“As the Chief Law and Security Officer of the State, it is my constitutional obligation to do everything lawful to protect the lives and property of all residents of the State. In light of the foregoing, the following orders are hereby issued:
1. All Forest Reserves in the State are to be vacated by herdsmen within the next 7 days with effect from today, Monday 18th January, 2021.”– Governor Rotimi Akerodolu, 12:13pm 18th January 2020
Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akerodolu must have been relaxed tweeting the above. His intention, although clearly stated in the thread, would definitely not exclude inspiring hope in the hearts of residents of the state.
Interestingly, while the Senior Advocate of Nigeria-turned Governor was ‘inspiring hope’ in his people, little did he know he was losing goodwill elsewhere. It took barely 24 hours after his declaration for Presidential media aide, Garba Shehu, to fire a salvo at the South West Governor for “asking herders to vacate the forests in seven days.”
Summarily, for the presidency, it duly acknowledges the urgent need for the security challenges facing Ondo State which Shehu’s statement described as ‘nightmarish’ to be brought to an end. The Governor however, despite being well furnished with “detailed and documented security reports, debriefings from victims of kidnap cases and press reports on the root cause of kidnapping and other nefarious activities” doesn’t have the right to tackle the issue without hallowing the ‘sentiments of the presidency.’
Hear the presidential aide:
“What is clearly emerging, is a lack of consistency in messaging which in turn leads to various contradictions regarding accuracy and the intent behind the message.”
“Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, a seasoned lawyer, Senior Advocate of Nigeria and indeed, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, has fought crime in his state with passion and commitment, greater sensitivity and compassion for the four years he has run its affairs and, in our view, will be the least expected to unilaterally oust thousands of herders who have lived all their lives in the state on account of the infiltration of the forests by criminals.”
Notwithstanding the fact that the political leadership of states in the country is divided between multiple parties, it would be correct to say that no Governor (not even from the opposition) in today’s Nigeria would want to offend the ‘Presidency.’
For no less a person like Governor Akereodolu who just won a second term in office few weeks ago; partly on the strength of the president’s unalloyed support (considering his frightening pre-primary run) to dare the presidency, he may be ‘reaching too far.’
It gets messier!
The issue assumed a dramatic dimension as the Ondo Commissioner for Information fired back at Shehu. On the part of the state government, President Buhari could not have approved such a statement and it will be unbelievable that the media aide “would offer himself as a spokesperson of people masquerading as herdsmen to commit crimes.”
Nigerians weighed in on the issue Wednesday, with the Presidential media adviser coming under heavy criticism expectedly. In spite of the divergent views on the topic, one thing we must commend the Ondo Governor for however, is his unwavering commitment to ensuring the protection of not just residents of his state, but the people of the South West geo-political zone in entirety.
One can easily recall how the Governor as Chairman of the South West Governors Forum put his foot down to ensure the Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN) codenamed Amotekun, saw the light of day. This was when the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, had raised eyebrows against the initiative. The governor did this without looking at the burden of being in same governing party as the president.
How long and messy is this ‘rumble in the jungle’ likely to get?
It may be hazy to foretell but what is clear is that, except President Buhari calls his media adviser to order, Governor Akerodolu’s actions on this matter is likely attract consequences.
Temidayo Taiwo-Sidiq is a Political Journalist, Analyst and Social Change Advocate with major interest in Nigerian Politics, Governance and Sports.