As agitation for secession spreads, prominent Nigerians have called on the Federal Government to jettison the idea of using brute force to silence agitators. Rather than force, they say government can only stop the agitation by entrenching justice in place of nepotism.
They spoke with The Guardian in reaction to the latest clamour for secession by some people of Yoruba extraction.
A Yoruba rights activist, Chief Sunday Adeyemo, popularly known as ‘Sunday Igboho’, had on Wednesday, argued that the solution to challenges and crisis in Yoruba land, is secession from the Nigerian nation.
His declaration heightened ongoing clamour in some parts of the country. Few days earlier, leaders of Southern Nigerian and Middle-Belt, under the aegis of the Nigerian Indigenous Nationalities Alliance for Self-Determination (NINAS), announced modalities to free their people from “the contraption called Nigeria.” It gave a 90-day ultimatum for the commencement of processes that would lead to self-determination.
The Chairman of NINAS, Prof. Banji Akintoye, and the Secretary, Tony Nnadi, spoke on behalf of the group during a press conference organised by NINAS in Ibadan.
The agitation in the Southwest came as Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State dismissed agitators for secession, describing advocates of Oduduwa Republic as politicians who lost out on power.
He vowed that no part of Ondo State would permit any gathering or agitation in support of what he termed “unthinking rabble-rousing.”
Since Monday that the governor spoke, critics had flayed him for allegedly compromising the struggle to attain Oduduwa Republic, accusing him of speaking with two sides of the mouth.
BUT the Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, said yesterday that those calling for the secession of Southwest states from Nigeria are doing so out of frustration.
Expressing his view in an interview with Arise Television on Tuesday, Fayemi said irrational responses are expected in an agitated society.
“Frankly, when you have stress and laxity in society, you’re bound to find a whole range of responses. Some rational, some irrational, some that speak to the fears of the people, some opportunistic and harebrained.
There’s no question that some of the reactions we’ve seen will fall into all of those categories,” he said.
The governor said he was optimistic the country would overcome its challenges, stressing that those calling for secession were doing so out of frustration. He urged government to look into better ways of managing diversity in the country.
He said: “We as leaders must focus on the goal of protecting lives and property and focus on safety and security as the primary responsibility that we have.
“The people who are talking about secession are doing it out of frustration. I don’t think that’s the solution to the Nigerian predicament right now.
“In matters of economic development, we may need to begin to look at other ways of managing diversity and difference in our country and that devolution of power is an idea whose time has come.”
In the same vein, the Ekiti Council of Elders said the current situation in the country had forced some people into taking extreme positions, insisting that the country was no longer conducive for habitation.
The Secretary, Ekiti Council of Elders, Mr. Niyi Ajibade, who stated this in a telephone conversation with The Guardian in Ado Ekiti yesterday, added that the Federal Government was taking too many responsibilities not healthy for the country.
The elders insisted that restructuring the country is the solution to agitations.
“As far as Ekiti Council of Elders is concerned, we believe in restructuring. We should sit together and repair the rot. The country is rotten, no doubt about that. We know that it is no longer conducive for habitation now.
“But it is all our making and we must sit down together and resolve the issues. We have been saying it all along that the best approach is restructuring such that each state should be allowed to control its resources.”
For Chief Niyi Owolade, a member of Afenifere, calls for secession would persist if the Federal Government fails to change its governance style for good.
“Time is running out and if this government does not change, I am afraid, the bubble will burst. It happened in Yugoslavia; it happened in the Soviet Union just few years ago. So, there is nobody that can hold on to a system that is unfair.
A Yoruba leader and former Minister of Transportation in Nigeria, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, warned against dismissing or condemning Sunday Igboho, stressing that the issues he has been raising should be addressed by the government.
“Nobody should dismiss the issues that have been raised by Sunday Igboho and other Yoruba people. When there was Biafran war, I was a university undergraduate; I was pro-Biafra and till today, I have never regretted being pro-Biafra. And I think Nigeria should be very careful because a situation whereby you have a Fulani man as president and his fellow Fulani are harassing everybody in the country is abnormal. I think we should address the issue but I don’t want Nigeria to break up.
On the way forward, the lawmaker that represented Kaduna Central in the 8th National Assembly, Senator Shehu Sani, said government could only stop the likes of Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu from threatening the country with secession by addressing the problems of marginalisation, nepotism, and refusal to circulate power.
The lawmaker said Nigeria is at crossroads with the mindless bloodletting by bandits and marginalisation of some particular groups threatening its existence.
He said the issues being raised by Sunday Igboho, Nnamdi Kanu and Asari Dokubu should not be addressed with force, but rather, by entrenching justice and fairplay in the country.
He said: “If we don’t address the problems of marginalization, nepotism, refusal to circulate power to all political regions, you cannot end the secessionist outcry of the Asaris, Kanus, and Igbohos of Nigeria,” Sani stated.
“Nigeria is not yet a failed state, but a failing state. The symptoms of failure are self evident in the affairs of Nigeria today. Sunday Igboho, Nnamdi Kanu and Asari Dokubo were once patriotic Nigerians who believed in one Nigeria. They were once champions of a united Nigeria. They once believed in their country. We need to ask ourselves what transformed them from people who love their country into secessionists?
MEANWHILE, the umbrella body of Yoruba Self-determination groups within and beyond the shores of Nigeria, Ilana Omo Oodua, yesterday flayed Governor Akeredolu for asking Yoruba people agitating for self-determination to steer clear of his state.
The group, led by a Professor of History, Banji Akintoye, said Akeredolu is entitled to his opinion, stressing that the Governor only spoke for himself, and not the good people of Ondo State.
Ilana Omo Oodua, in a statement made available to The Guardian in Ibadan, alleged that Akeredolu belong to the league of a tiny neo-classical elite who want business to continue as usual in Nigeria because the current structure of the country oils their selfish aggrandisement.
The statement, signed by the Homeland Secretary of the group, Basorun Kunle Adesokan, and one of its leaders, Otunba Folashade Olukoya, stated that the agitation being led by the Akintoye-led Ilana Omo Oodua on behalf of Yoruba people is not a plot for secession as erroneously branded by Akeredolu but a struggle for self-determination.
It warned that there was nothing the governor and his “oligarchic allies could do to stop an idea which time has come.”
The group said: “We wish to say very clearly that Akeredolu is entitled to his opinion. He has only spoken for himself. If he is sure he speaks for the masses of Ondo State, he should ensure that his army of state-induced terrorists allow us to stage our one million march peacefully in Akure, Ondo State capital to prove whether he spoke for Ondo State people or for himself.
“He is the definition of a coward who starts a battle he cannot finish. We are aware he traded Ondo people off to avoid being sacked from office through the fulani-dominated Nigerian courts.”
Following the barrage of criticism against him, Akeredolu, yesterday, denied adopting Oduduwa anthem for the state.
In this article: