- Cracks Widen Among Leaders Over Secession/Self-determination Calls In Region
- Anti-Seccession Groups Disown Igboho, Back Restructuring
- Agitation Throws S’West Govs Off Balance
- Soyinka: Solution Lies In ‘Massive Decentralisation’ Of Power
Voices of cacophony have begun to trail the call for secession in Nigeria’s Southwest as championed by self-acclaimed O’odua Activist, Mr Sunday Adeyemo, otherwise known as Igboho, who has vehemently asked Yoruba leaders to trigger all the necessary moves locally and internationally enough to pull the region out of the Nigerian state, in just about two years to the 2023 general elections.
If what went down on Thursday in Ibadan, Oyo state capital is anything to go by, the region is likely to be a frontier of sundry agitations in months to come as several self-determination groups under the platform of Assembly of all Yoruba Groups Worldwide converge to further their demands and perfect strategy.
At the meeting, the Assembly fixed June 12 as the date for a referendum on the self-determination of the Yorubas.
Reading a communique after the meeting, one of the leaders of the coalition, Otunba Deji Osibogun said the Yoruba self-determination is non-negotiable.
The coalition also called on all federal lawmakers from the Southwest in both the Senate and House of Representatives to move a motion on the insecurity in Yorubaland within the next 90 days.
What started as a call against herdsmen attacks vis-a-vis restructuring which appeared to have resonated with a preponderance of Yorubas in the grassroots, has now dovetailed into a demand to secede and abandon the Nigerian project in certain quarters and self-determination in others, hence, ripping the region apart.
While some Southwest groups and leaders have joined the secession bandwagon, others stood in-between the lines; some are calling for self-determination, while the rest disowned the call and would rather push for a restructured Nigeria, favouring a regional arrangement where they believe Southwest and its people will better excel as manifested in the enviable Western region of yore under the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
Recall Igboho, who has since become a regular feature in Nigerian news headlines since his dare-devil action against the Fulani herdsmen in Ibarapa, Oyo state, recently pushed the envelope of his activism when he declared Yoruba as a separate nation last week and demanded the secession of Southwest states from Nigeria.
Making the declaration, he appeared to be unequivocal about the thrust of his demand. “If the police attack us for that, we are ready for them. We do not want Nigeria again, but the Yoruba nation.” Igboho said, adding that “there is no essence for one Nigeria when the major resources in the country are in the hands of the northerners. Enough is enough. There is no going back… We are not scared of anybody. These killer herders are taking over our land and they are killing our people.”
However, the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), sees this differently. While the Council demanded a better deal for people in the region, the group said secession is not the way to go.
The Secretary-general of YCE, Dr. Kunle Olajide, said people across the country have lived together for over 100 years and calling for secession is not a wise decision for the region. Olajide, who stated that Yoruba had over the years invested a lot in the Nigerian nation, called on Igboho and other agitators in the region to allow the elders to engage the Federal Government over the insecurity and marginalization of the region.
Olajide said: “It is his (Igboho’s) personal desire but the present circumstances in our nation do not favour and will not make it achievable, and the fact that Yorubas have invested so much in the unity of this country and in the making of Nigeria. The tribe cannot choose to opt out without any adequate plans.
“I am not aware that the Yoruba nation or citizenship has given a mandate to anybody to desire their extinction from this country. So it is not a decision that can be taken by an individual or a group of individuals.
“Anybody who is familiar with the history of Nigeria will know that we have been together for over 100 years, even before the British came and we have Yorubas all over the country just as we have other Nigerians everywhere.”
Meanwhile, Governors in the Southwest have not been spared in the ongoing controversy sparked by the call for secession by Igboho and supporters as some commentators had argued that the agitation in the region is about to cause a political tsunami for some of the helmsmen superintending over the six states of the Yoruba nation amid the ongoing 2023 politicking.
On Monday, Ondo State Governor Mr Rotimi Akeredolu had said, “No part of the entire state, known and delineated as Ondo State, shall permit any Yoruba nation gathering or agitation.” Akeredolu said this following a ‘one million march’ earlier planned to hold in Akure by some self-determination groups in the Southwest.
