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The Southwest is rising to the challenge of security in the geo-political zone. Devastated by the consequence of the recent #EndSARS protest, which was hijacked by hoodlums, regional leaders, including governors and monarchs, are brainstorming to prevent a reoccurence. Deputy Editor EMMANUEL OLADESU examines their efforts and constraints to regional security.
The Southwest is yet to recover from the #EndSARS shock, which devastated its six states.
The region is in a sober mood. But, as it laments the destruction of its public utilities, regional leaders are also putting heads together to prevent a recurrence of the monumental tragedy.
“This, I believe, must not repeat itself. It is not something for us to mouth. We must take positive steps. We must have collaborations among governors, kabiyesis and security agents,” said Rotimi Akeredolu, lawyer-governor of Ondo State, who kicked off deliberations at the Presidential Stakeholders Engagement in Lagos attended by Presidential Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari.
Southwest monarchs, governors and ministers from the zone, who converged on the Lagos House, Alausa, Ikeja were in one accord as they pondered on the horror of arson and carnage by hoodlums and miscreants, who hijacked the peaceful and legitimate protests that later degenerated into anarchy.
The gathering was representative of the region. The leaders include Governor Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Gboyega Oyetola (Osun), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti) and Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Ooni of Ife Oba Enitan Ogunwusi, Alaafin of Oyo Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, Olu of Ilaro Oba Kehinde Olugbenle, Oba of Lagos Rilwan Akiolu, Ayangburen of Ikorodu Oba Kabiru Shotobi, Alawe of Ilawe-Ekiti Oba Adebanji Alabi, Owa Ooye of Okemesi Ekiti, Oba Adedeji Gbadebo, Orangun of Oke Ila, Oba Adedokun Abolarin, Olugbo of Ugboland Oba Obateru Akinrubtan, and Olowo of Owo Oba Ajibade Ogunoye.
Also at the meeting were Ministers Babatunde Fashola (Works and Housing), Rauf Aregbesola (Interior), Lekan Adegbite (Mines and Steel), Sunday Dare (Youth and Sports), Lai Mohammed (Information and Culture), Niyi Adebayo (Commerce and Industry), Tayo Alasoadura (State, Niger Delta), and Olorunnimbe Mamora (State, Health); Lagos State Deputy Governor Obafemi Hamzat, Chief of Staff Tayo Ayinde and Information and Strategy Commissioner Gbenga Omotoso.
The Presidential Stakeholders’ Engagement was meant to be a healing process of sorts. The Ikeja meeting trailed the previous ones in the Northwest and Southeast, where Inspector-General Mohammed Adamu and stakeholders brainstorm on effective policing method.
It was a problem-solving meeting. But, Lagos was also conscious of the health challenge that has refused to go. Thus, Adeola Adebowale, Director of Safety Commission, took those present at the meeting through the Covid-19 protocol, which was vigorously enforced throughout the meeting.
The host governor, incident commander and burden bearer, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, told the gathering that “we are on the journey of restoring Lagos and Southwest.”
But, the pictures of horror stared the leaders in the face. Sanwo-Olu had earlier said Lagos would need N1 trillion to fix the state. It was evident that the recovery will be slow.
In ruins were 120 BRT buses, the City Hall, Igbosere Court, Nigeria Ports Authority(NPA) office, the forensic laboratory, some local government secretariats, General Hospitals, 26 police stations, 500 vehicles, fire stations and vehicle inspection offices.
Sanwo-Olu also lamented the destruction of cinema houses, the invasion and destruction of royal palaces, Lekki Toll Plaza and Lekki-Ikoyi Bridge Toll Plaza, bus terminals, and other private concerns-Shoprite, banks, family and media houses. The baseline for the arson was fake news and the misuse of the social media.
Akeredolu, who welcomed the leaders, said the tragedy that hit the region should not be allowed to repeat itself, stressing that the destruction was a great set back. He urged the regional leaders to sustain a climate of peace at all times. Recalling that the youths were unusually on rampage, the Ondo governor said the people turned against the government.
Noting that both federal and state governments trembled, he said governor of the West should engage the stakeholders-monarchs, youths, right groups and NGOs-to find a lasting solution to the crisis.
Akeredolu proposed four solutions: youth employment and engagement, review of the finances of states so they can play their proper roles in the federation, youth integration into governance and government/monarch partnership.
Gambari, a prince of Ilorin, said the sad events of last few weeks has made government to retrace its steps to ponder on some questions. He wondered why a peaceful protest could degenerate into a mob action and arson, adding that President Buhari was shocked by the level of destruction by youths who are also beneficiaries of the public utilities.
The Chief of Staff outlined the plans of the Federal Government to calm nerves. These include beefing up security, youth employment, police reforms and community policing. He said Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the National Economic Council are designing programmes of engagement for youths.
