By Comrade Babatunde Adeleke
I have observed with keen interest the rising tornado of agitations for secession all over the country and the momentum it has continued to gather, even Akwa Ibom has since joined the race for liberty from a perceived oppressor called Nigeria. While it is understandable that there is need for change in our country, the lackadaisical attitude of the security agencies coupled with the hard stance of non-responsiveness on the part of the Nigerian government on many issues especially insecurity are the root causes of those agitations. The jobless who constitutes over 80% of Nigerian vibrant youths have made the agitations a major issue which calls for serious concern and as the storm gathers, there is need for stakeholders to speak up. Banditry and kidnappings and now agitations for secession has found a willing ally in the sea of jobless youths, who have been willing to be part of something at least to while away the time of joblessness, giving credence to the saying that the idle mind is the devils workshop. Unless the person needs to see a psychiatrist, you can never find a sane fully employed Nigerian joining the agitators. Now, before we allow the illiterates and the jobless to blindly put us in a state of full blown war situation, it is paramount that those against the agitations should speak up, before the government according to President Buhari “responds in the language they understand”.
Intelligence failure has largely crippled the abilities of the country’s security outfits to respond to crimes and violence even as they too have also come under deadly attacks by non-state actors especially in the South-east and South-south. More heartbreaking is the fact that kidnappings carried out by non-state actors also increased tremendously the past one year. A recent report noted that over $18 million was paid as ransoms for victims abducted between 2011 and 2020. More ransoms have been paid in 2021 for abducted persons, even as many such cases are unreported. Many victims, whose families were unable to pay such ransoms, paid the ultimate price.
Only an impractical person will agree that all is well with Nigeria, but the truth is that cutting off the head can never be the solution to a headache. We need to find the common denominators to our problems and take proactive steps to confront and tackle them. We all agree that our president is a monumental mistake and a disaster clearly spelt, but the truth is we have no choice but to endure him till the end of his tenure which is about two years, if we survived the 6 years of cluelessness and lopsidedness, we can definitely endure the two more years without rancour. We all agree there is gross criminality in the land, Why can’t we compel our elected governors to take action and if possible employ and train the sea of jobless youths to tackle the increasing criminals rather than agitate for a breakup? The west has inaugurated Amotekun while Ebube agu has been activated in the east, all in a bid to tackle the hydra-headed monster called insecurity. Today, Nigeria is regarded as one of the most dangerous places in the world to live in. The 2020 Global Terrorism Index identified it specifically as the third most ‘affected’ by terrorism.
What is the guarantee that if we break up the ghosts of the demons that destroyed Nigeria will not hunt or reincarnate in Oduduwa and Biafra? While the Biafra agitators may have one or two reasons, their Oduduwa counterparts have none, because we the Yoruba’s are the major problem of Nigeria with our hypocrisy, greed and lack of foresight like in the days of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. It is our people who collaborate with northern elements to loot the country blind and offer no solution to stopping corruption. We the Yorubas are the major players in virtually every sector, so what reason do we have to secede?
I understand but condemn the methods employed by Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho. Sunday even has a more subtle approach than Kanu. If the southeast is turned to a field of mindless killings like the northeast, who will suffer? It is the Igbos, their businesses and livelihood that will all for what? A nonexistent country whose dream once caused the death of over 3 million people including women and children, is this what Kanu who was not even born then wants? It was George Santayana who said and I quote,” Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it” why does Nnamdi Kanu want a repeat of the mindless massacre of the Igbos by rising up the ghost of Biafra? I’m not Igbo but I have lots of cherished Igbo friends who are more of brothers than friends; none of them is down for this unwholesome dream called Biafra. It assumed that the problem of Nigeria started when a group of young officers of Igbo origin disrupted the smooth sailing vessel of a country that just debuted, by staging a lopsided coup that left politicians and senior military officers mostly of other tribes assassinated. That was the point where the Igbos lost the trust of other tribes and they need to work hard to erase that abnormally from the minds of other regions so they can earn their trust again. No one will allow them to go because they are the origin of Nigeria’s problem and we have to salvage it together, no one is going anywhere. So what are the underlying factors that have made agitations for secession a mainstream activity in Nigeria?
Following the controversial elections of October 1965, the country was further polarized when in January 1966 some army officers, predominantly Igbo, killed Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa and two regional premiers in an attempt to overthrow the central government. The attempts by Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, a major-general, who took charge of the nation’s affairs after the coup, to set up a unitary government after abolishing the regions were resisted by aggrieved groups. The offshoot of the coup also led to distrust in the polity and cleavages in the military itself as the arrowheads of Nigeria’s first coup were accused of deliberately promoting Igbo dominance.
