Okurounmu: How Confab Report ’ll Resolve National Crisis

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  • Fulani Killers Are Advance Force For Islamisation Nationwide Grazing Reserves Part Of Plot
  • Osinbajo, Christian Leaders Have Failed Their People Tinubu, Obasanjo Betrayed The Yoruba

 

Senator Femi Okurounmu was born on the 11th of August, 1939. He obtained a Ph.D. and lectured in Mechanical Engineering in the United States before returning to Nigeria. He was a Commissioner for Works in Ogun State in the Second Republic during Chief Olabisi Onabanjo’s administration. Upon the onset of the Fourth Democratic dispensation in 1999, he represented Ogun East Senatorial District in the Senate on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), a position he held from 29th May 1999 to 29th May 2003. On taking his seat in the Senate in 1999, Okurounmu was appointed to committees on Commerce and Economic Affairs. In January 2005, he was made chairman of the logistics committee for a conference comprising  leaders of both the Afenifere (the Yoruba socio-political and group) and the Yoruba Council of Elders, who had been in dispute since 1999. In 2006, he was appointed General Secretary of Afenifere. During a February 2006 public hearing on amendments to the constitution which would allow President Olusegun Obasanjo to run for a third term, Okurounmu presented the position of the Afenifere faction led by Rueben Fasoranti, stating that the country should still maintain two terms of four years. He dissociated the Yoruba from Obasanjo’s third term agenda, saying it was the work of the President and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. In July 2008, Okurounmu blamed the unrest in the SouthWest of Nigeria on the politics of self-aggrandizement and selfishness, where politicians seek power only to serve themselves. In January 2009, he said that Afenifere membership was open to all, regardless of political party affiliation, as long as they believe in the Afenifere and Awoist credo. In May 2010 he said that the zoning arrangement in the PDP by which the presidency alternates between the South and North every two terms was ridiculous, and supported the right of Goodluck Jonathan to seek re-election.

Given his enduring passion to contribute to the correction of the nation’s fake federalism, it was perhaps no surprise that former President Goodluck Jonathan chose Okurounmu to chair The National Conference Advisory Committee that would establish modalities for a national dialogue. This successfully birthed the 2014 National Conference.

A true nationalist, he spoke to The New Diplomat’s Deputy Editor, (Politics) AKINJIDE AKINTOLA on how true federalism is the way out of the myriad of problems confronting the country, the menace of Fulani Herdsmen, how Tinubu and Obasanjo sold the Yoruba race to the North and other issues. Excerpts.

 

 

How do you rate the performance of the APC and the Change Agenda two years after?

Only a novice in politics or a very selfish person will not understand that the Fulani’s had always had an historical ambition to Islamise Nigeria. It has always been their ambition to overrun the whole country and dip the Quran into the Atlantic after Islamising the entire nation. The Sardauna himself said so in 1960 just after independence. He declared this mission openly.

Over the years, the relationship between the Fulanis and the Yorubas has always been a cat-and-mouse affair where the cat is always going after the house rat as a piece of meat. We’ve pointed out the case of Ilorin where Afonja, in pursuit of a selfish interest of independence from the Alaafin of Oyo, sought the alliance of Alimi, the Fulani leader in Ilorin.  But Alimi turned around and got rid of Afonja and turned Ilorin into an emirate under the Sultan of Sokoto. That was how the Yoruba lost Ilorin to the Fulanis till today.

 

 But that was long ago …

The agenda is alive till today! Take the problems between Chief Ladoke Akintola and Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the 60s. The major reason for the problem was no other than the Fulani attempt to overrun the South West and take control of Yorubaland. Again, we saw what happened during the Buhari/Idiagbon regime when they took up governance in 1983. The Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) government between 1979 and 1983 was one of the most progressive governments this nation has ever seen. It was a progressive and people-oriented government versus a reckless squandermaniac government of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). And the UPN was always pointing this out through Awolowo, especially the rudderlessness of the nation, corruption within the ruling party and that the economy was collapsing. But the NPN political bigwigs did not take him serious until the coup happened on the night of December 31, 1983. After Buhari took over power, he admitted the corruption of NPN, locked up all the politicians but alas, the highest punishments were inflicted on the UPN governors: the most progressive governors, the Yoruba governors. Those who had introduced free education in their states, who, in spite of their lean resources, had been able to create a better life for their people: like Chief Lateef Jakande, Olabisi Onabanjo, Ambrose Ali, Bola Ige,  Adekunle Ajasin. People who had endeared themselves to the masses by faithfully fulfilling all electoral promises and manifestoes of their party. These were the people Buhari descended upon and decided to send to lengthy years in jail. Some of them 100 years. And many of them did not survive the harshness of their imprisonment, with some of them dying pitiable deaths. In particular, Ajasin was tried multiple times in order to get a conviction. He was locked up despite being found innocent. Also Jakande, in spite of not finding anything against him, he was just kept in prison.

