These are not the best of times for all Nigerian politicians especially with the creeping anarchy in the Southeast where separatist non-state actors have restricted elected governors to their state houses while they set fire on government symbols of power, releasing prisoners, indiscriminately killing members of security forces and even visiting guests; and Southwest, where Sunday Adeyemo, alias Sunday Igboho, and Gani Adams, the leader of banned militant Oodua group are exploiting southwest governors’ failure to stop herdsmen’s mindless killing of people in their homes, forest and farms to proclaim themselves leaders of pan-Oduduwa Republic separatist movement. The duo are today so popular among frustrated victims of herdsmen marauders that the former, a self-styled Yoruba activist and pan-Oduduwa Republic agitator, has threatened to eliminate politicians of Yoruba extraction who solicit for the support of Southwest sons and daughters during the 2023 general election. As for the latter, while Pa Banji Akintoye who provides intellectual support for the Yoruba quest for self-actualisation was prepared to pursue the Yoruba case through ‘the right to self-determination’ provision in the UN Charter, to which Nigeria is a signatory, he believes destiny has positioned him as the one to lead the Yoruba separatist battle by virtue of his traditional title of Are Ona Kankanfo that he has started complaining of infiltration of some prominent politicians in the Southwest.. “So for those who have been infiltrating the struggle, I will curse them for seven days and if they fail to heed the warnings, I think they would have themselves to blame”; he recently declared.
The president, the foremost politician in the country is conspicuously missing while his aides seem to be engaged in what late Gbolabo Ogunsanwo would have described as ‘crooked syllogism’- extending human rights provision in section 41 of our constitution to cattle so that they can freely ravage farmers farms unchallenged.
As for our representatives in Abuja, who for fear of bandits dare not visit their constituencies, they are busy playing the ostrich, moving around our major cities protected by the police, doing the same thing they have done for 22 years- pretending to amend a defective superstructure with a defective foundation and expecting a different result.
The nightmare of being a Nigerian politician today goes beyond their inability to meet the challenges of the moment. Their let-downs are daily brought to the consciousness of Nigerians through newspaper howling depressing headlines such as – Bandits kidnap 200 students of Islamiyya school in Niger; “We paid N180m to free our children-after 38 days in captivity-parents”; “MDAs failed to remit N20.6b to Consolidated Revenue Fund”; “Former Minister Diezani Madueikes’ $40m (N14b) seized jewellery, gold iPhone, to be auctioned”; Ebonyi herdsmen killings rise to 52″, “Niger bandits kill 16”; ACF Chairman, Chief Audu Ogbe, issued a travel advisory to northerners planning to visit the South-East” and “We close shops when Hausa youths were brandishing cutlasses”.
Unfortunately, that a great many Nigerian politicians are ‘unscrupulous, venal, cheats’, that for some of them, sincerity is naiveté; candour, artlessness and dishonesty and improbity, real-politick, does not mean we can do without them. We also know that those among them who genuinely set out to serve sometimes have to contend with party intrigues and ambition of party and non-party members and self-interest of pressure groups as against public interest.
As political animals, we need politicians. We owe our continuous survival as an organized society to their flexibility and adaptability to new realities, skillful manoeuvring of very often heavily-mined political field, their ability to easily exploit our innermost fears and their easy reconciliation of private affluence with public squalor.
Of course one understands the righteous indignation of many Yoruba youths who identified with Sunday Igboho and Gani Adams. But being no politicians, they cannot give what they don’t have. They cannot serve as Yoruba pathfinders.
We survived the conspiracy of the Hausa-Fulani and Igbo political elite between 1962 and 1966 because of our politicians including Awo who was unjustly jailed. He saw his travails as a sacrifice for his people. We did not also go to war over MKO Abiola’s annulled electoral victory because of our political leaders including Abiola who spoke of sacrifice during a television programme in the run up to the election by saying “in Yoruba land, when you are called upon to carry a calabash of sacrifice as restitution to the river, you may end up being washed away by the river along with the sacrifice you carry.”
The Yoruba similarly had an answer to the marginalisation by President Jonathan that they helped into office. Secession can therefore not be the answer to the mismanagement of our crisis of nation-building by President Buhari who has only two years left in office. What we were taught was that “bi owo eni o ba te iku ida, a ki bere iku ti o pa baba eni”. (You must carry out strategic studies and weigh the consequences of your action). Those counting on Igbo support if war breaks out have forgotten Ojukwu admitted declaring secession with only 16 rifles. Decision making is important aspect of Yoruba culture.
I am sure the Are Onakankanfo and those beating the drum of war on social media or from far away London are aware of the case of Àsá, a small town in Yewaland of Ogun State invaded by those described as Fulani bandits some weeks back. They reportedly gunned down or slaughtered those who could not escape after which they set fire on their houses. Those who escaped are now refugees in the neighbouring town, of Egelu in Benin Republic.
It must also be said that Garba Sheu and Malami’s unrestrained statements cannot be said to be a proper reflection of northern elders who have since insisted open grazing is no more feasible in Nigeria and Ganduje of Kano who as Fulani not only identified with the same views but has offered to rehabilitate all Fulani herders that desire to practice ranching in Kano.
Minus bad politicians which cut across the country, and military adventurers including Obasanjo, Buhari, Babangida and Abacha, Nigeria, our country is a beautiful country.
‘’Secession’, as Dr Olajide of Yoruba Elders Forum has observed “is (Igboho’s) personal desire which the present circumstances in our nation do not favour and will not make it achievable, and the fact that Yoruba have invested so much in the unity of this country and the making of Nigeria. The tribe cannot choose to opt-out without any adequate plans”.
Even Prof. Banji Akintoye in spite of crusade for Yoruba self-actualisation has never foreclosed it could happen within the greater Nigerian nation. Thus he has continued to say “This is our country. We have to pay attention to what is happening to it”. It is not a good thing to allow it to break up…It will break up if we don’t do something in a hurry”.
It is as well therefore that Bola Tinubu, the current Yoruba political leader along with Pa Bisi Akande, Segun Osoba and Southwest APC elected governors and General Alani Akinrinade came out last Sunday to call everyone to order. Leadership is responsibility. Our political leaders have spoken.