They certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected me see it – Numbers 14:23.
Agitation for a sovereign Yoruba nation has taken a strident and emotional character among disparate set of people across the South Western Nigeria. Marginalized, traumatized, and thoroughly exploited Yoruba people are dreaming of a new homeland of fairness, equity, and justice. They are looking with wistful longing to a nation devoid of human suffering, inhuman privileges, big manism, cronyism, political suppression, and subjection to mass servitude under the overpowering, arrogant and dismissive Fulani hijackers of the Nigerian state.
As things now stand, debates, conversations and stories about Yoruba nation can no longer be socially neutral or primitively wished away by the Nigerian government. Nigeria, to millions of Yoruba, is dead. In its wake is the Oodua nation that is creeping out of obscurity to sit at the centre of our consciousness and everyday parlour discussions. Youths are rejecting Nigeria in droves. They are rejecting this Conradian heart of darkness called Nigeria.
Igbo youths now see themselves as Biafrans. Yoruba see themselves as Oodua citizens. Whatever runs counter to the new think – Yoruba Nation – is not tolerated. The new slogan is tear it down. The political schism, Armed Forces partisanship, loss of patriotism and militant agitation for separatism over national unity, are all tinder waiting to be set alight by those who hold the lighters for a new separate nationality.
However, despite the euphoria for Yoruba independence, there are still some polemical, intellectual, and cultural resistance to the idea of Yoruba nation, or if you prefer, Oodua Republic. Each argument supporting the continuation of our unity seems persuasive to those who are still fooled by it. The only one realm these cowardly Yoruba consistently fail to explore critically is the idea of what happens if Nigeria dissolves into different nations in the next few years? So what? What is equally unravelling is the shameful list of individuals, politicians, political jobbers, Obas, and contrarians who are still defending one indivisible Nigeria irrespective of its imbalances, imperfection, crudity, lop-sidedness, and tyranny.
These ignorant, cowardly, selfish, greedy, and hypocritical moderates often blur or collapse the potential gains, equity, and freedom of separate Oodua nation by speaking glibly of our shared bloodline and the strength of unity among competing tribes. What is conveniently forgotten is the fact that the Yoruba had been under lockdown by a tiny, cabal-affirming, Islamic-oriented and change resisting Fulani for over 100 years.
Yoruba people, despite their intelligence and intellectual ability, have been held down by less endowed Fulani through structural ethnocentrism which had been their stock-in-trade in politics. In a nation of gross and monumental inequalities dictated by a complex amalgam of tiny elite domination, resource cleansing, colonial authoritarianism, unending corruption, Fulani mentality of divine ruling mandate, religious impunity, tribal jealousies, banditry, herdsmen unrest, and distrust, a time must come when there would be a pre-emptive mobilisation of millions of Yoruba who had been made to understand that their paradise is perpetually postponed by internal oppressors from the North. That time is now!
I must confess that over the past few months I have been gravely disappointed with the Yoruba moderates. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Yoruba emerging stumbling block is based on their cautious stride towards freedom and not the oppressive Fulani hegemony. What I feared most is the cowardly Yoruba pacifists who are more prone to hang on to survival than to justice. What maddens me are the Yoruba moderates who prefer a united Nigerian with its burden of Fulani privileges and their oppressive injustice, to an equitable Yoruba nation that will shape its own destiny, promotes even development, progress, justice, prosperity, and fairness.
Their attitude, instead of being forward-thinking and change-driven, is stuck in a time warp, not minding the true reality of average Yoruba in Nigeria. The condition of these Yoruba appeasers has transformed from tragedy to farce. On the other hand, Yoruba agitatorial vanguard are in a breakneck speed to offer a comfortable alternative to the destructive and systemic Fulani oppression, an alternative which posits that a united Nigeria has not benefitted the limitless potentialities of the Yoruba people.
What seems to be catalysing Yoruba into a desperate action has been the helplessness of the Yoruba people who have been toiling away doggedly for years under Fulani dominance, terror and arrogance without any respite and broad support. Yoruba had become the pawns of privilege and exploitation. We reel helplessly under the blows and beckoning of our Fulani masters. However, the pacifists want a system that is accommodating, less confrontational, yet within the contraption of One Nation that is imagined to be a bit kinder, a bit nicer, a bit more inclusive, a bit more united.
The Fulani have been chewing and screwing us for far too long. Fulani overlords now refer to Nigeria as their own property and seek to dominate it perpetually. There is now a super sensitivity that reflects the degree to which things have fallen badly apart. Fulani privilege has been made politically and socially acceptable in surprising number of places – hotels, airports, clubs, ministries and even in our military barracks. Fulani privilege has been legitimized.
The new Yoruba affirmative action is a kind of grassroots commitment for Yoruba emancipation from the prison of servitude and slavery. The clash at this point is whether the clamorous and deprived Yoruba underclass can take on the powerful, rich, and politically well-connected Yoruba elites and the supporting professional classes? Buhari’s nepotism and the larger Fulani agenda to Islamise Nigeria and make it the headquarter of Fulani territory have certainly propelled the issue of separate nationalities to the forefront of the national consciousness.
