Today, danger threatens the Yoruba nation from various directions – from Boko Haram, from murderous Fulani herdsmen reinforced with foreign Libyan killers, and from Ijaw criminal gangs along our coasts. As we can all see, all these attacks on the peace and security of the Yoruba Southwest are from outside the Yoruba Southwest, from other parts of Nigeria. And we do not know when and from where other attacks will come.
In this column in recent weeks, the call has been made repeatedly for various measures for the protection of our people and the defence of our communities. Happily, there are reports that suchmeasures are being adopted in several places in our homeland.
But now, it has become critically important thatthe leaders of the Yoruba Southwest should turn to responding in a new way – a new way bigger, strongerand fundamental, designed to demonstrate emphatically the true character of the Yoruba nation and to establish the appropriate level of respect for the Yoruba nation in Nigeria. This is therefore a trumpet call– a trumpet call to all leading citizens among the Yoruba nation.
Some other Nigerian peoplesare invading our homeland because there is a general feeling in Nigeria that our homelandis wide open to attack, because people don’t fear that invading our homeland can cause them any pains or lead to any far-reaching consequences, because many of our neighbours in Nigeria now tend to think that we Yoruba don’t deserve respect.
For instance, when one of the most prominent elders of our nation, Chief OluFalae, was kidnapped by Fulani herdsmen late last year, our outrage produced some meetings and conferences of Yoruba leaders, at which Yoruba national solidarity was demonstrated and very serious messages were sent to Nigeria. But what was the result? What response did we get? No significant result. The best we got was that a few Hausa-Fulani leaders did us the favour of telling us that we were not sure of our facts – that we were accusing the wrong persons of kidnapping Chief Falae. And, as if to rebuke us for our impudence, the Fulani herdsmen and their Libyan support killers descended more widely on the Yoruba Southwest, destroying, killing, raping and maiming, while some Fulani notables told us point-blank that there is nothing we can do to keep the murderous Fulani herdsmen out of our homeland.At the same time, the Ijaw criminal gangs came in mass, and Boko Haram terrorists showed up again in Lagos.
The reason for all this disrespect is obvious. It is this – that in our participation in the affairs of Nigeria, we Yoruba no longer uphold and show up the true character of our nation and culture. We came into Nigeria in 1914 as a nation well known for ourhigh quality of governance and highly disciplined and dignified leadership, a nation with exalted principles of freedom and societal morality, a nation strongly committed to modern transformations and especially modern education, a nation marked by religious tolerance and accommodation, a nation culturally ready and happy to welcome and include immigrants from all directions. As Nigeria advanced towards independence, we became the nation promoting education for all Nigerian children, equity in the distribution of opportunities in Nigeria, and high integrity of governance and governmental processes. Our leaders stepped forth as dedicated defenders of the interests of the ‘minority’ peoples of Nigeria.
Today, we still obviously make great contributions toNigeria, in order to make Nigeria a much better ordered, stable, progressive and prosperous country. However, we seem to be no longer aware that the best way we can meaningfully make our kind of contributions to Nigeria is to be seriously true to our own national character. We tend to appear these days as fellow travellers with other peoples’ standards and agendas; we seem ever ready to make compromises without limit. For instance, as the peoples of the Niger Delta have struggled for survival against the degradation of their homeland environment and the loss of their traditional economic base, as various peoples of the Middle Belt have been repeatedly brutalized, and as Southerners (especially the Igbo, and especially Christians) have suffered massacres in parts of the North, we have contented ourselves with merely grumbling or, at best, speaking out ineffectively. Some from among our elite still continue to be the leading voices in defence of freedom and due process in Nigeria, and we continue to be frontline promoters of rational restructuring of the Nigerian federation. But, in general, in these matters, we as a nation no longer show the kind of resoluteness that the world has a right to expect of us. Consequently, talk to any Igbo advocate of Biafra or any Ijaw militant youth, and you will hear him say that if Nigeria were to decide to invade the Igbo or Ijaw homeland, the Yoruba would almost certainly arise again and give their great strength to such an invasion – even as most Yoruba citizens proclaim their rejection of assaults on any Nigerian people.
What should our answer be? It should be totake stock and retool our responses to the Nigerian situation – that is, to change and elevate the level of our responses to Nigerian situations, and the level of our attention to our own interests and our own conditions in Nigeria. We must cease merely reacting to the outrages that Nigerian rulers are forever inflicting on our Yoruba nation and on most other Nigerian nations. We must take steps to affirm unmistakably the national and moral character of our nation in the management of Nigeria. We must show very definitively that we are too morally strong to be manipulated any further in the service of goals, agendas and objectives that we regard as unworthy of the country to which we belong, agendas and objectives that we know to be injurious to the well-being of Nigeria’s many peoples and the 180 millions of Nigerian citizens. We must courageously and effectivelyassert our unique kind of impact in Nigeria’s affairs.
We must show emphatically that we as a nation reject the way in which Nigeria has been treating us and most other Nigerian peoples. Nigerianfederal rulers, in theirwrong-headed attempt to promote an aggressive integration of Nigerian peoples, usually run roughshod over various peoples, trying to enforce a uniform pace of development, seizing and often destroying the achievements and assets of various peoples, and forcefully and dictatorially resisting, and even countermanding, outstanding development initiativesof various peoples. In these ways, the controllers of Nigeria’s federal power have often generated pain and provoked anger and revolt in Nigeria. And then, if anypeople react, Nigeria mobilizes the military and other security forces, and proceeds to threaten, conquerand subdue the said people. We must let the world know that we rejectthe constant use of threats, invasions and conquests for keeping Nigeria together as one country.We must serve clear notice that we, the Yoruba nation in Nigeria, will never again consent to, or be dragged into, any war whose objective is to intimidate or conquer or subdue any Nigerian people.
We must also make clear to the world our position over the vexed issue of resource control in Nigeria. We must make it unmistakeably clear that, from our own cultural and moral foundations, our position is that each Nigerian nationality is the primary owner, and should be the primary developer and primary beneficiary, of its own God-given resources; the rest of Nigeria, through the Nigerian Federal Government, should be secondary developer through federal rules and regulations and federal management of necessary foreign negotiations, and secondary beneficiary through federal taxation and the allocation of distributable funds.
Even more importantly, we must resolutely, powerfully and competently return to our position as leaders in development and modernization in Nigeria. We must revamp our education, and enhance its quality withthe teaching of the sciences, mathematics, technology, our language and our nation’s history. We must revive our spirit of enterprise, promote modern farming and a virile entrepreneurship, and end the massive unemployment of our educated youths by turning them into modern farmers, entrepreneurs, business owners, proudly efficient managers, teachers, community workers, etc.
When a person, a group or a nation let their innate moral quality slip away from them, and tolerate imposition by others on their lives and actions, theyrisk losing their strength, integrity and respect. We Yoruba must now courageously stop the slippage of our moral fibrein Nigeria. We must courageously recover our true self. This message will be continued next Sunday.