Oyo State governor, Engineer Seyi Makinde, said on Tuesday said that the ongoing protests rocking the country over calls to end police brutality are a wake-up call to the leadership of the country to put things in order.
Makinde, who stated this during a visit to the palace of the Soun of Ogbomoso, Oba Oladunni Oyewumi, Ajagungbade III, which was attacked by protesters on Sunday, added that unless governments at all levels quickly look at what to do to address the challenges facing the country, including youth unemployment, the protests, which he noted are the outcome of pent-up anger, might continue.
A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, said that the governor, while visiting the Soun and the families of the slain Isiaka Jimoh and others who lost their lives during the #ENDSARS protests in Ogbomoso at the weekend, went round the palace of the monarch to assess the level of damage done to the historic palace.
The palace was vandalised by irate youths during a visit by the Minister of Youth and Sports Development , Mr. Sunday Dare, on Sunday.
The governor also instructed the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters, Chief Bayo Lawal, and the Caretaker Chairman of Ogbomoso North Local Government, to make an evaluation of the vehicles and other items destroyed at the palace with a view to fixing or replacing them.
“Let me also say that this is a wake up call for us. As leaders, we must ensure that we quickly look at how to make most of our youths engaged, otherwise, this will definitely continue,” the governor said.
Makinde, who approved an immediate release of N100 million to the Soun of Ogbomoso for the renovation of the palace, also made a commitment to the families of the slain individuals, promising to work with them to know the areas the government could be of help to them, in order to cushion the effects of the losses of their loved ones.
He also gave N1 million each to the families of the deceased.
Makinde explained that beyond the #ENDSARS protest, most Nigerians have become frustrated over prevailing harsh economic reality in the country, stating that while his government is not against peaceful protests, protesters must be responsible enough to voice their concerns peacefully.
He promised that the state government would work more at ensuring that youths in the state are meaningfully engaged.
Speaking further at the palace, Makinde said: “I did not expect the level of destruction we have witnessed here. I accept the fact that peaceful protest is legitimate and it is guaranteed under our Constitution; but this type of destruction should not have happened at all.
“This is because the state government is not in control of SARS. Even though they will say the governor is the Chief Security Officer for the state, I am not in control of the Commissioner of Police as the governor of Oyo State. I am not in control of who they will post here as Commissioner. We just work with whoever we meet along the way.
“We will have to engage with our people. At the heart of this is not just the issue of SARS. There has been pent-up anger. The issue of the pandemic, unemployment and other factors are those things that led to what we are seeing today.
“So, I am sincerely sorry for this level of damage, sir. Your children did it. That is part of the price we have to pay for the current state of the country. Kabiyesi, as a government, we will do everything possible to ensure there is palliative. We will also ensure that we beautify the structure.
“I have also seen the vehicles they destroyed. They have to replace the wind-shields and all of that. Some, they may have to replace the vehicle completely. I saw a Toyota RAV 4 car which is almost completely destroyed. So, I will ask the Chairman of Ogbomoso North Local Government and the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters to come for the assessment.
“I will release N100 million immediately to commence the repairs on the things that were damaged in the palace while I will go to town to engage our youth protesters.”
Makinde stated that aside addressing the issue of police brutality and pervasive injustice in the country, it has also become expedient for the leadership to urgently address the issue of youth unemployment, saying: “Some of the anger we are witnessing will be a tip of the iceberg if we don’t find things for the youths to do, because an idle hand is the devil’s workshop.
“Assuming most of the youths are engaged, this destruction would not have happened. Majority of them are not engaged. So, if an opportunity like this surfaces, the pent-up anger will definitely flow over.
“Kabiyesi, I want to believe that you are not their real target. Because if you were, immediately they entered, they would have attacked you. But they were looking for where to destroy to draw the attention of the government to their side. I am not supporting what they have done but it has been done already and we have to engage them.
“Let me also say that this is a wake up call for us. As leaders, we must ensure that we quickly look at things to do to make most of our youths engaged, otherwise, this will definitely continue.”
On steps already taken to ensure that sanity returns to Ogbomoso and that protesters are secured, the governor said: “I have deployed Operation Burst in here and asked the Police, who are the object of all of these attacks, to stay at the back until we are able to engage everybody and have a path to a lasting peace, not only in Ogbomoso, but across the state.
“So, I am deeply sorry for this act. We will engage the people. In some of the engagements, which started two days ago, we have seen positive results and we now know some of the ring leaders and we are engaging them.
“They should know that the money we are spending on the renovation of the palace could have been used for something else in the town. So, we have to explain to them that their protests must be peaceful.
“If we say we want to spend N100 million on palliatives, some of them and their parents may get out of it. But this is where we are and it is a wake up call for us.
“Unemployment for our youths is a time-bomb. All of us who are here today could not sleep well when we heard about what happened in the palace.”
In his response, the Soun of Ogbomoso, Oba Oyewumi, appreciated the governor’s visit, urging those in government to wake up to their responsibilities, even as he assured that the traditional institution would continue to play its role in supporting the government for a better society.
“Your Excellency, I appreciate you and your entourage. Seeing you here and your concern over this incident is commendable. As you have said, the country itself will rely on people like you who are holding very important posts for taking care of your area.
“We are not very happy seeing our youths engaging in vandalism in the name of protests like this, because they do not have any job. This is important and that is why they have the mind to do bad things. Therefore, it is the duty of the government to ensure the youths are employed so that we will stop witnessing things like this.
“We are not happy about what they have done. First, from the outside, they were stoning us right in the palace.
“So, when you go to your executive meeting, think of something you can do for the youths in each area so that they will be engaged in lucrative ventures; be it vocational jobs, civil service jobs or offer them loans and monitor the businesses.
“Oyo State, as a whole, belongs to you and you have to take care of it. We, the traditional rulers, are also trying our best in taking care of our people. We want Nigeria to be peaceful. It is catastrophic to have no means to eat. I pray God will help you. The money you gave to us, we are grateful for that.
“LAUTECH is another issue, what are you doing about it and the road you are constructing, God will see you through. God will help the government to complete all these laudable projects and you will succeed,” the monarch said.
While speaking during visits to the families of the slain individuals, Makinde commiserated with the families over the death of their loved ones, praying that the families, Ogbomosoland and Oyo State in general, will not know sorrow any longer.
He said: “There is no amount of money we can give to you that can pacify the irreplaceable loss of your child. But I can assure that the government will assist you. You will be given N1million now and they will come back to ask you what the government can further do to help you. We don’t know the kind of potential that the deceased possessed but it is rather painful that his life was cut short at a very young age.
“So, I pray that God will comfort and be with you.”