A former chairman of the United Kingdom chapter of the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere and current national organising secretary, Abagun Kole Omololu, is the convener, Conscience of Yoruba Nation (CYN). He speaks to BOLA BADMUS on the spate of insecurity in the country, especially the incursion of killer herdsmen into the South-West region and the urgent need to restructure the country to avert an implosion.
Insecurity in the South-West and indeed the entire country has taken a dangerous turn with everyone attributing this to the rampaging Fulani herders. What is your reaction to the current state of things?
Let us look at it from the top. Insecurity all centres on the Fulani herders, whereas President Muhammadu Buhari is a Fulani. But there is a way a Yoruba man would have handled the situation. We know the criminals, the bandits, the rapists, the murderers and it has been established that they are Fulani bandits. Anybody who sees a Fulani knows that he is a Fulani. We are not profiling them, although there are two types of Fulani: the urban Fulani and the nomadic Fulani, who mainly roam about in the bush with their cattle.
I am looking at this from the perspective of a Yoruba man. If this thing is happening and it has been established that it is being perpetrated by my own ethnic group, I will immediately call my people. There are many ethnic groups in Nigeria of which Fulani is a super minority, just about 7million of them, compared to about 50 million Yoruba. I will ask them: “Do you want to destroy my government? Why are you doing this? I have a legacy; I have only four or eight years to rule this country and within that period, I have to make a name and turn Nigeria around for the better. But with what you are doing, you are destroying the legacy which I want to build and the legacy of the Fulani forefathers that we have had which had been part of the progress of this country.” That is what I believe the president is supposed to do.
When some people wanted to destroy the government of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, he was firm in dealing with the issue. This is what President Buhari is supposed to have done, but he didn’t do it and the thing keeps on escalating day by day. It was initially restricted to the North-East, now it has covered practically the whole of the North. Katsina, his home state, is ungovernable. It is being ruled by bandits. Was it [not few] days ago, a cleric, Sheikh Gumi, went into the bush where he met them (bandits). Next door to the bandits, there is a military outpost. He (Gumi) met more than 600 criminals called Boko Haram, fully armed with automatic weapons, and yet nothing was done. Are we saying that when Alhaji Gumi went there, he didn’t go there with any security people or that the security apparatus of Nigeria did not know those criminals exist there? They were sitting down, discussing, negotiating with criminals. Something is wrong. I am very concerned with the Fulani who are noble and have contributed immensely to the development of the country. Now they’ve moved down to the most prosperous part of the country, which is the South-West, bringing evil to us.
This is happening now. They established their own kingdoms and even have their own obas called Serikis in somebody else’s land, doing things and covering criminals, killing people. All our farmlands have been destroyed by cattle. Cattle business is private a private one. So, there is the need for self-help now. If the government cannot help, then we have to help ourselves. First, defend yourself. Don’t allow anybody to kill you cheaply. This is what has led to the anarchy that is going on now in the country.
It started with the Ondo State governor issuing quit notice to the herdsmen occupying the government forest reserves illegally. And then the Oyo State incident, where Sunday Adeyemo, popularly called Sunday Igboho, ordered that the Fulani should vacate Ibarapa land. Do you think such an approach is the best option, especially with some people saying these herders being Nigerians should enjoy the right to live in any part of the country?
Obviously, every the constitution says anyone can live anywhere in the country. That’s the law. Looking at the proclamation of Ondo State Governor, it was misinterpreted by people who read only headlines. He did not say Fulani should leave. He said all criminal herders who are occupying the forest reserve should leave. People who go through this place to do their farming are being waylaid, raped, killed and kidnapped for ransom by herders. A first class oba was killed recently. Also, a professor that had plowed huge resources to help the nation was killed by these herders. What do you expect the governor to do? Is it to leave them there because we are one Nigeria? Can any Yoruba person or any Igbo go to the bush in the North and be doing whatever he likes?
What about the situation in Oyo State?
