Former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka have been accused of being partly responsible for the series of crises currently plaguing the country. Making the assertion in an interview with SATURDAY SUN, leading Afenifere chieftain and former NADECO scribe, Senator Femi Okurounmu noted that the problem of insecurity and other challenges presently facing the country could have been averted if the duo have not contributed to the electoral victory of APC in 2015.
“Nigeria would have been saved the present agony we are going through if Obasanjo and Soyinka had not supported Buhari. But now that things are going awry ,they are now speaking out against their man, Buhari. Through their support for Buhari, Obasanjo and Soyinka are part of those that put Nigeria in the current mess we found ourselves”, he declared. He also spoke on other national issues. TUNDE THOMAS brings you the excerpts.
At 80, would you say that this is Nigeria of your dream and the nation envisaged by the founding fathers?
Nigeria of today is a total failure. This is not Nigeria envisaged by the nation’s founding fathers. Not only that, the Nigeria we have today is not Nigeria of my own dream, it is not Nigeria I dream of when I was returning to Nigeria from the United States of America, after I had attended Harvard University where I read Engineering, and later proceeded to have my Ph.D in Mechanical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT in 1967. The dreams of the nation’s founding fathers for Nigeria have not been realized.
Instead of Nigeria being a progressive nation that would have become a source of pride to the black race, we are retrogressing, and becoming more and more of an embarrassment to the black race, and the international community.
What do you think is responsible for this?
We got into this mess and sorry state as a result of military intervention dating back to the first coup in 1966, and the subsequent ones. As soon as the military took over, they introduced unitary system of government, which was a departure from the federal arrangement that was in place at independence.
At independence, Nigeria was a federal state, and federalism was working very well for us as each region was developing at its own pace and there was healthy competition for development and growth. Between 1960 and 1966, Western region for example was doing very well. It was doing better than countries like Singapore, Malaysia and some other developing nations then. Nigeria itself was moving forward, even though the regions were not moving at the same pace. Each region was developing at its own pace. But the Western region was at the forefront leading the regions.
But as soon as the military took over they abolished federalism, and introduced unitary system which created a big setback. Since power was now concentrated at the centre, the regions were no longer able to take any initiative of their own any longer.
Until we return to true practice of federalism, Nigeria can’t move forward. We got independence on the basis of federal constitution and until we return to that Nigeria can’t move forward. The military sabotaged the federal constitution and replaced it with unitary constitution, which is now giving the country a lot of problems. The military dragged Nigeria backward. In fact, military intervention in Nigeria is a big curse for Nigeria.
Through this military intervention, power has been put in the hands of a section of the country, and that section is the least capable to lead Nigeria successfully. This least capable section instead of moving Nigeria forward or taking Nigeria to greater heights is not only interested in holding on to power in perpetuity, but is also determined to dominate and lord it over other sections of the country.
As far as this section that is obsessed with power control is concerned, they always want members of their own ethnic group to be in power and also to dominate others at all times. They are determined to control others. They are determined to enslave other sections of the country.
Which section of the country are you referring to?
I’m referring to the North but most especially the Fulani. The Fulani controls the North. The Fulani have expansionist agenda. They want to control other people’s territories, and that’s why the Fulanisation agenda accusation made by former President Olusegun Obasanjo should not be glossed over or dismissed with a wave of the hand.
The present state of insecurity in the country has become worrisome, as it has assumed a frightening dimension, what do you say about this ugly development?
This insecurity is programmed by government itself. Government has a hand in it. All these things happening are part of the Fulanisation agenda. Some eminent Nigerians like General Theophillus Danjuma, and General Olusegun Obasanjo have told Nigerians what I’m saying here. These are eminent men who know the inner workings of the government and for them to come out and say that the federal government is involved or have hands in some of these things happening is quite revealing and should not be dismissed with a wave of the hand.
Fulani herdsmen are terrorists and they been so declared by the international community. And their agenda is to take over Nigeria and create a homeland for Fulani in Nigeria and their kith and kin in other countries. They see Nigeria as a country where people take all insults and hardly resist oppression by the feudal lords, and that’s why they are killing and maiming people all over the country and Buhari’s government has not arrested any of these killers.
You know they control the Immigration Department, and that’s why the Immigration has thrown open our borders for herdsmen from different countries to flock into Nigeria with their deadly weapons including AK 47 rifles which they are using to kill defenceless Nigerians.
What is the way out for Nigerians?
Nigerians should be ready to defend themselves, otherwise their lives are in danger. Any Nigerian who thinks that government will protect him from Fulani herdsmen is deceiving himself. Since these herdsmen have been killing thousands, has there been any arrest, has there been any prosecution of any herdsman?
