Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Conference in 2014, Senator Femi Okurounmu, in this interview by KATE ANI, bares his mind on the state of the nation.
You have always described the late Sir Olaniwun Ajayi as your leader, how would you describe his death?
Of course, when one learns of anyone’s death, one would be shocked and feel a sense of loss. But then, one would realise that sooner or later, all of us will have to also tread the same path. Besides, one cannot say Sir Olaniwun died at a young age. I was at his 90th birthday celebration and I consider myself lucky to have celebrated that day with him. He was a man who had` a deep sense of history, especially Yoruba history, and I will miss that about him.
You are very opinionated. Have you always had that in you when you were a child and what prompted you to join politics?
I had the good fortune of studying in the United States and I would say that country transformed me and my personality. Before I went to the United States, I was strictly focused on the academics. I attended Government College, Ibadan. I was the best student in my class and I got a scholarship to study at Harvard University. I was strictly academically focused but my experience in the United States transformed me in the sense that then, the Civil Right movement was very strong. There was a firmament of black people fighting for their rights and the discrimination against black people. I felt as if I was part of the struggle and I participated in that protest. When I returned home, I was already fired up with a political ambition and vowed that I must do something to bring about change in my country too.
There are claims by interest groups in the South West that the Yoruba race is being sidelined in President Muhammadu Buhari’s government. What would you say to this?
When people ask me this question, I feel a little irritated because every educated Yoruba man who is in politics should have studied a little bit about history on the Fulanis and Hausa politics. The Fulani have one ambition and that is to rule, dominate and Islamise Nigeria. The only people who have always resisted them are the Yoruba. The South-South and the Igbo are not a threat to them. The problem of Nigeria has always been the Yoruba versus the Fulani. And [Chief Anthony] Enahoro once warned that the day the Yoruba give up the fight, Nigeria will be finished.
Would you subscribe to the notion that the South-West erred in supporting Buhari in the last presidential election?
Before you leave, I will show you the series of advertisements that I placed in the national dailies then that Yoruba must not vote for President Buhari. I am not one of those people who would hide their feelings or deny something they knew they once said. If they want to kill me, I will still stick to my guns and stand on what I believe in. I said it openly, why the Yoruba should not vote for Buhari. Yoruba people should learn from history, which was how the Yoruba lost Ilorin. This man [Buhari] has a particular grouse against us. He wants to punish the Yoruba. He hates the Yoruba. The Fulani normally hate the Yoruba and have always wanted to persecute and dominate the Yoruba in Nigeria because they feel we are the obstacle in their bid to take over the country.
At a recent meeting, you Afenifere leaders were urged to support Senator Bola Tinubu so that he doesn’t get trampled upon by the powers that be. You shunned the idea and stood your ground on not supporting the cause. Why?
Senator Bola Tinubu doesn’t have a good relationship with Afenifere leaders so, I don’t understand why they suggested we should rally around for him not be ridiculed by President Buhari. People should just ignore him and let him go into political irrelevance. We should not rescue him. He is getting what he deserves from Buhari. That is why I am against Chief Ayo Adebanjo trying to rescue him. He should allow him to just go into a quiet irrelevance so that the rest of the Yorubaland can regroup and strategise for a true and selfless leader. Look at what is happening now. I can point my fingers at those who supported President Buhari and tell them I told them so.
What is your take on the recession that the country is currently grappling with?
We will not get out of this financial mess if we have people like Buhari there leading us. We will move from recession to depression.
Would you attribute this situation to the president’s inability to implement the report of the 2014 national conference?
It is not that alone. Generally, the president has no clue about how to run a government. He does not have a clue on how to run a good economy, how to get people jobs. Because of poor electricity supply, factories are closing down. He has no ideas on how to get our factories working and manufacturing.
Most people would say that the national conference was a waste of tax payers’ money as it was just a move by former President Goodluck Jonathan to get support from the South West, since the call for the confab had been the yearning of the geopolitical zone…
It only becomes a waste of money and time if the president fails to implement the recommendations. Of course, if President Buhari throws the confab report and recommendations to the archives — which is what he said he has done — then it would have been a waste of money and the president will bear the responsibility of that waste of money, and time. But if he is ready to implement the resolution of that conference, it will take our country to where we want it to be. It will solve a lot of problems that Nigeria is facing today. It will solve the problem of marginalisation because each of the states will become more autonomous and run its own affairs. That is why there is unrest in the Niger Delta. Their case can be likened to the proverb, ‘monkey dey work, baboon dey chop’. Oil belongs to the South-South but if you look at those who have been allocated oil blocks by the government, 90 per cent of them are northerners. And when you have an oil block, you are a billionaire in your own right. There are so many of them that were given what belongs to the people of the Niger Delta. Do you now expect the people (Niger Deltans) to fold their arms and say ‘yes, we are being treated fairly’?
How do you think the political tension in Ondo State will affect the outcome of Saturday’s [today’s] election?
The people of Ondo State should go out and vote for the candidate of their choice. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is in a state of confusion as regards its candidate which is, of course, a well calculated plot by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to take over the state by hook or by crook.