-Prof. Banji Akintoye, president, Yoruba World Congress
•Calls for Nigeria’s breakup not treasonable
Eminent scholar and President of Yoruba World Congress, Prof. Banji Akintoye has declared that agitation for self-determination is a legitimate struggle, and not an act of treasonable felony as the federal government wants Nigerians to believe. As such, he vowed that there will be no going back on the renewed push for an Oduduwa Republic for the Yoruba nation, even as he advised against using force or taking any action that may cause harm to those calling for Nigeria’s breakup. He spoke further on this in this interview with TUNDE THOMAS.
On this agitation for Oduduwa Republic, some Nigerians are saying that it is a fluke, and another attempt ……
Cuts in…Those saying that should wait until October 1st to know whether it is real or not. But I want to declare here that nobody should harbour any doubt about the determination of Yoruba for self-determination. There is no going back, and come October 1st, we are going to make a formal declaration about it, and nobody including federal government can stop us. The whole world is already aware of our mission, and there is nothing federal government can do about it because what we are doing is not in any way illegal. It is within our legitimate right to determine whether we want to stay or not in the union called Nigeria. There is no way we can be held against our will if our people have already made up their mind to leave Nigeria. Nigeria is living on borrowed time, and it is just a matter of time before we all go our separate ways. There is no going back, Oduduwa Republic has come to stay. It has become a reality.
There is so much injustice in Nigeria, and it is only here you have this kind of injustice, and oppression. There has been so much Fulani domination, and oppression of other groups in the country, and we can’t continue this way and this is why we feel that the best option for Yoruba is to exercise their right to self-determination. A country where one group is always aspiring to conquer other sections can no longer be called a country. The situation in the country today is so bad that it has gone beyond restructuring, which some people are even calling for. The Fulani people have a hidden agenda, and unfortunately President Muhammadu Buhari is helping the Fulani to actualise their agenda of dominating other Nigerians through his political appointments and general ways he has been running his government, and other Nigerians can no longer fold their hands and continue watching things going on this way. Another annoying thing is that the Fulani in Nigeria are even bringing Fulani from outside Nigeria to participate in the conquest of other Nigerians. This is no longer acceptable. Countries fight wars but when they do so, it is against outsiders, and not against their own people like the Fulani are doing to others in Nigeria. A country where a section is aspiring to conquer other sections can no longer be referred to as a country. The Fulani say Nigeria belongs to them, and that they are going to take lands that belong to other ethnic nationalities, and this is why you have all these invasions taking place in the Middle-Belt, Southern Kaduna, and other parts of the country. The reality of the situation is that we the Yoruba can’t continue to live with another group that believes in the subjugation, and conquest of others.
Will you say this is part of the reasons why the clamour for Biafra, and North-Central Republic has been growing louder?
The Fulani invasion of other parts of the country has destroyed Nigeria, and majority of Nigerians no longer have faith in this country again. This is no longer the Nigeria of the dream of the founding fathers. Since majority of Nigerians no longer have faith in being together again, the best solution is for people to go their different ways but we don’t have to do it in a chaotic manner. The best way to go about it is to generate a process of negotiation, whereby we would sit around the table, and discuss in frank manners so that we won’t be enemies of one another for ever like the situation you have between Israel, and some Arab nations. It must be done in such a way that there will be no bloodshed or loss of lives. Other countries especially in Europe have done it that way, and so there is no reason we can’t do it also. There is nothing strange about Nigeria breaking up, and not only that, I believe the break-up can be done peacefully.
Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo recently convened a dialogue with leaders of five socio-cultural groups across the country where he raised the alarm that Nigeria was drifting fast to a failed state. Do you agree with him?
Nigeria is already a failed state, a country in which some citizens of the country are invading other sections, and the federal government couldn’t stop it. If this is happening, and those who are supposed to stop it are not doing so, then in what other way do you refer to Nigeria other than being a failed state?
All the indices point to the fact that Nigeria has not only failed but it is disintegrating, fast. Although I don’t know the time-line but definitely breakup is imminent, and there is nothing anybody can do to stop it. I also want to state categorically here that any attempt to stop agitating for breakup will fail. Already the United Nations, and other members of the international community are aware of what is happening in the country. Any attempt to suppress people expressing their interests to self-determination will fail.
Obviously, the former President is pushing for restructuring, and a new constitution rather than the amendment the National Assembly is working on, is that the way to go?
The National Assembly is not working on any amendment. They are just deceiving Nigerians. This is what they claim to be doing every year, and it has been discovered that this is nothing but deceit. Almost every year the National Assembly claims to be doing this but Nigerians have discovered that they are not being honest so there is nothing to talk about on that. And like I said earlier, Nigeria has even gone beyond restructuring. What we should be talking about now is negotiated break up. That is the only solution to Nigeria’s problems.
