By OLUSESAN LAOYE & ADEBAYO OBAJEMU
When the Ondo State Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, gave the Fulani bandits who were terrorising the people to vacate the forest reserves in the state within seven days, and same directive was given in Oyo State to the Fulanis by an ultra Yoruba nationalist and Human Rights defender, Sunday Adeyemo, a.k.a Sunday Igboho, many were quite convinced it was a joke taken too far.
The two directives came like a bolt from the blue, rocking the nation to its foundations and brewing uncertainty and fears of the unknown. While Igboho’s seven-day ultimatum came on Friday; that of Governor Akeredolu came after on Monday.
As it turned out, Sunday Igboho stormed Igangan, Fulanis’s heartland in Ibarapa zone of Oyo State, where they (Fulanis) have been operating, kidnapping, raping, and killing the people with impunity at the expiration of ultimatum, that of Governor Akeredolu lapsed on Sunday two days after Igboho took it upon him-self to evict the Fulanis.
Akeredolu, who is now the Chairman of the Southwest Governors’ Forum, maintained his, which strengthened the hands of Igboho and enhanced the case. Events which followed the two incidents and the reactions of the people in the Southwest, including, traditional rulers, activists, opinion leaders, and some politicians, including Yoruba youths have now sent a strong signals that they region would respond when pushed to the wall.
The reaction of the federal government through Garba Shehu, presidential spokesperson to the effect that Igboho would be arrested further angered the people who felt that the Buhari-led government is emotionally attached to the herdsmen, and partisan in the matter.
This perception further brought to the fore a renewed agitation for restructuring as the only panacea to a string of challenges confronting the nation of which the herdsmen’s challenge is the latest manifestation of the anomaly in the polity.
What has happened in the last two weeks was a pointer to the fact that the Southwest meant business about restructuring and they can no longer tolerate the kidnappings, killings and other forms of banditry associated with the Fulani herdsmen in the region.
“For those familiar with Yoruba resilience, they have a way of reacting to issues, and it will be foolhardy on the part of any group to take them for granted. This is the evidence and lesson of history. The Yoruba are an important segment of the entity called Nigeria, powerful intellectually, economically, internationally and with suave political dexterity. Their greatest strength is unity. On the issue of herdsmen and Igboho government should tread carefully and softly”, said Professor Onimole Adetoun, an expert in ethnic relations in a chat with Business Hallmark.
In the Southwest today, virtually all the people are clamouring for restructuring, while pockets of them are calling for self -determination. While there is a groundswell of opinion in the southwest that the problem may be North’s reluctance to restructure, the overwhelming belief is that the Hausa themselves are not the problem but the Fulani.
Many elites in the Southwest are favourably disposed to the Hausa and other minorities in the region, their anger is directed at the territorial ambitions of the Fulani. Although the agitation of the Southwest for a new constitution to give room for restructuring may have been dragging before the Buhari administration , the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari and his policy of favouring a section of the country above others, actually heightened the resolve of the people of the Southwest that the time is now or never and they believe that, they have to keep pressing on, before 2023 when another Presidential elections would come.
In fact, virtually all the Southwest leaders who spoke with BusinessHallmark (BH) were of the views that Nigeria if it must remain as a country, there must be a new constitution with a referendum that would give room for the country to be restructured in line with true federalism that would allow each components in the Nigerian arrangement to develop at its own pace with a weak centre.
They argued that the 1999 constitution was not people oriented but fashioned to favour a section of the country, especially, the North at the expense of other regions which originally form and constituted Nigeria.
Chief Ayo Adebanjo, a leader of the Afenifere in a telephone chat with BH said that the order of the governor of Ondo State to the Fulanis to quit the Forest reserves was constitutional and he has the right under the law as the chief security officer of his state to say so.
On Sunday Igboho’s action too, he said, it was lawful because he resorted to self defence when he could not be protected. These two incidents he further argued, have sent signals to those who think they could come to the Southwest to do what they like, thinking that hey can get away with it.
He said the future of the Yoruba people in the Southwestern Nigeria lies in a new federal constitution and without that, there is no future for the Yoruba nation in Nigeria.
“What we have been talking about is a new constitution. Southwest in Nigeria wants a constitution that would bring true federalism and we are not going back on this. We want a constitution that would treat all components of Nigeria on equal to basis”
He argued that that the one now in Nigeria “is a partisan one made by a section of the country and lorded against the other parts.”
According to him “If we want to stay together forever in peace, we must have an agreed constitution that would be fair to everybody”.
In his own submission the General Secretary of the Yoruba Council of of Elders(YCE) Dr. I. Kunle Olajide told BH in his residence at Ibadan that the stand of the YCE was not different from that of Afenifere, saying that the “Yoruba have been the protagonist of restructuring and true federalism”
He said that the YCE would like Nigeria to go back to the agreement reached and negotiated with the colonialist which at the time was just three Regions but now we have six.
“We should understand that Nigeria has never been one people, one Nation but different people, with different cultures, believes and priorities and as such each unit should be allowed to explore and exploit its resources according to its priorities.”
“We must in a true Federal system have a centre that would only be responsible for few things, such, as Customs, Immigration, defense, general security and Foreign, Affairs”
He said further “Unless we restructure, and bring about true federalism, Nigeria is heading towards falling apart.”
In his own contribution, during an interview with BH Dr. Yemi Farounbi, an associate of the late Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Bola Ige, and now a chieftain I of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) said, “The future of the Yoruba in Nigeria depends on a number of factors.
“First is that most Yorubas want a rearrangement and reorganisation of Nigeria. They look backwards with nostalgia to the First Republic. They prefer the true federalism that was in vogue then and want an end to the centralized, hierarchical federalism of today. They want a reduction of the resources allocated to the centre from 53% to less than 40%.
“They want a new constitution that is based on a two-tier system. They want a new constitution that defines the federal exclusive list of about 20 federal duties, and leave other functions to the federating units. In the new constitution, there will be no concurrent list. The Yoruba see this as a panacea to the current security problems confronting the country.”
He said further “The Yoruba want to see a review of the presidential system to reduce the high cost of governance and the imperial nature of the Nigerian practice. The Yoruba want to see a review of the political recruitment system so that greater emphasis can be placed on merit, equity and social justice.
“If these are done and quickly too, the political temperature in the S/W will be reduced; the interest of many Yoruba in an autonomous republic will be reduced.”
Also, the former Minister of Education and presidential Aspirant, Prof. Tunde Adeniran in a chat with BH argued that the only way to achieve peace in Nigeria is to restructure the country.
According to him, the Southwest is unanimous on this and believed that there was no other way or alternative to curb agitations of marginalisation than for Nigeria to operate a proper federalism that would help the country to grow.
According to him “The Yorubas are peace-loving people. Among their virtues are justice, fairness and equity. There is no hatred towards any ethnic group. And they normally go an extra mile to make outsiders in their midst comfortable and prosper. But they detest injustice and oppression.
“The wave of violence and destruction on farmlands, kidnappings, killings, rape and robberies carried out largely by herdsmen were what provoked the resort to self-defence in the face of the government’s inability to rise up to the challenges.
“What is needed now is for the government at all levels to wake up and rejig the security apparatus and be more proactive while all law-abiding citizens must cooperate to ensure that they play their parts in flushing out the various criminal elements in the forests, highways, roads and cities.