In July 1966, northern officers staged a countercoup, where Mr Aguiyi-Ironsi was assassinated. A young Yakubu Gowon, who subsequently came to power had to contend with intercommunal clashes in the north and threats of secession in the south. Mr Gowon’s attempt to craft a workable political structure, including promulgating a decree which divided the four regions (northern, eastern, western, mid-western) into 12 states, (six in the north, three in the west and three in the east) only led to more conflicts and agitations. In May 1967, the Eastern region’s consultative assembly gave warlord Odumegwu Ojukwu permission to establish a sovereign republic, Biafra, which set the stage for the tragic 30-month civil war where millions lost their lives. Years later, after coups, counter-coups, changes in administration amidst unending ethnic tensions and attempts to paper the cracks, Nigeria has moved from the era of regions to having 36 states and a federal capital territory. So Nigeria has always withered the storms of agitations.
Having said that, let us consider the cause of Sunday Ignoho who happens to be my fellow Yoruba man, I will implore him to apply some decorum into his style of agitation. Threatening elder statesmen, traditional rulers and governors are not acceptable in any way and it shows the kind of country that will emerge if the agitation succeeds. You can’t force us to agree with your view of secession when we see no cogent reason for it. Initially when he came out boldly on the Igangan matter which was ignited by the death of one Dr Aborode, whom Sunday claimed was hacked to death by Fulani herders, I was amongst the first to applaud him, it was later that we discovered the Doctor was murdered by our own tribesmen for political reasons and not the Fulani’s as appended by the late doctor’s aged father. That was his major reason for invading the town with his boys.
If the Fulanis are attacking our people and you feel the government is not doing anything, If you have the powers and wherewithal to fight them, go after them in the bush and let us know you have done what the almighty Nigerian Army could not do, and remain our hero, for that your generation shall be remembered, but when you divert from what brought you into limelight and dive into the ocean of secession, that is not acceptable to some of us who have our families here. Sunday is said to have diabolical powers like bees, demons and whatever it takes that can stop them that is a welcome idea, why not go into the forest and fight them rather than deviate into the creation of an imaginary “Yoruba nation”? which is bound to drag us into a protracted civil war, especially with numerous unguided statements that can spark ethnic clashes. Let it be noted that it is not the Nigerian Fulani’s fermenting this evil, yes there may be a few connivance and sabotage from within, from security reports available to me, by and large majority of the herders are foreigner’s and I blame the local Fulani’s for not doing much to stop the menace of their kinsmen from other countries, but that is not to say that some have not spoken up. Fulani’s have existed all over the country for centuries and we have lived in peace, this new extremism using Islam as a decoy to wage a war of usurpation is unacceptable.
I expect Sunday and Nnamdi to use their crowd of youths to change things not bungle them. There have been several allegations against the IPOB sending people to burn INEC offices and attacking police formations, these are ideas that can never make the struggle work, confessions from suspected IPOB members have proven the allegations to be true, besides this, the body language and utterances of Nnamdi Kanu on social media has erased all doubts that he has a hand the current travails of the southeast. What has the ordinary policeman or army done to warrant killing? These are ordinary Nigerians like you and I who took up the gauntlet to keep our society safe, to earn a livelihood and feed their families, there is absolutely no need to turn their wives into widows and children orphans in the name of secession? It is an act of foolhardiness that IPOB is not attacking the politicians that made their lives miserable but ordinary Nigerians trying to make a living, it is a totally ill-advised idea.
Now let us weigh the issues at hand: the Nigeria nation has been bedridden by corruption and various forms of criminality which obviously the government is clueless about, I sincerely know that those cannot be stopped by the Oduduwa and Biafra nations? And if it God forbids it escalates into a full-blown war, the worthy question is, are we the Yorubas especially ready for war? The answer is a big NO! we are a people that can barely feed ourselves, our farms have been long deserted and our boys have turned yahoo yahoo, all the north needs to do to win the war is stop foodstuffs from getting to us and boom, under two weeks the war will be over with millions dying of hunger, it is a far painful death than a bullet from an AK47. A few months back, when there was a hiccup in the north trade routes and foods from the north could not access mile 12 in Lagos, I knew how expensive things were, what if they stop it completely? Will sponsors of the agitations provide food for over 100 million people? Rather would the agitators immediately start farming in a state of war or import food from abroad? Those are the salient issues.
Meanwhile what I find most fascinating is that both Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho have their families safely tucked in sanctuary of serene environments abroad yet they want us to sacrifice our own children here on the altar of secession as collateral damage. Before I can personally see any sense in this they should be well-grounded with their families here, then we can set the country on fire together. You cannot keep your family safe and sacrifice mine. The majority of the youths who have joined the agitations are predominantly frustrated young men who have been boxed into the corner of hopelessness caused by the Nigerian economy, who have no families of their own and have no inkling on the implications of war. It is a well-known fact that Sunday Igboho has diabolical powers that can make him disappear in a jiffy from anywhere in Nigeria to his family abroad, I don’t, I’m a realist, not a dreamer.