Look at the way these suspected herdsmen killed the daughter of Afenifere leader, Papa Fasoranti, Funke Olakunrin. These herdsmen want to set Nigeria on fire. A time will come when Nigerians will be pushed to the wall in order to defend themselves.
Even look at the Southwest governors, have you seen any of them condemning these herdsmen? They no longer have the courage again to speak because they don’t want to offend Buhari. They have to show that they are loyal to Buhari, and because they don’t want to offend Buhari their leader, they have now become betrayers of their own people.
But the question is this, are these Southwest governors supposed to be loyal to Buhari or are they supposed to be loyal to their own people who voted them into office? Unfortunately, these governors decided to be loyal to Buhari thereby betraying the people of the Southwest.
What is your view on Professor Wole Soyinka’s recent declaration that Nigeria’s problems have overwhelmed Buhari, and that a national conference should be organized to chart a way forward?
Soyinka is a hypocrite. He was one of the staunch supporters of Buhari. He was short of declaring Buhari a saint immediately after Buhari took over in 2015. Thank God his two eyes are now clear. May be he didn’t shine his eyes very well before eulogizing Buhari and openly supporting him. It is good that Soyinka and former President Obasanjo are now realizing their mistakes for supporting APC to get power.
Soyinka and Obasanjo helped Buhari to get into office by supporting him, but it is good that Buhari is showing his true colour now. He is a creation of both Obasanjo and Soyinka. I agree with Soyinka that Buhari has been overwhelmed by Nigeria’s problems. He has nothing to offer again.
What is your reaction to the recent letter written by former President Obasanjo warning President Buhari about the danger of the present state of insecurity degenerating further?
Obasanjo himself, is he not part of Nigeria’s problems? Was he not Buhari’s chief promoter before things fell apart between them? Then, when Obasanjo was in power for eight years, and he was advised on some of the things to do to move Nigeria forward, did he listen to anybody? Is he now just waking up to realize that Nigeria is drifting towards anarchy under Buhari? As the saying goes, you reap what you sow, Obasanjo sowed Buhari, and he is only reaping what he had sowed. The only unfortunate thing is that it is Nigerians that are being made to suffer through the action of people like Obasanjo, Soyinka and others who supported Buhari to get power.
Then to show you that Soyinka and Obasanjo are not sincere, why are they calling for convocation of national conference again.
What about the 2014 national confab reports and recommendations that Buhari has decided to dump? That conference had representatives from different parts of Nigeria in attendance and there was no dissenting voice to its recommendations by any of the attendants. Why should Buhari dump that confab reports and recommendations? Like I said earlier Buhari is virulently opposed to restructuring of Nigeria and restructuring was one of the key recommendations made by that 2014 confab, and that’s why Buhari dumped that confab’s recommendation.
What Nigerians should realize is this, there is no alternative to restructuring and the further we delay it, the more the crises plaguing Nigeria will continue, and the more we are postponing the evil day. We don’t pray to have a situation like what happened in Rwanda and Somalia here in Nigeria but unfortunately with what is happening now, we may have another Somalia or Rwanda situation on our hands. We should do the needful now to avert the looming crisis.
On the issue of polarization of Afenifere, talking about the split has become a source of concern to some Yoruba. As a former Secretary-General of the group, what is responsible for the crisis?
The split started as soon as the then Alliance for Democracy (AD), which was part of Afenifere then won the gubernatorial elections in the Southwest. That time I was elected as a senator on the platform of AD. The crisis in Afenifere was triggered by the over-ambition of Lagos State governor then, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Before then, he was always portraying himself as a NADECO warrior and a pro-democracy activist based abroad. But Tinubu in real sense of it was none of these.
Information available to those of us running NADECO in Nigeria was that Tinubu contrary to what he claimed to be was actually running his own business abroad that time. But some members of NADECO at home in Nigeria thought Tinubu was a NADECO stalwart.
When Gen. Sani Abacha’s regime collapsed and he returned to Nigeria, and Afenifere then had to choose who was to be governor of Lagos State, there was a preference for him over late Funso Williams who was then Tinubu’s arch-rival for the governorship ticket of Lagos State.
Many members preferred Tinubu over Williams because Williams was a civil servant working with Lagos State government, so many labeled him a pro-Abacha element. Initially, Afenifere leaders decided that the governorship tickets of Lagos and other states in the Southwest were to be given to candidates based on their competence and loyalty to Afenifere.
But some people later started demanding that we should have primaries to pick candidates, that is, Afenifere leaders should hold elections to decide candidates to be picked.
Some of those who were at the front of these agitations include Segun Osoba, former governor of Ogun State, and some of these agitators including Osoba took active part in Abacha’s transition programme. Osoba was in Democratic Party of Nigeria, DPN, one of the five political parties that adopted Abacha to transmute himself to life president of Nigeria before Abacha suddenly died.
