Nigeria: Murder of Local Politician Tests Country’s Fragile Ethnic Cohesion, Highlights Regime of Impunity Accorded Fulani Herdsmen

When news that Dr. Fatai Aborode, an environmental chemist had been gruesomely murdered filtered into Igangan town in Southwest Nigeria, his community reacted angrily believing Fulani herdsmen, who had been kidnapping residents and taking ransom were to blame for the death.  

The belief that Fulani herdsmen were to blame for the death prompted widespread condemnation from the community in Igangan and Ibarapa.

Businessman and politician, Sunday Adeniyi Adeyemo, who is popularly known as Sunday Igboho, also spearheaded mostly youthful members of the community to promise retribution, against the minority Fulani living in Igangan and the Ibarapa area.

The late Dr. Fatai Aborode (left) with his father Alhaji Lamidi Aborode during his graduation at the University of Aberdeen in the UK in 2015

Timescape Magazine gathered that Igboho gave the Fulani herdsmen in the community a seven-day ultimatum to vacate the land or else they would be attacked. He also paid a condolence visit to the father of the deceased, Alhaji Lamidi Folorunso Aborode, a retired Chief Environmental Officer in the service of Oyo State Government.

When the seven-day ultimatum to the Fulani herdsmen lapsed, the youths of Igangan mobilized coordinated attacks and in the process destroyed properties worth millions of Naira, especially those belonging to Seriki Fulani, who is regarded as the traditional head of the Fulanis in Igangan.

The murder of Dr. Aborode and the attacks on the Fulani herdsmen in Igangan sparked reactions across the country with the Inspector General of Police, Muhammed Adamu ordering the Commissioner of Police in Oyo State to arrest Igboho and transfer him to Abuja.

Chief Sunday Igboho gave Fulani herdsmen an ultimatum to vacate Igangan community in Oyo State, Southwest Nigeria in the wake of the death of Dr. Aborode

The Governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, as the Chief Security Officer of the State, appealed for calm and warned Igboho and his accomplices of the danger in taking the law into their hands.

The Governor’s call for calm was, however, ignored by the people who believed it was better to take the law into their own hands instead of depending upon security agents who seemed helpless in tackling insecurity in Nigeria.

While the community in Igangan blamed Fulani herdsmen and went about planning revenge attacks, the family of Dr. Aborode in whose name the mayhem was taking place gathered a different set of facts, suggesting their son was murdered over politics.

Inspector-General of Police, Muhammed Adamu (C) Bioreports

Narrating how Dr. Aborode met his untimely death, the father of the deceased, Alhaji Lamidi Folorunso Aborode in an exclusive interview with Timescape Magazine revealed his suspicion that the son was murdered over his budding political career.

He revealed that the planning and execution of the attack suggested the Fulani herdsmen were not to blame.

Alhaji Aborode told Timescape Magazine how his son was a success story in the field of education, entrepreneurship, and agribusiness. The deceased Chief Executive Officer of Kunfayakun Green Treasures Limited was also starting to make it as a successful politician.

Alhaji Aborode says: “After my son's graduation at the University of Aberdeen as a PhD holder in Environmental Analytical Chemistry, his friends and associates wanted him to stay back in the United Kingdom, pharmaceutical companies wanted him, but he insisted on coming back to Nigeria to give back to society”.

In the process, Alhaji Aborode says the son got to know the wife of former Governor of Oyo State Mrs. Ladoja. She introduced his son to her husband.

“The former Governor took interest in him and advised that it would be good if he could venture into politics,” says Alhaji Aborode.

Dr. Aborode then joined Accord Party and contested for House of Representatives in 2015 but failed.

“He was thereafter encouraged to be a political leader in this area. He joined the People's Democratic Party (PDP) together with Ladoja and before he died, he was a chieftain,” says Dr. Aborode’s father.

Alhaji Aborode also adds: “He was betrayed severally in the political arena when he was a Coordinator in PDP. He got fed up with politics and decided to concentrate on his farming business. He has a large cashew plantation where he employed many people who are earning their wages.”

“However, due to pressure and advice from friends, he was convinced to return to PDP. Unfortunately, three days to the planned return to PDP, he was murdered,” says the father of the deceased.

“On the day of the incident, Dr. Aborode and his Manager, Mr. Bolanle Olanrewaju, who is also the Finance Manager left the town to the farm located in a remote area outside Igangan community. They had to use a motorcycle because of bad roads. It was a period of harvest and he needed to pay some staff,” says Alhaji Aborode.

It was reported on December 11, 2020, that Dr. Aborode and his farm manager were returning from the farm, around 4 pm, when they were waylaid by assassins, who many believe were Fulani herdsmen.

“Information the family reliably gathered revealed that the hired killers were four in number and surprisingly, his manager abruptly stopped on the spot where the assassins were hidden. There was no roadblock at the bush path where the killers were stationed. The manager fled, leaving his boss at the mercy of the hired killers,” Alhaji Aborode narrates.

The family also adds that contrary to popular belief, the assassins who had been speaking Yoruba, told Dr. Aborode that they had been paid for his life.

“He was even telling the killers to kidnap him, that he was ready to pay them heavy ransom. They insisted that he must die. The plea by Dr. Aborode that he was ready to triple the money they had received for his life fell into the killers' deaf ears. They rained bullets on him. When they discovered that the bullets had no effects on him, they began to butcher him with cutlasses. He sustained several wounds and lost a lot of blood,” the father explains tearfully.

Alhaji Aborode adds: “What surprised us was that while the killers were holding Dr. Aborode, the manager who fled could not mobilize help. He failed to inform people of what happened. He was seen at home behaving as if nothing had happened.”

The family says the delayed response is what inevitably killed Dr. Aborode, as he had lost a lot of blood by the time he reached the hospital.

This incident occurred in Benue where Fulani Herdsmen killed many, injured others (C) Idoma Voice Newspaper

“The modus operandi of the criminal herdsmen was totally different from how Dr. Aborode was killed. The herdsmen kidnappers would demand ransom and not kill their victims. It has been the habit of Fulani kidnappers to ask for millions of Naira as ransom. This may, however, be negotiated downward. They never killed their victims anyhow.  The killers of Dr. Aborode refused the money he offered for his life. I don't say these killers are not Fulani, neither will I say they are Hausas or Igbo's, all I know is that this was a mastermind killing and was politically motivated. I strongly suspect political assassination by some people who believe that my son was a threat to them,” Alhaji Aborode notes.

The family’s suspicions were inflamed further when the younger brother of Dr. Aborode went to the police to inform law enforcement of the death and why the farm manager should be a person of interest.

“You can't believe that nothing has been done till this very moment I am granting this interview. The man is still walking freely, someone who is supposed to be the first suspect,” says Dr. Aborode’s father whose story was corroborated by Ashigangan of Igangan, Oba Lasisi Olawuyi Adeoye, the traditional ruler of Igangan town.

Dr. Fatai Aborode’s father also says he has told the Governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde and Sunday Igboho, the instigator of tribal retribution about the story of his son’s death. But this has not changed anything, as the rhetoric against the Fulani herdsmen continues, while there is no evidence of an investigation into the matter to find the real murderers of Dr. Aborode.