The leader of Yoruba Self-Determination Movement (YSDM), Prof Banji Akintoye recently hosted a group of journalists from Nigeria at the Yoruba National Office, Sègbeya Nord, Cotonou, Benin Republic.
During the encounter, the Second Republic Senator declared that Yoruba Nation would be achieved before the 2023 general elections. He also spoke about the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Yoruba nation activist, Chief Sunday Adeyemo (Igboho), and other issues. OLUSEYE OJO was at the event.
There is a media report that the Yoruba self-determination struggle is in disarray. What is the true situation of things?
Some people are saying we are in disarray. We are not in disarray. What is happening among us is perfectly natural. Our young people want their country now. They cannot wait. I sent for some young people, whom I wanted to talk to. I expected about four to five kids to come; but more than 50 came. So, I said why? I did not send for you. They said when we heard that ‘baba’ (Akintoye) wants to address some youth; we thought he would tell us that we want to have our country tomorrow morning. They said that was why they came and that they did not want those I called to be the first to hear the news. So, that is how our youth are eager to have their own country.
Our duty is to tell them that they should hold on. We need to make some arrangements before we get to the particular point in the struggle. I asked if the young people understood what I said. They said no. I am a historian and I know that young people want to jump now. But their elders would hold them back by telling them to wait, and that they should not jump yet. So, this is the situation, we are not in disarray at all. And we are making progress.
It has been said that you have left the Ilana Omo Oodua for the Yoruba Self-Determination Movement (YSDM). Is it true and if it is true, why?
I want to talk to you about some certain things that people don’t know about and that they did not understand. The first is the Yoruba Self-Determination Movement (YSDM). People are saying we have Ilana Omo Oodua, and these other organisations, what is YSDM? People are saying they don’t know what YSDM is. I will tell you what it means now.
We have very many organisations in the struggle. They are up to 200. We deliberately did that from the beginning. Let there be many organisations and don’t let the authority be able to decipher who is who. That’s why we encouraged and assisted many of our youth to establish their own organisations. I inaugurated many of the organisations.
But we know we would get to a point at which some unified voice would be needed, and we got to that point in that past many months. What are the areas where unified voice would be needed in the Yoruba self-determination struggle? We need it in the area of diplomacy. You cannot ask 100 or 200 organisations to be writing to the United Nations or to the President of United States of America, or the President of Russia, and so on about the Yoruba struggle. There will be chaos, and we would lose the prestige and understanding. So, it was clear from the beginning that we would need to have one central voice to represent the Yoruba people in situations like that.
There are other things as well. From the beginning, we wanted a Yoruba National Fund. For a long time, people have been calling me to start it, and that they would understand. They said they would accept it. But I was not sure that was a right approach because my thought of Yoruba National Fund is quite profound and ambitious.
I envisaged a Yoruba National Fund that will be in existence for centuries to come, and that will become a major part of the strength of the Yoruba nation. It is just like the Jewish National Fund is to Israel. The Jewish National Fund started in the beginning of last century. It is now well over 100 years old. They started very simply. But today, it is a fantastic fund, holding trillions of dollars in assets.
If the State of Israel wants to do something, like getting some materials to defend themselves against invasion, they usually go to the Jewish National Fund for help. The Jewish National Fund is phenomenally well managed. We want something like that. We, Yoruba need it. I desire that we should have a fund like that. So, asking me to go and start the Yoruba National Fund because they know me should not be. No, I shouldn’t do a thing like that. We needed a body that could do it for us.
Then, in the area of security, we need a body that could centralise our defence against the enemies of our country. They are Fulani marauders, foreign terrorists invited by the Fulani to Nigeria. We have to defend ourselves. We cannot create an army because to do that will be to be making ourselves to the charge of insurrection. But we can arrange our young people in various parts of Yorubaland to defend their villages, hamlets and so on. But somebody needs to coordinate all of that.
So, a group of people got together, led by a particularly active woman, a very patriotic woman. They got together a small group of like eight people. Then, they began to call meetings of all the self-determination organisations that they knew about. The meeting went on for more than a year.
At first, some people thought that the answer would be merging all the organisations into one. But that was not popular because no leader of any organisation wants to collapse their own organisations in order to create one unified body. So, we then arrived at this wonderful product of a long deal of thinking and talking together. There are areas we need joint actions. We need a joint voice in diplomacy. We need a responsible body to create a Yoruba National Fund for us. We need to be able to coordinate our legal defences, in terms of attacks by the authorities against our people, and so on.
