Fear not, I am with you – Isaiah 41:10
Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State has been pronounced a patient of behaviour modification syndrome. The news of his affliction is enough to make the blood run cold. He has been speaking the language of compromise, retreat, capitulation, surrender and fear. These are not the vocabularies of a militant governor who recently stood his ground against rapacious Fulani herdsmen encroaching in his forests.
Quite curiously people will struggle to reconcile his recent gladiatorial resistance against the Fulani herdsmen in Ondo forests, which, to many Yoruba, was a finest shot against the Fulani, their arrogance and excesses in Ondo State. Today, Akeredolu, who, many have had in high esteem as a courageous defender of Oodua interests, is sleep walking into the trembling arm of fear.
In returning fire, Prof. Banji Akintoye has carpet bombed Akeredolu and advised him that the agitation for Yoruba nation “is not that of a plot for secession as erroneously branded by Akeredolu, but a struggle for self determination which is bloodless, intellectually rooted and legally grounded.”
In another detonation of hand grenade against Akeredolu’s unguarded grandstanding, Prof. Akintoye said: “We saw how he grandstands on the terrorists and murderous herdsmen illegally occupying the forest reserves in his state and we saw how he chickened out to the chagrin of all of us who staked our reputation to defend him.”
Yoruba nation has entered a moment of crossfire. Yes, cynics, sceptics, doubters and cowards will begin to emerge with their fear. Yes, Yoruba agitation for autonomy is a political narrative that could both mobilise and polarise. By its rampaging volatility, it could breed a sense of solidarity and a sense of distrust among the entire Yoruba humanity.
However, according to an emerging body of thinkers and activists, associated with, but by no means restricted to the anti-separation vanguard, the issues of Yoruba separation is purely related to the struggles for justice, fairness, and equity. Morally and legally, the argument for self-determination is anchored on freedom from one section of this nation who are overprivileged, arrogant, rapacious, selfish, gregarious, and oppressive.
The idea of a Yoruba nation is gaining positive momentum. Unravelling also is the growing defiance and defence of the movement from the learned to the commoner. You may call it a revolution between the majority poor and the few rich or between beggars and the prosperous. The strongest justification for the near universal embrace of Yoruba nation is the ongoing state capture, brutality, censor, social inequalities, political somersault, economic meltdown, geopolitical tension through banditry and insecurity, sectional superiority, and the emerging ruination of state resources by mindless, greedy, and blindsided politicians.
For far too long and most especially since the commencement of democracy in 1999, the state itself has been too fenced off from the common interests of the electorates; politicians are too fenced off from those who elected them to oversee their interests and fix the pathologies of their existential dilemma.
What is all too pervasive and morally damning is the rise of billionaire politicians and its ethical nightmare in a nation declared to be the poverty capital of the world. The visionary, pragmatic and nation building politicians are no more. What is at play is the drama of extractive governance being run and rerun by backward looking, demented, wicked, corrupt, and worthless people parading themselves as ‘dishonourable’ actors in the political arena.
Thus, it is no accident that in October last year, our youths seized the streets to demand for good governance and the retooling of our police force from the pandemic of brutality to civilised manner of policing. We can link the action of our youths to raw courage. We can link their action to heroism. We can link their action to valour in the face of the Nigerian state that is too enthusiastic to unleash terror on its citizens. In that unifying protests, social democracy was tested. It failed. Guns were used to kill protesting youths.
It is a common knowledge that we operate a plundering form of social democratic dispensation. Worse, our workbook, the 1999 constitution, has been described as Satanic Verses meant to keep one section of this nation happy, contented, and prosperous while making the other sad, unhappy, and poor. On April 11, 2019, the former Senate Chief Whip, Senator Olusola Adeyeye, in a passionate, scorching and scolding manner said: “The truth is whatever a man sows, so he will reap. The Constitution cannot give us peace and security. The official name of this country is the Federal Republic of Nigeria, but we do not operate under a true federalist system. We failed to federalize the police system in this Senate because we lack the courage and tenacity to start what is making other nations work.”
That iniquitous 1999 constitution allows the central government to take resources from the South – oil, revenues, gold, custom duties – to develop the North that contributes no known natural resources to the nation’s purse. That evil document allows the gold in Zamfara to be commodified as private and state owned, while the gold in Ibadan is seen as federal resources. This mixed messages of duplicity, cheating, deceit, robbery, and political oppression of one tribe over the other, accentuated provocatively, under the Buhari regime using dark pages of 1999 constitution, can never make for a cohesive, one nation as orated by Adeyeye.
