, the beating of any local in the farm, they said no.

They were also said to have been asked by police to produce the member beaten in the farm but they said he was in the hospital at Saki, an information that eventually proved to be false as police, when they visited the said hospital in Saki, found no such Yoruba victim.

It thus became established, we gathered, that the attacks on the Fulani community killing those members that penultimate Friday were unprovoked and unnecessary.

Fact-checks

From the words we met on the lips of some of the sympathisers we came across during our investigative media trip to Iganna on Sunday May 21, 2023, what we found out, huge as the calamity that happened was, gave a sigh of relief that all was not as bad as thought.

The Iganna traditional leadership and people still remain the same hospitable hosts that have been protecting the Fulani people in town against the neighbouring Igangan hostility since the Sunday Igboho-led attacks that sent their sarki out of the Ibarapa Land few years ago.

A Fulani source on the ground, who spoke to us on the incident, said, “If government had done something about the Igangan attacks on our people, the incident here in Iganna would not have happened. I am saying this because, the Iganna kingdom and people have always been our protectors, reasons the latest developments have been a source of surprise to us. We lost our people in more horrifying manner and our houses were burnt down.”

But, first and foremost, travelling to Iganna from Lagos was not exactly easy as one had to travel an over 211 km distance from Abeokuta through Igbo Ora to Iseyin and from there to Okeho and then from Okeho to Iganna. The road from Igbo Ora direct to Iganna is one that has no guarantee of security and safety, hence the need to take the Iseyin link. How we made it all through remains a matter for the official.

The over three hours journey could have been better done for the course of peace, security and development of Nigeria at a time not many citizens any longer have confidence to ‘stand with’ their own country because of too many of official based disappointments. It is about the same distance and time if taken from Lagos via Ibadan. In all, it was a successful but tedious official trip.

Our investigations revealed that the attacks on the Fulani settlement, which were the first to happen leading to surviving members and their leaders to seek refuge at the Area Command of the Nigerian Police Force in the part of the state and report the problem, have remained a source of worry to traditional ruler of the ancient community, the Sabiganna of Iganna Land, His Royal Majesty Oba Azeez Soliu Oyemonla.

Apart from the worries of the king, we had also gathered from a source in town, who was not prepared to be mentioned, saying, “Only one axis of our kingdom is where this thing happened not in all parts of Iganna. In recent time we have situation where two hunters were killed in one night in that part of the land and we then said, ‘Is this what the Fulani will use to pay us back for our kindness towards them even against our fellow Yoruba tribesmen of Igangan that chased them away?’ And such information about killing in the farm by some Fulani persons has been a recurrent development,” he said.

In clear similarity to what we gathered on the street among few locals and Fulani people in the town, Oba Oyemonla, who is also Permanent Chairman of Iwajowa Local Government Traditional Rulers Council and Permanent Member of Oyo State Council of Obas, confirmed the attacks but described the circumstances of occurrence as different from what was stated in the earlier media report, especially where sources reportedly claimed the Balogun of the town swore by ‘Ogun the god of iron’ to justify the killings.

The king, who spoke in Yoruba largely in a telephone interview with our team from a remote location in town, said as the commander-in-chief of the kingdom, there was no need for him to deny that the attacks happened but that, it was unfortunate as they were solely the unapproved activities of some irate youths acting on information that one of the locals was beaten in the farm by Fulani, although they had no evidence to show.

“I was told what happened and I called the Fulani people and the locals to a meeting in my palace. I told the Fulani people to look into the matter along with the complainants by producing their members that were alleged to have beaten the Yoruba man in the farm while the locals produce the man that was beaten. Unfortunately, around evening time, some youths believed to have been prompted by neighbouring Igangan community had mobilised and went to attack the Fulani community,” the king said.

Oba Oyemonla, who described Iganna as Oke Ogun community and border town with Igangan, an Ibarapa community, said his town has been under so much pressure since it allowed Fulani, sent away from Ibarapa Land by warring Sunday Igboho-led Yoruba Nation elements in recent years, to settle and do their business in the land.

“The Ibarapas particularly Igangan people believe that we the Iganna community are harbouring the same Fulani they chased out of their land and for that reason they have made several attempts to provoke crisis in this place. But we protected and continue to protect the Fulani people and confronted the forces of the Igangan at our border, remember we are warriors by history, just for the fact that the Fulani have to live in peace and do their business without fear or hindrance of any sort. This is the truth,” the king said.

The Sabiganna continued, “We believe in the theory of creation of Adam and Eve, none of whom was identified by God as either Yoruba or Fulani or by any tribe. That is why it has been my style as traditional ruler of Iganna Kingdom that we should not allow ethic sentiment to divide us at any time.”

The sad Friday

On the sad day, the king said, “There was something that happened between some Fulani and one of our people, which I pacified and asked both parties to come back later for final settlement. It was a case of some Fulani, allegedly, beating one of the locals in the farm and I asked both parties to produce the beaters and the beaten so that we can settle the matter amicably. That was my interim ruling.

“But, unfortunately, irate youths had gone to attack the Fulani settlement, which I got angry about,” he said with all sense of regrets.

To underscore the extent love and commitment of his kingdom to protecting the Fulani people against the Ibarapa hostilities, Oba Azeez Salihu Oyemonla continued that, “Ibarapa people had attacked my community twice because of the fact that we allow Fulani people to live in peace with us. One of the attacks was when they came and invaded our community burning down the police station and killing the DCO and a suspect. It was that bad.

