Imperative of Courage, not Fear, for Yoruba Sovereignty
Imperative of Courage, not Fear, for Yoruba Sovereignty
By Taju Tijani
Imperative of Courage, not Fear, for Yoruba Sovereignty
Fear not, I am with you – Isaiah 41:10
Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State has been pronounced a patient of behaviour modification syndrome.

The news of his affliction is enough to make the blood run cold. He has been speaking the language of compromise, retreat, capitulation, surrender, and fear. These are not the vocabularies of a militant governor who recently stood his ground against rapacious Fulani herdsmen encroaching in his forests.

Quite curiously people will struggle to reconcile his recent gladiatorial resistance against the Fulani herdsmen in Ondo forests, which, to many Yoruba, was the finest shot against the Fulani, their arrogance, and excesses in Ondo State. Today, Akeredolu, who, many have held in high esteem as a courageous defender of Oodua interests, is sleepwalking into the trembling arm of fear.

In returning fire, Professor Banji Akintoye has carpet-bombed Akeredolu and advised him that the agitation for Yoruba nation “is not that of a plot for secession as erroneously branded by Akeredolu, but a struggle for self-determination which is bloodless, intellectually rooted and legally grounded.”

Professor Akintoye says, “We saw how he grandstands on the terrorists and murderous herdsmen illegally occupying the forest reserves in his state and we saw how he chickened out to the chagrin of all of us who staked our reputation to defend him.”

Yoruba nation has entered a moment of crossfire. Yes, cynics, skeptics, doubters, and cowards will begin to emerge with their fear. Yes, Yoruba agitation for autonomy is a political narrative that could both mobilise and polarise. By its rampaging volatility, it could breed a sense of solidarity and a sense of distrust among the entire Yoruba humanity. However, according to an emerging body of thinkers and activists, associated with, but by no means restricted to the anti-separation vanguard, the issues of Yoruba separation are purely related to the struggles for justice, fairness, and equity. Morally and legally, the argument for self-determination is anchored on freedom from one section of this nation who are over privileged, arrogant, rapacious, selfish, gregarious, and oppressive.

The idea of a Yoruba nation is gaining positive momentum. Unravelling also is the growing defiance and defence of the movement from the learned to the commoner. You may call it a revolution between the majority poor and the few rich or between beggars and the prosperous. The strongest justification for the near-universal embrace of Yoruba nation is the ongoing state capture, brutality, censor, social inequalities, political somersault, economic meltdown, geopolitical tension through banditry and insecurity, sectional superiority, and the emerging ruination of state resources by mindless, greedy, and blindsided politicians.

For far too long and most especially since the commencement of democracy in 1999, the state itself has been too fenced off from the common interests of the electorates; politicians are too fenced off from those who elected them to oversee their interests and fix the pathologies of their existential dilemma.

What is all too pervasive and morally damning is the rise of billionaire politicians and its ethical nightmare in a nation declared to be the poverty capital of the world. The visionary, pragmatic, and nation-building politicians are no more. What is at play is the drama of extractive governance being run and rerun by backward-looking, demented, wicked, corrupt, and worthless people parading themselves as ‘dishonourable’ actors in the political arena.

Thus, it is no accident that in October last year, our youths seized the streets to demand good governance and the retooling of our police force from the pandemic of brutality to civilised manner of policing. We can link the action of our youths to raw courage. We can link their action to heroism. We can link their action to valour in the face of the Nigerian state that is too enthusiastic to unleash terror on its citizens. In that unifying protest, social democracy was tested. It failed. Guns were used to kill protesting youths.

It is common knowledge that we operate a plundering form of social democratic dispensation. Worse, our workbook, the 1999 constitution, has been described as Satanic Verses meant to keep one section of this nation happy, contented, and prosperous while making the other sad, unhappy, and poor. On April 11, 2019, the former Senate Chief Whip, Senator Olusola Adeyeye, in a passionate, scorching, and scolding manner says, “The truth is whatever a man sows, so he will reap. The Constitution cannot give us peace and security. The official name of this country is the Federal Republic of Nigeria, but we do not operate under a true federalist system.

