By Bolanle Bolawole
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I never knew it was an interview; I had thought it was one of those “reactions” that reporters seek from members of the audience or those they think can help them flesh up or throw some insights into a story line they are pursuing – and I have done this on a couple of occasions for The Guardian reporter, Kehinde Olatunji. So I was pleasantly surprised when the last outing turned out as a full-blown interview on the very important topic of the agitation for a Yoruba nation. Titled “Our agitation is for a restructured Nigeria, not Yoruba President, says Bolawole” and published in the Tuesday, 31st January, 2023 edition of The Guardian newspaper at page 14, I felt that the views I expressed in the interview should also be shared with my readers. Please read:
Q: What prompted the protests at Ojota recently where someone was reportedly killed at a time many had thought you had toned down your campaign just like Biafra agitators?
To the best of my knowledge, the agitation for Biafra has not died down. You may experience a lull in the activities of people or organisations; there could be low points in agitations but that does not mean that the agitation has been abandoned. I am not aware that the Biafrans have abandoned their struggle and I am also not aware that those who are struggling for Yoruba nation like Sunday Igboho, Prof Banji Akintoye and their followers have abandoned their own struggle as well. Maybe they are approaching it in some other forms but I think they are still agitating for their own separate entities out of Nigeria.
But Sunday Igboho distanced himself from the protest at Ojota…
I have not seen anyone that said he organised the protest at Ojota but, of course, I am aware that it is not possible to have an agitation without some people being behind it. What we should do, instead of asking Gani Adams or Igboho, is to go to the protesters. They should be able to tell us those behind their protest. Since the people who gathered (at Ojota) are humans, they should be able to tell who brought them there and the purpose of their gathering.
Do you think the call for Yoruba nation is necessary at this time, given that elections are just around the corner?
It is very necessary because the situation that prompted the agitation for Yoruba nation is still very much with us. I am sure you know that five, ten years ago, we didn’t hear anything about agitation for Yoruba nation. But, somehow, we began to hear about the agitation, especially with the unbridled nepotism of the government of retired General Muhammadu Buhari; how he positioned the Fulani in the commanding height of the economy of the country (and) the security architecture of the country, and how he turned this country from a federation of nationalities to the estate of the Fulani. That was what made other ethnic nationalities to begin to think that if they did not do something, they would soon become slaves to the Fulani. They reasoned that they must agitate to liberate themselves from the Fulani. That situation is still there. Look at the structure in NNPC, it is still Fulani! Look at the structure in the security sector, it is still Fulani! Every appointment they are making now, the majority is still going to the Fulani or the North. So, those agitating against the imbalance are justified to continue their agitation until the imbalance is redressed.
Since the Fulani president is leaving, don’t you think the Yoruba nation should calm down till a new government comes on board, which might even favour them given the fact that a Yoruba person is also in the race?
A Fulani president is expected to leave in May; let us hope that he leaves because we are already being told that elections may not hold or may be postponed because of so-called insecurity! So, if elections do not hold or they are postponed, what happens? Will the Fulani president remain in office or will there be an interim national government? What are we going to have? So, it is too early to say that the Fulani president is leaving. It is too early to say that there will be elections. Remember that among the four leading presidential candidates, we have two Northerners and the election can go anywhere. So, don’t be too sure where the pendulum will swing. I want Nigerians to dedicate themselves to the cause of fairness, equity and justice. It is only when you have fairness, equity and justice that there can be peace, progress and development. If there is any ethnic group that thinks it can continue to lord it over the others and continue to have its way, it is foolhardy to think that way. Like one philosopher said; If you hold power today, don’t think you will hold power forever; if you control the forces today, don’t think you will control the forces forever. If you oppress people today, don’t think that you will oppress them forever. One of these days, they will fight to liberate themselves and that is what we see happening in Nigeria now. A word is enough for the wise!
What are your thoughts on the internal crisis in the Ilana Yoruba group among Prof. Banji Akintoye, Prof. Wale Adeniran, and Maxwell Adeleye?