In fairness, if there is any government that has invested in security in the South-West, it is the government of Oyo State. Look at Amotekun. Yes, everybody gathered together. I learnt that the governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, promoted Amotekun very well. I think he has the highest number of employees for Amotekun. What is Amotekun for? It is for security and he has bought a number of facilities, including CCTV cameras and vehicles both for the police and paramilitary agencies. He has done that and a government doesn’t need to be praising itself when it comes to security. They have combed the bush several times.
Maybe to complement that effort when the killing was becoming too much or perhaps the resources and government’s efforts were not enough, an individual may say I need to help my people. I think this is what led to the emergence of Sunday Adeyemi popularly known as Sunday Igboho. And for somebody who is ready to die for his people, it is a welcome idea. He is doing it and the only area we would plead with him is that he should do it in collaboration with the governor. The head of security in Oyo State is Seyi Makinde and he is the number 1 citizen in the state.
People are already projecting that if the situation persists, it could give rise to other people like Sunday Igboho coming out of Yorubaland to engage the killer herdsmen. What is your take on this?
Then that would be the legacy of Muhammadu Buhari. We are saying the governors are the Chief Security Officers, but they are not. They are just administrative officers of their states, I mean all these governors. They are just trying their best. The CSO of the country is President Muhammadu Buhari. Every policeman and DSS officer must report to him as their boss, not the governor. If they don’t cooperate with the governor, what can the governor do? The governor on his own cannot even engage the likes of Sunday Igboho, because it would be unlawful. So, we should never ever be mentioning the governor when it comes to issue of security. We are just been unfair to them.
Then what do we do? How do you want the authorities to address the problem?
Now, we have been crying for state police that the governor can instruct to act, through the restructuring that we have been talking about. So that is the result. You cannot sit down in Aso Rock in Abuja and know what is happening in Igboho town. This is the problem. Even people in Ibadan don’t know what is happening in Saki or any other villages. It is only the representatives of the governor, if they have the power and resources that are very close to the grass roots, not from Abuja. The IGP sits in Abuja and every Commissioner of Police reports to Abuja rather than Agodi in Ibadan. It’s not going to work.
The agitation for restructuring has been on for a very long time, but at the end of the day some people are saying that those clamouring for it don’t even tell us what they meant by it. Does it mean restructuring has different definitions as it appears some people are confused by it?
It is a deception. They know what they are doing. They don’t want it to happen. Nigeria has been restructured before. We had the government of Western Region, Northern Region, Eastern Region, and Mid-Western Region. That was a restructured Nigeria. The 1963 Constitution provided for every region. The only thing that we had in common together then was paying some taxes to the Federal Government, the military, the Customs, the Telecoms and a few other things.
Look at our educational system. When Papa Obafemi Awolowo set up the University of Ife, he modelled it to be one of the best campuses in the world. Now if you want to set up a university, you have to go and be licensed from Abuja. It is not supposed to be so.
People are saying let me be allowed to go on and do things the way I would progress. Like in the South-West, I would want us to be teaching our students in Yoruba language rather than imposing English language on them. They would learn better. Chinese teach and learn in Chinese, same thing about the English. Americans teach and learn in American English, not in British English. So if I am speaking in Yoruba now, I would be more fluent than the way I would be speaking English because before I speak in English, I have to first interpret in my mind. But if it is Yoruba I want to speak, the thing will be flowing, and the grammar will be fantastic and grounded. These are the ways they built their own societies in the Western world. The Germans speak German language. Let us agree English is just a business language across the world; that’s and it is part of restructuring.
Nobody is saying Nigeria should be balkanised, as being claimed by those who are against restructuring. That is not the intention. Look at Lagos, if Lagos had been allowed to be Lagos, you can create local governments so that governance can be very close to the people. The Federal Government sat down on it; the constitution does not make it easy to create a unit of government to help your people. What kind of system is that? And some people are saying that they don’t understand what restructuring means? It is just mischief. It is just a way of sitting down on Nigeria. They don’t want Nigeria to grow because they are benefiting from the chaos. This is the hope of the Black nation. Every black man on earth sees Nigeria as his home. We are the largest in the world; we are the most populated in the world. Everything has been given to us.