For those saying that Obasanjo is a hypocrite for calling for restructuring when he failed to carry it out when he was in power, I will just say that Nigerians should remember that Obasanjo is just a human being, and to err is human. Moreover, what is not clear to him that time may have been clearer to him now. For him to even have the courage to call for restructuring now shows that he is a patriot, and a man of honour. But for me, and some other Nigerians, the situation in the country today has gone beyond restructuring, it is only break up that is the answer. Obasanjo is a citizen of the world whose opinions, and views are taken seriously, so whatever he is saying I will advise those in authority to take him seriously.
Nigerians asked for deregulation of power, and fuel supplies, and now the government is doing that, it seems to be coming out with periodic hike in prices, what do you say about this?
It is very unfortunate. The aim, and objective of governance should be to make life comfortable for citizens but in this clime, it seems to be the other way round. It is unfortunate that Nigerians are being overburdened. This is part of the reason why many are already fed up with the country. It’s sad that most of the policies of the government are making Nigerians to be frustrated, and when you add insecurity to all these, then you can imagine the pains Nigerians are going through.
Opposition and labour leaders are angling for protest over this, do you support their plan?
Although I would have preferred talking about the agitation for Yoruba self-determination, but I believe it is within the democratic rights of those wishing to go on strike to do so. They have the constitutional rights to embark on that course of action. More so when you have a government that appears not to be sensitive to the plight of the citizens, then the labour leaders, and members of the civil societies can rise up to the occasion to be advocates for the masses, especially the poor Nigerians.
There have been recent concerns that Boko Haram is moving gradually towards South with the military confirming their presence around Kogi, and Abuja. How do you see that development, and how do you think Yoruba can protect themselves?
It is a shocking development. But in all this the question you ask is how prepared is government for such an ugly development? To make matters worse, it is not only Boko Haram that we have to contend with now as other terrorist groups from Syria, and Libya have infiltrated Nigeria. You also have the Al-Queda from Iraq in the country now. All these terrorist groups have one aim, and their objective is to use resources of Nigeria to conquer other parts of West Africa. The situation in Nigeria today is dire and we should not deceive ourselves, and Yoruba, and other ethnic nationalities should be prepared to defend their homelands. Anybody or group waiting for government is deceiving himself. You will remember that there was a time General TY Danjuma warned that Nigerians should be prepared to defend themselves, that anybody waiting for government is doing so at his own peril. The federal government is not showing any inclination to defend anybody.
Why has it been difficult for the Armed Forces to defeat Boko Haram?
We should ask those in authority. Every time they keep on boasting that they have defeated Boko Haram, but we keep on seeing Boko Harm getting more ferocious, and deadlier. What we are seeing is the unfortunate situation where Boko Haram is getting stronger and stronger. To checkmate the ugly situation something drastic has to be done. What is the problem with our military? Is it that they are not getting the right equipment, and the logistics? Another factor we also have to consider is the issue of corruption being raised in the military, because we hear of massive corruption taking place within the military which many are saying is affecting not only the performance of the troops but also lowering their morale. Nigerians are tired of excuses, and propaganda but what they want is concrete action being taken to neutralize Boko Haram, and other terrorists who have infiltrated the country.
How effective can you say Operation Amotekun has been?
So far, those in charge across the states have been trying their best to protect the Yoruba homeland from terrorists, and other infiltrators. Although they are taking off slowly but they are demonstrating their resolve to live up to the task of protecting Yoruba from external aggressors. The South-West state governors are in charge, and my appeal to them is that they should do everything possible to give the outfit the support required to make it an effective tool in demonstrating to any external aggressors that the Yoruba have what it takes to defend themselves from external attack without waiting for the federal government.
So much fraud in billions is daily reported from probes into NDDC, Amnesty programme, and the EFCC, what do you make out of all these?
Corruption is the culture of governance, and leadership in Nigeria. It has become part and parcel of our culture. In 2014, when Buhari was campaigning to be elected, he made so much promise to tackle corruption, but today has anything changed? No. Corruption appears to be more thriving, and the situation is not helped by the fact that Buhari himself is not running a transparent government. He appears to be running a government with hidden agenda to promote the interests of one section of the country over others.
Although they’ve set up probe panels on some of these cases but what is going to be the outcome? Nigerians no longer have confidence in the government again. But Nigerians can’t continue this way. My fear for this country is that if we continue this way, Buhari may be Nigeria’s last President. There is a lot of bottled emotions, and anger across the country, and this is why the agitations for self-determination have become stronger today than ever before.
But agitations for self-determination, some have declared, amount to act of treasonable felony, what do you say to that?
It doesn’t, and I don’t agree with those saying so. Even the constitution guarantees freedom of association. It was the amalgamation of 1914 that forcefully brought different nations together. Nigeria is made up of so many nations. Moreover, this is not the first time that people have been calling for breakup of Nigeria if that will bring the desired peace. Notable Nigerians including late Chief Anthony Enahoro, and Prof. Ango Abdullali, the leader of the Northern Elders Forum have publicly done so, without anybody harassing them, and this agitation will continue as long as oppression, and injustice continue to pervade the country.