Iyabo Okunola, 60-year-old female hunter in Ibadan, Oyo State, tells WALE OYEWALE about how she became a hunter and her willingness to be drafted into Operation Amotekun
How did you become a hunter?
I am Iyabo Okunola, a native of Ibadan in Oyo State. I was born 60 years ago into a family of hunters. I am from Ile Asa in Ibadan. My father is Okunola Akanji. I am a member of Hunters Association of Nigeria. My forefather was a warrior. I heard in history that he went to Ibadan on a war expedition from Ogbomoso.
So hunting runs in your blood?
I was born into hunting. I didn’t learn it. It is a lifestyle and way of life for me. I was not conscripted into hunting like many people. We have two major categories of hunters. For some, it runs in the blood because it is their family preoccupation while for others, they enlisted and got trained. In those days, during war periods, many people who didn’t come from hunter’s family got conscripted into it but that doesn’t happen nowadays. We have just two broad categories: It is either by birth or by training.
But some people would expect you to have jettisoned hunting, being a woman?
I have innate interest in hunting because it is my family trade. They hunt the game and secure Ibadan city against attacks. Ibadan warriors also went on war expeditions. I am sure that you know in Yoruba history, Ibadan was a war camp. It was the base of great Yoruba warlords. Remember I said my father arrived at Ibadan on a war expedition. He ended up settling here as many of his contemporaries did. I love Ibadan and I love hunting.
Hunting is predominantly a man’s venture; so didn’t you ever feel it was awkward to go into it?
There is virtually nothing that a man can do that a woman cannot do. I don’t underestimate my ability as a female hunter. In fact, I don’t think of my sex while hunting, and men hunters don’t castigate or discriminate against me when hunting. We treat one another with a lot of respect. Note that I am an old hunter. I have killed several species of animals and it is not a difficult thing but a matter of interest and experience. I never fought in a war, so I don’t have war experience but I am not afraid of being a hunter and I would not have been afraid to fight in a war if the need had arisen.
Have you ever been part of a local security outfit?
I was never into security services but actually I am fit for it and I have all it takes. I am a courageous hunter. I have protective shields and I am ready for any task that has to do with hunting.
So, how do you feel about the launch of Operation Amotekun?
For me, it is a welcome development. For a long time crime has been on the increase. You hear of robbery and kidnappings every day and you begin to wonder what is happening. The police are doing a lot but they are not enough and they do not know the terrain as much as we do. Those of us hunting the game know the forests. A Fulani herdsman cannot claim to know the forests in Ibadan as well as I do because I was born here and I have been hunting for long in Ibadan forests.
How did your hunting career start?
It started when I was still a teenager. I love holding the gun and cutlass. When I was a teenager, I used to mimic my father, my brothers and their colleagues. I loved to dress like them and I also loved to imagine myself bringing ‘bush meat’ home. I kill big bush rats, snakes and antelopes. We eat and sell some of them to those who sell herbs and roots as well as those who have cafeterias and bars where palm wine is sold. You know ‘bush meat’ is delicious.
Why do you want to be part of Operation Amotekun?
I love to be part of the team because wherever there are hunters, there is safety and security. Hunters are pure at heart and are very brave and committed. I think I merit it since I have what it takes to join the team. This is history in the making and I want to be part of those making history in guiding and protecting Oyo State.
Do you have any child who knows how to shoot a gun?
All my children know how to use a gun as children of a hunter. I trained them by myself.
Is your husband still alive and is he a hunter too?
Yes, my husband, Lateef, is alive but he is not a hunter. He works with a construction company.
What advice do you for the six South-West governors who recently launched Operation Amotekun?
My candid advice to them is that they should not be discouraged. If we are given necessary support, we shall be encouraged to do our best in protecting our people against criminal attacks and acts of aggression. Kidnappings, killings, human rituals, robberies and other forms of crime shall be a thing of the past when we set to work. For instance, in my area in Ibadan, when a child was kidnapped, the hunters smoked out the culprits and their hostage was released without paying any ransom. Of course, I am a woman but I am bold and determined to smoke out criminals and bandits.
Do you have charms and amulets?
Well, the protection of God is most essential. God gave us roots and herbs. He is the one who protects. I am eagerly waiting to be enlisted in Operation Amotekun. Although we shall be given uniform and I won’t be having enough time to hunt as much as I’m used to, I shall have a sense of fulfilment that I am part of history.
What advice do you have for other hunters and members of the public?
My advice to other hunters that hope to get enlisted in the security patrol outfit is that before coming forward to be counted or registered as members of the team, they should check their minds and make a pledge to do it well without looking back. One basic thing is that a genuine hunter is of pure and contrite heart. We cannot afford to be mischievous or have a double standard because our calling requires us to be plain and committed. To the members of the public, I urge them to always inform security agencies, be it police, Amotekun or vigilance group about the security situation in their community for peace and security of lives and property.
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