Aare Onakakanfo of Yoruba land, Iba Gani Adams has said that it is possible for the Yoruba nation to get their Oduduwa Republic by breaking away from Nigeria without bloodshed. As a result, he advised President Muhammadu Buhari not to ignore renewed calls for restructuring, as it is the only way through which the country can move forward or attain the desired greatness.
Iba Gani Adams noted that failure by the nation’s leaders to quickly do the needful might have a boomerang effect. He also spoke on other national issues in this interview with TUNDE THOMAS.
How would you react to the presidency’s reaction to the calls by eminent Nigerians, and different groups urging President Buhari to give heeds to calls for restructuring?
The presidency’s reaction is not too encouraging, especially the way it was communicated. When people demand for something that will move Nigeria forward such as restructuring, you just don’t react anyhow, you don’t just jump to the conclusion that government will not do it. Even if you know that government will not do it, you don’t jump to conclusion that government will not do it. Government is not run that way. You don’t create a situation that can result into anarchy for your boss. There are different ways, and approaches on how to handle issues. The response is highly disappointing, and is not giving government the respect the government deserves. Calls for restructuring should not be ignored, as doing so will be to Nigeria’s peril.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo recently convened a dialogue with leaders of socio-cultural groups across the country where he raised alarm that Nigeria was drifting fast towards a failed state, do you agree with him?
Definitely, Nigeria is drifting towards a failed state. Nigeria’s economy has not only been in comatose but the country has also been engulfed by different security threats, and virtually all the six-geo-political zones have serious security challenges, and most of these issues are not even reported in the media. The northeast is not even secure anymore to the extent that a sitting governor has escaped assassination attempts four times. Almost 80 per cent of the northwest is under the siege of bandits, and about 50 percent of the Middle-Belt is being attacked everyday to the extent that some monarchs were being killed while some villages have been overrun. Even in Southern Kaduna, they are filling petitions to the international community about their pathetic situation in the area almost every week, especially because of the killings by the criminal herdsmen. Even in the Southwest that is usually regarded as a peaceful zone, herdsmen are attacking most of our farmlands. In the South-south, and the Southeast, people are also complaining. The security, and economy of Nigeria are in bad shape.
Again, there are no stable policies, federal government will make a policy today but within another one year, they change it. The third aspect is about ISIS, and the Al-Qaeda terrorists who have already infiltrated Northern Nigeria. The United States raised the alarm about their presence, and the Nigeria Army didn’t deny it but admitted that it has been like that for the past 10 years but unfortunately we were not being informed. Around this same time, Nigeria has been labeled as the number one terrorist country in Africa, and third in the whole world, that’s sad news. Nigeria’s image has been highly debranded, and the respect we enjoy in the international community is getting to a stage of being diminished. It is getting to that stage when you as a citizen of Nigeria is getting to the point of entry in another country you will be treated as terror suspect. When you look at all the indices, Nigeria has become a failed state.
This is one of the reasons why people are asking for Oduduwa Republic. Our people in diaspora see a lot of things that we that are in the country don’t see, and these are people that are highly exposed and know whatever is happening in the global community, and this is why they are asking for a separate nation, and I also agree with them. We can have our Oduduwa Republic in a peaceful way through a referendum. Nigerians from the different zones will cast their votes and decide whether they want Nigeria to remain as one or not .I agree with the Secretary of the Arewa Consultative Forum who said recently that we could break up Nigeria without war.
With the way Nigeria is going, we can’t move forward. The level of corruption is getting higher everyday. The level of injustice is also on the high side. Nepotism is also on the increase with one section of the country being favoured over others. Look at the recent recruitment in DSS where about 85 per cent of the slot given to the North while less than 15 per cent was allocated to the South. This government has been a government of a certain section, and that’s not in the best interest of the country. It is against the spirit of true federalism. Nigeria’s federalism is a mockery, and this is why we have been agitating for restructuring for over 29 years, and if they are not ready for that then we should prepare to go our separate ways.
What do you make of the criticism that Obasanjo is trying to do what he rejected or refused to do during his eight years as President?
You may be in power and make a mistake but it is when you leave office you realize your error, and there is nothing bad in that. It is even better than a person that is in power, and has refused to do the right thing, and not only that but continues to encourage wrong things, which may eventually lead to anarchy. I salute Obasanjo’s courage for clamouring for a change that will help move Nigeria forward when he is even no longer in power. When you are in power, it is like being in a prison, and this was confirmed by former President Goodluck Jonathan who revealed that you only know what is revealed to you in the Villa, and that you don’t know whatever is happening outside the Villa.
But what I have even realized now is that talking about restructuring Nigeria might be too late. Nigerians don’t have the patience anymore. I was one of those that canvassed for restructuring but I now see that the Northerners no longer take us serious over the issue because they now regard us as toothless bulldogs. When you talk about restructuring, these northerners will be telling us that we should go to the National Assembly to ensure that constitutional amendments that will make it possible are effected.
But who gave us that constitution? The military government wrote it. Not only that, only 26 people wrote that constitution, and imposed it on the rest of us. We had a national conference in 2014, and we passed about 664 resolutions to move the country forward but President Muhammadu Buhari decided to keep that confab report in the archives, and Nigeria is in trouble now because of his decision. Nigeria is running into series of serious crises, and not only that, Nigeria’ economy is in comatose because Buhari has refused to do the needful on that confab report. Nigeria is gradually getting to the stage of derailing, and it is either we restructure or we exit from Nigeria on the basis of referendum.
What’s your take on the planned constitutional amendment by the National Assembly?