We live under a partisan leader whose idea of nation building is the abomination of Islamising a multicultural and multi-religious entity like Nigeria. President Muhammadu Buhari is an ambivalent leader who treats agitations and protests as irrelevant distractions. The arguments and debates over devolution of power, restructuring, separate nationality, and other forms of collective activities to avert blood and fire have been proffered, but were regarded as distracting, diversionary and unworkable.
So, in the political milieu came the courageous Prof. Akintoye and Sunday Adeyemo, popularly known as Igboho Oosha. They emerged as redemptive heroes to unbind the Yoruba trapped in the enclosure of Nigerian space that allowed Iskilu Wakilu and his band of Fulani terrorists roam free and wild in our forests.
Where are the security forces to offer protection to the law-abiding citizens of Igangan? Where are the Nigerian Army whose covenant is to defend the territorial integrity of Nigeria? Our Army and the Police are heavily involved in politics. They have sold their soul to the president in power. The security forces are fearful, defanged, demobilised and powerless to arrest the Fulani who are perceived to be superior, cocky, in power, untouchable and resistant. Igboho Oosha came as the antithesis of our security forces. He came as the Yoruba knight in shining armour to defend and protect his own people. He cuts the figure of a true born Yoruba man – fearless, fanged up, mobilising and powerful!
Governors Akeredolu and Kayode Fayemi and Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo summary rejection of the Yoruba nation bear the traits of people who are acting like a fearful, defanged, demobilised and powerless cowards. In Akeredolu’s resigned capitulation lurks the eternal dichotomy between the needs of the politicians and the people they governed. “We will, however, not subscribe to banditry and recklessness in putting forward our demands. We will not in Ondo State subscribe to that. So, if people are shouting out there at this time, Igboho will speak for you. It is not going to work and those who have not been speaking for us will not speak for us. Let us be clear on it. We will stay in Nigeria. We are not running away,” he said.
This polemical smackdown against Igboho and his dream of Yoruba nation is a product of fear. A product of losing the centre stage of political power. Akeredolu is retreating into laughable folly. He is going back to bread-and-butter survival politics. Igboho has begun a transformative mass movement for political change beneath and beyond the corrupt quadrennial election cycle which is always rigged for the moneybags. Nigerians are tired of political totalitarianism that puts the mass of the populace in persistent state of ignorance, poverty, powerlessness, underdevelopment, social deprivations and oppression.
Akeredolu once again falls into Orwellian ways that seek to erase our memory or seek to invert reality. “There must be a common platform through which the demands for the most mundane to the sublime be presented. There must be general consensus. This must be articulated and presented after rigorous engagements on the level of intellection and agendum for the action.” Here is a staggering historical ignorance from a learned governor.
As recent as 2014, we had a “common platform” where “consensus” were “presented” after “rigorous engagement”. The 2014 National Conference was inaugurated by the former Nigerian President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, on March 17 2014 in Abuja, Nigeria. There were about 492 delegates that represented a cross-section of Nigerians, including the professional groups. The Conference was headed by retired Chief Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi.
So, there you go Governor Akeredolu. We had the defining 2014 National Conference as a “common platform” and important intervention, but the “rigorous engagement” came to nothing. The conference produced the most comprehensive document that would have moved us forward and erased the toxic history of our ongoing forced unity, but complacent sectional interests and fear of losing unmerited Fulani privileges made the document dead on arrival.
The Nigerian nation and its actors have been contemptuous of our desire to resolve national questions through dialogue and civilised consensus. Rather government has erected institutional process that turns a deaf ear to what the people have demanded through the conference. That hollowing out had been our recurring decimal till today.
Governors Akeredolu and Fayemi and other Fulani imposed South Western politicians cannot speak for the Yoruba people. Akeredolu cannot tell Yoruba in Ondo State how they want to be governed. Yoruba lands are colonised by Fulani armed blood suckers. Yoruba sons and daughters are jobless. They sit on okada at the juncture of all our streets. They are full of fury and anger at the very corrupt system that had forgotten them and turn them into motor park touts – agbero.
The monstrous, corrupt, and wicked animals we call Nigerian politicians have been walking over our sons and daughters with impunity. The politicians have turned our able-bodied youths into hoodlums. In compromising, Governor Akeredolu is returning to elitist folly. In calling Yoruba agitators frustrated, Governor Fayemi is shipping into executive shame. All Yoruba politicians who are benefitting from the system have lost touch with the current Nigeria’s social and political barometer. In Prof. Akintoye and Igboho Oosha determination and courage have merged, truth and mobilisation have solidarized.
