The Publicity Secretary of the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, succumbed to death recently. In this interview by SAM NWAOKO, published on Saturday, 27 February, 2021, he spoke on insecurity in Nigeria and the interventions of Sheikh Abubakar Gumi and other Northern Nigeria leaders; and what the South West and its leaders should do. It is hereby reproduced.
What are your views on the reported strike by Northern foodstuff sellers blocking the transportation of food items to the South, even including Kwara?
They are carrying out their war agenda against the South. They treat Kwara as part of them with Lai Mohammed on the table when they need number, and as enemy territory when they are on vengeful mission. The notion of solidarity has broken down for ever here.It is a clear economic blockade and it is planned by power brokers. But they will fail. There is no government ready to act in national interest, the targeted southern people should creatively counter these measures.
Sir, Sheikh Abubakar Gumi is all over the place, acting as a mediator between the government and bandits and terrorists, especially in the North. His intervention and utterances while doing this are another matter entirely. Doesn’t it look like we have a low-intensity war going on in the country?
There is a low-intensity war going on of course. If Nigeria had not become a totally failed state, Gumi should have been under interrogation by the security agencies by now. But they are watching him because he is playing their game. The troublers of Nigeria are all out and they are troubling the rest of us with all kinds of officious imprimaturs. They have no regard for the rest of us, they don’t see us as fellow human beings and Gumi is an integral part in this project. If care is not taken, they are bound to take Nigeria down. Only God can save Nigeria at this point because they have put Nigeria on the precipice and they no longer behave like fellow countrymen. They are behaving like enemies of Nigeria and enemies of the rest of us.
By ‘they’, who are you referring to? Does ‘they’ include people like the governor of Bauchi State and one of his predecessors, Alhaji Isa Yuguda among others who held that Fulani herdsmen could carry arms? Who are the ‘they’?
They are all in the same camp. Don’t forget that Governor Nasir El Rufa’i of Kaduna State started this thing as governor of Kaduna State, when he came in. He openly confessed that terrorists who lost cows in Kaduna in 2011 were coming back to kill people for their cows and that he had to go out of the country to locate them and that he had settled them and had sent money to them. So, a lot of people we call fellow Nigerians are not fellow Nigerians. Don’t forget that as we speak, Buhari is constructing a rail line deep into Niger Republic. The rail line from Lagos to Calabar has been abandoned. They are doing all kinds of things which show that they are out to pacify a certain group. They are protecting people who are even outside Nigeria, who are Fulani. They don’t care about the rest of us. They don’t care what you think. All they care about is what their fellow Fulani across Nigeria and outside Nigeria think. That is what they are doing.
There is also a contention in parts of Nigeria that the confirmation of the ex-service chiefs by the Senate, regardless of the complaints and petitions of some Nigerians is part of the bigger picture. Do you agree that the Senate is in the entire gamut you are talking about sir?
Oh yes, they are all playing the same game. Remember that when the Senate President came into office, the first thing he told Nigerians was that anything Buhari that brings would be approved by the Senate. When a Senate President starts on that note, what do you expect? Meanwhile, this same Senate had earlier written to President Buhari and had asked him to remove the ex-service chiefs, and had passed a vote of no confidence on them. But the speed with which they screened and approved these ex-service chiefs as Ambassadors shows that they seem to be running a parallel country different from this one of ours. Like I said, they are not interested in what you feel. What you think does not matter to them; what matters to them is what they think and what is in the interest of the Fulani. Just like Governor Samuel Ortom, said General Buhari is behaving like the president of Fulanis, this government including the presidency, the Senate and the House of Representatives are behaving like leaders of Fulani republic.
In addressing the issue of insecurity recently, the Senate President, Dr Ahmed Lawan, blamed alleged failure of leadership on the part of South West governors for the problem, especially the crisis in Shasha Market in Ibadan. What do you thin as regards the allegation of failure of leadership?
It is failure of leadership that has made a man like him to be Senate President at this kind of time. What is the basis of his allegation? Because Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State said that herdsmen should vacate Ondo forests? Is that failure of leadership or responsible leadership? Are they animals that they want to be occupying forests? Are there Yorubas occupying forests in Zamfara or Bauchi or anywhere? No, they don’t do that. But because we are living with people who are more at home with banditry, we called ourselves fellow citizens but now they are showing their true colours. Like former South African president, Pieter Botha said, “this uprising will bring out the beast in us”, the Fulani uprising in Nigeria is bringing out the beast in our supposed fellow countrymen.
There is fear everywhere in the country, and as stated there is low intensity war going on in the country. Wherever banditry or terrorism is reported, almost all the victims always point fingers at the Fulani. What do you think the people should do, beginning with the South West?
People are not just pointing fingers. I think it was Chief Olu Falae who said recently that when you look at Nigeria’s demography, the Fulani man is distinct and different from every other nationality. The Fulani man does not look like the Yoruba man. He does not look like the Igbo man or an Ijaw man. They are different. There is nobody that will be attacked by a Fulani man that will not know that this is a Fulani man. They have launched a war against the rest of us and at this point all we are telling our people is that they should be wary. They should be careful. They should be on their guard. They should not surrender and they should not let people run them out of their land. The Yoruba will not start a war against a different ethnic nationality in their land but our people have the capacity to defend themselves and defend their land. And that they must do.