I am sure we have identified about six or seven of such areas and we decided that in those areas, we would create expert committees. But in order to supervise the expert committees, all the organisations would come and send representatives to a general council of the Yoruba Self-Determination Movement. Each of the organisations would be represented at the general council of YSDM by two persons among their members, irrespective of the size of the organisations. The large organisation like Ilana Omo Oodua will have just two representatives. The small organisation of just a handful of young men, who are doing their own things, would also be part by having two representatives in the general council of YSDM.
Then, we would encourage all organisations in every country to meet together periodically in order to review the struggle and to see how they can improve its quality in their country. So, we decided ultimately to create what we then called the Yoruba Self-Determination Movement. It is not an organisation like the other organisations. It is not in competition with any organisation. It cannot even compete with a smallest organisation. It is essentially powerful service centre to all the organisations. It is responsible to all the organisations. It does for the organisations things that they need to do together.
But the organisations remain the backbone of the struggle. Our desire is that every organisation will be strong, well organised and so on. But the self-determination movement will do for all of them some things that they need to do together, like diplomacy, legal defence, security, the national fund, and so on. So, there is no confusion at all.
Some people said we are subsuming the integrity of our organisations for a Yoruba Self-Determination Movement. No, it is not possible. There is no subsuming anything for the YSDM. The YSDM is a server of everyone in the self-determination struggle. I think we need to get our people to recognise it so that we can put behind us the nagging controversy.
The 2023 presidential election is fast approaching. Wouldn’t people see your struggle as one jeopardising the ambition of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a fellow Yoruba man?
No, not necessarily. The overwhelming majority of Yoruba people want their country now. Everybody is tired of Nigeria. We have a manual that we wrote for ourselves at the beginning of this self-determination struggle. It is a 35-page manual. The title is ‘Towards Yoruba Self-Determination: Yoruba Nation Chooses the Noble Path to Its Noble Goals’. And we said in the manual that:“Very importantly, for us, we who work for Yoruba self-determination must carefully consider our attitudes and approaches to our men and women who are engaged in Nigerian politics and governance. Naturally, we expect every Yoruba person to support our nation’s self-defence against terrorism and our nation’s struggle for self-determination. But if our politicians choose not to raise a finger to help, we still must device rational ways to approach them in rational way. We must not forget certain realities. As long as we Yoruba have continued to be part of Nigeria, we must have some strong persons among us. As long as we are part of Nigeria, we must have some persons among us who want to take part in the politics of Nigeria, and take part in the government of Nigeria.
Therefore, our brethren who are aspiring to achieve elevation through Nigerian politics are not doing anything wrong or reprehensible. It is we who must let it become clearer and clearer to them, that the 2023 Nigerian elections will never happen in our Yorubaland. But our Yoruba nation will be a separate country before 2023.
If we handle the situation rationally, and competently, some of these men and women will turn around to find ways to help the Yoruba struggle, particularly they must find ways to use their power and influence to help protect our Yoruba people and then to help our Yoruba self-determination struggle.
But if some never changed at all, we must never forget that they are still our kinsmen, and we must never lose hope that they can come around someday. Moreover, some of our youth remain supporters of the politicians. Almost all these youth want their own country. They may be running around with the politicians. But we know that almost all of them want their own separate country. So, we must be very careful not to hurt the feelings of these young people all around.
Our attitude is this, our big brother, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, is struggling to become president of Nigeria, there is nothing wrong in that. But we would not because of him collapse our struggle for the Yoruba nation, just as we cannot ask him to collapse his own campaign for the Yoruba nation. So, we have here two parallel lines in the same country, among the same people. What we handling the Yoruba self-determination struggle must do is to be thoughtful, competent, and proper in the ways we handle matters. We don’t believe we will be in Nigeria in 2023. And by the grace of God, we are not going to be in Nigeria in 2023.
So, we don’t hurt our brother who wants to become president of Nigeria and he must not try to hurt us. We won’t try to hurt him. We have developed very sophisticated ways of getting messages to our youth across the Yorubaland. If they are going on a rally, they have a blueprint in their mind. If the police say ‘don’t stand where you are standing. Do your rally there’. Then, leave the place. Police are not our enemies. They are young men like us, who were looking for job, and who got the job of policemen. They have nothing against us and we have nothing against them. So, don’t ever fight the police. And you will never find Yoruba boys fighting the police or the military. We have educated our young people that much.
