Residents of Ilua village in Ondo West Local Government Area of Ondo State expressed their outrage over the weekend as they organized a large-scale protest against the purported sale of their precious cocoa plantations and farmlands to foreign corporations by the state government.
Leading the demonstration was Oba Olalani Ibidapo, the traditional ruler of Ilua, who marched alongside the aggrieved farmers. The protesters brandished placards adorned with various messages, including slogans like ‘This Is Modern-Day Serfdom,’ ‘Preserve Our Cocoa Farms – Our Livelihood,’ ‘Farming Fuels Our Nation,’ ‘Tilling, Not Thieving – Farming Is Our Craft,’ ‘Protect Our Land from Foreign Control – Say No!’ ‘We Plead – Let Us Tend Our Fields, Our Only Home,’ ‘Our Existence Hinges on Cocoa Farming – Don’t Displace Us,’ and ‘Cocoa Sustains Us – Don’t Surrender Our Soil to Overseas Interests.’
In an interaction with the media, Oba Ibidapo declared, “Unknown parties have arrived in our villages and proceeded to erect signs announcing the sale of our cherished farmlands and villages to Chinese and Indian companies. They claim that the state government has mandated our displacement from our farms and villages to make way for these corporations.”
He continued, “Our presence here spans more than a century, dedicated to farming and nothing else. My jurisdiction encompasses over 19 villages, including Ilua, Laoso, Adejori, Logunofe, Keseomi, Obadore, Obakele, Ilua 2, Kangidi, Oloruntedo, Abayemisi, and Magbaralewon, among others. This policy we vehemently protest, and we earnestly beseech Governor Rotimi Akeredolu to empathize with our plight.”
The traditional ruler added a warning, stating, “The state government must be aware that should they persist in our eviction, dire consequences may arise. Many of our community members could find themselves resorting to criminal activities.”
Akinbami Philip, the Chairman of the Youth in the Laje community of Laoso District in Ondo West, joined the chorus of dissent, urging the governor to reconsider the policy. “Our plea to the governor is to revoke this directive immediately. We boast graduates who have turned to farming as a means of livelihood. It’s imperative that the government allows us to cultivate our lands to support our families.”
Among those affected is Ademola Ajibola, a Physics graduate, who disclosed, “In light of my inability to secure employment in the urban setting, I turned to agriculture. Farming has become my path.”
Disputing the eviction claim, Akin Olotu, the Senior Special Assistant (Agric and Agribusiness) to the governor, asserted that the state government had not issued any such evacuation notice and had not divested any farms to foreign entities or individuals.