If things are not working in all the Yoruba states, why don’t you mobilize against the governors and local government chairmen to compel them to do the needful? Or are our governors Fulani men? If they are not why are things not working? All Yoruba states are ruled by Yorubas and yet nothing is working, the same scenario will play out if not worse, should Oduduwa nation emerge.
A lawyer and civil rights activist, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, in an interview with Channels TV on May 21 said the agitations could easily be assuaged if a new ‘foundation’ is laid for the country and the current structure and Constitution is ‘reworked’ to ensure a more equitable distribution of power and resources.
‘’The concept of the federal government holding resources and distributing to the regions is no longer acceptable and that is why we support the governors who want devolution of powers,’’ he said.
‘’We must first of all address the foundation. Even if we get the best of people to manage and pilot our affairs, the faulty document will not allow the people to get to their maximum potential,’’ he adds. ‘’That document cannot be amended by people who are beneficiaries of that error (lawmakers). You hardly find a leader who has benefitted from that faulty system coming to correct the system. Except for Malam Shehu Yar’adua (ex-president). He is the only leader who came out to say the system that produced me is faulty and I don’t want to leave it as a legacy and he set up the Uwais panel, and they came up with some fantastic and impressive results which is lying in the coolers such as the 2014 national conference…’’ the truth is the west and south had the opportunity to restructure the country when Obasanjo and Jonathan were Commanders in chief but they didn’t even contemplate the possibility, so why should the north in person of Buhari do what our people could not do? Many have argued reasonably that multilingual countries cannot cohabit together or do well in terms of development, but this more is false than true, there are many multi lingual countries that are doing just fine like Russia with 24 languages, India has 23, Even Zimbabwe, Canada, south Africa the list is long. So secession is not the last solution to a multi-language system.
Now how do we solve the problems of Nigeria?
- Restructuring or devolution of power from the centre, globally, devolution ensures that decisions are made closer to the local people, communities and businesses they affect. Devolution also provides greater freedoms and flexibilities at a local level, meaning councils can work more effectively to improve public services for their areas. Once power is decentralized from the centre and each region has an autonomy of power, there will be better coordination and more responsibility.
- There is a need to totally overhaul our election apparatus or modus operandi, the current situation where politics has been monetized can never produce the best amongst us, the cost of electioneering should be reduced so that average Nigerians can participate, the current situation where people steal state funds and use same to entrench themselves perpetually in politics and governance jumping from one political position to another must be done away with. It makes people see politics as an investment from which profit must be made when they eventually get elected into office.
- Active participation of youths in politics, even if we restructure, without the active participation of youths, the statuesque will remain the same, they should stop being thugs for thieves who want to steal their resources and jeopardize their future, they should learn to organize from ward to ward to be able to hold elected representative accountable. From the North, South, East and West the youths must arise to take position and not be hoodwinked into violence of any kind. Youths may work for politicians but not as thugs. Every local community or local government in Nigeria must organize themselves into a sort of watchdogs for their elected officials, they must be able to hold them accountable for all their problems and find solutions. Gone must be the days when federal allocations meant for the local government are shared between the governor, commissioner for local government and the remnants passed to the chairman for onward sharing to community rogues. That is what obtains right now and that is why nothing is working at the local government level, you see a terrible road right in front of the local government and they will ignore it saying it’s a state road, state will say its federal at the end of the day the road is abandoned, and the community suffers. The youths should advocate for local government autonomy and be able to deal with their leaders if there err. This is what the youths should be clamouring for Oduduwa nation that will be run by the same charlatans and warlords to whom human life is as worthless as tissue papers.
- The problem of Nigeria is not only the politicians but the people, you and I, we are all complacent in the evils that has made Nigeria a failed state, hence we must first learn to change the mindset of our people, we are all very corrupt, from market women who double the prices of their goods for no reason, to transport workers who hike fares when the pump price of fuel remains the same to plumbers, mechanics, carpenters, bankers, police, army just name it, we are inherently evil in all ramifications, we take pride in cheating ourselves and laughing at the misfortune of others, Biafra and Oduduwa nations can never change that. So there is need for religious organizations, civil society groups to embark on proactive sensitization of the people to change their mindset. This is the starting point or we may never get it right. If majority of the people are bad, there is no gainsaying that they will also elect a bad leader.
If we can embark on those four issues raised above I believe that Nigeria will once again stand tall in the committee of nations and the time to start is now. Let the agitators sheath their swords and let us join hands together to save this country. God bless Nigeria
Comrade Babatunde Adeleke