BY OLUSESAN LAOYE
As it was speculated that there would not be concrete agreement among the people of the South West (Yoruba) over the creation of Oduduwa Nation out of Nigeria, the present scenario and voices coming out now appear to be doing just that.
Initially when the clamour for the Republic started and gaining momentum, particularly, when the anger against the atrocities of the Fulani in the region heightened, there were no dissenting voices. This could have been out of fear of being attacked or labeled as traitors.
There was dead silence even among those who, when the republic is created, would be great beneficiaries and those who also felt threatened that their interests in the present system of governance in Nigeria would be out of existence.
They kept quiet and pretended that there was nothing at stake because the tension was so high that they just can’t afford to say anything contradictory to the mood of the people or could be misinterpreted.
But right now, that the tension has somehow died down and knowing the people of the South West for what they are, as people with independent minds, who believed in freedom of expression and who could not be cowed down, when it comes to speaking their minds, some of them have indeed come out of their shells and determined that they would speak what they believed is the true positions of things, as they perceived them.
At the moment, quite a number of people have come out to either condemned outright the Oduduwa Republic, or indirectly tell the agitators why it would not work, bearing the present situation the people of the South West found themselves, and preferred restructuring of Nigeria, which would give all the federating units the autonomy to develop the way they want.
The argument of such people thus was that the region would benefit more than when it goes as a separate entity because it has contributed so much to Nigeria than other regions or geopolitical zones as it were.
They also argued that though some zones appear to be involved in the agitations and make it look as if they are with the southwest, they expressed the fear that at the last minute, these zones either out of fear or determination to avenge, or inflict more wounds, especially the South East, which believed that it was the South West that scuttled her bid to go out of Nigeria in the past, would abandon their struggles.
It was also argued that the South South and the Middle Belt, which appear to be interested in the same move based on what they are experiencing presently, are likely to chicken out at the end, a situation which would eventually expose the Southwest to a civil war which they did not bargain for.
But other school of thought, believed that the separation could be, if other components are determined and agreed, which would make the separation to come under mutual agreement to be achieved at a round table, just like Yugoslavia, and the Soviet Union and other places, which in the past were in the situation present in Nigeria.
It is however interesting that some of the strong voices coming against the Oduduwa Republic are from some prominent leaders and even traditional rulers in the region. What baffled the people of the region most, was the outburst of the sitting Governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, who dissociated the state from the plans to move out of Nigeria.
Akeredolu made the debate more interesting, as his statement in a way, encouraged those who were on the same page with him but could not speak out when the tension was high for fear of being attacked to join issues. Akeredolu gave Professor Banji Akintoye and others leading the agitations for Oduduwa republic a knock.
Akintoye and others had made representations at the United Nations and other bodies in the world for the creation of the Republic, and going about to convince the people that their mission could be achieved without bloodshed. But Akeredolu insisted that despite whatever moves they had made on their mission, he would not back their calls for a Yoruba nation out of Nigeria.
He pointed out that those canvassing for it were impostors and made reference to a statement credited to a group under the aegis of Ilana Omo Odua led by Professor Banji Akintoye and warned that “the Yoruba would not allow the group of hustlers, living largely in anonymity but struggling for relevance to lead any agitation on their behalf”.
He further argued that Akintoye should submit himself to the people if he was prepared to represent them, saying that Yoruba would not be deceived.
At the time Akeredolu’s stand suffered from legitimacy, as he was being attacked all over for saying that, as a sitting governor and even as the chairman of the South west Governors forum, and that he should have restrained himself from such inflammatory statements, others were coming out to give credence to his statement while some people too were opposing him.
Some people in Ondo State as well came out to attack him that he was on his own and not speaking the minds of the Ondo People. It was also said that his statement was inimical to the progress of the Yoruba people and marked as one of the people to be dealt with later.
But despite the attack on him those who believed in his submission were not deterred from speaking their minds. That was how some traditional rulers, also came out in support of Akeredolu’s stand.
The Alake of Egbaland Oba Adedotun Gbadebo who later got the wrought of some youths who believed strongly that it is Oduduwa Republic or nothing, said that it was better for the Yoruba to remain in Nigeria and that separation would not help them. He said the region stands to benefit more staying with Nigeria.
He also said that it would not be easy to separate just like that and that those agitating should not plunge the southwest into civil war. The Oluwo of Iwoland Oba Abdulraheed carried his own campaign to as far as to Kano state where he addressed the Yoruba there, and rejected the creation of Oduduwa State.
He backed restructuring but emphasised that what the South west needed was the Presidency in 2023 and not Oduduwa Republic. He said those agitators for that should forget it because it would be difficult to split Nigeria now.
Among those who would like the people of the South West to think twice is Comrade Joseph Olusegun Aloba who asked some pertinent questions as to what it would entails and the complications of going as a separate country.