We failed to federalize the police system in this Senate because we lack the courage and tenacity to start what is making other nations work.”

That iniquitous 1999 constitution allows the central government to take resources from the South – oil, revenues, gold, custom duties – to develop the North that contributes no known natural resources to the nation’s purse. That evil document allows the gold in Zamfara to be commodified as private and state-owned, while the gold in Ibadan is seen as federal resources. These mixed messages of duplicity, cheating, deceit, robbery, and political oppression of one tribe over the other, accentuated provocatively, under the Buhari regime using dark pages of the 1999 constitution, can never make for a cohesive, one nation as orated by Mr Olusola Adeyeye.

We live under a partisan leader whose idea of nation-building is the abomination of Islamising a multi-cultural and multi-religious entity like Nigeria. President Muhammadu Buhari is an ambivalent leader who treats agitations and protests as irrelevant distractions. The arguments and debates over the devolution of power, restructuring, separate nationality, and other forms of collective activities to avert blood and fire have been proffered but were regarded as distracting, diversionary, and unworkable.

So, in the political milieu came the courageous Professor Banji Akintoye and Sunday Adeyemo is popularly known as Igboho Oosha. They emerged as redemptive heroes to unbind the Yoruba trapped in the enclosure of Nigerian space that allowed Iskilu Wakilu and his band of Fulani terrorists to roam free and wild in our forests.

Where are the security forces to offer protection to the law-abiding citizens of Igangan? Where is the Nigerian Army whose covenant is to defend the territorial integrity of Nigeria? Our Army and the Police are heavily involved in politics. They have sold their soul to the president in power. The security forces are fearful, defanged, demobilised, and powerless to arrest the Fulani who are perceived to be superior, cocky, in power, untouchable and resistant. Igboho Oosha came as the antithesis of our security forces. He came as the Yoruba knight in shining armor to defend and protect his own people. He cuts the figure of a true born Yoruba man – fearless, fanged up, mobilising, and powerful!

Governors Rotimi Akeredolu, Kayode Fayemi, and Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo’s summary rejection of the Yoruba nation bear the traits of people who are acting like fearful, defanged, demobilised, and powerless cowards.

In Akeredolu’s resigned capitulation lurks the eternal dichotomy between the needs of the politicians and the people they governed. “We will, however, not subscribe to banditry and recklessness in putting forward our demands. We will not in Ondo State subscribe to that. So, if people are shouting out there at this time, Igboho will speak for you. It is not going to work and those who have not been speaking for us will not speak for us. Let us be clear on it. We will stay in Nigeria. We are not running away,” he said.

This polemical smackdown against Igboho and his dream of Yoruba nation is a product of fear. A product of losing the centre stage of political power. Akeredolu is retreating into laughable folly. He is going back to bread-and-butter survival politics. Igboho has begun a transformative mass movement for political change beneath and beyond the corrupt quadrennial election cycle which is always rigged for the moneybags. Nigerians are tired of political totalitarianism that puts the mass of the populace in a persistent state of ignorance, poverty, powerlessness, underdevelopment, social deprivations, and oppression.

Akeredolu once again falls into Orwellian ways that seek to erase our memory or seek to invert reality. “There must be a common platform through which the demands for the most mundane to the sublime be presented. There must be general consensus. This must be articulated and presented after rigorous engagements on the level of intellection and agendum for the action.’’ Here is a staggering historical ignorance from a learned governor.

As recent as 2014, we had a ‘common platform’ where ‘consensus’ was ‘presented’ after ‘rigorous engagement’. The 2014 National Conference was inaugurated by the Nigerian President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan on March 17, 2014, in Abuja, Nigeria. There were about 492 delegates that represented a cross-section of Nigerians including the professional groups. The Conference was headed by retired Chief Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi.

So, there you go Governor Akeredolu. We had the defining 2014 National Conference as a ‘common platform’ and important intervention, but the ‘rigorous engagement’ came to nothing. The conference produced the most comprehensive document that would have moved us forward and erased the toxic history of our ongoing forced unity, but complacent sectional interests and fear of losing unmerited Fulani privileges made the document dead on arrival.

To be continued tomorrow.

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