- General Kunle Togun was one of the few army generals who wielded great influence under military government led by General Ibarahim Babangida
- Togun served as the deputy director-general of the State Security Service (SSS) with General Akilu in charge as the director general
- The retired army general explains what President Buhari must do to solve security challenges in Nigeria
Speaking in this exclusive interview with Legit.ng's regional reporter in Ibadan, Ridwan Kolawole, the Saki-born retired general spoke on some security issues in Nigeria, Boko Haram and unending herder-farmer conflict and what the future holds for the country amidst the current security travails.
With your experience as retired general, would you agree with the federal government that Boko Haram has been technically defeated?
President Buhari knows. All these northerners know that these people are not Nigerians. They should be sent back to where they come from. They are illegally here. This place doesn’t belong to them. That is all. But the annoying aspect is that some stupid chiefs and Obas in Yoruba land are taking money from these idiots settling them. They are enemies within.
There are insinuations that herdsmen are Boko Haram insurgents in another form. How is that possible?
They are not the ones using cows to deceive us. General Abdusalami Abubakar organised a security summit late July, 2019, and General Akilu contacted me that Abdusalami is organising a security summit but I couldn’t go because of some other engagement.
I heard part of what happened. The man, the leader of Miyetti Allah stated that if they provoke them beyond this what is happening now, they will join ISWAP. I said he was very lucky I was not there. I will tell him, they are ISWAP. They are a branch of ISIS.
We know. Saying that they will join ISIS is stating the obvious. Where did they get their AK47? I am a security man, I am into intelligence. I am a trained analyst. Their plan is to overrun Nigeria and take over. Boko Haram is a different sect. It was latter they affiliate themselves to ISIS. These ones (Bororo) are the ones who style themselves as ISWAP and took over northern Mali but AU troops, France troops displaced them.
There was a governor in the north who asked the herdsmen to come back to the north. Miyetti Allah said, ‘No, don’t leave the place. Stay where you are and defend the place.’ The entire southwest has now been surrounded by Fulani herdsmen. They sell carrot in wheel barrow, they sell pepper, they are Okada riders.
Considering your experience as a retired intelligence officer and General in the Army, do you see end in sight in the fight against Boko Haram?
There cannot be any end in sight if President Buhari insists that these people must be given land. The federal government is sending a bill to the National Assembly seeking to own the land surrounded by water. That is people’s cultural heritage. President Buhari and Kaduna state governor had been alleged of bringing these people we now know as Fulani herdsmen terrorising people.
They were reportedly brought in by Buhari and El-Rufai to make Nigeria ungovernable should GEJ won the 2015 election. But they have refused to go now; they are the kidnappers and bandits. Federal government is not fighting battle but creating the battle.
If they change the security chiefs, to whom will they report to? Are they still not be taking order from the Commander in Chief? The president is the only person who can tell the service chiefs what to do. If they change them, they still take instruction from the president. They do what he asks them to do.
What is your assessment of relationship between the farmers and the herdsmen?
The issue of this herdsmen. People are talking of what they don’t know that herdsmen have been with Yoruba for ages. It is a lie. These ones they are calling herdsmen are what we refer to as Bororo in Oke Ogun.
There have never been problem between Fulani and the Yoruba who are Fulani. We grew up to know them; they had the settlement, their cows don’t graze on people’s farms. These ones they call herdsmen are not Nigerians. I am saying it emphatically! I am a security officer of international repute.
These ones they are calling Fulani herdsmen are not Nigerians. I told them during security summit in Abuja that people should approach these herdsmen and speak Nigerian Hausa-Fulani to them, they don’t understand. Ask them if they claim to be Nigerians where are they from.
There is no northerner no matter how illiterate he is who will not tell you the name of his district head. Ask these people, they don’t know because they are not Nigerians. This issue started in the late 90s when these people started migrating to Nigerians.
They would just push their cows to people’s farms openly and when you ask them, ‘what is the problem’, they shoot or they assault with cutlasses. Native Fulani don’t do that. I have farm in Ago-Are and I have farm in Shaki here.
In 1996, when I retired, I lost my younger brother and was at home where people came to sympathise with me. So for two weeks, I didn’t go to farm. When I got back to my farm in Ago-Are of about 100 hectres maize, they (herdsmen) grazed it to the ground. These issue got to late General Abacha and sent people to investigate. Did they see me to show them the farm? No they didn’t see me.
These people molested the women of the native Fulani and rustle their cows, killed the cow owners and go away. That has been in Oke-Ogun till now. In 2001, General Buhari came to Oyo state and to see Governor Lam Adesina and told the governor that Lam’s people were killing his (Buhari’s) people in Oke Ogun.
A day before, those herdsmen killed in Oke-ogun and they were able to picture and video evidences to the governor. He showed the evidences to General Buhari. He couldn’t talk but he left. There was one man, Oba Hausa in Agege, Lagos who went on Television to say that it was General Togun who was leading those who were killing Fulani in Oke-Ogun.
I started vigilante system in the year 2000. We used Olurin’s edict of how community can help the police to prevent and curtail crimes. I know how many of my vigilante members who were killed by this herdsmen.
The issue now is that, if the farmers are able to arrest the invading Fulani on their farm and take them to the police station, the police will tell the herdsmen to say that on their way to the police station, the farmers stole so and so amount from them (herdsmen). A lot has been going on here in Oke Ogun. The issue involved is that all we have to do is to appeal to the government that the Fulani attitude has reduced farming and food production.
What is the extent to which the conflict has affected the socio-economic situation in the region?
The Fulani invasion has led to drastic reduction of in farming practice in Oke Ogun area. It has gone down unprecedentedly. Many people have gone back home in Iseyin and many other places. About five years, they raided Agunrege, Owo among others, they damaged tractors, stole women’s dresses and sacked many farm settlements.
The issue is, if you harvest your yam now, they see it, they just pack their cows there to feed on the harvested yams. They allow their cows to feed on your cassava, yam and maize. They even tear bans and bring out the farm produce for the cows to eat. Unfortunately, these farmers are helpless, they can’t get justice. Many of these farmers borrow money from cooperative to farm. How do they pay their money back? You want them to go back to the farm again?
What is the extent to which dialogue has helped to solve this problem?
My friend, this has become a national issue. You want to tell me you don’t know all these ideas. When President Buhari said we must give land to this people. Is that a dialogue? How can you come and tell me to give my inheritance to a foreigner? Even if they are Nigerians, they have their own inheritance somewhere else.
So, how can you give my inheritance to people? Has he legislated that land should be given to Yoruba people to farm? Has he legislated that land should be given to Ibos to sell vehicle, etc. spare parts? But he is saying we must give lands for the Fulani herdsmen for their cows. North has a wide portion of land area. Let them go the north if they are northerners.
General Buhari knows that these people are not Nigerians. He knows it. But they are of the same ethnic with him. In Nigeria, before colonialism, Oyo empire spread to the present Republic of Benin. The Efiks spread to Cameroon. When Obasanjo was the President, he did say people should give the Yoruba from the Republic of Benin or the Efiks from Cameroon lands.
Okay, let me ask, how did these people come about their weapons, AK 47? He said all of us should go and handover our weapons but he did not ask the herdsmen to handover their own. He said they are only using it to defend their cows. Does that make sense? The farmers don’t need anything to defend their farm produce?
Are you saying there is no existing method of combating the menace
Long time ago, as I said earlier, there were native Fulani. These people came and settled in camps. They didn’t disturb anybody and nobody disturbed them. They would call the Yoruba 'Ore' - meaning friend and the Yoruba would call them Ore. That was what we grew up to know in Yoruba land.
But, the government broke down the relationship by backing these foreigners to be grazing on people’s farm produce. There have never been problems with the native Nigerian Fulani whom we grew up to know. If you are talking about dialogue. Dialogue with whom? Can’t you hear what the man who calls himself the leader of Miyetti Allah is saying, threatening, giving conditions in somebody else’s inheritance?
Should I come to your house on how your family should share the inheritance and how I will have to share certain percentage of it. The people are so stubborn. They said Allah has given them the land of Nigeria as their inheritance and they have sent messages to all Fulanis in the sub-Saharan Africa to come to Nigeria armed to come and take the land which Allah has given them and when they are coming, they should come fully armed because that is the only messages Nigerians understand.
Having said this, what do you think could be done or it is better to just fold our arms while all these allegations come true?
The issue is that, initially when this started in the Middle-Belt, I told some people that this is coming to southwest. And, I once argue against the issue of Islamisation as rumoured. It is not Islamisation! It is territorial expansion! Obasanjo called it Fulanisation. It has nothing to do with religion. If it succeeds, they will now have caliphate system.
Then in Yoruba land, there will be nothing like Oba as it happens in Ilorin. So all these RUGA issues are rubbish. The intention is to run over the places and say they have captured the land. It is territorial expansion. I don’t know where we were discussing this herdsmen issue and somebody said that they should give them land because of economic bla bla. I told the man to shut up.
The man is a minister of Yoruba origin. I told him that Buhari knows that these people are not Nigerians. The first time Buhari spoke about the herdsmen was when he spoke with the Bishop of Canterbury in London.