The metroline project in Lagos was maliciously cancelled even though money had been paid, commitment entered into. Yet out of envy and malice, Buhari (representing the Fulani hegemony), cancelled the project. The state has been set back ever since. Certainly, that era in Nigeria was a period of vindictiveness. It was a period when the Fulanis thought they were going to teach the Yoruba a lesson for showing they could be more progressives than the northerners.

So, with all these experience behind us, it was clear that when they were preaching change towards the 2015 general elections, every knowledgeable Yorubaman knew that the only change the northerners were preaching was the change from the southern president to a northern president. They wanted an Hausa/Fulani Presidency. They thought the power had been out of their hands for too long – Obasanjo had been in power for eight years, Yar’Adua for almost three years before his death and then Jonathan. They felt that Jonathan should not be there. The only change they were really pushing was a change of personality in Aso Rock; they wanted a northerner, a Fulani man in particular.

But the PDP government was corruption-ridden and many Nigerians wanted it out.

The northerners usually have a great commitment to their cause – the corporate interest of the North — than we southerners have to our corporate interest. The northern interest was more important to them than party interest. Even many of them within the PDP were ready to betray Jonathan and be disloyal to their party in order to achieve the northern agenda.

Unfortunately, we Yoruba people, led by Tinubu, were being misguided, misled with Tinubu’s propaganda that the change that was coming was going to bring us better life, that they would fight corruption and perform all sorts of wonders. And because Tinubu controlled the media, a lot of us were carried away by the propaganda, not knowing that even though they were all crying ‘change’, the change that the Yoruba had in mind was different from the change the northerners had in mind.

But Tinubu had nothing in mind than his own personal interest. He knew, as an enlightened man in politics, that political encounters between the Yoruba and the Fulani had never ended in favour of the Yoruba. But he thought he could manage it this time to his own advantage, his own interest. So, he taxed Yoruba people, the governments of Yoruba states to ensure that Buhari got to power. Even from the North, we had some people contesting against Buhari for the Presidency from his own party, but they had decided that it was Buhari they wanted.

So, all South West governors were made to donate towards Buhari’s success at the primaries and his campaign for the election proper. So, there we were, donating money to an “enemy” to go and take over power so that he could better oppress us. That is what has happened. But that is what we knew it was going to be.

 

Was it only the Yoruba that donated money from the South?

Also, Amaechi from Rivers State, a lot of money was taken from him too to finance Buhari’s campaign. It is amazing when they are probing Jonathan’s source of campaign fund, they’ve been very silent on the funding of Buhari’s campaign. That shows the nature of their anti-corruption campaign.

We had a group then called The Yoruba Progressives which canvassed against voting for Buhari based on all these things that the Fulanis were keen on doing. We have since been proved right. As soon as Buhari got to power, he did what was done in Ilorin to Afonja: he started looking for ways to jettison Tinubu. It is surprising that the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, who we thought as a Christian would protect the interests of Christians, has not been able to do much about the drastic descent on Christians in the North. Since he got to power, they’ve been killing Christians in the North as if they are not human beings. A Christian woman was killed in front of her house for proclaiming her faith. What has happened to her killers till date? So many instances abound. Now in Southern Kaduna, a pogrom is ongoing. In fact, the pogrom that is taking place in Southern Kaduna at the moment is worse than what took place in Igboland during the civil war in the North. Rather than Governor Nasir el Rufai to take steps to stop those perpetrating the evil, it is the victims that are not able to resist their killers.  This is ongoing while we have a Yoruba Christian as Vice President who is supposed to protect the interest of Christians. We also understand that the Aso Rock Villa Chapel has been demobilised and is no longer functioning while the Vice President has been reduced to only reading newspapers in his office. That is all the Yoruba have achieved by using their sweat and money to make Buhari President.

 

How would you react to the issue of killer Fulani Herdsmen?

