Pro-democracy activist and National Publicity Secretary of Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin has said that the Yoruba does not hate the Fulani people, but against the agenda of genocide by Fulani herdsmen.
In this interview with Sunday Sun, he said that the Yoruba cannot tolerate a society where cattle take priority over human life, just as he disclosed in a unequivocal terms that the South would resist the RUGA Settlement programme, saying that it’s another agenda for internal colonization.
Odumakin also took a critical assessment of the corruption fight, detention of Omoyele Sowore, as well as the ministerial list, among other national issues. Excerpt:
Looking at the country today, what is your candid assessment or perhaps worry if any?
It’s a sad development so far and it bothers me terribly. My worries about the country today are very many. The first one like my very good friend, former Senator Shehu Sani said: Nigeria has become a place where the cheapest commodity today is human blood, it’s cheaper than pure water and there are no consequences. There is even some that you can tag community for killing fellow Nigerians and none that we have heard has been brought to book. That is why it is worrisome. Just some days ago, soldiers killed some policemen who were on duty, they said that they thought that they were suspected kidnappers, that it was after they have killed them that they knew that they were policemen. I have not seen a line where they showed remorse or say, oh, we commiserate with the family of the victims; that tells you that Shehu Sani was right when he said that human life has been so cheap in Nigeria today, even cheaper than pure water that flows anyhow. My second worry is that our economy is going down daily, all the indices are nose-diving. You know in the days of Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, and Jonathan as presidents, we have an economic team, you will see Prof Charles Soludo or Okonjo-Iweala briefing the nation on what is going on concerning the economy, but in the last four years who is addressing us on the economy except the tradermoni, which they are going to the market place to deliver. All have been around cattle colony, grazing reserves, RUGA, cattle routes, Miyetti Allah; yet they promised to create millions of job, but we have lost more jobs than what they promised to create, industries are closing down. Go to Lagos now, find out all the industrial areas you will see that all is dead, you see AMCON, on their gate, they have all been taken over by AMCON. There is unemployment queue everywhere and as people go about unemployed, go to all the neighborhoods at 10:00 a.m, you see youths on their balconies doing nothing and nobody is addressing all this, all we get is total propaganda. Another worry is the mockery we make with the corruption fight, look at the list of ministers screened by the Senate, almost half of the list has one EFCC investigation case or the other and the Senate freely allowed them an easy passage. The most ridiculous and worst allegation against them is the Bow and Go methodology, nobody asks them questions anymore while the few that wanted to ask questions would not be allowed or overruled, it was a mess and total mockery. You know we have three arms of government in this country, anytime the military takes over they will proscribe the National Assembly, the legislature and we will only have the executive and the judiciary, but today we have just one arm of government, the executive where the National Assembly is proving on a daily basis that it is the rubber stamp of the executive. If you look at the executive bill that was created by the president for the Water Bill, it was rejected by the 8th Senate and you can see how Lawan (Senate President) is making effort to bring it back, just to prove that we have a Yes Assembly now. When the judiciary came under hammer, judges’ homes were invaded in the night, but the worst worry is the rate at which groups like the Miyetti Allah go all over the country killing people, raping women, committing all sorts of atrocities and they are not being charged to court. That some citizens can commit any crime no matter how heinous and the law will not be applied against them poses great danger. The government has refused to try the herdsmen who have been killing people, but they have quickly gotten a court order to detain Sowore for 45 days simply because he called for a revolution that he has not even carried out before he was arrested. You say it’s treason, you say it’s terrorism act; why has Shekau not being tried under that act? Why are the Miyetti Allah who are now above the law and who are killing people not tried under that act? That is not how to build an inclusive country. Nigeria today is much more divided than it was in 1914 and that is a great worry because we are sliding into precipice with all the glaring injustice. The Yoruba cannot tolerate a society where cattle take priory over human life, where the cheapest commodity has become human blood.
You were present at the recent meeting that former President Olusegun Obasanjo had with some cattle breeders, going by the deliberations do you think there is light at the end of the tunnel?
Well, the group we met was cattle breeders and they are into cattle business, but we have not heard open accusations of killing people around them. In fact, about five of them who spoke, did that in fluent Yoruba, some of them are born in Yoruba land. There was one who said that if Nigeria breaks today he has no other place to go, that if he runs to the North he does not know anybody there. This has confirmed the position that the real Fulani people who have been staying with our people, we have not had issues with them, they have been living with us in the same community, they don’t go about killing people, we joke with them, they play with us, we play with them, but these Fulani that are killing people, disguising as herders, they are terrorists, they are trespassers, many of them are Fulani from outside the country, we know. But we told them that because they are not speaking out, so when the Fulani criminals from within and outside of the country commit crimes they are the ones that the people see. The ones living with us don’t carry their cows to go and kill people, but the terrorist Fulani do. So, they responded when we spoke to them and we give them the benefit of doubt and we used the opportunity to show that it is not as if we are against any Nigerian, no matter where they come from, no, we are against an agenda of genocide, of some people going around the country and killing people and they think they can’t be challenged. We equally have forces that can stop and tame them, no one group should claim the monopoly of power. Going by available records, not less than 30,000 Nigerians have been killed by herdsmen in the last four years. Who is being tried for those murders? That is what we are against. Some people are saying that we are against the Fulani herdsmen because they have a Fulani president. That is stupid thinking. Was the late President Yar’Adua not a Fulani? Was Shagari not Fulani? Was Murtala Mohammed not Fulani? Most of the votes Atiku Abubakar had came from the South and Middle Belt. Is Atiku not a Fulani man? So, that is a sick argument that because we have a Fulani president then we hate the Fulani. The peaceful Fulani herdsmen who are staying in our villages we are not against them, it is, I repeat, the criminal Fulani who are killing people, who want to take our lands through RUGA that we are against. Like somebody said, since they have been trumpeting RUGA, how many Fulani people in Sokoto or Zamfara have said they want to relocate to the South? All they want to do is to take lands from our communities, kill our people and bring foreign Fulani from Mali, Niger, Senegal, Mauritania to come and dominate us, colonialism, we can’t allow that and we challenge the government to give us the verifiable list, Fulanis in the North who have said they want to go and live in the South.
