Nigeria: Playing Politics With Death


The recent, dastardly killing of Mrs Funke Olakunrin, daughter of Pa Reuben Fasoranti, leader of the pan-Yoruba group Afenifere, provided an opportunity for mischief makers and opportunists to jump in and promote their heinous agenda of creating national tension and division.

Ondo State Police Command confirmed that Mrs. Olakunrin was killed last Friday, July 12 along the Kajola to Ore Road in Ondo State. Its spokesman Femi Joseph said the shooting occurred at a spot between Kajola and Ore when hoodlums numbering about 15 attacked two vehicles, a Toyota Land Cruiser and a Camry. He said, "The Land Cruiser was carrying five passengers, including the deceased, which we later identified as one Funke Olakunrin. They shot the woman, we rushed her to the hospital, but we lost her." He said four other vehicle passengers were abducted but were rescued, and that three occupants of the Camry vehicle were also rescued. One of the passengers, Gerald Igboroka, was yet to be found by the police. Joseph said "we are working frantically to ensure that the hoodlums are brought to justice and ensure any other hostage is rescued."

Ondo police spokesman Femi Joseph dismissed Afenifere spokesperson Yinka Odumakin's vile claim that Mrs. Olakunrin was killed by herdsmen. Joseph said, correctly, that until arrests are made, the attackers' ethnicity cannot be ascertained. Other mischief makers who joined Odumakin to make unsubstantiated inflammatory claims include Femi Fani-Kayode and Gani Adams. Gani Adams said the Yoruba will react to Mrs. Olakunrin's killing and that "the group should not be blamed when that happens." Adams, who is leader of the notorious O'dua People's Congress [OPC], described the killing as "atrocities of Fulani herdsmen" and said "we are not bereft of ideas of how to stop this criminality on our land."

One cool head around belonged to APC National Leader Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. During a condolence visit to Pa Fasoranti, Tinubu decried how the incident was politicized by those who linked it to herdsmen. He said the security challenges in the country are worrisome and need to be properly addressed but he advised that herdsmen's issues should not be used to divide the country. The irascible Fani-Kayode however said Tinubu was "becoming a slave to his ambitions" and accused him of "absolving herdsmen as Funke's killers."

President Muhammadu Buhari's Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity Garba Shehu issued a statement on Monday warning against politicizing Mrs Olakunrin's tragic death. The statement cautioned leaders to be mindful of their utterances and its potential consequences following the unfortunate killing. It said, "Times of tragedy like these are not the time for politics. It reveals only disrespect for the departed and her family. And we hope that those who stand in positions of influence recognize and understand this."

Spokesman for the Ondo State Police Command provided an update on Monday, saying the police have arrested some suspects allegedly involved in the killing. According to him, the suspects were arrested when a team of security operatives stormed the forests in the area near Ore in Ondo State. He however did not disclose the identities of those arrested. He said investigations were still on-going while suspects would be paraded as soon as possible.

The emergent trend where sad events are hurriedly ethnicized or politicized in the country is not only detrimental to national unity and cohesion but also a bad precedent that should be condemned and discouraged. Most often, such politicized and profiled reactions elicit reprisal attacks which, like wild fire, spread within a short time to different parts of the country. We commend Bola Tinubu for his words of wisdom in advising against profiling certain Nigerians for particular crimes.

Every ethnic group in Nigeria harbours some criminals as well as law abiding people. We must allow the police to conclude their investigations and apprehend the culprits in this heinous murder. Even then, the culprits' entire ethnic group, whichever it turns out to be, cannot be collectively blamed for the murder.

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