Monday, July 1, 2019 9:32 pm
Bothered about the recurrent crises in Nigeria, leaders and eminent Yoruba in the South West, Kogi and Kwara gathered on Thursday June 27, 2019 at the International Conference Centre, ICC, of the University of Ibadan, UI, to deliberate on the possible pragmatic way out of the quagmire they have found themselves in the nation created by the West, Britain in particular. Sobered and charged, the participants of the programme still found ways around easing the tension with light cultural performances, musical interludes and rendition of poem by a Yoruba-language folk poet, Olatubosun Oladapo. The event anchored by a veteran broadcaster and Baale Oluyole Ibadan, Chief Yemi Ogunyemi kicked off at about 11am with a prayer from Archbishop Ayo Ladigbolu. However, the event was too charged for a closing prayer, as lot of the participants left in annoyance.
At the event, a Yoruba translation of “Awo – The Autobiography of Chief Obafemi Awolowo by Mr Alao Adedayo, publisher of the Yoruba Language newspaper, Alaroye, was launched.
Adedayo, who is the Convener of the programme, set the tone for the event by telling the participants that they were invited to talk about the Yoruba. Lamenting the current state of the South West, Adedayo noted that at the inception of the country, the Yoruba was leading in virtually all sphere of life particularly in education, commerce, agriculture and infrastructure. He highlighted, “In 1952 when politics started, the Yoruba was making robust laws. The Yoruba was the first to establish a bank, Agbonmagbe, which later became National Bank. In 1952, the foundation laid by the Yoruba was being followed. In 1966, things started deteriorating and it is so surprising that things can be this bad. We the first have become the last because we are now divided. If we are organized and united, we can’t be enslaved in our land. Now the Fulani has started destroying us. How can we rebuild? This is the reason for this gathering”.
He stated further, “Politicians are behind the problems the Yoruba is facing. Why do we turn politics to business? Why is it not possible for the Yoruba to come together to move South West forward? Why can’t we work together irrespective of the political party affiliation? We look at who can bring us together and we believe that it is only Obafemi Awolowo that can bring us together and that is why we have used Awolowo to bring us together”.
In her brief remark, former Nigerian Ambassador to The Netherlands, Dr Olatokunbo Ayoka Awolowo-Dosunmu could not hide her displeasure over the attitude of the governors in South West adding that they were claiming to be the children of Awolowo, when their posture proved otherwise. She opined that if truly they were Awolowo’s children, just like Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, they would make time for the event that has Awolowo at the centre. She emphasized the reasons why the Yoruba has to come together to rebuild the region and ensure that the legacy that the forefathers, especially Awolowo, left behind is not destroyed.
In his keynote address, a university don and former senator, Professor Stephen Adebanji Akintoye, who noted that his speech was a tribute to the historic translation into Yoruba Language of the most important autobiography in the modern history of the Yoruba nation-the autobiography of Yoruba father, leader, philosopher and guide, Obafemi Awololwo. According to him, Chief Awolowo’s life fills and ennobles our life as a nation in a way that few other lives in the world history can be said to fill and ennoble the lives of the nations to which they belong. He added that most of the truly great landmarks in development and modernization that we see and own in our land are still the work of his hand.
“Most of the light that still powerfully calls us towards light and away from the darkness of our time are from the luminous glow of his effulgence. For us his people, he is the apex, the standard and the measure of patriotic thinking, of sophisticated planning of progress, of masterful and decent management of public business, of solid courage in the face of adversary, and of sacrificial giving of self in the service of the common good. The man among us, our own Adedayo, proprietor of the Yoruba Language newspaper, Alaroye, who is today blessing us with a Yoruba translation of Chief Awolowo’s autobiography, is therefore bequeathing a great and imperishable legacy to our nation, to the Nigeria and the Africa to which we belong, and to the world of our time and our future. For reasons that are very real to us all as we gather in this assembly this morning, Alao Adedayo could not possibly have chosen a better time to drop this treasure into our lives”, he said.
Akintoye stated that for decades now, the Yoruba have lived in arguably the very worst of times in the history of the country of Nigeria and in the history of the Yoruba nation’s membership of Nigeria. “All the negative inputs that have been fed into Nigeria’s life since independence, all the crookedness, all the mutual hatred and vileness and viciousness, all the murderous intent and the mass murdering of the weak and vulnerable, all the assassinations of notable citizens, all the religious and inter-ethnic violence, all the sub-human greed and corruption, and all the flagrant impunity in the management of Nigeria’s affairs, all have gradually converged and concatenated to make Nigeria today a land of profound poverty, hunger, disease, destitution, desperation, fear and terror, a land in which rivers of blood flow day by day, a land in which human life has become pitifully discounted, a land of utter hopelessness for the vast majority of Nigerians and Yoruba people, a land about which informed persons and agencies in the wide world are constantly voicing great fears”, he pointed out.