If you are to advice the South West governors, what will you tell them?
I will tell them clearly that as South West governors that they should do more like Governor Akeredolu, who has been very proactive on this matter. We are not aggressors; Yoruba will not become aggressors but we should defend our land within the law and the constitution of the country. We should defend the right of our people and their life. They cannot continue to kill our people on the streets the way they have been doing; killing our Obas and our important people and we would be watching them. It is enough. Enough is enough. As governors, they should lead the charge to ensure that there is maximum defence for the life and property of their people.
There were times when hopes were hiked for things like ‘a handshake across the Niger’. Do you see collaboration among the South South, South West and South East in this whole thing, as things appear to be a North versus South problem as things stand?
You know we have what we call the Southern and Middle Belt Forum where we have brought the entire South and Middle Belt together. This is one of the challenges facing us which we must confront as a people because all non-Fulani communities today are under siege. They are being besieged, they are being killed; their women are being raped. We cannot continue to allow that to happen and jointly as a people we must rise against such assault against us.
Politics is in the air now and many Yoruba sons are jostling for positions as 2023 approaches. This has started to create a certain level of rancour among some of the gladiators. Don’t you think this might affect the unity of the people going forward in this fight against general insecurity?
For our people, the Yoruba people, the primary thing is to defend our existence in Nigeria and we must do. The politicians can continue to play their games. If they don’t talk to their mentors who are tormenting us, a time will come when they will feel the heat of the Yoruba people and they will have nowhere to hide.
The people have already set their sight beyond this regime of President Muhammadu Buhari. They are already looking for how to make amends at the polls come 2023.
If there will be 2023, we must choose a clean path totally different from what Buhari has laid down. What Buhari and his team have put down is destruction of Nigeria. Any policy that cannot rebuild Nigeria, and take Nigeria back to the path of togetherness, to bring oneness and bring our people together again, that must be discontinued. We must discontinue the destruction that Buhari and his team laid down. We must rebuild Nigeria on the path of equity, of justice, of oneness; of togetherness, a country that works is what we must build after Buhari.
You said ‘if there is 2023’. What did you mean?
Ah, if you look at the way we are going, there is no clear road to 2023. Anything can happen with the way we are going… with the way people like Bauchi governor, Sheikh Gumi and the rest of them are talking, and we said there is a low intensity war; only God can stop an open confrontation if we continue to go this way. That is why some of us are saying that we are scared and that we are not sure that there will be 2023. This is not how a country that gets to maximise its potential is configured. It’s not this way at all.
Again, about Gumi and the Bauchi governor, they are saying that herdsmen are people who are carrying arms to protect themselves and that they have rights and that they deserve some level of amnesty like the Niger Delta militants.
We totally disagree with them. What they are saying does not make any sense. What they are searching for is the destruction of Nigeria. The Niger Delta boys had a cause they were fighting for about the neglect and the destruction of the Niger Delta. There was a clear demand which President Umaru Yar’Adua attended to. But those who are going about killing people, massacring, raping women for no just cause, cannot say they have any cause they are fighting for. And it is only the promoters of banditry, who have shown clearly that they are apologists of terror, that can be making such kind of comments at this stage.
So, you are saying there is a marked difference from the two issues of Niger Delta militancy and banditry?
Niger Delta was totally degraded and neglected. The land was devastated. We were taking their resources and we were not giving them anything back. They had a cause they were fighting. It is different from this ‘Janjaweed’ who are just killing people like animals all over the place. You cannot compare them with Niger delta militants.
According to some rescued kidnap victims, the bandits are said to be demanding that the promises allegedly made to them during the general elections should be fulfilled.
If Buhari made promises to them, he should go and fulfil his promise to them. But you cannot use our resources to be paying bandits. About two or three years ago, the Wall Street Journal published that Buhari paid Boko Haram three million Euros; is that money from groundnut in Katsina? You cannot come to the South and take our resources to be paying terrorists and say you are running a country. You are running a failed state clearly. A clearly failed state under Buhari, that is what Nigeria has become.
Some people have contended that one of the frontliners for the presidency in 2023 is Bola Ahmed Tinubu but are also worried that he has kept quiet for far too long in the face of the current insecurity across the country. What do you think he should have done?
Maybe he thinks that keeping silent would recommend him to Buhari and co and they will give him presidency. If you understand these people, they cannot support somebody like him to clinch the presidency. They cannot, and we remember that when they killed Chief Rueben Fasoranti’s daughter, he came to Akure, in Chief Fasoranti’s compound and was saying that people said that she was killed by herdsmen, where are the cows. But all the four people arrested, who are being tried for the woman’s murder, are Fulani herdsmen. So, to think that pacifying the Fulanis would give him the presidency, we wish him all the best. We wait and see.
What will you advise the people at a time like this?
Our people should remain vigilant. They should not surrender to the Fulani who are trying to take advantage of them. They must gird their loins and be prepared to defend themselves and their land against marauders who are all over the place terrorising them.
Economic blockade of South West by North will fail —Odumakin, Afenifere spokesman
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