The seething unrest over Yoruba nation which is bubbling is also creating alternative universe of mass support, Yoruba nationalism, readiness to fight, clannish solidarity, class struggles, rejection of Northern oppression and their dominance of the political destiny of Nigeria. There is massive Yoruba call for total and complete divestment of Yoruba support from the corporate entity called Nigeria.
Yoruba merchandise like T-shirts, our bank notes, flags, anthem, and maps are surfacing while grassroots mobilisers are becoming superheroes raising awareness. The petition for Yoruba nation will form the litmus test for this democratic dispensation. The agitation for Yoruba nationhood will test whether we are truly democratic in terms of engagement, consensus and bridge building or a draconian, rigid, and dictatorial democracy.
However, my greatest fear is the character, temperament and disposition of the Yoruba middle-of-the-roaders and liberals with their symbolic silence and uncertainty. Their persistent habit to tread with care, trepidation and over cautious attitude that encourage discouragement and resignation. Also is the danger of the moderate and educated liberals to appropriate, domesticate and commodify the struggle surreptitiously through intellectual deceit, abracadabra, and befuddlement. They will do this to calm outrage, act as the voice of reason while holding the larger dream of Yoruba independence to the shackles of indecision, false accommodation, evil peace, and evil unity with internal enemies.
Meanwhile, the desire for Yoruba nation outweighs the delaying and outright rejection tactics of Yoruba appeasers who want to protect their comfort, investment, privileges, political connection, and social clout within a larger Nigerian space. This perception of silence and noncommittal of Yoruba moderates and liberals is a loud protest against the larger Yoruba dream of a separate nation.
Worse, the moderates are not helping matter with their caveats and demands, positioning themselves (Femi Falana, et al) as the experts on succession discourses, referendum, and constitutional matters. The issue of Yoruba homeland and the problem of life and death it raises has never been the kind of conversation that is exerting the humanity of our moderates and peacemakers. Instead of seeking out equity, fairness, and justice in a devolved Nigeria, the Yoruba pacifiers are becoming shameless participants in shambolic condemnation of courageous individuals and groups who are daily honing in on self-determination, freedom, dignity, and the prosperity of all Yoruba in their own South Western universe.
Yoruba governors, senators, political appointees, and professional classes who are feeding fat on the rotten national cake that feeds the few against the hunger of millions are not troubled by Fulani rapacious appropriation of all the core national appointments. They are not worried about the blatant capture of Nigeria’s resources, the death of merit in public life, the inhuman overprivileging of the Fulani above other nationalities in appointments sharing and the brutal suppression of voices of dissent and other ugly fault lines that need to be demolished once and for all.
They worried more about losing their privileges, ill-gotten wealth, class excesses and oppression of the weak by the mighty.
Since 1960, Yoruba have been surviving on incremental concessions made to appease the Fulani, and those concessions are not enough to deny the reality that moderates, progressive and Yoruba liberals do not want to move away from a larger Federal Republic of Nigeria. They do not want to end systemic domination of the Fulani. Rather than dream of a wider freedom, they will rather reference the unity trope, suggesting that we are stronger as one nation than break into many nations.
The prescriptive parameter (unity is non-negotiable) has been crammed down our throats by the Northerners who are benefiting more from this evil unity than all the other sections of this nation. They will want to speak to our relief that we should avoid war and tragedy. They will go into panic overdrive and talk of Yoruba internal disunity, our mythic cowardice, unpreparedness for warfare, and deadpan pessimism. The Yoruba moderates and fearful liberals should come off the political fence. Deprived and marginalised Yoruba people are applauding Igboho Oosha as he rouses them to frenzy and drives them to attempt a crusade for separate Yoruba nation using any means necessary. Yoruba moment is intuitive. Igboho Oosha’s emergence is intuitive. The beauty of the struggle is that the critical mass leading the dance for Oodua nation are ordinary Yoruba with sound intuition!
Yorexit is an idea that its time has come. We must remake, remould, renegotiate, rejig, rejuvenate, and retool our shared existence. Reactionary and contrarian Yoruba moderates have been pulling the Yoruba away from nationhood out of pure greed, fear of war, sheer class interests, fear of losing influence, power, and privileges. In their blindness, they fail to realise that it is not the job of the oppressor to free the oppressed but that the job of the oppressed is to rise and free themselves from the forces of oppression. The Igbo fought the Nigerian state in a civil war for three years and came out better and stronger.
In the Nigeria of today, there is no connection between the Fulani political elites and the Yoruba people. The only connection is the Northern guided quadrennial ritual of electioneering which is often rigged to favour them and their elected/anointed station slaves in the South. This struggle for Yoruba Nation has been tagged the handiwork of a mighty resurrection authored by God. We might yet see a David taking on Goliath. We all know the outcome!