He asked the people of the South West not to fall to the temptation and asked the agitators to think well, so that Yoruba would not play into the hands of international conspirators that do not wish the region well.
In his own contribution as one of those opposed to the Republic, Olusegun Bamgbose, Esq., National Coordinator, Concerned Advocates for Good Governance, CAGG, warned those agitating for Oduduwa Republic not to drag Yoruba race into unprofitable war.
He also cautioned the Yoruba not to allow any individual or group to drag them into war or disrepute, saying that the quest for Oduduwa Republic should be jettisoned. He noted that this agitation, to him, was worrisome, which he pointed out was due to the insecurity in the country and President Muhammadu Buhari’s failure to address it headlong.
Bamgbose said that he would not support any form of secession, because the call for Oduduwa Republic “won’t work.” He said the agitators should have learnt a lot from Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
“Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo was thrice a major contender for the highest office in Nigeria, he failed, but at no time, in his lifetime, did he advocate for Oduduwa Republic. When he lost in 1983, he still never advocated secretly or publicly any form of secession.
“I wonder what the agitators know about Nigeria that Awolowo never knew. What have the agitators experienced that Awolowo never experienced? He was unlawfully jailed, humiliated, deprived, but he never in any way tampered with the unity of Nigeria.”
“Anyone or group advocating for Oduduwa Republic doesn’t really understand the dynamics of Yoruba race. My Presidential ambition will never make me not to speak the truth.
“I am proud to be a Nigerian. I’ve always told my supporters that I am determined to be the next President of Nigeria, but I’m never desperate. There are options to advocating for Oduduwa Republic. I want to urge all Yoruba never to support any form of secession.
Are Ona kakanfo of Yorubaland Iba Gani Adams who spoke on the issue was of the opinion that those agitating for the Oduduwa republic felt that with all the events happening in Nigeria today, restructuring is too late.
He said people have to gauge their stand and that he was being very careful about it because he as a person can’t go it all alone but with the backing of all the stake holders in Yoruba agenda for the development of the region.
He said the notion in the South west is that agitation to have their own country is because there is nepotism; that the unity of Nigeria has been broken, that there is lack of justice while the leaders are self-centered.
He said the politicians are corrupt, and a section of the country treats others as slaves and people are wondering what they are gaining from the union which has not benefitted them. “In this respect you can’t blame people if they now demand to stand alone”.
He condemned the recent statement by the Chief of Defence Staff that they would crush agitators. “I think this is not the best way to solve the problem. He was adding to the tension.”
“Let the government bow to restructuring and allow the system to work because nobody wants chaos and it is because the government has failed the people”.
“What some of us are saying is that there should be restructuring to solve the injustices, nepotism and flagrant disrespect for the rule of law by a section of the country. But in a situation where the government fails to restructure, some of us will have no options than to back Oduduwa Republic”.
In expressing support for a Yoruba breakaway, James Oloyede, a nutrition expert noted that he was for it in as much as it is a negotiated one that had passed through a valid referendum.
Oloyede said he is also favourably disposed to the adoption of a new currency to go along with the new nation. Professor Banji Akintoye with his Ilana Omo Oodua, the umbrella body of Yoruba self-determination groups within and beyond the shores of Nigeria, has continued to say that there was no going back on their stand for the Oduduwa Nation.
He was also of the view that the Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, only spoke for himself and not the good people of Ondo State, saying that he is in league “with a tiny neo-classical elites who want the business to continue as usual in Nigeria.
The Professor of History argued that the threat by the governor that Yoruba people that want self-determination should stay clear of his state could not hold.
According to the group, “Akeredolu is entitled to his opinion and if he is sure he speaks for the people of Ondo State, he should allow the one million march for Yoruba Nation being planned by over 100 Yoruba self-determination groups to hold peacefully in Ondo State without unleashing the instrumentalities of terror and state-sponsored commercial thugs on the masses of the state that desires an autonomous Yoruba Nation.”
Also the statement signed by the Homeland Secretary of the group, Basorun Kunle Adesokan and one of its leaders, Otunba Folashade Olukoya, the group said the agitation being spare-headed by the Akintoye led Ilana Omo Oodua on behalf of Yoruba people is not that of a plot for secession as erroneously branded by Akeredolu, but a struggle for self-determination, warning that there is nothing the governor and his “oligarchic allies could do to stop an idea whose time has come.”
The statement reads: “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 allows 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 aspiration 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 chagrin of all of us who staked our reputation to defend him.
“We are saying for the sake of clarity that what we declared is the sovereignty of Yoruba Nation from Nigeria, and not secession from Nigeria. We want an autonomous Yoruba Nation. We want to determine how we want to govern our people. We want to control and manage our resources. We want to police and secure the lives and properties of our people.
“We have made our position known. Our agitation for autonomous Yoruba Nation is legally grounded, intellectually rooted and it shall be executed without shedding of blood.”
The battle line seems to be drawn; only time can determine whether the Oduduwa republic will become a reality.