It was supposed to be a happy day for Nigeria’s elder statesman and leader of the Yoruba Socio-cultural group, Afenifere, Chief Olu Falae. It was supposed to be his birthday, his 77th birthday. But the day ended as a nightmare for the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation and his family as Chief Olu Falae was kidnapped yesterday by suspected Fulani herdsmen.
The septuagenarian, who is also the former minister of Finance in the administration of the first Military President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and later became the Presidential Candidate of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in 1999, was said to have been attacked before he was whisked away by about 20 gunmen.
Initial reports differed on the exact location where this crime was carried out. While some reports said the National Chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) was kidnapped from his residence on Oba-Ile Road, Akure, the capital city of Ondo State, others, including the Director of Administration and Publicity Secretary of the SDP in the state, Mr. Remi Olayiwola, reported that he was abducted from his farm in Ilado, along Igbatoro road, in Akure. He said:
“It was confirmed that Baba went to his farm as usual in Ilado. The gunmen went to his farm where they attacked and kidnapped him.”
It was gathered that some of his workers in the farm were also attacked by the suspected Herdsmen, who reportedly shot sporadically into the air to scare away nearby people and forestall any circumvention of their dastardly act.
As at the time of this report, the kidnappers have contacted the family members and demanded a ransom, which they have set to the tune of N100 million.
“The abductors have contacted Chief Olu Falae’s wife and are demanding the sum of N100 million before they would release him, “Mr Olayiwola continued.
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) of Ondo state, Wole Ogodo, confirmed the news and said the state command has swung into action to rescue Baba Falae and ensure the culprits face the wrath of the law. He cited the running battles on the farm land which has been going on for some months now, as the possible reason for the kidnap, thus nullifying any suspicion of a political motive.
According to him, the Fulani herdsmen and the septuagenarian politician had been having a dispute over the destruction of his farm produce by their cows. He further disclosed that Falae had previously invited the police to intervene in the matter and some of the herdsmen had been arrested and released on bail.
“Baba Falae has been having a running battle with the herdsmen, and this morning, we learnt that he visited the farm and he was allegedly attacked by those herdsmen. We have sent 50 of our men to the farm to begin the search for him,” he said.
This incidence has put more question marks on the security of the citizens of the state. The Ondo state Commissioner for Information, Kayode Akinmade, shares this view as he said the act depicted the state of insecurity in the country.
“This is disturbing and sad, especially when it involves an elder statesman like Chief Olu Falae, but I’m sure the man will be rescued very soon and the perpetrators would be brought to book,” he said.
Yinka Odumakin, a chieftain of Afenifere also said that this act of abducting the traditional ruler of Ilu Abo has exposed the “frightening dimension to the state of insecurity in Nigeria.”
When contacted, the secretary-general of Afenifere, Chief Sehinde Arogbofa described the incident as embarrassing.
Former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani Kayode, has described the abduction of former minister of finance, Chief Olu Falae, as not “unacceptable and exceptionally dangerous”.
“I call on the President and our security agencies to effect the expeditious and immediate release of Chief Olu Falae. They must rescue him from these vagabonds and vandals as soon as possible before things get out of hand. Let it be clearly understood that if anything happens to him and if he doesn’t come home hale and hearty we will hold the Federal Government responsible and there will be consequences.” he said.