Nigeria has disappointed Nigerians. When would it be fixed? Who will fix it? Must agitators for self-determination be eternally accused of treason? In 2014, Scotland had a peaceful referendum. As early as this year, a series of recent surveys in Scotland are backing the breaking up from the UK with as high as 57 per cent of the nationalists demanding a fresh referendum and threatening to hold a ‘wildcat’ vote if Mr Johnson does not give permission.
On January 28, 2021, Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister, had to travel to Glasgow to consort and persuade Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, in an atmosphere of devoid of rancour. He persuaded Scotland to remain in the union. British Army was not sent in to harass, intimidate, arrest or kill Nicola Sturgeon. Like Sturgeon, Igboho Oosha has inalienable right under international law, equity, and justice to fight for the interests and defend his people against Fulani genocide if the Fulani imposed Yoruba governors are overawed and powerless to do so.
On his part, Akintoye has been packaging the self-determination question with professorial dignity, humility, legality, and due process. He believes that Yoruba agitation must be bloodless, intellectually rooted and legally grounded. He has argued that the right of self-determination is a guaranteed right in every nation across the world. That is the reason why Nicolas Sturgeon is yet to be detained. That explains why Scotland is still forging ahead and stubbornly demanding for independence without the British Army issuing threatening statements against the wishes of the Scottish people. What kind of political ponzy scheme do we practice? Where is the freedom for the nationalities to ventilate their dream and aspirations? Why do we accommodate blockheaded tyrants in Nigeria?
In response to any threat from the government, governors and political jobbers, Akogun Tola Adeniyi, the Chairman of Council of Yoruba Global Alliance, has waded in, saying: “We want to assure our Yoruba compatriots that we are working, but quietly, strategically and tactically just like the masterminds behind those devouring Nigeria have remained anonymous without vainglorious and attention-seeking noisemaking. Yoruba fighting forces, like in the tradition of soldiers all over the world are the ones who should do the chest beating to showcase their conquests.” We are convinced that Nigeria is already at war, and we are also not deceived by the shenanigans of those who embrace terrorism and cuddle banditry and seek to impose Stone Age mentality on all those who still erroneously believe there is a country called Nigeria. Yoruba Global Alliance a.k.a Egbe Ominira sympathizes with our fellow African cousins in Sokoto, Zamfara, Kaduna, Borno and other states north of Rivers Niger and Benue who are being daily plummeted by pampered and officially emboldened terrorists, most of whom were imported into their territorial space by officialdom.”
We have come to the end of snobbish fatalism that wrings the hands and proclaims that Nigeria is indivisible. Everything of human creation has a life span. Everything created by man can be divided, changed, modified, or removed by the same human agency – slavery, colonialism, feudalism – they were all systems of human imagination. They came to an end. The Nigerian 1999 constitution has reached its sell by date. Nigeria, as one nation, has also reached its sell by date. Its wealth serves the interests of few politicians and cronies against the poverty of the majority.
What has been exerting our division is President Buhari’s constellation of political extremism that relates to neofascistic tendencies like empowering Fulani bandits, Miyetti Allah, freezing the accounts of protesters, banning protests, provocative nepotism and ethnic privilege that provokes our daily visceral rage and drives us into our ethnic cleavages.
It is this haunting political castration that drove Alhaji Mujahid Asari Dokubo to declare himself as the leader of the new “Biafra de facto customary government”, citing “injustice and marginalisation” on the Igbo found in various zones of the country as the reason for his aspiring for a “better life for his people.” Igboho Oosha, like Asari Dokubo, has seen Nigeria as a nation of deep inequality, iniquity, and injustice. Igboho Oosha has come to discover that the Nigerian state, by its nature and orientation, only exists to defend without compromise, the interests of the dominant class (Fulani) while the rest are held down by fear, intimidation and gun totting, heavily partisan armed forces.
In our fear Nigeria will remain a nation of idiots ruled by idiots. What matters in life is not what you want but how badly you want it. We must not fear. The Yoruba nation must not fear. Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is. Fear breeds lack of action. Lack of action breeds lack of experience. Lack of experience breeds ignorance. Ignorance breeds fear. And fear makes one afraid to do the very thing that would be beneficial to you, to your children and unborn generation.
Nigeria has entered a crisis moment and we need courageous men and women to navigate and move us forward. David Ben Gurion the founder of Israel and its first Prime Minister observed: “courage is a special kind of knowledge, the knowledge of how to fear what ought to be feared and how not to fear what ought not to be feared. From this knowledge comes an inner strength that inspires us to push on in the face of great difficulty. What can seem impossible is often possible with courage.”
In conclusion, I will echo the courageous word of Akogun Tola Adeniyi: “Yoruba sovereignty is not negotiable, on course and irreversible.”