I have never been an admirer of the Minister of the Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola. In my humble opinion, he was a gargantuan disaster when he governed Osun State by plunging the state into avoidable debts with his joke of ‘socialist’ and ‘welfarist’ programs that turned his people into mendicants. He failed to utilize the agrarian opportunities in the state which has what it takes to effectively compete with Benue State. Rather than think up strategies of how to export food items from there to the rest of the world and earn foreign exchange, he justified his needless borrowings and owing of the salaries of civil servants as well as pensioners by blaming a shortfall from the Federation Account. Did his people keep faith with him for three sturdy years at the courts and election petitions tribunal between 2007 and 2010 to hear asinine excuses?
However, for the first time I whole-heartedly agreed with him when he denounced the secessionist activities of the apologists of the Oduduwa Nation largely spearheaded by Sunday Adeyemo a.k.a Sunday Igboho, Professor Banji Akintoye etc. He said: “My most important message for this gathering is to let you know that those advocating for the Yoruba nation are fools and ignorant of the consequences of their action. Nigeria is the reason the Western nations respect the Blackman globally.
“Maybe these secessionists did not know that if any crisis or war happens in Nigeria now, its fallout will linger for another 50 years. So we must guide this unity jealously. Although things are not perfect yet, I believe we should rather advocate better government rather than agitate for secession.”
Secession is an ill wind that blows nobody any good and it will only throw up an avalanche of challenges that may consume the fragmented new nations. Sunday Igboho’s claim to fame was his expulsion of some alleged criminal Fulani elements in Ibarapa. This earned him heroic status so much so that he became one of the most important non state actors in the entire Yoruba land. Many states beckoned on him to help ‘liberate’ them from the yoke of the blood thirsty Fulani herdsmen. Not satisfied with his status as a Yoruba liberator, he wanted more especially as an unsuccessful GoFundMe campaign had been done by some of his fanatical supporters on his behalf in the Diaspora. He became a champion of the Oduduwa Nation and has been organizing rallies in support of it all over the south west. He even plans to hold the mother of all rallies on June 12 – the nation’s democracy day.
An Oduduwa nation like I opined above isn’t the solution to the challenges in the south west as the Yorubas are not as homogenous as people believe. There is still the ugly trend of discrimination based on the part of Yoruba land that you come from. An Egba man holds an Ijebu man in suspicion despite the fact that they are from the same state. There was the Ife Modakeke crisis which consumed hundreds of thousands of lives despite their being neighbours with lot of intra marriages. There is the current fierce agitation for an Ibadan state by the people of Ibadan who feel marginalized in Oyo State. That homogeneity that is a key attribute of nationhood is lacking in Yorubaland to make an Oduduwa nation successful or even viable.
Igboho must have looked at the economic angle to the struggle as exemplified by his Comrade-in-Arms, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu who is not only anchoring the struggle from relative comfort in the United Kingdom – far away from the theatre of blood bath, but has attracted a lot of funding from his sympathetic kinsmen as an American lobbying firm now handles his public relations abroad which doesn’t come cheap. Who was Sunday Igboho before 2020? If the Nigerian State was more serious, he would never have emerged in the first place.
What Nigeria needs is restructuring and not secession which will cost more bloodshed. We should have learnt our lessons from the avoidable Civil War where millions of lives were lost which the late Biafran Warlord, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu later described in an interview as a ‘monumental waste.’ Those beating the drums of war should be very careful for what they wish for.
True federalism should be practiced as there should be devolution of powers and fewer items on the exclusive list. Why should states be running cap in hand to Abuja at the end of the month to beg for federal government allocation like babies beg their mothers for breast milk? Why can’t there be resource control similar to what obtained in the Lyttleton Constitution of 1954 which enabled the late Sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo develop the Western Region through his free primary education program, the building of Cocoa House, scholarships for undergraduate studies in the UK, the building of the Liberty Stadium, the first television station in Africa etc?
California is rich and powerful and is the seventh largest economy in the world if it were a country because of the presence of the Silicon Valley and Hollywood. She doesn’t go begging Washington DC for aid every month; rather it does the opposite by remitting to the centre. New York is powerful because it houses the Wall Street and all other financial institutions in the US. It is the economic nerve centre of the US and by extension the world. It has no business begging Washington DC for funds. Most of the states in the south have their rich farmlands where they grow crops which they not only sell domestically but export the excess as well.
Lagos shouldn’t be the only part of the country where there is a major seaport. Other major seaports should be built in places like Ondo, Rivers, Delta, Bayelsa, Akwaibom which will greatly diffuse development to these places and decongest Lagos which is the smallest but the most inhabited state in the nation.
Some secessionist apologists have argued that Nigeria is an artificial creation by the British and that it is high time we went our separate ways. However, it is possible for us to understand our peculiarities and live in harmony with our differences rather than take up arms against one another in needless strife.
Secession guarantees nothing and it is not Uhuru when it happens as the victory is most times pyrrhic. South Sudan is still embroiled in crisis years after it broke away from Sudan. Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka that broke away from India are third world nations and near failed states as majority of their citizens live below the poverty line. None of the fifteen countries that emerged from the disintegrated Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is a First World Nation as the vast majority of their citizens’ grapple with getting the basics on a daily basis not knowing what life has in store for them.
Concerned Nigerians should continue to dialogue on ways in which restructuring can become a reality and mount pressure on the government at the centre to make it happen. Demagogues like Sunday Igboho should be totally shunned by all sensible Nigerians especially the Yorubas whose antecedent of sophistication dates back to the 19th century when they produced the first graduate and lawyer in the person of Christopher Sapara-Williams in 1855.
A word is enough for the wise!
Tony Ademiluyi is the Co Founder of The Vent Republic and wrote from Lagos.