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Sunday Igboho and the rise of social order

Nigerian roads especially Lagos roads can be frustrating, with many major junctions without a traffic light and sometimes lacking traffic wardens. For these roads, it takes little time for chaos to descend as drivers driving in different directions become entangled in a battle of impatience, which eventually makes the road congested with no headway. This situation, however, won’t continue for long, in a few hours, individuals many of them organizing themselves into what we call “area boys” take control of the traffic and become informal traffic wardens. Over time, a sort of informal social contract arises since the government had failed to solve the problem, the Area boys serving as informal traffic wardens make sure the flow of traffic is not congested while they also make rent-seeking gains from the road.

A similar event to the scenario above is gradually unfolding in the southwest. On Friday 22nd January, one Sunday Adeyemo popularly known as Sunday Igboho stormed the Igangan Community in Oyo state where he gave an ultimatum to Fulani herdsmen to leave the community and the southwest in general. He also oversaw the expulsion of the Seriki Fulani from the Igangan community. That Sunday Igboho who before the events was popularly known for his political thuggery which has come with many human and material costs is now been acclaimed by the media as a human rights activist is not baffling. For years, Fulani herdsmen have gradually transformed from nomads looking for green pastures for their cattle into a criminal conglomerate famed for kidnapping and banditry. Both the media and communities in the South have raised alarm over these happenings but the federal government has maintained a sort of complicit silence. This silence has further emboldened these criminals to continue their activities with the host communities helpless in the face of the ravaging attacks. Herdsmen have also destroyed farmlands worth millions of naira, these farmlands have formed the cornerstone of the survival of many indigenous communities for generations and they are now being destroyed. With the failure of the government to deal with the crisis and tame the bandits, the people desperately needed a leader.

Nature, as we know, abhors no vacuum. The failure of leadership which has characterized the government response gave rise to a Sunday Igboho. With the people needing leadership desperately, any sort of leadership will surely fill the niche created by government failure. Sunday Igboho is an individual filling this niche, his methods just like the area boys acting like traffic wardens are not perfect but his populism is surely speaking into the minds of the people. For those who have watched herdsmen commit acts of violence without being challenged, Sunday Igboho’s fire for fire approach is a sort of poetic justice. It seems a sort of social contract is gradually been struck, Sunday Igboho is given a sort of informal legitimacy by the people to carry out his actions.

While many have been quick to condemn Sunday Igboho and his methods, to be fair to him in reality, he’s just a symptom of the problem. You can continue to analyze the legality of his methods and behaviours, but it’s just like the increase in temperature associated with malaria. Dealing with Sunday Igboho is like taking a cold shower when you have malaria and your temperature is increased. You might feel relief after but as far as the plasmodium causing malaria runs freely in your system, the body temperature will rise again. Dealing with the crisis just like treating malaria must be dealt with systemically.

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The federal government must show responsibility by condemning the criminal activities of the herdsmen. Those caught in criminal acts must be brought to justice and the government must genuinely take steps to resolve the crisis between farmers and herdsmen rather than their outright defence of herdsmen. An immediate ban must be placed on open grazing in forest reserves and Farm settlements and herdsmen must be held liable for any havoc they wreck in host communities.

Finally, those cheering up Sunday Igboho should know that his model of solving the crisis can never be a solution rather it will be a source of more crisis in the long run. Just like the area boys acting as traffic warden turn the road into a rent-seeking enterprise, Sunday Igboho will do the same with his fight. His action is going to degenerate into a full-blown land grabbing and rent-seeking enterprise. And for people like Sunday who have built a career and wealth on political thuggery and bullying, he will soon become used to rewards associated with his fight and will do anything to ensure it continues.

Bright Ogundare writes from Lagos and can be contacted through brightogundare@gmail.com

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