Elder statesman and former Education Commissioner in the old Kwara State, Dr. David Atte, has narrated his encounter with officials of Department of of State Services, DSS at the Lokoja, Kogi State office of the secret police last Wednesday.
Atte who was earlier scheduled for appearance on Tuesday delayed his visit till Wednesday based on mutual agreement between him and the service.
He was invited because of his public remarks on the recent visit of controversial Muslim Cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi to Fulani communities in Kogi West area of the State.
Contrary to the tension and media hype created by the invitation, Atte said operatives of the secret police treated him with respect.
In a written report on the visit, he said was accompanied to the DSS office by two persons: a very senior and respected Okun citizen and Kingsley Fanwo, the State Commissioner for Information and Communication.
He explained that he was not grilled or molested and that the operatives were very professional throughout the dialogue.
He disclosed that they drew his attention to two areas of interest in his remarks, which were adequately acknowledged and assured him of their commitment to the security of Okunland.
His statement reads in part: “The dialogue between us, which is what it actually was, covered the following areas:
i. The Director drew my attention to one statement in each of my two recent posts that have security implications which I might not have realised. In the post in which I raised Okun People’ s concerns about the visit of Sheikh Ahmad Gumi to Fulanis (recent arrivals, not the Fulanis who have lived peacefully in our midst for decades without kidnappings, murders and destruction of farms), I was referred to where I said the “Fulanis will leave Okunland in a hurry”.
“The Director said that statement, from a “respected” leader, could be construed by the youths as a directive to attack Fulanis. This, therefore, could be regarded as incitement.
“That in the post where I informed you of my invitation by the DSS, I referred to Late Obadiah Mailafia in a way that insinuated that he was killed by DSS and I could be asked to provide proof. The observations were fully acknowledged. No other reference was made to any other part of the two posts.
“The Director assured Okun People that Gumi’s visit to Okunland was not a State sponsored/supported event at all.
He said Gumi, a Muslim Cleric, had expressed his intention to visit friends in Okun and was treated the same way that any other cleric such as Pastor Adeboye or Rev. Kukah, would have and indeed have been treated.
“It is incumbent that religious leaders of all faiths be treated with dignity and not be denied wishes like visiting friends whatever they might feel about them. He assured us that their job to ensure that such visits do not forment any trouble was creditably performed.
“Following on ii above, the Director spoke extensively about crime, noting that all tribes have criminals and good people. This applied to Fulanis too. He related situations where crimes thought to have been committed by Fulanis were found to have been committed by people of other tribes. So we should not accuse a particular tribe as the only criminals.
“The Director assured us that they are not just quiet, they had been operating in Okunland to arrest criminals. He said many of the arrested suspected criminals were in their cell so they are not unmindful of the pains, hurts and fears of Okun People. He said they will continue to be proactive and mount more operations.
“The Director, on behalf of the DSS appealed for collaboration between them and our local Okun security architecture.
“After this, the Director requested me to speak and bare my mind. I spoke to the events in the last few years and how for some time our people were suffering attacks without help. We spoke out and DSS Lokoja queried us but when they realised what we were doing they asked for collaboration. I narrated various reports we sent to the DSS in Lokoja.
“Okun People did not take laws into their own hands but reported to the DSS including arresting a Fulani but instead of hurting him we delivered him to the DSS. We also delivered photographic evidence of foreign Fulani camps to DSS. Not much was done to our knowledge. Then the contacts abruptly stopped.
“After that I narrated instances of Fulani actually committing crimes and hurting people and our local people arrested them and we handed them to the Police. In both cases the Police released them on “orders from above”. I went on to recount specific attacks on Okun People, the people kidnapped or killed, the ransoms our people had to take bank loans to pay, farms destroyed. In all cases, we were on our own. The Police did not help and other security agencies seemed silent. So we had no option but to cry out and also determine, not to attack anybody but to exercise the right to defend ourselves and our land.
“The DSS and I were able to identify what caused the communication gap between them and Okun in the area of security and agreed to resume cooperation and collaboration. The Director then established the means by which the DSS can be reached with useful information which he promised that the Directorate would attend to promptly.
“The Senior Okun citizen who accompanied me spoke to the respect and consideration shown to me and Okunland and that Okun People are committed to pursuing their collective interests in all facets but do so peacefully.
He reiterated that Okun are peaceful people but determined to defend, according to the law, whatever they consider to be their legitimate rights. I reaffirmed that Okun is not an enemy of government.
He praised the professionalism, courtesy and friendly posture of the DSS officials who have behaved in a way to disabuse the minds of the public about them. He thanked them for handling the current “Okun” matter with maturity.
The Hon. Commissioner for Information also spoke of wonderful Okun People known for peace and accommodation. He thanked the DSS for their courtesy, professionalism and decency in the way they handled the present matter.
“The Director, expressed happiness that we have learnt more about each other and looked forward to cooperation to eliminate the suffering, fears and hurts of Okun People arising from security issues.
“The meeting ended in handshakes and the Director led all his Senior officers to escort us to our vehicles.