Yinka Odumakin is the National Publicity Secretary of the Pan – Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere. In this interview with DAMILOLA ESAN, he speaks on the restructuring of the country, which has received overwhelming support of eminent Nigerians. He also speaks on the state of insecurity in the country, especially in the South West.
Nigerian across the geo political zones in the country are accepting the concept of Restructuring. But when you talk to many of them, each gives a different meaning to the term restructuring. What actually is the position of Afenifere on restructuring?
Restructuring means nothing than let’s go back to where we started from, Federalism. When our founding fathers met in Ibadan at a conference in 1950, they agreed towards a federal Nigeria. They agreed that a multi-ethnic nation like Nigeria can only be run along federal lines. And that was why you saw that our Independence Constitution was Federal. You have the likes of Zik, Awo and Balewa, who were our founding fathers. And we were on federalism until we had the first coup. The executive list was so thin, so lean that it was a proper federalism. That was the best period of development for Nigeria. That was the time the UCH in Ibadan was a medical destination for the British royal family. You see what Awolowo was able to do in the Western Region. If Awolowo was to take television license from Lagos, may be we won’t have had Western Nigeria Television that is now NTA. That was the first television station in Africa. We watched that television before people in southern France watched television. What has destroyed and distorted Nigeria was the recourse to military control through centralized system of government which was the military arrangement. And that was why there had been strong call, like Awolowo said in his book, ‘Thoughts on Nigerian Constitution’ that a multi -ethnic country like Nigeria can only be run on a federal constitution. So we have been consistent on restructuring, before independence we were on federalism, and when that was distorted through unitarism, we maintained our stand on it. So the only people that have remained insincere are the opponents of restructuring. Those who are benefitting from the status quo, who think the only way they can live a life is to sit on the neck of others and be cheating them. And when they are cheating them that is what is fair to them. That is when they would say Nigeria is indivisible, Nigeria is indissoluble, it is one Nigeria. It is this and that, when they are taking undue advantage of others: When you are contributing one naira and you are sharing nine naira. That is the best thing they can have. That is the best country for them. And to show who they are, in 1953 after Anthony Enahoro moved the motion for independence, there were riots all over the north. They were killing people. To come back to Nigeria, they gave what they called eight- points demand. Those eight -points demand, if you look at it, essentially, was confederalism. That is what they were asking for. So those who understand confederalism in 1953, they don’t understand federalism in 2021. You can see how insincere some of our countrymen are. They are the ones saying they should use the resources from the South to be go and settling the bandits. Bandits can carry guns and the rest of that. Those are the people, who are full of deception. And for them, they believe that once you deceive an unbeliever, God understands. That is what they called Takiya.
In an interview we had with Professor Muhammad Junaid and Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, they both said you people have not sat down to harmonise positions on restructuring and that is part of what is hindering its implementation. How true is this?
They are being untruthful, that is part of what we are saying about their deception. Before the last election, Afenifere, PANDEF, Ohanaeze, Northern Elders Forum, we all sat down together and adopted Atiku Abubakar as our candidate based on his stand on restructuring. We sat down at meeting for hours. Professor Junaid was part of their intellectual, we sat together in Abuja to ruminate on these things. They said they have had their own conferences, they have their position papers and so on and so forth. What do they mean to say that we have not sat down together? It is deception.
APC also set up a committee on restructuring but up till now, we haven’t seen anything.
It is all deception. You know what happened, there were elders in Yoruba land before the 2015 election who were sitting on the necks of the South West leadership of Action Congress of Nigeria, saying you are going into a wedding, what are you discussing with your suitors about Nigeria? Chief Amos Akingba led that group. After a long time that they have been troubling the South West leaders of APC, then Alhaji Lai Mohammed first gave a document, that document contained nothing. They now say is it based on this document that contained nothing that you would go and negotiate with others. I think they went to manufacture one document at Oluwole, which they brought, that now contained restructuring Nigeria to a true federalism arrangement. That was the document they used to deceive our people. Immediately they got power, the controller of APC said they don’t know the meaning of restructuring. They started showing their true colour. After a long time, they set up the Governor Nasir el-rufai committee. The el-Rufai committee went round, what do they bring back? They photocopied a few pages of the report of the 2014 National Conference and they said that was their report. Have they touched it up till today? No, because this cheating is the only thing they know. They believe this cheating arrangement is the only way to run the country and that it is the best for them. Look at what is happening now, the Fulani are killing the people all over the country. Professor Wole Soyinka said Mr. President, you have not said anything to these killings up till now. Femi Adesina said if the president started talking about herdsmen all the time, he will become talkative. The same President who called the governor of Benue in 2018 after Fulani killed many people in Benue and said Mr. Governor go and learn how to live in peace with everybody. Only yesterday, I learnt they said they are trying some herdsmen, Miyetti Allah. Where? In which court? It is all deception and that is why it will be difficult to form a harmonious nation with these people because they are not sincere. Sincerity is key in any union. In Nigeria because they don’t deal in truth, they deal in deception, they deceive others. When they are sitting down with you, talking, when they say ‘A’ to you they mean ‘B’ and they think that everybody is a fool. Look at the killings their people have been doing in the South in the last five years , have you heard any Fulani said one day, we are sorry about these deaths? It is too much. These are human beings, it is not right. Except they want to defend the killers, to defend the Miyetti Allah, that is what they do. They have not shown any empathy to the people that are killed.
Two questions from what you have said now, first you said staying harmoniously with these people will be difficult, and so what do you do? Secondly, what is the way out of these killings especially in the South West?