So, it is the same thing with our brethren who want to become one thing or the other through elections in Nigeria in 2023. The boys who want the Yoruba self-determination movement will never hurt the campaign of these our kinsmen. So, what we are asking for is that the campaign of these our kinsmen must not attempt to hurt the Yoruba self-determination struggle. The two streams must flow freely and leave it to our people to decide.
Some people said the youth in the self-determination struggle like to make a lot of noise. ‘Yoruba nation now!’ Before you know it, they would gather themselves into some rickety vans, and will be stampeding around the village or town. The temptation among the politicians, given the tradition of politics in Nigeria, to try and stop them, hurting them, is strong. But we ask our politicians to resist that temptation.
How are you going to achieve Yoruba nation before 2023?
We are working at it from many angles, including diplomatic and whole array of options. We are also taking courage, taking encouragement from the nature of Nigeria itself, from the condition of Nigeria itself. Nigeria is virtually dead. It is the stubbornness of the people who rule that is still keeping it together.
Of course, we do a lot of research. Nigeria will soon be incapable, according to important people in the government, of paying the salaries of public officials. Nigeria, according to the financial authority of the world – IMF (International Monetary Fund), is expending 92.6 per cent of its annual income to service debts. And IMF says it may reach a hundred per cent soon. If it reaches a hundred per cent, there is no country. And it could reach 100 per cent in the next months or so.
Then, there is the security situation that is getting worse and worse. Even, the President of Nigeria cannot travel to certain parts of the country, without being endangered. We heard that once he wanted to fly from Abuja to some places, and a few minutes before the flight would take off from the Abuja Airport, the decision to fly was aborted. Why? It was because there was fear that there were terrorists who could shoot the plane when it takes off. He was going to Katsina recently, and the people travelling with him encountered an ambush. Some of them were killed and some of their vehicles were damaged. That is the President of Nigeria. In fact, a terrorists’ group has been threatening that they would kidnap the President of Nigeria.
We are asking our brethren who are running around to be president, or want to be senator and so on through the 2023 elections, be sure there would be a country called Nigeria in 2023. A lot of informed people in the world doubt if there will be a country called Nigeria by then.
If Tinubu becomes president, will you stop the agitation for Yoruba nation?
No, we would not stop the agitation for Yoruba nation because we know that nobody, no matter how patriotic you may be to the Yoruba nation, can make Nigeria seriously benefit the Yoruba nation. It wasn’t that it wouldn’t try; it is just that the capability to benefit anybody is no longer there. He would try of course. But the capability to benefit the Yoruba people doesn’t exist anymore.
If the Federal Government takes another look at the call for the restructuring of Nigeria in the way of 1963 Constitution, and the country is restructured in that line, will your organization take another look at the agitation for self-determination?
The possibility that the people who control Nigeria – I won’t say who rule Nigeria, the people who have pocketed Nigeria, will turn around and say everything should be reconsidered, does not exist. There is no such possibility. I want you to know that what the Fulani are saying, and you must look at their statement, and their body language, is that they have conquered Nigeria. Nigeria, for them, is a conquered territory. Sir Ahmadu Bello said on December 12, 1960, which was 11 days after independence: ‘This new country called Nigeria shall be an extension of the estate of our great grandfather, Usman Dan Fodio. You must use the people of the Middle Belt as willing tools, and peoples of the South as conquered territory, and never let them rule over us, and never let them control their own future.’ That is the goal. And the goal has been achieved. Under Buhari, the goal has been achieved. With the 1999 Constitution, and with Buhari presidency, the goal is achieved. With what you are saying, who is going to convince the conqueror to give up its conquest. That is what people don’t know. One Fulani leader, Aliyu Gwarzo, said in 2014: ‘In 1960, Allah gave us Nigeria to rule and to do it as we please. We have been doing that since then, and we intend to continue. If anybody tries to take it away from us, we shall kill, maim, destroy, and turn Nigeria into the bloodiest battle field on the African continent.’
Listen, these people are resolved to keep Nigeria, to keep the people of Nigeria as conquered people. It’s part of the reasons Aliyu Gwarzo said ‘the Mujahadeen are ready and by Allah, we shall win’. The Mujahadeen are the militarised Almajirai. They are all over the place.