I’m setting this record straight because I read how Osoba was distorting the origin of Afenifere crisis in SATURDAY SUN newspaper, and how he was blaming Afenifere leaders and elders. Osoba was not an original Afenifere member. He was not initially part of the NADECO struggle. After June 12 annulment by the military and sack of the Interim National Government, ING headed by Ernest Shonekan when everybody thought that Abacha would hand over to Abiola, Osoba identified with the June 12 struggle. He was even arrested for a while.
But as soon as Abacha bared his fangs, and everybody realized that pro-June 12 elements were for a long struggle, Osoba and others ran away, abandoning NADECO. By then, we had decided and taken the decision that no NADECO and Afenifere member would take part in Abacha’s transition programme.
Osoba was one of those who disobeyed Afenifere leaders. He went and participated in Abacha’s transition programme and became a member of DPN. It was not until Abacha died that Osoba returned with his supporters to re-join Afenifere.
All what I’m saying are facts that can be verified, and this is what I expect journalists to do. Journalists should do more of investigative journalism, if they do, they won’t be taking what Osoba has been telling them hook, line and sinker.
At the time Osoba wanted to come back and rejoin Afenifere, I was then the Ogun State Chairman of Afenifere, and we resisted him. We didn’t want to have him back because he took part in Abacha’s transition programme. We even wrote a letter to the then Afenifere leader, late Pa Abraham Adesanya expressing our resolve not to take Osoba back.
You were talking about the factors responsible for the split in Afenifere …
Cuts in … I know. But I have to veer off to talk about Osoba because of his claims in the papers which were not true, and like I was saying earlier, Afenifere later organized primaries between Tinubu and Funso Williams to pick governorship candidate for Lagos State, and the result could have gone either way, but because of the bias we had against Funso Williams, the ticket was given to Tinubu.
But as soon as Tinubu became governor, he began to scheme on how to subvert the Afenifere leadership. Tinubu began to plot how to subvert the leadership of Abraham Adesanya as Afenifere leader. In doing this, he took advantage of the crisis that broke out following the primaries conducted by Afenifere leaders to pick AD presidential candidate between Chief Olu Falae and late Chief Bola Ige. Tinubu latched on to the apparent dissatisfaction of Ige with the Afenifere leadership following his shocking loss to Falae who was eventually picked as the AD presidential candidate during the primary conducted by the Afenifere leaders at D Rovers Hotel, Ibadan to pick AD presidential flagbearer.
For that primary, Afenifere set up an electoral college consisting of 23 respectable elders. This electoral college was to elect AD presidential candidate between Falae and Ige. The contest was even thrown open, but only Ige and Falae applied. Only two of them showed interest.
Now in choosing this electoral college, Bola Ige participated. Bola Ige then was deputy leader of Afenifere, he was deputy to Abraham Adesanya. In fact when the 23 members of the electoral college were to be selected, somebody suggested that Bola Ige should not be part of the team that will select members of the electoral college since he himself was a contestant but he protested, and his objection was upheld, thus he was part of the team that picked 23 members of the electoral college. So together with Ige we then recommended who should be members of this college.
Now let me tell you how these 23 people were picked. First of all, by that time the six AD governors in the Southwest have been elected so the six governors were members of the electoral college, then the state chairmen in those six states were also members, and then AD state chairmen in Kogi and Kwara were also added.
Then we had nine elders that were selected across Yoruba land. Thus making a total 23 members of the electoral college. The nine elders include the late Chief Solanke Onasanya, late Senator Jonathan Odebiyi, late Archdeacon Alayande, late Justice Adewale Thompson, late Dr Aina from Ekiti State, Senator Ayo Fasanmi, and Senator Mojisoluwa Akinfenwa.
From this list of members of the electoral college, one can see that most of them were Bola Ige’s loyalists, more than half of the members of the electoral college were Ige’s loyalists. Unfortunately some of these Afenifere leaders including Abraham Adesanya, Ayo Adebanjo and Pa Fasoranti that have been accused of not wanting Bola Ige to be AD presidential candidate were not members of the electoral college.
On that day we voted and Chief Olu Falae won. But as soon as Falae won, Bola Ige was upset. He was all in rage. He was furious, so Tinubu capitalized on this because Bola Ige believed that it was Afenifere leaders that didn’t want him. But this was not true. So what Osoba was saying in those recent interviews he granted were tissues of lies. Osoba is an opportunist. He lied. I challenge him to a public debate on this issue and other contemporary ones. Let him come out, I challenge him to an open debate. Apart from my challenge to Osoba, I have chronicled all these happenings including the Afenifere crisis , June 12 struggle, and NADECO activities in my biography which I recently launched in Lagos. Members of the public, students of history and political science should go and read my book and they will read about the ignoble roles played by both Tinubu and Osoba in the June 12 imbroglio, NADECO and Afenifere crisis. Not only that, both Tinubu and Osoba fraternised with General Sani Abacha.