He said it was not Fulani herdsmen were killing people but militants who were trained by Ghadaffi that infiltrated them. I told that minister that Buhari is a soldier and a General is a soldier for life. Ask him, if foreigners enter into his country armed, it is called invasion. How are you to react to invasion? You hunt them down like rabbit and eliminate them. Ask President Buhari.
Could what is happening in Oke Ogun be described as invasion?
It is not only in Oke-Ogun. All these Middle-Belt states who experience similar problem, are facing invasion by the herdsmen. This is not Oke-Ogun affair, it now involved the entire Yoruba. Let me tell you something to justify invasion, on January 13, 2017, retired General Alabi Isama and my humble self were invited to Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS) to discuss ahead of Armed Remembrance Day (January 15).
He (General Isama) made it known that the Biafran war some of us saw it as civil war, was not seen by the northerners but as (northern) territorial expansion. But that could not be achieved because Benjamin Adekunle, a Yoruba man, stopped that ambition.
All these Fulani issues are just meant to say “capture the southwest.” When Governor Seyi Makinde spoke the other time, he said as far as he is concerned, no inch of Oyo state land will go to any Fulani herdsmen. Come, Yoruba people are in bondage. Why have other Yoruba governors not spoken? It is because they are in APC.
In 2015, when Buhari won the election as the president of Nigeria. I wrote to Ajimobi three times that I wanted to see him to discuss security issues with him. He didn’t answer me. That man Ajimobi knows nothing. He didn’t answer me.
I know many governors are not saying anything against Fulani herdsmen because they are APC. What I wanted to tell Ajimobi was that he should not let political association or affiliation with Buhari bring Trojans to Oyo state. There is no law not even International Law that gives them right to destroy other people’s property.
Ango Abdullahi, a retired vice chancellor, was speaking some weeks ago quoting ECOWAS free movement. Does ECOWAS free movement say you should go in trailer loads into another person’s country in West Africa and do what you like?
There is another leader, Abdurahman or something who said United Nations sometime said that if there is a community, whoever has the highest percentage of land owns that community and the north has the largest percentage of land in Nigeria. Therefore, the north owns Nigeria. I know what I am telling you.
If educated people like Ango Abdullahi who knows that these people are not Nigerians and they are finding means to justify their actions. And what is their plan? They are working a system whereby Fulani will be a major tribe in Nigeria. So, by the time your children and my grand children grow up, they will become a minority in their own fatherland and inheritance of the generations coming will be taken over.
Sometimes you were reported to have had issues with some Obas in Yorubaland, what is the bone of contention?
I don’t have issues with him. It was Onitede. In 2017, I went to meet the chairman of Atisbo local government as the chairman, security council of three local governments (Shaki East, Shaki West and Atisbo). That Onitede sold Ago-Are land to Bororo herdsmen. Ago-Are is a neighbouring town to Tede. That place (the sold place) is now an estate.
The man is so stubborn. He is harbouring some herdsmen. He was asked why was he harbouring these people and replied that were they not Nigerians? When the herdsmen attacked his subjects’ farmlands and they went to complain to him, his reply was that he was not benefiting from those farmers but he was benefiting from the herdsmen.
It has been said that the only person that was a graduate in the Nigerian Army at a time was late Colonel Ojukwu. How true was this?
No! In 1968 when I and my friend Akin Baroju graduated from University of Ife after studying Zoology, we chose to join the Nigerian Army. I was a Western Regional scholar. That time, the Western Region needed science teachers. So, they gave some of us don.g science scholarships.
They called it Regulation 18. After graduating, you would have to serve the region for five years as science teachers and after that, you are free. When we finished, Akin said, “I want to join the Army.” I said I too had wanted to join the Army long time ago. I said if Western Region asked me, I will tell them, national service is higher than the regional service. We went to meet Omojokun who was an education officer at Eleyele in Ibadan. We would harass this man that we wanted to join the Army.
He told us, “Nigerian Army will not take graduates because graduates in the Army were those who carried out 1966 coup. Ifejuana, Ezeogwu were graduates. He was a senior to Ezeogwu and Ifeajuna." So, there were other graduates that time. All these rumours that Ojukwu taught Babangida and all that have no basis.
Many people have alleged that General Olusegun Obasanjo of using the Operation Feed the Nation programme (OFN) to amass parcels of land to himself. What is your take on this?
There is nothing like that. Obasanjo sought for land from the people of Ota and they gave him. What about the land he is using for coffee farm in Adamawa and that of one in Taraba state? The OFN was meant to inculcate farming in the people so that we could feed themselves. The programme encouraged small scale farming, it encouraged people to have garden at their backyards. Then, the government wanted all of us to be farming.
Meanwhile, Legit.ng had previously reported that General Togun cleared the air on the circumstances that led to death of Dele Giwa, the founder and editor-in-chief of Newswatch magazine.
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