It is very unfortunate that they are fighting among themselves! I am familiar with the people you mentioned. It is unfortunate that they are disagreeing over money, over positions, and washing their dirty linen in public. But I want to say that from my own understanding of what is happening in Yoruba nation, Prof. Akintoye has not resigned from the Yoruba struggle; he only gave his mantle of leadership of Ilana Omo Yoruba to his deputy, Prof. Adeniran, so that he (Akintoye) can focus on his assignment as the overall leader of all the Yoruba self-determination groups. Adeniran just stepped up from being deputy leader to being the leader of Ilana, which is just one of the many organisations making up the Yoruba self-determination groups. Then, they had a disagreement and Maxwell said he was no longer the spokesperson of Prof. Akintoye; there is no problem with that. When he (Maxwell) called me, I told him there was no problem if he wanted to step down but why was he now running down the person whose spokesperson he was yesterday? It doesn’t show maturity and commitment to the Yoruba cause. To now say they have stepped down and go in public to denigrate Prof. Akintoye, who they were defending yesterday, is wrong. They claim they are resigning from the Yoruba cause. You can’t resign from a cause you believe in; it means they never believed in that cause ab initio; it means they must have been in that cause for a particular purpose other than the interest of the Yoruba nation. It is very unfortunate. You can disagree. I have studied lots of revolutionary struggles and I am familiar with them; there are always disagreements but you don’t go to the public with your dirty linen and begin to work against the cause you claimed to believe in. We call such people counter-revolutionaries and they are not good for the struggle. I am not happy with the way they are behaving like children. We call what they are exhibiting infantile radicalism; whether they are professors or not. The way they have gone about it is not the way to go. If you have problems, sort them out internally and don’t do anything that will jeopardise the cause you said you believed in. If you believe in a cause, don’t do anything that will hurt the cause.
There are lots of Yoruba people who don’t believe in the struggle; do you think it is alright that way?
Those who do not believe in the struggle may end up not enjoying its full benefits! We can excommunicate them from the Yoruba nation when we achieve it (laughter)! Besides, revolutionary struggles are not carried out by the majority; it’s always championed by the minority. It’s only a few individuals that champion it; which is why they are called the “vanguard” of the proletariat. A few people will organise, lead the interested, and upturn the existing, decadent structure or system and erect another (pro-people) structure in its place.
Many IPOB members and their sympathisers are no longer identifying with the struggle because Peter Obi is in the race. In fact, many of them have changed their profile pictures from the Biafran flag and Nnamdi Kanu to Obi’s picture. Don’t you think those struggling for Yoruba nation should toe this line of action?
Yoruba have never been like other ethnic groups in Nigeria. Yoruba have always held on to their own ideology of equity, justice, fairness and fair play regardless whose ox is gored. Yoruba don’t support somebody because he is their own. Yoruba will support you if you fit into their concept of what is right, just and equitable. That is why Yoruba are always in the opposition; they don’t care provided they (Yoruba) know they are fighting the right cause, which was how we fought June 12 and won despite the fact that it was tagged a Yoruba struggle. Was MKO not pronounced the winner of the election posthumously? Was he not given the highest honour in the land? Is June 12 not Democracy Day today, despite the fact that it was only the Yoruba that fought it to the bitter end? The Yoruba people won’t behave like other ethnic groups; we will not say because the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, can become president, therefore, we abandon our agitation for Yoruba nation. Our agitation is not because we want a Yoruba president. We are agitating because we want a restructured Nigeria; we want a Nigeria where Yoruba will be free to develop at their own pace. We believe we are being held down; we believe we are not able to demonstrate our talents. We believe if we are allowed to progress at the pace set by Awolowo, by now we would have been better off than Brazil, Singapore, and China. China was behind us in those days. Malaysia came here to get its palm kernel; today, we import palm oil from Malaysia. Yoruba people are not agitating for Yoruba president, we have had one. We are agitating for the restructuring of Nigeria. A Yoruba president will come and go; if the structures are not made okay, there will be no development for any ethnic group. We want a restructured Nigeria like we had in 1960 so that each region can develop at its own pace. That was the time we had the development we still refer to, today. We are agitating to go back to that arrangement whereby the Yoruba will be able to travel at a faster pace than now. We are being held back now, and we don’t want that anymore. We want a situation whereby within the next five to eight years, we will catch up with Brazil, Singapore, and China. We will be a world power and our economy and education will be one of the best in the world, like it used to be. That is what we are fighting for. If it’s a Yoruba, Fulani, Igbo or Hausa president that can do that, it’s okay. If Goodluck Jonathan or Olusegun Obasanjo had done that, it would have been okay. Many voted for Buhari in 2015 because they thought he would restructure the country.
So, you need an assurance that restructuring will take place before the agitation for Yoruba nation ceases?
Our minimum demand is restructuring but I must tell you that there are many Yoruba agitators who have moved away from restructuring because they believe it cannot address our situation 100 per cent. What they want now is for the Yoruba to have their own nation. Restructuring has been delayed for so long that people now say restructuring cannot anymore solve the problem. But let us have restructuring now; if it does not solve the problem, then, we consider the next line of action”.
Need I say more?
- Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/ Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.