But Ilana Omo O’odua, a self-determination group led by renowned Professor of history, Banji Akintoye quickly lampooned Governor Akeredolu over his pronouncements, labelling the Senior Advocate of Nigeria ‘as a member of the tiny neo-liberal elites’.
Professor Akintoye often stresses that the call for Yoruba self-determination by his group and others should not be misconstrued as secession.
The group in a statement on Wednesday said the agitation for the Yoruba nation “is not that of a plot for secession as erroneously branded by Akeredolu, but a struggle for self-determination”.
The statement added, “We wish to say very clearly that Akeredolu is entitled to his opinion. He has only spoken for himself. If he is sure he speaks for the classical masses of Ondo State, he should ensure that his army of state-induced terrorists allow us to stage our one million march peacefully in Akure, Ondo State capital to prove whether he spoke for Ondo state people or for himself.
“Akeredolu feeds 100 per cent on the commonwealth of Ondo State people. He is a member of the tiny neo-liberal and neo-classical elites who will never support the wishes and aspirations of the masses.
“We saw how he grandstands on the terrorists and murderous herdsmen illegally occupying the forest reserves in his state and we saw how he chickened out to the chagrine of all of us who staked our reputation to defend him,” the Akintoye’s led group stated.
Ekiti state Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi on his own part appeared to be side-stepping the issue as political watchers suggest he has been evasive on the subject matter as it relates to the herdsmen crisis in the region and the growing call for either secession or self-determination by groups.
Fayemi, who spoke on an Arise TV programme Tuesday, blamed the recent agitations on the stress and laxity in the Nigerian society.
He, however, expressed optimism that the current challenges rocking the country will be over soon.
In his words, “Frankly, when you have stress and laxity in society, you’re bound to find a whole range of responses. Some rational, some irrational, some that speak to the fears of the people, some opportunistic and harebrained. There’s no question that some of the reactions we’ve seen will fall into all of those categories. I have gone on record to say that I have unfailing optimism that in spite of all our challenges, this country will triumph and we’ll survive current challenges,” Fayemi said.
Speaking with The New Diplomat, Barrister Dotun Hassan, President of the Yoruba Council of Youths and Women Worldwide (Igbimo Apapo Yoruba Lagbaye) said his group was not in tandem with the Igboho’s call aiming to pull the region out of the Nigerian state.
Hassan, who said his group had backed Igboho on his earlier action targeted at stamping out herdsmen invasion and insecurity in the region, believes “the agitation by Igboho has been mismanaged.
“It would have been better if we had followed through on the way we started the agitation against the Fulani herdsmen attacks in the country because Southwest has been having its own share of the attacks as witnessed in Ibarapa, Igangan and Igboho areas of Oyo state all the way to Ekiti and even in Ogun state.”
He said the YCYW was in support of the Yoruba Council of Elders on its stance against the voice of secession.
The group, however, reiterated its call for a restructured Nigeria as it called on the federal government to establish a Southwest Development Commission to quell agitations in the region.
“If the Northeast has had a Development Commission, we’re calling for a Southwest Development Commission which will serve as a quasi-administrative platform for the development of the region,” Hassan added.
Africa’s largest country is currently being rocked on all sides as banditry, kidnapping, herdsmen crisis and years-long terrorism by the Jihadists among other insecurity monsters have continued to rear their ugly heads amid the debilitating Covid-19 crisis.
The insecurity trend coupled with other socio-political threats have led to the rise of dissidents’ voices across Nigeria, including in the Southwest region of the country, a hitherto safe haven that has never been given to separatist’s tendency and movement often seen in parts of the country in the past.
To save the country from its current predicaments, Professor Wole Soyinka while speaking with The New Diplomat in an interview recently called for a massive decentralisation of power in the country as witnessed in the first Republic, asking the ‘bogus’ centre to free up some responsibilities for the federating units.
The Nobel Laureate said “the kind of advance development, healthy rivalry which took place post-independence have vanished to become self-centeredness, because all the major power, policy making and control have gone to the center, making the others dependent on whatever group of people we have in power at the center.
“For those that are saying ‘let us decentralize’, it is possible to dialogue with those with that position but for those that have already reached a point where they say ‘the Nigeria project is dead’, then we are in real problem, and that has reached an alarming stage,” Soyinka told The New Diplomat.