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OPINION: Keeping Ondo Safe And  Rejecting Rash Agitation For Self-determination, By Ojo Oyewamide

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The prime concern of the Oluwarotimi Akeredolu government is to protect the people of Ondo state.

The government has taken a number of decisions and actions to keep the state safe from bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers and other criminal elements.

One of such decisions and actions is the creation of the State Security Agency codenamed Amotekun. Amotekun generated a fierce storm. But Governor Akeredolu weathered the storm. Today, Amotekun is a pleasant reality, doing its best to secure the people of the state and their property.

Acting on intelligence reports, the government ordered illegal occupiers of the state forest reserves to quit. The decision also provoked its own controversy. The controversy stemmed from misunderstanding, misrepresentation and misconception. The directive was wrongly interpreted to be an action against a particular ethnic group.

But the motive was to protect all the residents of the state irrespective of their ethnic backgrounds, religions and social status. Despite the tempest of misconception that raged against it, the quit order has come to stay in the interest of the security of the people of the state.

In his quest to keep the Sunshine state safe, Governor Akeredolu does not care about whose ox is gored. On Monday, the governor used the occasion of the swearing-in of the Secretary to the State Government, Princess Oladunni Odu, and four Special Advisers, to reiterate the iron resolve of his government to rid the state forest reserves of criminal elements and illegal occupiers.

Governor Akeredolu said: “May we use this occasion to reiterate our position on the eviction of all trespassers occupying our forests. 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.

“Anyone who intends to engage in a private business of animal husbandry, in this age, must be ready to abide with the modern methods 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 under-age 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.”

Vowing that he would not sacrifice the people of the state and future generations on the altar of any narrow and selfish political interest, the governor stated: “This Administration, under our leadership will not shirk its responsibilities in any manner. We will not mortgage the future of the coming generations for political expediency. 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.”

He added: “We shall be encouraging all those interested in animal husbandry to embrace new methods. Indigenes of this State who wish to take to that aspect of agriculture shall enjoy the support of the Government. Non-indigenes with verifiable identities shall be allowed to bring in cattle to designated Ranches and Feed lots. They shall be permitted to graze on the Ranches for a fee.

“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.”

Governor Akeredolu cleared the air on the National Livestock Transformation programme of the federal government. “It is in the light of this that this Administration reiterates its intention to participate in the Federal Government National Livestock Transformation Programme. There is the compelling need to explain the logic behind the participation to avoid misunderstanding and deliberate twisting of facts to score a political point.

“This programme aims at encouraging any private businessman who takes interest in breeding cattle to participate in the modern methods for profit. It is not about sustaining the antiquated cultural practice which allows cattle to move from the remotest parts of the Sahel region to the savannah. It is not about a settlement of an ethnic group foreign to Ondo State on our land. It is to be funded by the Federal Government, our people must be active participants on our soil.

“The State shall generate revenue from cattle feeding in ranches, slaughtering of cows, among others. Pastoralism is not the exclusive preserve of an ethnic group. Trends in the modern business of animal husbandry should be of direct concern to the State.

“The proposed ranches shall not be for human habitation in Ondo State. All those who bring in cattle and the herds shall be registered. Nobody will be allowed to form new settlements on our ancestral lands. Cattle rearing shall be for business, strictly, in Ondo State,” he said.

The governor does not see anything wrong in the agitation for self-determination in the country. But according to him, it must not be unthinking. It must be well-articulated. It must be intellectualized. And it must be a product of general consensus.

“I must not fail to comment on the current agitations by some people who express grievances arising from the challenges of nationhood. The noises generated by seeming inaction or passive indifference on the part of elected and appointed representatives of the Government at all levels appears to be responsible for the growing disaffection in the land. Why some have been measured in their reactions to these problems, others have been less diplomatic. It is not uncommon to find groups and individuals purporting to act or speak on behalf of the rest of us.

“While it is the right of citizens to discuss, agitate and even fight to right perceived wrongs, culminating in self-determination, this must be done within known and acceptable parameters. All concerned must be ad idem, that is, agree to pursue the same objectives to achieve a desirable or desired end.

“There must be a common platform through which the demands, from the most mundane to the sublime, must be presented. There must be a general consensus, articulated and presented after rigorous engagements on the level of intellection as the agendum for action. The reasons for the declaration of hostilities must not be fleeting fancies of disaffection engendered by perceived politics of exclusion for personal benefits. Self-determination must be a collective programme of action.

“I state, unequivocally, as the Governor of Ondo State, elected by the people to serve them and protect their interests, that our people have elected to stay in the Federal Republic of Nigeria as constituted at present. We recognise that there are reasons to demand that certain anomalies be put right. We will continue to encourage dialogue as an effective tool in resolving disputes. We will also not shy from joining others to insist on socio-economic justice. We will, however, not subscribe to banditry and recklessness in putting forth our demands.

“Consequently, no part of the entire State, known and delineated as Ondo State, shall permit any gathering or agitation which may suggest, however remotely, that we are in support of unthinking rabble rousing. We will not be led to assured annihilation by anyone or a group of people, still smarting from the electoral defeats of recent times and presumed exclusion from the process of decision-making.

“Our people are knowledgeable enough to determine their interest at any point. If and when they consider self-determination as an option, they will not depend on external promptings to act. That is why we are different. That is why we are who we are. And that is the way it is going to be,” he said.

*** Oyewamide is Senior Special Assistant to Governor Akeredolu on Media and Publicity

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