He said, “We Yoruba nation prospered with orderly governance, under our many kingdoms, and in our many towns and cities, for more than a thousand years before the coming of British colonial rule and before our inclusion with other peoples in Nigeria. We had nurtured a culture of bounteous enterprise, of advancing economic and social prosperity, and of outstanding beauty in the arts. In the course of the half century before the coming of European colonialism, we advanced ourselves to the status of the most literate and most educated nation on the African continent. By the 1870s, ours was already a nation in which an expanding literate elite of lawyers, doctors, writers, engineers, architects, accountants and others were already spreading the benefits of Western education. The first newspaper in our land, the first newspaper in Africa, was published in our city of Abeokuta in 1859, and by 1880, other newspapers were publishing in some of our other cities. Our language became a written language, and our men in the service of the Christian missions were helping other peoples of the Niger territories to turn their languages into written languages too. By the 1880s, ours was a land of large-scale farming, of great export productions, and of great commerce. Some of our biggest traders based in Lagos even had shipping lines of their own. We were a notable nation in the modern world that was emerging”.
Still going down memory lane, the don said, “Then, from about 1950, after four decades of lack-lustre management of our nation’s affairs by British colonial rulers, a new limited self-government constitution allowed us to manage the affairs of most of our nation in Nigeria-in the territory known as the Western Region. At that point, thankfully, the Almighty God gave us Chief Obafemi Awolowo to lead us and to manage our affairs in the Western Region. The federal constitution agreed to by the three Regions of the then Nigerian Federation gave the indigenous governments of the three Regions considerable freedom to govern their Regions and develop their resources. Under Chief Awolowo’s leadership as our Regional Premier, our Western Region immediately became the most productive in development and modernization in Nigeria and on the African continent. Our Region became the pace setter in all aspects of development and progress in Nigeria. Our region also became the most openly and most confidently democratic part of Nigeria and Africa. We the Yoruba people of the Western Region flew as if on eagles’ wings towards becoming one of the leading nations in the whole of the Third World. Some of our leading intellectuals expressed confidence that we would soon catch up with a country like Japan in the race for development, modernisation, technology and prosperity in the world”.
However, Akintoye regretted that as soon as independence came for Nigeria in 1960, it rapidly became obvious that our passion for development and speed of development were impossible to sustain in Nigeria because they were unacceptable to Nigeria adding, “A quest to stop the Yoruba quickly manifested”. He elucidated, “In 1962, the quest was given teeth, and a federally engendered plot plunged our Western Region into a crisis which enabled the controllers of federal power to clamp a dictatorship over our region and to then embark upon systematically pulling our achievements down. Today, Nigeria stands in deep and deepening poverty, insecurity, and disorientation, and we Yoruba stand deeply sunk in the same maladies. The assets that we Yoruba created in our long history of civilization building are perishing. The great and proud accomplishments that the Awolowo stewardship brought into our land and or lives in the decade before Nigeria’s independence, all are now disintegrating and dilapidating around us. In short, we are not only not advancing, we are actively retrogressing. Our educational system, the flagstaff of our modern achievements, has declined and is declining in quality, standards and products. The tens of thousands of our graduates from schools, colleges and universities years by year are walking the streets unemployable and unemployed. All these are largely due to the fact that the federal spirit has been killed in Nigeria and that the governments of our states regularly operate under a system that constrains and inhibits state and local initiative and creativity. No plans or programmes exist in our states of today for providing job skills, entrepreneurial skills, and small business assistance for our youths. In the process, increasing numbers of our educated youths are being enticed into crimes and criminal cults. And for many of the more self-respecting ones among our youths, the only outlet now believed to be open is flight to other countries from hopelessness of Nigeria. Some who are totally desperate to flee are trying the option of fleeing across the thousands of miles of the arid Sahara Desert to Northwest Africa, and from there by risky smugglers’ boats across the Mediterranean Sea to Southern Europe. Thousands are dying regularly on this death route. Many are being enslaved on the Northwest Africa coast. An official of the Nigerian Immigration Department made the public statement recently that 10,000 Nigerians died in the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea in the five months from January to May 2017. In these circumstances, many of our families are losing confidence in education, and the number of out-of-school children is rising in all parts of our homeland”.
