Agbekoya Parapo Revolt of the late 1960, popularly known as Agbekoya or the Egbe Agbekoya Revolt, was a revolt by peasant farmers against the former Western Region Government following an increase in tax. It was said that the farmers went from village to village to persuade their colleagues not to pay the increased tax to the then government. The leader of the Yoruba Solidarity Movement, otherwise known as Agbekoya, Alhaji Lalekan Lasisi Akekaaka, who was part of the struggle, tells ADEMOLA BABALOLA about his role in the revolt.
At a Yoruba programme recently, you were introduced as a 125-year-old Agbekoya (Yoruba Solidarity Movement) leader. That will be hard to believe.
There is no record of the day I was born. I’m the leader of Yoruba Solidarity Movement. I was born many decades ago at Ogunsola area in Akanran, Akinyode village, Ona Ara Local Government Area of Oyo State.
What led to the struggle of the farmers’ revolt popularly known as Agbekoya Parapo Revolt of 1968-1969?
It was because of the imposition of additional tax on farmers. Before the crisis, the government was assessing us based on farm produce. Suddenly, they introduced a policy that we would be assessed alongside our children to soar government revenue. It was becoming unbearable so we revolted against the government tax collectors.
We revolted against the then Western Region Government of the late General Adeyinka Adebayo between 1968 and 1969 over Marketing Board imposition of flat and hefty $8 tax on us as opposed to the $1.10 we wanted to pay on our farm produce, especially cocoa. We were peasant farmers in Nigeria’s former Western Region, home to the majority of the country’s Yoruba population.
The revolution we staged led to the colossal carnage at Olorunda village in the Akanran area of Ibadan with casualties on both sides – farmers and the government agents represented by policemen.
As someone who witnessed it, how did it happen?
I survived the horror of the era because of my sincerity to the cause. Many of our comrades died because they betrayed us, especially our leader, the late Tafa Adeoye. Then I was working with the Ministry of Agriculture. During the Ngerian Civil War, I said I wanted to participate in it but my parents did not allow me to do that. But when the Agbekoya revolt began, I left the ministry and joined the Agbekoyas. I decided to go with the revolting farmers and because people knew I didn’t like pretence, they gave me a nickname – Akekaaka (Blunt speaker). They called me ‘Akekaaka loju ija’ (Blunt speaker during a fight or war). This was because any direction I faced, nobody could dissuade me once I believed in it.
Then, we did not refuse to pay tax, but the tax imposed on us was too heavy. Adebayo said he would use his power on us and so he unleashed his policemen on us, to be killing us. We said we would be paying 30 Shillings as tax but Adebayo did not agree. We even went to Chief Obafemi Awolowo to intercede with the authorities on our behalf but Adebayo refused.
On July 1 when he said he would use his power against us, we went to meet them at Olorunda Junction, along Akanran Road, close to my village. When they came, our leader Baba Tafa Adeoye was at Akanran while we stayed at Olorunda Junction. Baba had said we must not do anything to respond to whatever the government did to us until he was around personally. He said we should not talk until after he must have responded to whatever they asked him. As the policemen were marching towards us, they were singing that we were stubborn people who were playing with death. Immediately they got to Olorunda Junction, they shot at two of us. Once they shot two among us, the rest of us went into hiding because Baba Tafa had instructed that we must not respond.
The news got to Baba and so he came to Olorunda. As soon as he got to the policemen, one of his guards standing beside him saw that someone beside him had been felled by the police bullet. He said, “So you people indeed came to fight.” Baba Tafa was not wielding any gun then, so he snatched a gun from one of us and shot at the police. It was that single shot that triggered the unrest, making many of the policemen to start falling that day. That was how it went. And it set off an uproar as its effect resonated through all Yoruba villages.
It appears that the influence of Agbekoya ended there as little or nothing is heard of Agbekoya these days?
We are still fighting for the protection of Yoruba race and injustice in the land. We Ibadan people are warriors and we never cringe from enemies. We have what it takes to protect the land against external aggression anytime.
But recently some suspected Fulani kidnappers were kidnapping and killing people in Yorubaland and you couldn’t anything to protect the territory?
Government has not called on us for support. We can protect our land. But we can’t do it until governors do the needful. They keep asking – who are we (Agbekoyas)? And they have not deemed it fit to call on us for support. But does the government not have all everything required to combat the menace? Let them use it now. It is the government that is concerned and not us. The government has not said that it is pained. Why are you crying more than the bereaved? What has the government said about it?
Nigeria today is unlike those days as we have hunger and poverty in the land. What do you think about this?
In those days, we took to farming. It was lucrative and every family had farmers from the head to the little ones but today, people have taken to white-collar jobs; they don’t believe in farming and that’s responsible for the hunger and anger in the cities. All the children were taken to farms in those days but the free education of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo saw many people leaving villages for cities to get education.
Do you still remember your heroes that fell during the Agbekoya Parapo Revolt?
Those killed were those who betrayed our struggles. For instance, agents pounced on me through the active connivance of the bad eggs in our group but I narrowed escaped in our village using what you will call Yoruba means (supernatural powers). It was on a Saturday and the following day, I took some guns and fortified myself against them, unfortunately they (agents) had fled.
Do people still have such powers to protect themselves like you did in those days?
Then let him sit down and allow themselves to be killed or allow enemies.
If it is true, then why are you not teaching the younger generations some of how to also have some magical powers?
Because they would misuse it and bastardise it.
South-West governors had a meeting in Ibadan recently to discuss security, do you have any advice for them?
They are the problems of this land. Many of them also buy cows and give to Fulani people to rear for them to make money. So what do you expect?
In the area of security in the Yorubaland, would you say that the leaders have unity of purpose?
We cannot have unity of purpose because those who are working with the government will always be taking sides with the government. I am not working with the government. If the government wants to get something, they could send the secret police to mingle with villagers. For example, they could pretend to be labourers. Through it, they will be able to gather whatever information they need for the government.
Could you recall the other battles you fought?
I led all the battles, including the ones where we broke into Agodi Prison and set our comrades in Agbekoya free. The Agbekoya people that had been arrested; we freed them. Some of them were incarcerated. Those who had charms, amulets or juju and other things like that with them were forced to eat them. It affected many of them. Many of them became something else. But I must admit that in the course of freeing our men at Agodi Prison, there was the possibility of other inmates gaining freedom.
What do you think about the cold war between the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji, and his crowned High Chiefs?
They are all our traditional fathers. I don’t want to comment on that but just to appeal to them to allow peace to reign. However, I will commend Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, for his intervention. May God help him to resolve the crisis finally!
What’s your message to the leaders at all levels of governance?
Many of us in the villages are not enjoying at all, particularly farmers. Our roads are not good. They should help us. They have all along been making promises to us all these years. When are they going to do whatever they will do? Time is going, please!
Many communities have been complaining about cattle belonging to Fulani herders destroying their farms. What has been your experience in this regard?
Like I said, it is the government officials themselves that are buying and keeping cattle with the Fulani who are wreaking havoc on properties of innocent people. If anybody does anything to harm their cattle, such a person would be killed. They must protect the property of their bosses. We had such an experience when our farms were destroyed, and when we investigated it, we discovered that powerful people were behind it. And what can we do?
But they cannot come here. If they attempt to come here, they will just perish on the way; they will be destroyed by the power of the ground they will pass through.
You are the leader of the Agbekoya Solidarity Movement, but Agbekoya Movement has about three or four different leaders now. Which one do we take seriously?
If anyone calls himself an Agbekoya leader, ask him where he fought his own war. This is the Akekaaka that went to break the Agodi Prison and released our imprisoned colleagues.