We thank God for the particular nature of the Yoruba society. They have put enough efforts into conquering Yorubaland. In early 2019, the Fulani killed a large number of people on January 1, the New Year Day in Benue State. So, the leaders of Yoruba people and the leaders of other peoples in Nigeria thought of going to commiserate with the people of Benue State. So, we Yoruba people were asked to send four representatives. Chief Ayo Adebanjo led us. I was his assistant. We took two young men with us.
The Igbo sent four representatives, the Ijaw sent four, and the Middle Belt sent four. It was a delegation of 16 persons. We met in Abuja and flew to Benue State. We expressed our commiseration with the people of Benue State. They waited for us in a huge hall, with all their elite. After we had expressed our commiseration, Governor Samuel Ortom said: ‘Thank you very much. You have made us to feel like human beings again. But there is something more that I need to tell you. The people, who wrote a letter to us last November (2018) to say they were coming to attack us, and we took their letter to the president, vice president, all the rulers of Nigeria, and nobody did anything; they came, attacked us big time, killed many people, and destroyed many villages. They have now written another letter to us. I want to read the letter to you.’
He brought out the letter and the letter said: ‘Dear Mr. Governor Ortom, we know that you and your people have been doing mass burial, and national mourning. But what is coming is bigger than what you have seen. What we are bringing to you is bigger than what you have seen. We are coming to kill, maim, and destroy in Benue State. And what is your offence with us? Your offence is that the peoples of Benue State – the Tiv, the Jukun, the whatever, reside on the land, which they think is their own. It is not their own. It belongs to us Fulani. Allah has given it to us, and we have a reason to take it. So, we are coming back, bigger than before. And we have accumulated weapons and money for the war. We are ready to go on for a hundred years or more, if necessary, until we subdue the people who live on our land. We are not talking of people of Benue State alone. We are talking of all the nationalities in Nigeria – The Yoruba, the Igbo and so on.’
So, you are talking of people, who have already developed the mentality of the conqueror. You are supposing that a time would come when they would sit down and talk with you on the basis of restructuring and so on? It won’t happen. So, we would love to have an opportunity, where your (Federal Government) negotiators and our negotiators can sit together at the table, and decide certain things, such as assets and liabilities and so on. We are now talking with people in Abuja with a view to changing the direction of Nigeria. The direction of Nigeria is already fixed.
The Court of Appeal has upturned the judgment delivered in favour of the Yoruba Nation activist, Chief Sunday Adeyemo, known as Sunday Igboho, that the Federal Government and the Department of State Service (DSS) should pay him N20 billion over the violent raid on his house in July 2021. What is your reaction to this?
The judgment is one of the reasons we Yoruba must get out of Nigeria because everything that was said in that judgment is a pervasion. They brought that judge in to come and do just that task. He was not on the case before. They removed the judges that were on the case. They judges who were on the case had already ruled that the appeal by the Federal Government was late.
The laws state that there are stipulated numbers of days to appeal any judgment. If you don’t appeal within the period stipulated by the law, you can no longer appeal. So, they put the judges that were on the case before aside, and they brought the new judge to come and do just that task. We have asked our lawyers to go to the Supreme Court. But the important thing is that we have got another very important reason why we must take our people out of Nigeria in a hurry.
How soon will Igboho return to Nigeria?
Igboho is coming home soon. The young people know that their hero is coming home soon.
What is your take on the award of multibillion naira pipeline security contract by the Federal Government to a private company owned by an ex-militant, Mr. Government Ekpemupolo, Tompolo, when the same Federal Government did not allow Amotekun Corps to use good heavy weapons, except local guns to protect people in South West against banditry and terrorism?
These people see themselves as conquerors of Nigeria. Look at Amotekun Corps, I was one of the people who contributed to the founding of it. The day that Amotekun was launched, I was asked to speak there, and I spoke there. I said we’re going to have orderly response to terrorism in our land, that the government would create Amotekun, give them resources to defend our land, so that when terrorists come, there would be an orderly body that is meeting them, not our young people running around in the bush. Most of our young people are university graduates. We don’t want them to go into the bush, running after Fulani terrorists. So, it was a good idea that our governors created Amotekun. The supposed conquerors of Nigeria said no, and that the South West governors did not have a right to set up Amotekun.