“The same monsters of disintegration and dilapidation are staring us in the face in all other areas of our life as Yoruba people. Our roads and highways are perishing. The water supply systems that we installed in our towns and cities in the 1950s have mostly perished-so that, today, most of our homes must depend on boreholes for clean water. Supply and distribution of electric power have become a horrendous mess, with the result that small businesses requiring electricity are finding it difficult to start or to survive, and larger businesses are closing door or fleeing to other countries-thus reinforcing the progression of unemployment and poverty. And now, to cap it all, security of life and property has degenerated seriously in Nigeria and in the Yoruba homeland in Nigeria. In the past four years, Fulani herdsmen from the far North and from other parts of West Africa have increasingly been coming to Yorubaland, accompanied by militias bearing sophisticated weapons, engaging in destroying farms, killing farmers and farmers’ families, destroying villages, holding up his highways to rob or kill travellers, to kidnap people for ransom, and to generate widespread disruption. Forcing many to give up farming, compelling many to cancel needed travel plans, and extorting large amounts of money as ransom from all and sundry, these outrages are preparing the ground for much deeper poverty among Yoruba people”, he added.
According to him, altogether, Yoruba people are living today with a level of poverty unknown to them, stressing that already, in the Yoruba nation where street begging was traditionally a taboo, Yoruba beggars are becoming an inevitable and increasing presence in the streets of Yoruba cities and towns.
However, the erudite scholar turned politician is hopeful that the Yoruba nation will rise out of its present mud pond, assuring that it would become a nation of great enterprise again – the nation that Chief Awolowo showed that we could become, the land of orderliness, the land of patriotic service, and the land of prosperity and beauty.
After his speech, speakers took turns to articulate their expectations from the leadership of the country. A Yoruba leader, Chief Ayo Banjo said, “At 90 years of age, one should not fear death again. I will say what I want to say, if they like let them come and arrest me tomorrow. Buhari is behind what Fulani is doing across the country. If we can’t speak the truth, God will not forgive us. Buhari is the President of Myetti Allah. Buhari’s body language is that Myetti Allah should continue what they are doing in Nigeria. Buhari doesn’t want restructuring. The best that happened to the Yoruba of a recent is the emergence of Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State. Oyo people have done the best by voting for Makinde. No governor in the South West can confront Buhari the same way Bola Ahmed Tinubu can’t confront Buhari. Tinubu will not confront Buhari because he is thinking that Buhari will make him to succeed him. It is a deceit. The Governors in the South West are working for themselves, except Makinde. Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, Babatunde Fashola, former governor of Lagos State and the rest are working for themselves”.
He continued, “As at today, the only hope the Yoruba has is Governor Makinde. Please all the royal fathers and eminent Yoruba people should support Makinde. Buhari is deceiving Tinubu for 2023. The security of this country is in Abuja. No Nigerian governor has power over the commissioner of police because the commissioner of police gets instruction from Abuja. No governor can help us because their hands are soiled except Makinde. The Governor of Kaduna State is busy killing the Christians in his state and nothing is done about it. When 800 Christians were killed in Kaduna, nothing was done and no arrest was effected. Look at what they did to Chief Olu Falae in Ondo State. They burnt his house and destroyed his farm”.
Also, Otunba Ayodeji Osibogun, General Manager, Space FM, said that this is the time for Yoruba people to liberate themselves from those that have colonized them the second time, stressing that Yoruba should free themselves from enslavement in Nigeria. He said, “Enough is enough. This suffering is enough. Yoruba should rise and set themselves free”.
A prominent Yoruba Leader, the Founder of Bola Immaculate Group of Schools, Ibadan, Chief Bola Doherty, pointed out that the right people to go and talk to Buhari is the Yoruba monarchs saying that governors cannot confront Buhari so that he will not deny them of their allocations. She said, “The Yoruba leaders and the Obas should go and tell Buhari that his name has been destroyed by the members of Myetti Allah. Buhari is the president of Myetti Allah and his people has taken over Nigeria, wreaking havoc and terrorizing. If you get there and they give you money, or brown envelope, reject it”.
Another woman said, “Don’t collect our land. Don’t enslave us. If our governors will not do what we want, then the masses should mobilise themselves and go out. Leave the Obas and governors. Masses, go out there and fight for your right”.
The Olugbon of Orile Igbon, Oba Francis Olusola Alao urged Alaafin to lead the Yoruba out of enslavement saying that he should not fear death in the mission ahead. He said, “Politicians and political office holders particularly, the governors have failed us. The governors are no longer for us. We are under siege. I spent 15 years in the North. The North will betray the Yoruba in 2023. Three things are now very important in the South West: the security, the unity and future of the Yoruba Region. There is no room for Fulani in the South West. There is no room for kidnapping. There is no room for rape anymore in the South West. There is no room for terrorism in the South West. Our governors and politicians will not fight for us because they are aspiring to be presidents in 2023. The governors have mortgaged the lives of the generations unborn”.