I hope they don’t let this get to a point that our people would have to listen to General Danjuma that they have to defend themselves. People cannot sit and be looking and see their people being killed. See what happened in Ibadan, in Shasa, look at the provocation, the killing, and the response from the people. The Northern Governors were in Ibadan yesterday (last Monday) to meet with Governor Seyi Makinde. In Ogun State, we saw the Oba of Ilaro saying we will fight for ourselves. You saw how Senator Odebiyi, spoke at the floor of the Senate, and the northern governors are in Ogun State today (last Tuesday) because we know that some of our countrymen from that part of the country know their capacity when it comes to fighting.
They pushed us to a civil war in 1967 to 70. You know those who fought the war, Alabi Isama, Alani Akinrinade , Adekunle Benjamen , Ariyo, Obasanjo , those are the people who fought the war and won the war. People like Murtala Muhammed were perishing their soldiers in the river because they had no plan. What they had was that they were taking instruction from marabouts and they perished soldiers in Rivers. There was a war in Oshogbo in 1840, you know what happened, when the Fulani came to Oshogbo in 1840. That was a war in which Yoruba used modern warfare and traditional technology. They planted plantain that fruited the same day, ripened the same day and Fulani thought they had seen food; they were eating and they were dying. The Yoruba fought at night because they knew that the Fulani horses could not see at night. So they can’t threaten us with any war. We are not war mongers neither are we war lovers. That is why we have been making all the appeals we have been making so that there will be no war. This is because we know what war means. War is not valentine and Yoruba would fight as a last resort. War is not the first thing for us. And that is why Yoruba would say,’ Ejo lanko a ki nkoja’ that we learn how to state our case not how to fight. If we decide to fight with Fulani today, we have every case to state. When they came to Ore and killed Fasoranti’s daughter, before we came out to say that she was killed by the Fulani, we had our facts. When Funke’s brother, Kehinde Fasoranti, went to Ore, the police told him that the Fulani killed your sister that was what they used to do around this area. And Kehinde put it in his statement. We have challenged the police to bring out the statement, they didn’t bring out that statement. Till date. Bola Tinubu came to Akure, he said they said Fulani people killed Funke, where are the cows? But as God’s mercy would have it and as Funke’s blood would have it when SARS arrested four killers of Funke, who were they, they were all Fulani’s, officials of Miyetti Allah. Chief Olu Falae said recently, that people are saying nonsense that they are profiling Fulani, what is meaning of that nonsense. Is Fulani man not different from other tribes in Nigeria? If you meet Fulani man on that road, won’t you know them? You know them now? Those who are being attacked, know those who are attacking them.
Governor Akeredolu only yesterday, (Monday) said the Fulani causing problems in the Reserved Forest speak Fulfulde. Is Fulfulde an Egba dialect or Ibadan language.? We know them, it is not profiling. And like Senator Odebiyi said, how can they be saying the Fulani attacking our people are foreigners, it is an indictment on our leadership, the leadership of our country should resign, if foreigners are coming here to kill your people and go scot free and nothing is being done. And el-Rufai has confessed that he paid and was bribing killers who have come to revenge the killing of their cows. These are the people we are living with. Look at the governor of Bauchi, completely unfit to be governor, defending the rights of the Fulani herdsmen to carry AK 47, when even those of us who registered pump action have been asked to return it by Buhari, that we cannot carry it. Who registered AK47 for the herdsmen that the Bauchi governor is now defending them? What we are witnessing in Nigeria is what is called clash of civilization.
We recently witnessed the intervention of Chief Sunday Adeyemo popularly known as Igboho in Igangan area of Oyo State. What is your take on this?
Well, you know some of us have spoken with Igboho. We have even appealed to him openly that he should allow state actors to handle this matter. It is not that we don’t understand what he is doing. He is a genuine Yoruba fighter who has come in to fill a void. I think it was Governor Akeredolu that said he came to fill a void and the Yoruba nation appreciates persons like him. That was the void Igboho came to fill. Some people are saying now Igboho is this and that, that he is our Are Ona Kakanfo, we said no. Igboho has come to play a good role and not to take the place of Are Ona Kakanfo. We know the role that Gani Adams played as an under 30 to fight for the Yorubas, to do what he had done like a warrior. It is not an accident that today he is the Yoruba Are Ona Kankanfo, because as a warrior , he is a man of courage and knows what to do to defend his people. So we appreciate Sunday for standing up the way he stood at the time and for listening to elders when they talked to him. For instance during his altercation with Ooni, we said no no, this is beyond you and immediately he apologized to the Ooni and Ooni said he had forgiven him
So what should be done to stop the killings?
It is also a challenge to our governors in the South West. Akeredolu has done well and other governors, we are appealing to them to back Akeredolu, and it is not only him that is being affected by this matter. All our states are being affected. And you can’t be playing valentine songs with those who are singing war songs. When Professor Wole Soyinka said war is already at our door, days after they went to his house in Abeokuta to show him that yes we are here. And we saw the silly things the police did in Abeokuta, saying the owner of the cows that went to Soyinka’s house is a Yorub a man. What nonsense is that? Are we saying there are no Yoruba who own cows.? I own cows but I would be insane to drive cows into another man’s house not to talk of Professor Soyinka?
How do we achieve restructuring of the country? Some people are saying the easiest way is to adopt the report of the 2014 confab but others like Alhaji Yakassai said recently that there was no consensus reached even at the conference. How true is this?
No, it is a lie. There was an agreement. The conference almost broke down only on one thing and that was revenue sharing. We did not agree on that, we said Jonathan should set up a committee to work out, how we share money. That was the only area. We agreed on almost 600 other issues. We didn’t vote on any issue, it was by consensus. But immediately Buhari came, he said he would not touch the report.
Will the report, if implemented, solve the problems bedeviling the nation now?
We have solved most of the problems, even this issue of herdsmen. We voted for ranches, we said open grazing should be banned. If we have started ranches since 2014, we won’t have the problem we are having now.