“The Yoruba Nation elements in Ibarapa saw that Friday (May 12) development of a beating in the farm, which we were even yet to confirm, as opportunity for them to reopen their hostility against the Fulani. I was even told that from Igangan, they had started mobilising to move into our (Iganna) land to cause violence over the same matter still shrouded in ambiguity,” he spoke in tone that one would see the attacks more as instigated from outside Iganna than seen.

Sadly, the Sabiganna said, “On three occasions again, the Ibarapas came to provoke crisis in my community, which we repelled. I am a Nigerian king that works for the peace of Nigeria”, he said, adding that his kingdom does not do all the Yoruba Nation that the Ibarapa people do because, according to him, there is no reason for any tribe to rise against the other. “We came from the same source,” he said.

In an earlier media report, it has been stated that the massacre was premeditated as even in the presence of top police and other security hierarchy in the state, who heard about the problem and visited, attempt was made by people verified to be members of the host community on the lives of leaders of Fulani in the state that came.

Our sources had said the situation was so tense that no Fulani leader including those of Miyetti Allah stuff and Fulani community was bold enough to speak to the press because of an alleged threat by Balogun of Iganna, Chief Dauda Kareem, said to have been made in the presence of a deputy commissioner of police and other security officials, and who reportedly put off his shoes swearing by “Ogun the god of iron” and vowing that “We have just started with the killing of Fulani in this place”.

But the paramount ruler told The DEFENDER that his Balogun was not as culpable as reported. Confronted with the comments credited to his Balogun about killing of Fulani, he said: “It is not true.”

Describing his Balogun, Chief Dauda Kareem, as peace loving person that has been part of friendliness of Iganna towards the Fulani people, Oba Oyemonla said it is on record that Iganna community is one of the most peaceful towns that history can testify to. He, however, could not rule out utterances possible due to provocation as warranted by the weight of information received on the alleged farm incident but hinged his consolation on the fact that those claims of beating were not even a confirmed information, meaning that his community remains a friendly haven to the Fulani, but highly regretted the incident of killing he repeatedly described as unfortunate.

“The cause is information about beating in the farm. Those who laid the claim have not produced the person that was beaten,” he said, adding that the attacks, which he said he and his Balogun had no hand in, were unfortunate and unnecessary.

Measures being taken for justice

Although no official statement has been issued over the matter, body language of the police hierarchy shows a confirmation as it became clear to The DEFENDER that the foremost security agency was only trying to manage the unfortunate incident so as to avoid misgivings among members of the populace. We can authoritatively report that the avoidable killings in Iganna were not as a result of hate by host community but a possible instigation of violence from outside as the information acted upon by the irate youths in town was not confirmed.

Effort of our team to extract words from the Oyo State Governor, Engr. Seyi Makinde, through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, proved unsuccessful as he was yet to respond as at the time of filing this report.

However, the king of Iganna, speaking on what he knew was being done by the governor, revealed the preliminary measures Governor Makinde had taken in mitigating the effects of the attacks by alleviating the sufferings and supporting the affected Fulani community to bounce back to their normal lives. He informed that the state has taken action and that the matter was with the police.

“For you to know, Governor Seyi Makinde came and he has been proactive. He provided tents for shelters of the affected Fulani people in their settlement, gave them food and money in cash, so also he has approved the establishment of a nomadic school for the children of the affected Fulani community so that they can return back to their normal lives.

“At my own level as the king, we together with the governor are already working with the Fulani community on amicable solution in towards guarding situation of this nature in the future.

“The case is with the police. The attacks did not have my approval and I am so sad that they happened. It is a very controversial situation because everyone that has seen the development knows and says that there is no record of violence against any tribe, be it Fulani or any other, ever in my community. But this is just unfortunate. I am not part of it,” said the Sabiganna of Iganna Land, Oba Azeez Salihu Oyemonla.

Appeal for peaceful co-existence

In his appeal the king said, “To the Fulani and Yoruba races, I appeal for peace that we have enjoyed to continue. We used to be tolerate ourselves, so, where did this come from and why should we allow it to sustain? No way. Like I told you, scripturally, we are from the same source. My postulation has always been that everyone has his own values. These Fulani people too have their values to anywhere they have settled. They are economically valuable and viable. We need to tolerate them,” he concluded.

Observations

We observed in the course of our investigations that the attacks, which claimed the 11 lives penultimate Friday,  were more of an instigation from outside Iganna, which has a history of trace from Sabe in the Republic of Benin and, as a warriors kingdom, is known to be the best friend of Fulani people on the belt linking the Ibarapa, a land known for its decision against settlers, and Oke Ogun.

It was more like an attempt to weaken the continued support and hospitality of Iganna people towards the Fulani they have protected since the attacks by Sunday Igboho-led ethnic militants that the information, on which the attacks were hinged, filtered into town. The fact that the irate youths went behind the king, after his interim ruling of need for confirmation and evidence, is indicative of neutrality of the traditional leadership and normal lifestyle of the Iganna community.

Finally, we found out the need, once again, for government at all levels to be involved in effort to bring lasting peace including, mainly, carrying out ‘needs accessment’ among farmers (the locals) and settlers (the Fulani), who the Sabiganna of Iganna Land himself, Oba Azeez Salihu Oyemonla, has attested to the economic values they – like every other – contribute to the kingdom.


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