The Leader of Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, and Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Adams berated the governors in the South West for not cooperating with him in solving the security challenges in the region. He proposed that all the groups in Yorubaland should come together to find a lasting solution to the insecurity in Yorubaland. Adams, however, sent a warning signal to the Fulani terrorizing the South West that being a warrior, he was not scared of war and he has the capacity to mobilise three million soldiers within three days for battle, cautioning the governors in the region not to allocate any portion of land for ranches. Pointing it out that Yoruba history would not forget and forgive any governor who allocates land for ranches, Adams said, “Our land is not available for Miyetti Allah, so they should find other place or other means of rearing their cattle. I am a warrior and I am not afraid and the Yoruba are not afraid of any tribes who are giving us problems. I am only waiting for approval from my Kings because they have the final say on this issue. I am not limiting this struggle to the South West only but to the States like Kogi and Kwara States where we have Yoruba society. We won’t allow insecurity to overwhelm us. We will not allow it to distract us from pursuing restructuring agenda. We should do whatever we have to do to deliver ourselves”.
Reacting, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi 111, appealed to the Yoruba race to give peace a chance assuring them that he is ready to talk to Buhari on the way forward adding that for Nigeria to continue to exist, true federalism has become necessary to be adopted for the running of the affairs of Nigeria. The Alaafin further appealed to the Yoruba not to lose hope on the Yoruba governors saying that anybody can always change for the better. For Yoruba to move forward, the Alaafin vowed, “From now on, Alaafin and Ooni will no longer fight”. The Alaafin was disappointed that the current political office holders do not follow the footsteps of their forefathers, saying that he might have problem with Chief Awolowo when he was alive, but that would not stop him from acknowledging the good things that Awolowo did for the Yoruba. According to him, Awolowo fought for the Yoruba and brought development to the region.
He, however, berated Adebanjo and his group for attacking President Buhari, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and South-West governors over security challenges in the region adding that such attacks “are hypocritical, unfounded and mere illogical militancy”. Declaring that Yoruba are the architects of their misfortune, the monarch specifically recalled how Adebanjo circumvented and betrayed the Yoruba during the tenure of Chief Awolowo as Premier of the defunct Western Region. “It was Ayo Adebanjo who was then the Private Secretary to Awolowo, in connivance with his like-minds that fabricated and misinformed the then Premier that some Yoruba were stockpiling arms and ammunitions preparatory for war”, he stressed.
He also condemned Chief Olusegun Obasanjo for failing his people while he was the nation’s president asking Obasanjo to tell the world what he did while in power to uplift and promote the cause of Yoruba. “The situation on ground does not call for personal animosity, hurling of insults, attacks or engage in militancy against constituted authorities, but require holistic approach on workable solutions and how best can the Yoruba be coherently coordinated”.
The royal fathers attendance include: Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Saliu Adetunji, Aje Ogunguniso 1, Akarigbo of Remo, Oba Babatunde Ajayi, was represented by Onigbepa of Igbepa-Sagamu, Oba Solagbade Tijani and Alado of Ado-Sagamu, Oba Mufutau Adeoye Sanni, Eburu of Iba, Oba Adekunle Adeogun-Okunoye, Oba Francis Adefarakanmi Agbede Ilufemiloye, Ogidi III of Igbara Oke, Eleruwa of Eruwa, Oba Samuel Adegbola, Onimeko of Imeko, Oba Benjamin Oyeditan Olanite, Akanku IV, the Oyomesi, Baale Ekotedo, Chief, Tayo Ayorinde and Asiwaju Remo, Oloye S. K. Onafowokan.
Others are: Former Governor of Oyo State, Dr Omololu Olunloyo, Senator Femi Okurounmu, media chiefs including, Managing Director/Editor-In-Chief Nigerian Tribune, Edward Dickson, Vanguard’s General Manager/Editor-in-Chief, Mr. Gbenga Adefaye, the spokesperson of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, Professor Adedeji Awoniyi, Professor Akin Alao, Prof. Anthony Ijaola Asiwaju, Professor Kola Owolabi, Professor J. O. Oluwasanmi, former chairman of the State Universal Basic Education Board, SUBEB, Professor Soji Adejumo, Dr Yemi Farounbi, Chief Bode Akindele, Dr Kunle Olajide, Dr Olubayo Adekola, Adebutu Kessinton represented by Aare Dr Kola Oyefeso, Dr Bode Abimbola, former editor of Daily Times, Chief Areoye Oyebola, Princess Olabisi Sangodoyin, a poet, and President of Patriotic Movement, Oladosu Olapade, Yoruba from Kogi led by Bar. Femi Mokikan, Chief Ayo Abereona, Mr Tunde Ibrahim, Mr Lanre Oloruntobi, Tunde Kelani, Archbishop Olumuyiwa Odejayi, former SA to Lagos State Governor, Hon. Samuel Olalekan Ifemade, Mogaji Gboyega Adejumo, Tunbosun Oladapo, Prince Bola Ajibola, Oyo State Deputy Governor, Engr. Rauf Aderemi Olaniyan, Olalekan Akekaka and Barrister Oladosu Oladipo.