It is not going to be a fair exercise because the present composition of the National Assembly favours the North. For example Kano state in 1967 had two municipalities, and Lagos state in 1967 had four municipal areas, but since then the military government had carved out Jigawa from Kano state while the new Kano state has 44 local governments, and Jigawa 27 local governments, when you calculate the number of local governments between Kano and Jigawa states, they are about 87 local governments whereas Lagos state still has 20 local governments. So where is justice in all these, and a country that lives on injustice can’t have peace. It is only when you have justice that you can expect peace and tranquility to reign. I just laugh when I see some people canvassing unity in the country but what they don’t know is that you can’t have unity where there is no justice. In the House of Representatives, about 65%-70% members are from the North. So there is an imbalance in the composition of membership. The number of representatives from Kano, Katisna, and Jigawa states are more than that of the entire Southeast. Then, how can you be saying that the population of Kano state is more than that of Lagos? Then look at how Lagos state is being unfairly treated in the sharing of VAT revenues being generated across the country. Lagos state generates about 60% of the VAT being generated in the country but how much is Lagos state being given? Even some states that generate less VAT than Lagos state are collecting more than Lagos state. Then you are now talking about constitutional amendment by the National Assembly that is not balanced. With all these injustices and imbalance, no reasonable person will take the proposed constitution amendment serious.
The Senate had been involved in about four previous attempts, but nothing came out of it. I don’t believe in the amendment of the constitution. It is not the solution to Nigeria’s problems. It is either Nigeria restructure or dissolve. The 2014 confab report is there, why did they dump it? Even if they had accepted 75% of that confab report, Nigeria’s problems would have been solved. The ploy by this government is to buy time, and that ‘s why they are talking about constitutional amendment now, and that will keep Nigerians occupied so by the time they pursue that one to a point, people will now be talking about 2023. Buhari initially promised to restructure Nigeria but as soon as he got elected, he refused to fulfill his promise. He also promised to do State Police but Governor Nasir El-Rufai antagonized it claiming that Nigeria is not yet ripe for State Police. El-Rufai also opposed Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti state when he mooted the idea of State Police at the Governors Forum. If these people are not ready for restructuring, let’s go for a break-up of Nigeria peacefully through referendum.
The clamours for Oduduwa Republic, Biafra, and North-Central appear to be growing louder; do you in any way feel concerned?
You should expect that especially where people are suffering but are also frustrated that right things to move the country forward are not being done. But our people in diaspora are not ready for that having tasted good governance abroad. Most of them believe that by the time they attained the age of 65 years they want to retire back home to Nigeria, and they don’t want to retire to a country that doesn’t have a future, a country that has been perceived as a hopeless, a country where you can’t travel with peace of mind, a country that has been infiltrated by Al-Qaeda, and ISIS terrorists. So anybody thinking of a good future for his children should be thinking about how we can break peacefully through referendum.
Are you ready to lead the Yoruba as Aare Onakakankafo should the people finally decide to get out of Nigeria?
I’m not talking of leadership. We have a lot of leaders in Yoruba land. It is a joint project. When you are talking of whether I can lead or not, it will generate controversies. All leaders of Yoruba land will work on the project. I will also do my own part. There are people that may be good in strategies more than me but we are all going to work together to achieve same objective.
Nigerians asked for deregulation of power, and fuel supplies, and now that the government has done that it has come with periodic hike in prices, what do you say about this?
This is not the time that government should have hiked the tariffs. It amounts to insensitivity on the part of the government, as the increment will increase the burden of Nigerians. We are just coming out of COVID-19 crisis. A lot of Nigerians couldn’t go to their places of work for months, some have lost their jobs, and the economy has been badly affected. Analysts have pointed out that Nigeria had lost billions of dollars to the pandemic. For Nigeria to recover, and regain its balance, it will take Nigeria nothing less than four or five years. This is not the right time to effect any increase. We should have waited for the economy to bounce back.
When former President Goodluck Jonathan increased fuel price from N56 to N87 in 2012, President Buhari was one of those people that criticized him for the increment. Even Governor El-Rufai who was not a governor then led a protest against the increment. Lagos state government then also sponsored some activists to stage rallies against Jonathan. But now Buhari’s government has increased fuel price more than three times, and also increased electricity tariffs. Then if they are doing all these, what then can the masses benefit from the government? These increments are uncalled for, and very insensitive.
Why has it been difficult for the military to defeat Boko Haram going for almost two decades?
The issue of insurgency in the Northeast has gone even beyond Boko Haram now. The Al-Qaeda, and ISIS have now joined, and it has always been difficult to defeat the two in any country before. We’ve had their footprints in the entire West Africa sub-region, and they are so daring to the extent of attacking the convoy of a state governor, and that’s to show you how sophisticated they are. The casualty the Nigeria Army has been recording has been so much high. I think they have a superior firepower against the military, and they are becoming more sophisticated. They have also infiltrated some parts of the Southwest in civilian garbs. Although they are yet to strike but they have definitely infiltrated some parts of Yoruba land, and there was a report from an expert that some Islamic fundamentalists are recruiting some Yoruba into ISIS, and Al-Qaeda, and common herders who are criminals in the bush have been having contacts with these international terrorist organisations. We have to buckle up, and take pro-active measures to tackle these terrorists more so because new groups are also involved. It may be extremely difficult for the security agencies to defeat these terrorists unless you allow each region not only to be part of the national security architecture but also to have its own security outfit just like you have the Operation Amotekun in the Southwest. This in a way refers to Community policing which has long been recommended but which we are embracing now. When we were saying that we want to have Operation Amotekun in the Southwest some of these people from the North were complaining but when they had their own Hisbah the people from the Southwest were not complaining. But if these people don’t want to co-operate on the issue of security, that means they don’t value their own lives, and what they don’t realize is that they may end up being victims one day .If you don’t nip insecurity in the bud, it will have dire consequences as more Nigerians may end up being victims.