By Omoniyi Salaudeen
Alhaji Shuaib Oyedokum is a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In this interview, he cautioned the Yoruba against premature declaration of Oduduwa Republic, warning that ensuing competition among the various tendencies within the Southwest region could lead to further chaos.
How would you react to the position of President Muhammadu Buhari on the resolution of Southern governors banning open grazing of cattle?
If I understand it well, the president would not have meant total disagreement. I think there was in proviso that it has to go through some constitutional means. I was thinking along the line of how Amotekun was set up. When Amotekun was initially set up, people criticized it. But along the line, the governors took it to the six state assemblies and they passed it into law. If the ban on opening grazing follows the same process, I don’t think the president would have anything to say about it other than to agree with it.
But his spokesperson, Garba Shehu, was sort of calling the governors unprintable names. Was he speaking for himself or his boss?
You know from the beginning that the president has not got a perfect information and public relations manager. Tell me what Garba Shehu has not criticized. If the president means well for this country, he should address us. Then, we would hear from the horse’s mouth. Most of the things being said on his behalf may be lies. So, let the president speak up and tell the nation what his position is. There shouldn’t be any hide and seek about a crucial matter like this. I believe the Southern governors will have their way, if truly we are practicing democracy.
Northern governors’ forum has always had meetings like this. But surprisingly, the Northern Elders Forum took the meeting of Southern governors as a coup against the Northern interest. Why will anybody see this simple solution to incessant farmers-herders clashes as a coup against a particular interest?
It has always being like that. And that is simply because we are not generally nationalistic in practice. If we are patriotic, we won’t see reasonable suggestion from one section of the country as an antagonism against another section. We should think of common interest of all of us. But fortunately, in spite of all that has been said about it in the presidency, I listened to the governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje, say that their people should come back home to set up cattle ranches and commercialise their business. He said he didn’t see it as a quarrel between North and South. I think that is more reasonable. Again, one or two of other governors are also coming up with that reality.
In the face of all of these and other myriads of problems, anarchy seems to be looming. Where do you see the country headed?
I believe we would survive the challenges. When it is hot in the morning, bubbles in the afternoon, somehow by the evening time, everything will simmer. I don’t know how it is like that, but we will get through it. It is difficult at this stage to decide that one particular section of the country will just pull out like that. We don’t want violence. Instead, let us sit down at a round table conference, discuss our issues in the way we did at the conference organized by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan. In those conferences, we had far reaching reforms that could have solved most of our problems, but all was jettisoned. Our current situation has brought up many other strange issues that can run the country amok. Therefore, I believe our president should speak up and call essential representatives of ethnic nationalities to sort out our problems. They are resolvable. Our people know how to get together when they really want to. You will see them hugging and throwing banters. But the whole thing lies with Mr. President. He should buckle up and act.
Agitation for Oduduwa Republic is getting louder by the day in the same way IPOB is pushing ahead with the struggle for self-determination. What is the way to calming the raging storm?
The two zones calling for self-determination have different reasons. I will say IPOB is a reincarnation of Biafra. When a man is convinced of his opinion, he would forever hold on to it. I think that is why the agitation has not died, but now taking a violent dimension. The agitation for Oduduwa Republic is coming from the untold hardship that the Yoruba people in the Southwest are facing due to the activities of herdsmen and bandits. Even though the agitation has been originally propounded by some elite in the region through constitutional means led by Prof Banji Akintoye, the new dimension arises from the current hardship people are suffering in the Southwest. This new group are grassroots agitators being championed by Sunday Igboho from his immediate environment and now extending to other places in the region. But unless the two in the Southwest can come together and sort things out, there will be chaos. We can’t drive against the traffic. There is a provision in the constitution that say the corporate existence of Nigeria is not negotiable. But you can see now that people are negotiating it. Having said that, my personal opinion is for us to sit down and negotiate. I still believe that for now, Nigeria should not break up. If we break up now, many things will be damaged especially in the Southwest that I belong to. Are we coercive? Do we love one another? Sometimes we use these people that are giving us problems to strike a balance. What I am saying in effect is that we should pursue the option of restructuring. Restructuring is a gradual process towards self-determination. If power devolves largely to the states such that each region can grow at its own pace and people are given the opportunity to choose their leaders in a democratic way, naturally the regions will evolve and become independent at a later date. If anything is hurriedly done now, you will see Ijebu fighting Egba, Oyo fighting Ijesha. The problem will start with the Obas. So, restructuring will be a gradual step towards emancipation.
Some people are quick to interpret what is currently going on, particularly in the Southwest as part of the scheming by some aspiring individuals to actualize their 2023 ambition. Don’t you think so?
I don’t think so. There are two separate things. The tendency and the desire for emancipation of the people of Southwest cut across political parties. That has been on for a while. Unfortunately, it is now coinciding with election period. Before the agitation started, people have been nursing ambition. Bola Tinubu has not just started nursing an ambition. Anybody who plants a seed has the ultimate aim of having some dividends from his investment. If he (Tinubu) has been installing governors and senators, is that not enough preparatory ground for his future ambition? So, how can anybody now criticize that? To be ambitious is not a sin. It is left for the people to decide whether they want you or not. As far as I am concerned, I am facing my own party.
Looking at the scenario that is playing out in the Southeast where police installations and INEC offices are being burnt by hoodlums, do you see the possibility of election holding in 2023?
One, I will not subscribe to the damage they are doing as a ploy to stop the 2023 elections. These are vestiges of misdeeds of INEC or politicians in that zone where many have used court to win elections. There are lots of worries and anger in that zone and if it is not properly checked, ultimately, it may affect elections in that zone. But it won’t after the general elections in Nigeria. However, it can be used cleverly by an unwilling INEC to give excuse that atmosphere is not conducive enough to conduct any election. That is why the president needs to act. The police should be protected. They are our sons and daughters; they are our brothers, who are doing their work. It is not all those people in police uniform that have flair for the work of security. Some people love the job, while some strayed into it due to the problems of unemployment. Some of them are forced to join the force and people are killing them. If INEC misbehaves, take them to court to challenge them. Why are they killing them? It is not right to kill police officers.