There is this view also that RUGA is a good scheme, but that it was politicized?
(Cuts in) What is good in it? Tell that to the marine? You go to a community you take their land and create a settlement for all kinds of terrorists. These people are in the bush and they are creating trouble, what of when you now make them landowners? They want to create federal cow territories all across, we say no to that, we cannot accept it, there is nothing good in RUGA and there will be no RUGA here, it’s a divisive policy, it’s an agenda for colonization and domination, it’s another internal colonialism. Even the people propagating it know that we are aware of all the hidden agenda behind RUGA, so we are duty-bound to resist and reject it with all our strength when duty calls. Anybody that wants to do cattle business, it’s a private business, go to the governor’s office to buy land, you pay for it and they will give you the rules and regulations of the place. Why don’t they have a place for the fishermen from the South to also go to the North to have their settlement? Are they the ones getting land for the farmers to go and do their farming? Let them give land to farmers from the South in the North for their farming business? What is behind RUGA is a pure agenda, perhaps the more you look the less you see, but for us, with the benefit of hindsight, insight and foresight we see clearer and know real reasons behind any agenda.
Already the way you are talking, it does not seem to you that the new ministers will take the country higher?
(Cuts in) Which ministers? Have you not seen the list? The list will be good for the campaign committee for election. Did you not see some of them with EFCC cases hanging on them? I doubt if such a collection can solve any problem that will move Nigeria forward in the next four years.
But at what time did we degenerate to this seemingly avoidable mess?
Before 2015, where you witnessing the audacity that the Miyetti Allah is displaying in recent time? But in the last two, three years is there any day you will open the newspaper and you will not see Miyetti Allah talking tough, spitting fire, it’s the Miyetti Allah who is now telling us who will be president and who will not be. Was it how it was before in this country? They are just cow breeders association, but they have now assumed this ubiquitous status in our national life. All the things we talk today is about cattle, cattle route, RUGA and the rest of them, nothing serious is said any longer about the economy. Afenifere last year told Mr President that there is a conflict of interest as he is the president of Nigeria and appointed also as the grand patron of the Miyetti Allah. That conflict is still playing out in our national life today.
How would you assess the activities of EFCC?
There has been so much noise about anti-corruption in Nigeria, but the success of that fight against corruption should be measured in our ministerial list. If our fight in corruption has not created a distinction where some of the names that were approved as ministers should not have been there then it sends a sad message. There are a lot of them under EFCC investigation and yet you still give them public office what message are you then sending? The anti-corruption fight is all about noise because in terms of action we are nowhere. The ministerial list will give you a measure of the success or otherwise of the anti-corruption battle so far.
Do you think the detention of Omoyele Sowore for calling for a revolution does not arise?
We have seen people that called for revolution who are occupying important places in our national life today. The call for revolution cannot become a terrorist act until he goes on the street, start vandalizing, start killing people, but you arrested him even before the time, they arrested him because they preempted the act will be done, but he has not done it. And you now raise it as a terrorist act, that is funny. If there are people or groups to be charged for terrorism it’s the Miyetti Allah, Boko Haram and we are not aware where they have been charged. President Buhari called for a revolution in 2011, Bola Tinubu called for a revolution in 2014, remember also that in 2003 when President Buhari lost an election, he called for a rally in Kano, the government said the rally should not hold and they went ahead to hold the rally. Who charged them to court for that disobedience and revolution protest?
How would you assess the Buhari-led government?
He has to do more. You can see that the country is going through a very tough time. The people are hungry, and now is no longer time for propaganda. If they are doing well they should not have bothered over Sowore’s call for revolution because Nigerians will not show up and even tell the person calling for the revolution that he or she is mad, but the way things are now even a goat will call for a revolution and Nigerians with join because there is frustration in the land. The arrest of Sowore has shown that the government is not doing well. If the economy is fine, if Buhari has united the country and put things the way it should be he should not be bothered if anybody is calling for revolution because he will be confident to know that the people are with him. But he can afford to call for the arrest of Sowore because the masses will key into the reality of the moment.