Kwara State Governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq has set up a high-powered committee of statesmen and diplomats to resolve the longstanding Offa and Erin-Ile crisis in the state.
Speaking at the at the inauguration of the committee in Government House, Ilorin, on Monday, the governor urged the committee to do their all to proffer lasting solutions to the perennial crisis that has claimed lives and destroyed properties for decades
The committee is chaired by iconic former Governor, Cornelius Adebayo, and peopled by statesmen, jurist, historians, academics and bureaucrats: retired Justice Saidu Salihu; Alhaji LAK Jimoh; Chief Titus Ashaolu; Senator Simeon Ajibola; Alhaji Abubakar Ndakene; Senator Mohammed Ahmed; Permanent Secretary (Political, Cabinet and Special Services) Barrister Sabitiyu Kikelomo Grillo; and Prof. Hassan Saliu (Secretary).
“For posterity, this Government has decided to swiftly move in another dimension to finding a lasting solution to this crisis,” AbdulRazaq said at the inauguration which was attended by the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari.
AbdulRazaq noted that the recurrence of the crisis — the last of which occurred in March 2021 — is a major headache to the administration and a drawback for the economic viability of the two great communities.
“This is why we have carefully selected few among many that we believe are elderly and have vast knowledge in peace resolution. I therefore want to congratulate the Chairman and members of this Committee for the opportunity to serve the State in this capacity,” the Governor said.
He added, “I am delighted for being able to put together this very powerful committee with men of vast experience. The issue of Erin-Ile and Offa has been with us for decades with so many panels. So, let me make it clear that the government has no interest in supporting any community. You have free hands to go where the law takes you. Please work with the two communities to come up with your report.”
Chief of Staff to the President Professor Ibrahim Gambari commended the Governor for his sense of duty and the historic step to break the ice, and urged the two communities to agree to a peace deal that would further cement the status of Kwara as the state of harmony that is the bridge between the north and the south.
Gambari said a peace deal between the two communities would be the best gift anyone could give to President Muhammadu Buhari whose eyes the diplomat said would now be on the committee.
“I speak with the authorities of the President Muhammadu Buhari. I briefed him constantly on land dispute between Erin-Ile and Offa and he always stress the imperative of peace and unity. Because without peace, there can be no progress and development. No investor will invest his money in an atmosphere of confusion and chaos. The toughest conflicts are among brothers. Erin-Ile and Offa are brothers. These are communities that are part and parcel of Kwara State,” he said.
“Mr President has asked me to impress upon all the stakeholders that the best present that you can give him is to let peace prevail among the two communities and in Kwara State. For me, it is a unique opportunity to be here to personally deliver the message and to really underscore the imperative of peace to our state known as the state of harmony and state of peace. We are the most northern extension of the south and the most southern extension of the north and we live in the middle of the country.
“Kwara is a natural home of peace makers, natural bridge builders. So, how can we be natural peace builders and peace makers and not have peace in our own communities? Charity must begin very much at home.
“I want to really commend His Excellency, our governor, for his tireless efforts in ensuring that peace prevails between the two communities. He briefs me all the time and I in turn brief His Excellency the President. What he has asked me is to stress the enormity of the task this committee has. Because what we want is the permanent solution to the perennial conflict which has taken so many lives and so much resources.
“I commend the chairman and members of the committee for accepting to serve on the committee. The eyes of Nigerians are on you. The eyes of Mr President are on you. I believe by God’s grace success will be yours. Because your success is the success of the two communities and the success of Kwara State.
“I have been privileged to be peace maker on behalf of the United Nations in Myanmar, Iraq, Cyprus and Zimbabwe and my last assignment was in Darfur between many communities. For me, the fundamentals are the same that there cannot be violent or military solutions to conflicts. We have to find what unites us. What unites us is greater than what divides us. We have to identify the spoilers and isolate those with personal interest so that the centre of gravity can prevail.”
C.O Adebayo, former Kwara governor and chairman of the committee, said they will do their best to make the government and the people proud.
“We commend the Governor and appreciate the presence of the Chief of Staff to the President. His presence here confirms the commitment which we very much appreciate,” he said, adding that members of the panel cannot decline such an important state assignment.