The Islamisation agenda has gotten a new lease of life since Buhari got to power and I don’t know what is going to stop it now as even Igbo land is being penetrated by these rampaging herdsmen. Indeed, these herdsmen are a frontline force in the Islamisation agenda of the Fulani. They are supposed to go ahead, to soften or prepare the ground for the easy conquest of the people. In fact it is looking like the whole idea of setting up grazing centres by the federal government is to ensure penetration of the Fulani in Yorubaland, Igboland and other parts of Nigeria so that they can more easily take over. Otherwise, why would the federal government decide to set up grazing land down in the South here which would be occupied by Fulanis where they and their family would now have permanent settlements? Before you know it, they could dislodge the occupants of the area!

 

Buhari kept quiet for roughly 10 months as the herdsmen were slaughtering Nigerians. Even now he hardly mentions it but talks about MOSOP and Niger Delta militants?

He is keeping quiet because everything is going according to his plan. He doesn’t have to talk. It is when people try to resist the killings that he will talk and mobilise the army to see that they don’t retaliate against the killers.

 

What really do you think is the reason behind the non-implementation of the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference?

This is part of the Islamisation and Fulanistic Agenda and that is why Buhari says he would not implement the report of the 2014 National Conference. The National Conference, in seeking to restructure Nigeria, in seeking true federalism is trying to minimise all of the incidence of ethnic marginalisation; that each ethnic group should develop and advance at its own pace. That is the whole essence of restructuring. That each zone of the country should be able to advance and develop its own resources unhindered by the interest of another zone.

Those who seek to dominate others like the Hausa/Fulani or the Fulanis (because the Hausas themselves are victims) are not seeking the progress of Nigeria or the national interest. They are only after their own interest which is the “Fulani interest” which is to take over the entire Nigeria.  In fact, their interest goes beyond taking over Nigeria, their interest is to take over the whole of West Africa because it is not only in Nigeria that they constitute this kind of threat, they do so in other West African countries. Because, as I’ve said, they have this attraction to group interest. This interest is number one to them. So, as far as they are concerned, anything that weakens federal power in Nigeria is a threat to their ambition to rule over Nigeria. It is through the control of federal power that they control Nigeria. Though they are very few, once they can control federal power, this makes them to determine what happens more or less in every part of Nigeria.

During the era of military rule, a lot of the leaders were northerners in succession, who were always sensitive to the need of the North to control Nigeria. So, they manipulated the constitution that we operate, they gave us a Constitution which had enshrined northern domination. Thus, if we continue to operate the 1979 Constitution which is essentially the Abacha Constitution, the North will always have its way. Even the report of this conference we are talking about, as soon as we take it to the National Assembly, the North will never approve those things that will weaken their control of the country. That is why many of us felt that the report should be subjected to a referendum, instead of being taken to the National Assembly which is North-dominated. Look at the National Assembly, the creation of local governments, the creation of states, everything is manipulated to ensure that the North is in the majority to ensure that the North gets most of the votes in Nigeria. The northern seats in the House of Representatives and Senate dwarf those of the South, so when they are voting on issues that affect the nation, the northern interests always prevail. It is what the North wants that will always prevail.

That is why this restructuring is so crucial, decentralisation is so crucial, zoning of the country for each zone to control its own affairs is so crucial. And this is what the North will fight with all they have. They are ready to fight and I’m not saying it lightly. The North is ready to go to war on this issue to see that we do not decentralise because it is through this centralisation that they control the rest of us. That’s why Buhari does not want to implement the recommendations, that’s why he wants to keep it in the cooler and I don’t think anything is going to make him change his mind.

 

If your views are accurate do you think Tinubu has now realized his error?

Tinubu, if he has a conscience, it should make him an unhappy man for the rest of his life, a very sad man, even if nobody says anything to him.

As a NADECO man, he was an advocate of a Sovereign National Conference, but because he suddenly saw an opportunity to advance his own self-interest by latching unto Buhari, he disowned the national conference when we finally got a president, Jonathan, who had agreed to set up the conference.

Buhari is not doing anything different from what he said as their party, the APC did not support the conference. So, not implementing the report is in line with their not supporting it. What is surprising is that Tinubu is a leader of that kind of arrangement. And the Yoruba, after being blindfolded by him, are now agitating for restructuring as if they didn’t know beforehand what to expect from the Fulani! With his propaganda and a lot of money, he convinced the Yoruba to vote for Buhari and this is the aftermath with the Yoruba now suffering like the rest of Nigerians.

