Like many other climes around the world, with the continuous erosion of social order and societal values, Ogun State has its fair share of the menace, especially issues revolving around cultism, which had permeated the fabric of every society.
At first, the outlawed groups were domiciled on the campuses of various higher institutions of learning across the state, with attendant killings and maiming of high magnitude, thereby making residents of the state live in palpable fear and agony.
Unfortunately, these gangsters moved their base from the citadel of learning into the streets, as urchins and unlettered became recruits and continued to wreak havoc in all the communities of the Gateway State, and towns like Sagamu, Ota, Owode and the rest became hotbeds for cultists.
This ugly trend remained unabatedly terrible when the incumbent Governor, Dapo Abiodun, took the mantle of leadership of the state in 2019. Abiodun, a cool, calm and collected personality, with a background of thoroughness and pragmatism; exhibited the character of an astute administrator and a thought leader.
Upon his assumption, he deployed all the security apparatus in the state to monitor the security architecture and activated a high-level security team to dislodge cultists from their hideouts and make them face the full wrath of the law, as he vowed to demolish buildings where cultists were found to be hibernating.
Identifying illicit drugs and the proliferation of small arms and light weapons as basic underlining factors of cultism in the state, the governor gave a marching order to security agencies to clear the state of those substances and illegal weapons.
This renewed vigour of the Abiodun-led administration drastically changed the security architecture of the state and speedily restored decency on the streets; to the level in which there was no single incident of politically-motivated killings from 2019 till date, unlike the case in the last two decades.
Of course, the bloody cult clashes in the Sagamu area of the state last week were of great concern for critical stakeholders across the state.
Meanwhile, in his usual response to issues revolving around security, Abiodun swiftly moved to curtail the situation and immediately directed security agencies in the state to rid Sagamu and its environs of the menace of cultists and cult-related activities in the wake of renewed clashes among rival cult gangs in the town.
Speaking through his Chief Press Secretary, Lekan Adeniran, the governor regretted the avoidable loss of innocent lives and the wanton destruction of properties by the hoodlums.
He reiterated the state government’s zero tolerance for acts of brigandage and lawlessness, saying, “As a responsible and responsive government, we are very sad with the resurgence of activities of criminal elements under different outlawed groups, raising unnecessary tension in the sleepy town of Sagamu and its environs.
“Let me categorically state that we are more than determined to put an end quickly to these nefarious activities of these hoodlums and enemies of our people; who are hell-bent to truncate the peace of our land.
“Let these urchins be rest assured that the state will be too hot for them to operate as we are reevaluating the security architecture for greater surveillance and tactical operation.”
True to his words, and within 24 hours of making the assertion, the police in the state confirmed the arrest of nine suspects at a press briefing addressed by the state Commissioner of Police, Abiodun Alamutu, in Abeokuta, the state capital.
The commissioner, while explaining the remote cause of the mayhem was quoted saying, “A land was sold and some form of commission or settlement was paid to a cult group by the owner of the land. A rival cult group got to know about the payment and went after members of the other group in a bid to get a share of the commission.
“The situation degenerated into an attack and counter-attack situation which started from Wednesday last week and continued till Sunday, leading to the death of eight persons and about nine suspects have been arrested as we speak with evidence of their involvement in the killings. Two guns and some rounds of cartridges with evidence that they were recently fired were recovered from the suspects.”
In a follow-up to the arrest and to create room for total control of the security architecture of the area, the government announced restrictions on human and vehicular movement from 7pm to 6am.
The statement read,” This is to notify residents of Sagamu and its environs of total restriction of human and vehicular movement as a way of taking firm control of the security architecture of the area and protecting the lives of the people and their property.
“We, therefore, implore the residents of the area to abide strictly by this restriction order and cooperate with security agencies to restore normalcy and bring perpetrators of these dastardly acts to book immediately,”
The governor went further to propose a law that would pronounce the death penalty on anyone caught engaging in cult activities in the state during a meeting with the Paramount Ruler of Remoland, Oba Babatunde Ajayi, and his chiefs at his palace in Sagamu.
Abiodun stated,” We will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that we bring any person directly, indirectly or remotely responsible for these occurrences to book. I have discussed with the Attorney-General, and it is well within my powers as the governor of this state to pronounce the death penalty on people and we are going to ensure that we enact that because when people appreciate and understand the consequences of their behaviours, perhaps they will begin to have a rethink.
“I have called on the Commissioner of Police, the Director of the Department of State Service, the Commander of the Civil Defence, our Amotekun Commander and all our security architecture to relocate to Sagamu for this purpose.
“We will rely on our kabiyesis because they are the closest to the grassroots, for all the intelligence support because these people are not spirits. They live within us, they are tenants in our houses.
“The last time I came here, I said any house that we arrest anybody that is connected to either cultism or kidnapping, we will find out where they live and demolish that house. Sadly, it has been very difficult for me to implement because they rent an apartment and the unsuspecting landlords who don’t know what they do give their houses to them. After we arrested them and were about to demolish the house, those landlords would come and beg us that they did not know the suspects were into that business.
“I am now pronouncing that we will no longer refer to these people as cultists or any other name. We are pronouncing them as murderers and we will mete out punishments that are deserving to murderers.”
Also, the governor moved to establish a special court to try cult-related cases and a Joint Anti-Cultism Security Task Force comprising all major security outfits, with the mandate to rid the state of cultism, as well as an amnesty programme for would-be cultists who may wish to surrender their weapons.
These decisions were arrived at after a joint security meeting, held at the Governor’s Office, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, Ogun State on Wednesday.
In another development, which invariably deflated the propaganda machine of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party in the state, who had earlier gone to town to claim that the ruling All Progressives Congress was behind the mayhem; a member of the PDP in the Ogun State House of Assembly, representing Sagamu State Constituency (1), Damilare Mohammed, was discovered to have provided shelter to the fleeing cultists at his official residence.
He was rounded up alongside six suspected cultists allegedly involved in the violence that erupted in Sagamu by security operatives, in a sting operation on Wednesday.
According to the security source, many weapons, including guns, were recovered from the suspects as they are presently undergoing interrogation at the DSS.
In truth and indeed, Governor Dapo Abiodun has redefined responsive governance and purposeful leadership in the state in the manner he addressed the recent security breach by those unscrupulous individuals marauding under different outlawed groups.
Abiodun’s decisive approach to protect the people and guarantee their welfare in line with the dictates of the 1999 constitution, precisely in Section 14 sub-section 2b had given clear-cut direction to the people of the state to collectively fight a common enemy.
His proactive approach and prompt response to the security of lives and property of the people should be commended and applauded; it is indeed worthy of emulation by his contemporaries in power.
By the turn of events, it is crystal clear that the people are ready to take their destinies into their own hands and cooperate with the government to put an end to this social vice and institutionalise sustainable peace; the tempo of action must be sustained to build an egalitarian society we all desired.
Kudos Governor Dapo Abiodun!
Ajibola writes from Abeokuta.