Sunday Adeyemo, otherwise known as Sunday Igboho, became an instant media sensation after his quit notice to Fulani herders to vacate Ibarapa area of Oyo State. Until January 15, 2021 when he issued the controversial ultimatum, arguably little was known about the man who has now carved a niche for himself as rights activist and freedom fighter. Although many see him as a local thug and political urchin striving for fame, affluence and relevance, Adeyemo has an elevated opinion of himself. He believes he abhors injustice and could go to any length to fight it. It was in the course of resisting injustice that he did the unusual when he stormed Igangan in Ibarapa North Local Government Area of Oyo State and asked the Seriki Fulani, Alhaji Salihu Abdulkadir, and those he described as criminal herdsmen to leave the community and the entrire Ibarapaland.
Many parts of Ibarapa and Oke Ogun areas in the state have, over the years, experienced kidnappings, killings, robbery attacks, rape, plundering of farmlands and other criminal activities. Local farmers and indigenous residents had often blamed the menace on Fulani herders but nothing concrete seemed to have been done by the authorities to address their plight. But on the fateful day, Sunday Igboho visited the Fulani settlement in Igangan and confronted the Seriki with the allegation of conspiring with criminal herders to cause death and destruction in his homeland. “Alhaji, I am here to tell you that we are not pleased with the way your people are killing our people. I cannot continue to fold my arms when your people are killing my people. We hereby give you seven days to leave this place,” Adeyemo told the Seriki Fulani in a video that went viral on the social media.
“What you have done in Yoruba land is enough, go back to your North. If you claim stubbornness and stay, you will have yourself to blame. I respect you by coming here to notify you but if you don’t respect yourself and decide to stay, you will see,” he further told the Seriki. Since then, things have never been the same again. A lot of events, directly and indirectly connected to his audacious declaration, have taken place in the polity. While the eviction order to herdsmen projected Sunday Igboho’s image, not a few stakeholders were confounded by the real intent of the new face of activism. Is he looking for attention, fame and money? Is he truly the liberator of Ibarapa and Oke Ogun people from the menace of kidnapping and banditry? Is he being sponsored to destabilise the incumbent Seyi Makinde-led administration in the state? Or is he being bankrolled to destroy the North and South-West political alliance ahead of 2023?
Still, could it be he is being sponsored to blackmail and arms twist the North to negotiate with the Yoruba for the next Presidency? These and many more thoughts and sentiments were advanced by commentators on the Sunday Igboho phenomenon.
- Who Is Sunday Igboho?
Before this meteoric rise, Sunday Igboho had been around for a while although many people may not know. He was born on October 10, 1972 in Igboho, Oorelope Local Government Area of Oyo State. A Christian by birth, Adeyemo started life as a mechanic and motorcycle repairer. He came into limelight after the role he played in the Ife/Modakeke communal crisis between 1997 and 1998, where he defended the Modakeke people. After the Ife/Modakeke conflict, he relocated to Ibadan where he reportedly met former Oyo State Governor, Lam Adesina, while trying to defend the rights of some people at a fuel station. Adeyemo further stamped his feet by working with former Governor of Oyo State, Senator Rashidi Ladoja, and became one of his most trusted aides. During the period, Ladoja was enmeshed in bitter feud with the late strongman of Ibadan politics, Chief Lamidi Adedibu. At the height of political disagreement with Adedibu, Ladoja was impeached as governor in 2006 though he was later reinstated through a court judgement after 11 months. Throughout the trying period, Sunday Igboho acted as Ladoja’s bodyguard and also led his camp to resist the violence by Adedibu’s men. Since then, Adeyemo became a force to reckon with in the politics of Oyo State. He also played a part in the emergence of Seyi Makinde as Governor in 2019. Sunday Igboho is wealthy though much information is not available about how he acquired the wealth. Adeyemo, who is reputed to have metaphysical powers and ability to conjure guns from the air, has recently been advocating Oduduwa Republic which would be an autonomous country of the Yoruba people. He currently has two wives and several children, including three professional footballers playing in Germany.
- What Triggered His Revolt
Despite attaining comfortable and influential status, Sunday Igboho won’t condone the rights of the downtrodden and the common people to be trampled. Based on feedbacks from his hometown and other areas, he rose to put an end to the spate of criminal activities allegedly perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen. A visibly angry Adeyemo identified some victims of the atrocities to include Harvard-trained Dr Fatai Aborode, who was murdered after complaining about the invasion and destruction of his farm by cattle; Alhaji Amubieya, Alhaji Olusegun Olosunde and Alhaji Monsuru, who were all kidnapped and freed after ransom payments; and Alhaji Subawah and Fatai Oko Oloyun who were equally killed by suspected herdsmen. According to him, the Seriki allegedly served as middleman for the kidnappers. The accused denied the allegation anyway, though Sunday Igboho stood his grounds and insisted that all Fulani must exit the area within seven days.
After the expiration of his ultimatum, Sunday Igboho returned to Igangan on January 22, 2021 to enforce his threat. In the ensuing crisis, the house, cars and other property of the Seriki Fulani were set ablaze. Speaking on the developments that led to the agitation for Fulani eviction, he said: “The issue in Ibarapa has been on for about a year. Many people have been killed there. So many people have been kidnapped and they had to pay millions for their release. The prince of Igangan was also kidnapped recently and the traditional ruler paid a ransom for his release and the government didn’t do anything. The people there who are predominantly farmers can’t go to the farms anymore because the women are being raped on their way to and from the farm. The trouble has been so much.