You were still talking about Bola Ige and the outcome of the primary organized by Afenifere at Ibadan …
Cuts in … As I was saying earlier, Tinubu capitalized on Bola Ige’s discontentment with the result of the primary that led to Falae’s emergence as AD leader by trying to further drive the wedge between Bola Ige and Afenifere leader, Abraham Adesanya and others.
Tinubu started instigating AD governors to stop attending Afenifere meetings called by the late Abraham Adesanya. It was only late Chief Adebayo Adefarati who was then the governor of Ondo State that Tinubu couldn’t buy over. Adefarati was more sensible as he refused to join other AD governors that Tinubu has told to stop attending Afenifere meetings. Tinubu openly encouraged other AD governors to rebel against Adesanya’s leadership.
There was a time when we were to organize convention to pick AD chairman, in the year 2000. In order to really sabotage Adesanya, Tinubu and others decided to pick another person as AD chairman contrary to Adesanya and other Afenifere leaders choice. They decided to make Alhaji Abdulkadir as substantive AD chairman.
But the thing about Abdulkadir’s choice by Tinubu and others in his group was that they picked Abdulkadir to spite Adesanya and other Afenifere leaders. Abdulkadir was not an AD member. He has never been a member of AD for one day.
Abdulkadir was handed over to Bola Ige by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to destabilize AD. It was around this period that Bola Ige decided to go and join Obasanjo’s cabinet as a Minister without consulting or informing Afenifere, whereas Afenifere as a body had collectively agreed that whosoever or any member of Afenifere that wants to go and work with Obasanjo should inform Afenifere as a group so that we can all agree that the person was representing Afenifere and not that Obasanjo had poached the person. It was apparent Bola Ige was taking up Obasanjo’s offer as a Minister to spite Afenifere, and to spite Afenifere the more Ige accepted Abdulkadir who was handed over to him by Obasanjo to be AD substantive chairman. Not only that, Ige also sold Abdulkadir to the rebellious AD governors who accepted him knowing fully well that Abdulkadir was not an AD member. So this was how Ige, Tinubu, and other rebellious AD governors including Osoba, Ogun; late Lam Adesina, Oyo; Niyi Adebayo, Ekiti and Bisi Akande, Osun accepted Abdulkadir as AD chairman against the wish of Adesanya and other Afenifere leaders. This was how Afenifere split, and the gulf has continued to widen since then. You can see that Osoba lied. I challenge him again to a public debate on this issue. He was trying to distort history but he has failed. He and Tinubu destroyed Afenifere. They are the major precipitators of the crisis rocking Afenifere. Not only that, several efforts that have been made to resolve the crisis have been frustrated by Tinubu and Osoba. Even the late Mama HID Awolowo made an effort during her lifetime to reconcile the two factions, but Osoba and Tinubu made it impossible.
Even during his lifetime, late Justice Kayode Eso also made efforts to reconcile the factions, but Tinubu and Osoba sabotaged his efforts because of their personal ambition. Bishop Bolanle Gbonigi also made efforts but these two and their collaborators frustrated his efforts. Tinubu and Osoba are betrayers of Yoruba people. This is why you see them working with Buhari and romancing him despite the fact that herdsmen are kidnapping and killing Yoruba people.
Have you seen Osoba and Tinubu speaking out against the killing and kidnapping of Yoruba by herdsmen? When Chief Olu Falae was kidnapped by herdsmen on his farm, did you see Tinubu and Osoba condemn the herdsmen? Tinubu and Osoba have lost their voice. They can’t speak out against the herdsmen attacks and killings of Yoruba people because they are wining and dining with Buhari. But what a shame. Tinubu, Osoba, Bisi Akande, Niyi Adebayo, Olabiyi Durojaye and the current Southwest APC governors are sell-outs. They have betrayed Yoruba people. But they should not forget that posterity and history will record what they are doing today.
As for Senator Ayo Fasanmi who is parading himself as Afenifere leader while working for Tinubu, one can forgive him because he is an old man. That is the way I can explain his recent behavior. Fasanmi is behaving quite unlike him, very much unlike him when compared with his younger days. At 94,may be Fasanmmi can no longer think straight again because of his old age. Tinubu and Bisi Akande are just using Fasanmi. Fasanmi can’t think clearly again. It is a shame that Fasanmi has become a yes-boy or boy-boy for Tinubu.
But I’m not surprised by what Tinubu, Osoba, Fasanmi, Olabiyi Durojaye and Bisi Akande are doing today. Even during Papa late Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s lifetime, he was also betrayed by some Yoruba people. But surely Tinubu and others betraying Yoruba people today will reap what they are sowing.