By Omoniyi Salaudeen
Hon. Wale Oshun is the leader of the Afenifere Renewal Group. In this interview, he spoke on the rising wave of separatist agitations and why it would be difficult to quench it.
Agitation for Oodua Republic is gathering momentum. As a leader of the Afenifere Renewal Group, are you on the same page with the youths who are leading the campaign?
If the youths, whose lives are involved, feel so agitated, do they have to wait for the elders to get approval? This is more so that the elders have been asking for restructuring since 1993. The likes of Alao Aka Basorun, the late Gani Fawehinmi, Beko Ransom Kuti, Abraham Adesanya, Anthony Enahoro, Admiral Ndubusi Kanu and quite a range of other Nigerians had campaigned for the restructuring of the country to no avail. So, if the elders have been talking since 1993 and they have achieved nothing, do (youths) they have to wait for approval from anybody? They don’t need to wait for approval of the elders who are even tired of talking.
But is that the only way to resolve some of these agitations?
The question we should be asking is whether or not the Federal Government is ready to restructure the country? The doors to reform are being shot in the eye. So, you may not be able to blame these younger elements for what they are agitating for. There is no one that will not like to be a citizen of a very powerful, populous and prosperous country. I will want to be a citizen of Nigeria which is powerful and prosperous if my rights are equal and the same to the rights of all other Nigerians. At independence, each of the three regions we had, had their own constitutions and controlled the resources which they produced. And because they controlled their resources there was healthy completion among the three regions. The North had the establishment of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, the Southwest had the University of Ife and the Southeast had University of Nigeria, Nsukka. And these were first class universities. What is making it difficult now to return to a true federal structure? Why will any ethnic nationality want to dominate the other regions? If we have true federal structure, nobody will be talking of self-determination. What we have now is that there is no competition going on anymore in the country. Some people are now being treated as second class citizens. That cannot happen in any nationhood. We elders will want to belong to a big, strong and prosperous nation, but not the one that is declining every year in terms of economy, not the one that is declining every year security-wise. Since 1999 we have been in a declining trend. The decline started under former President Olusegun Obasanjo and it has persisted till today. It is time for the ruling elite to listen to their citizens. Let us go back to true federation. There is nowhere in any part of the world where this kind of diversity and people still continue with a centralized system.
The military is threatening to clamp down on the agitators. Is that the right approach to the issue?
Is it the same military that has not been able to quench Boko Haram in the Northeast in the last 12 years? Looking at it closely, this Boko Haram we are talking about is a rebellion against inequity in that area. Is the same military that has not been able to end insurgency in the last 12 years that will now engage the bandits in the Northwest, the IPOB in the Southeast and the Yoruba agitators in the Southwest and the Middle Belt at the same time? If they have the capacity to fight their own people across the country, it’s all left to them.
The renowned Prof Banji Akintoye is one of those at the forefront of the Yoruba agitation for self-determination. Is Afenifere Renewal Group not supporting the move?
I have already made myself clear that since 1993, our leaders have been asking that Nigeria should be restructured. Prof Banji Akintoye is only giving fillip to the frustration that abound. Since 1993, there has not been any structural adjustment to the same unitary government we had under the military with a command structure from Abuja. It is this absence of determined effort to restructure the country that spurred the various agitations. Now, time is running out for any constitutional reform. For as long as we have the kind of domination we are having now, there will always be agitation. Nobody in his wildest imagination will imagine a situation in which somebody will come from nowhere to displace him from his own property. Even Nigerian law recognizes the need for self-defence when you are unlawfully attacked. Security has broken down and we are being attacked in our own territory by people we know are not Nigerians, who are being supported by somebody you cannot identify amongst us. I don’t see anybody who will blame Prof Akintoye. The time for constitutional reform is now. If that is not done, the consequences will stir all of us in the face. We cannot continue like this. If you go to the Southeast, you have the same thing we are talking about here. If every region has its own policing system, it will be difficult to get the kind of assault we are getting now across the country. The 1999 constitution is saying the federating units cannot establish their own policing units. But you still have some in other places, a pseudo-policing unit where the rule permits them to carry arms and prosecute when the need arises. Yet, some others cannot do this in their own part of the country.