“But I went there to investigate from the leaders there. They sought my help to rid the area of these criminalities. The people joined me and we told the Fulanis they must leave this place. This Seriki Fulani was the intermediary between the community and the kidnappers. So, he knows who the criminals are. We had to warn him but they can’t go to him alone because he would kill them. He has about three roadblocks before anyone can get to his house.
“While I was there asking him how these criminalities happen in the area. He didn’t listen to me, he was on the phone talking to the DC. I collected the phone and was about to speak with the DC when one of Seriki’s boys brought out a gun but my men disarmed him. Another Fulani also shot a gun close to the Seriki’s palace where we were. The Seriki said it was a mistake. I saw many cars at Seriki’s abode. When I got back to Ibadan, there were many threats made to me that I had no rights to issue an eviction notice to Fulanis. Instead of revealing the suspects, he said the criminals are some Bororo men. My people told me they were threatened before the expiration of the ultimatum. On the day the ultimatum expired, there were numerous military vehicles in Ibarapa there. This shows this government is wicked. If they had given the people of Ibarapa this kind of security, then the criminals would have left Ibarapa.”
- Why Oyo Governor rejected eviction
For taking a bold step, many people, especially in Yoruba land, have praised Sunday Igboho. But Governor Seyi Makinde has a different view; he indeed kicked against the ultimatum issued to Fulani herders and accused Adeyemo of stoking the embers of ethnic crisis. In a statewide broadcast on January 20, 2021, Makinde noted that the enemies of the state are bandits and kidnappers, and not herders seeking pasture for their flock. He said his government will not tolerate any assault on residents of the state under any guise. The Governor added: “Let me state that we shall not sit back and watch anyone make any law-abiding resident of Oyo State feel unsafe in their homes, farms, or business places. We are aware of some people circulating flyers and giving people ultimatums to leave their land. This is totally unacceptable and will not be condoned. “The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), which I swore to defend and protect, guarantees freedom of movement in Section 41(1), such that citizens are free to reside in any part of the country without fear. We are determined to preserve that right in Oyo State.”
Makinde also called on traditional rulers in the state not to be part of any plan to disrupt the peaceful co-existence of residents. He said with collective efforts, the state can secure the environment that has contributed to the growth of its economy. But despite the Governor’s warning, Sunday Igboho returned to Igangan at the expiration of his ultimatum. He was welcome by a mammoth crowd at the town hall in the community. His visit led to clash between some Yoruba youths and their Fulani counterparts, with the house and property of the Seriki Fulani burnt afterwards.
- How South West Govs, Miyetti Allah brokered deal
The controversial eviction notice served by Sunday Igboho happened about the same time the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), asked herders illegally occupying forest reserves in the state to vacate. The governor mandated those who wish to carry on with cattle-rearing business to register with appropriate authorities before the ultimatum expires or risk eviction from the state. Ondo is another state that had witnessed upsurge in killer herdsmen’s activities, and these, among other reasons, led to the creation of a security outfit known as Operation Amotekun by the South-West Governors. But the Presidency swiftly tackled Akeredolu over his order asking all herders to vacate forest reserves in the state within seven days. Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari, in a statement, urged the Ondo State Government to tackle all forms of criminality but not breach the rights of herders in the state. Shehu argued that insecurity is not alien to any group, the language they speak, their geographical location or their faith. We need to delink terrorism and crimes from ethnicity, geographical origins and religion—to isolate the criminals who use this interchange of arguments to hinder law enforcement efforts as the only way to deal effectively with them.
“The government of Ondo, and all the 35 others across the federation must draw clear lines between the criminals and the law-abiding citizens who must equally be saved from the infiltrators. Beyond law and order, the fight against crime is also a fight for human values which are fundamental to our country,” the presidential aide added. Following the tension generated by the brickbats across states in the South West region, governors hurriedly met with members of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN). The meeting held in Akure, the Ondo State capital. Akeredolu, Makinde, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State and their counterparts in Jigawa and Kebbi States, Muhammad Abubakar and Atiku Bagudu, were present at the meeting which resolved to ban night and underage grazing in the South West region. In a communiqué issued after the meeting, the Governors and MACBAN agreed that the order of the Ondo State Governor was misconstrued and misrepresented and that he only ordered those illegally occupying the forest reserves in Ondo State to quit. Fayemi, who also doubles as Chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), said the meeting agreed that a herders/farmers peace committee be put in place in order to end the insecurity in the region. Speaking at the meeting, the National Chairman of MACBAN, Muhammadu Kiruwa, assured that his association was willing to work with the government and security agencies in fighting criminality.
- Where the Crisis May Lead
Sunday Igboho may have kicked against the continued subjugation of his people, he sure knows his adversaries may come after him for daring to flush out Fulani herders. Indication that the storm is not over was when one of his houses in the Soka area of Ibadan was gutted by fire. The incident happened in the early hours of January 26. While Adeyemo no longer lives in the house affected by the fire, the police said unknown armed persons, who shot sporadically in the area, set the property on fire. Perhaps, it was retaliation against the previous burning of the house of Seriki Fulani in Igangan. Until the perennial conflict between herders and farmers is permanently resolved, observers are of the view that the Sunday Igboho phenomenon might just be a tip of the iceberg.