The Igbos and the South-South are even suffering more, maybe the harshest suffering is being experienced now by the North Central people through the Fulani herdsmen which they are inflicting on their people: raping their women and their girls, slaughtering them like animals. So, we are all facing the result of voting an Islamic extremist as president.

 

The abduction of female Christian minors seems to be on the rise in the North? Why?

This is part of the Islamisation agenda. When you abduct Christian girls like the Chibok girls — they are all Christians — you Islamise them, you marry them and start having children by them who will be Muslims. This is the way of turning Christians into Muslims. Unfortunately, our Christian leaders are not sufficiently sensitive to this problem and not sufficiently committed to protecting the interest of Christians. They have become too obsessed with making money, too deeply enmeshed in corruption and exploiting the poor Christians in their care. They have become billionaires, they have a lot at stake and they don’t want to lose their money by confronting the government. They don’t want to lose their wealth by protecting the Christian faith. People are afraid to go to church to worship, yet leaders are not concerned.

 

The Yorubas and the minorities had a chance to change things in terms of restructuring and decentralisation when Obasanjo and Jonathan were president for 14 years. Why didn’t they?

Obasanjo never had a commitment to the kind of change that NADECO and the Yoruba were agitating for. For one thing, he does not consider himself a Yorubaman, and he has said so openly. And he has never behaved like a Yorubaman. If you go back to when he was in power as military president, for one thing, the years he spent from 1976 to 1979, he sat down with only half of his buttocks. He was not in charge  for he felt so insecure. He felt that the northerners could get rid of him anytime. So he didn’t want to do anything that would rub the North  the way they didn’t want. So that made him to deny any connection with the Yoruba, he didn’t want to identify with the Yoruba at all. In fact, he was more northerner than the northerners themselves.

He made himself unavailable for advice by the Yoruba. A lot of Yoruba tried to see him to advise him as to what should be his policy in strategic spheres in so far as the Yoruba were concerned within the military and the nation at large. But either because he was too cowardly, or because he was too northern-oriented, or because he didn’t feel any attachment to Yoruba, he turned the cold shoulders to a lot of those Yorubas. And when he granted them audience at all, he always brought northerners to sit with him when they were presenting their case. There were instances when important military generals wanted to advise him on policy issues in relation to the Yoruba. For instance, a general sought audience with Obasanjo and when he got to Obasanjo’s office, Obasanjo invited Yar’Adua and two other generals and asked the general to repeat what he had told him earlier. The general had seen him earlier advising him, thinking he was talking in confidence with Obasanjo. Of course, the man was very embarrassed, he resigned from the army almost immediately. Obasanjo even did the same thing to Chief Awolowo.

Chief Awolowo was reluctant to go and see Obasanjo then, but a lot of people advised him ‘not to be too rigid’. ‘People say you are too rigid, don’t be too rigid. This is our son, go and see him, you can talk to him. Advise him. So, because the pressure was mounted on Chief Awolowo, he finally went reluctantly. But to Chief Awolowo’s chagrin (I won’t say surprise because it was what he had expected), by the time Awolowo got there, Obasanjo had again invited Yar’Adua and asked Awolowo to state his mission. Of course, Awolowo could not do that in the presence of Yar’Adua. So, Awolowo had to talk about niceties and left. So, that is the kind of man Obasanjo is. He never identified with Yoruba interest. The Awujale of Ijebuland, described him in the same manner in his recent book. I wouldn’t call him the name that Awujale called him, he called him the Yoruba traitor. I won’t go that far.

 

Have you ever approached Obasanjo on any such issues?

When Obasanjo was in power as a civilian president, we made a lot of visits to him to remind him about the national conference. He turned deaf ears. To make matters worse, when he was trying to run for second term, he sought the support of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) governors and Afenifere. I was among those the Afenifere sent to meet with Obasanjo at his Otta farm when he was seeking our support. Myself, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Chief Olaniwun Ajayi and Chief C.O. Adebayo. Adebayo  and I were mandated to be the spokesmen and state the condition under which we would support him for second term. And we gave him three simple conditions which were: convocation of a national conference, reliable census and ensuring the South West was not marginalised in any area of development. All this he promised before we agreed to support him. But he failed to fulfil all his promises but ensured that all the AD governors were sent out of office, except that of  Lagos.

 

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