Look at those appointed in America, most of them are from Nigeria, a lot of them to the highest office.
You have been at the forefront of the struggle for a better Nigeria. Are you not concerned that with all the problems insecurity has posed to the country, some leaders could now be talking about 2023 that they want to be president?
Well, this is the chaos we have. Some people are saying if restructuring does not happen before 2023, there might not be 2023 elections. But my brother, who told you there would be 2023 with what is happening? Nobody is safe. Nigeria is at the precipice. Militias are everywhere. If you go to the North, you see different groups. In the South-West, we have different groups as well, getting charged to protect their lands. Katsina, the home state of the president, is on fire. The Federal Government should wake up: this is the worst government Nigeria has ever seen.
Again, this claim that we are attacking the Fulani is not so. It is the criminals who live in the bush and terrorising the Yoruba that we are talking about. And again, people should look at who Yoruba people are. We are the most accommodating people on earth. Everybody comes to Yoruba land and progresses. I don’t want anybody to turn Yoruba land into Lebanon. Yoruba cannot allow that. We are not going to allow that. Come here, do your business, prosper, go back. Nobody would harass you. That you want to come here now and subjugate us like the Palestinian did to Lebanese, it’s not going to happen.
And let us warn the Federal Government, Nigerians are not the ones saying there would be war. The only people that want to fight the war are the Fulani; they are just 7 million in Nigeria, to fight who?
Your advice for the Yoruba?
The advice I am giving to Yoruba is that we have to work in concert. We are not cowards. In 1962, they tried to perish the Yorubaland, the government of Nigeria then, but God did not allow that. They sent our leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, to prison but he came out triumphantly. Again, another government came. I can’t remember that now; then Abacha came. Let me tell you that the explosion that happened in Ikeja involved the guns and ammunition that Abacha bought to perish Lagos then, but God did not allow it.
They don’t know the Yoruba people. We are a peculiar nation. We are like the Jew who would face a lot of persecutions. People should read history very well. Look at us from 1962. The best performing government in the whole of Africa was Western Region government. MacMillan, the former Prime Minister of United Kingdom, said Chief Obafemi Awolowo can successfully be the prime minister of England or the president of America. What never happened in the whole of Africa happened in Western Region. We got our television before France. We are talking of France which is the first world. Look at Eastern Europe, nothing, absolutely nothing then. Where was Taiwan? Where was China when Yorubaland moved up? We are looking at high rise now, the technology of architecture and high rise; we were among the first. The social responsibility of government, building stadium and so on and so forth came from the South-West.
Look at one of us in America who performed an operation on a pregnant woman. He brought out the foetus and put it back after the procedure. He is a Yoruba man; his father is in Sagamu. Who owns Gatwick Airport, the second biggest airport in the United Kingdom? He is a Yoruba man, Adebayo Ogunlesi, I had dinner with him one time in the UK.The fourth richest black man in America, Kase Lawal, is a Yoruba man from Ibadan. The richest black woman in Africa, Foluso Alakija, what are we saying?
With restructuring, we would use our intellects to develop ourselves. Restructuring is simple: give us [all regions] our space so that we can build what is good for ourselves.
Finally, let me go to Oyo State. I don›t want to be partisan because the governor is an Afenifere, but you know the guy is doing better honestly. This Sunday Igboho›s matter should not take the shine away from the best performing governor so far. We are talking of security now. I think I have the information. He bought 125 security vehicles; he did heavy investment in security, bought communication gadgets and most police officers want to be transferred to Oyo State now. This is because apart from what the Federal Government gives, the state government provides them with so many facilities, and what about the introduction of the Oyo State Crime Alert? Everything is on Google. The CCTV cameras are now located across the state. The Amotekun Security Outfit has been supported with 1,500 vehicles. We have the light up Oyo State with speed LED and CCTV to control the dark spots, especially the ones located at Ogbomoso. These are the kinds of things we want our governors to be replicating across the region.
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