Oba Ogunwusi lamented that the region slipped into another wild wild West, adding: “We don’t want it again.”
The Ooni blamed the governors for creating gap between them and traditional rulers. But, he refrained from drawing a link between the gap and the violence. But, he also alleged that governors were creating division among royal fathers.
Oba Ogunwusi stressed: “You governors are far from us. It is not when there is politics that you should contact us. We should be holding the meeting regularly.
“Don’t be far from us again. Don’t divide us again. Collaborate with us. Rotate the meeting among Southwest states. They have been very far from us. They only come to us every four years. We know the good, the bad and the ugly in our areas. We are underutilised. Our governors should not be too far from us.”
To Alaafin Adeyemi 111, the issue at hand is a complex and complicated matter, which had been building up long time ago. “Those who are employed are not many in the Southwest. Hungry people are more than those who have something to eat,” he said, adding: “Two per cent of graduates find work. What about the remaining 98 per cent?”
Oba Adeyemi also pointed out the flawed security arrangement, saying it is highly centralised. In his view, the current defective structure can never empower the states to do what is right for their people.
Delving into history, the Alaafin said true federalism prevented chaos when it was practiced in the pre-independence era before military rule distorted an efficient system by tampering with the federal structure and imposed the unitary system.
He added: “In 1954, Nigeria was divided into three regions. We in the West had our Coat of Arms. We controlled our desires and sent taxes to the Central Government.
“Ahmad Bello said the North is for the North. Zik said one constitution, one nation. Awo said you are wrong; we are different.
“The West set up many institutions. Toye Coker was our Agent-General in London. Army came and dissolve the regions and imposed a unitary system of government.
“What do we do now when we have many unemployed youths? An idle hand is a devil’s workshop. There should be true federalism. Unless we practice true federalism, unitary system will not help this country.”
What occupied the mind of Oba Akiruntan was not only the root cause of the protests, but those who fuelled the demonstrations that degenerated into the destruction of public assets. He alleged that certain clergy men were behind the hijacked protests. “The youths behaved well initially. But, it was hijacked. Who are those behind them,” he queried.
To the monarch, the reoccurence of the ugly scene should be prevented.
Oba Akinrutan added: “They are likely to come out again. We, obas, have no money to give you, but we can give your our wealth of experience. I applaud Sanwo-Olu for the Covid war; he is facing the test of time.”
Turning to the Police Inspector-General, he said: “Hoodlums have taken over the highways. They take advantage of the fact that police are off the road. Let police come out. Before the end of the week, we want to see police on the road.”
Oba Akiolu, a retired Police Assistant Inspector-General, observed that truth is bitter. He said the problems that triggered the protests were caused by politicians.
Echoing Oba Adeyemi, the Olowo-Eko said: “The power of the Federal Government is too much. Let them commit more powers to the states. The security architecture of the country should be reviewed. Besides, he said employment should be provided for youths.
To the political class, he said monetisation of police should stop. “You politicians, reduce to the nearest minimum the sharing of money. The youths of this country deserve to be looked after, he stressed.”
Oba Akiolu lamented the collapse of moral values among youths. Noting that the hoodlums who invaded his palace violated Covid-19 protocol, he said he had advised them to go for Covid test.
The Lagos monarch urged the Federal Government to grant special status for Lagos.
To Oba Alabi, the arson was devastating and unfortunate, lamenting that police disappeared during the protest. He said it is imperative that police should be properly equipped to respond to crisis.
The Alawe, who is the Chairman of Ekiti Council of Traditional Rulers, called for vigilance, saying the history of revolutions have revealed that after protesters have dealt with political leaders, they later pounced on monarchs.
He said the hijacked protest was a deliberate attempt to destroy the economy of Lagos.
Oba Alabi said Southwest would need Federal Government’s support to rebuild and bounce back.
He stressed: “Let there be an Executive Bill to restore Southwest to its glory. Niger Delta and Northeast have commissions. Now is the time to have a Southwest Agenda to revamp and restore Southwest.” Oba Alabi’s suggestion elicited an applause.
The Olu of Ilaro frowned at politicians who keep thugs, even after elections. “The president was sitting down and some were throwing stones. Not a single person was arrested,” he fumed.
The royal father called on the Federal Government to revisit the report of the 2014 National Conference. He recalled that Prof. Gambari was a delegate to the conference.
Oba Olugbenle, lent his voice to the push for restructuring, said: “The centre is too strong. Devolve power to the governors. They are only security officers of the states with limitations.
“Drop politics. Look at the recommendations of the conference. Also, give special status to Lagos.”
Oba Olugbenle called for the reopening of borders to enable innocent traders regain their means of livelihood.
He said: “We are suffering at the borders. Those doing legitimate business at the borders have nothing to do in the last six months. Let the Customs do their job. Let those doing their legitimate business do their jobs.”

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