Veteran journalist, columnist and administrator, Chief Adetola Adeniyi says that restructuring Nigeria is inevitable as it must be achieved either intellectually or by the use of force.
Chief Adeniyi said in this interview with Business Hallmark’s Teslim Shitta-Bey and Obinna Ezugwu how the Fulani have over the years used the military and trickery to bring Nigeria to where it is today, while also criticising former president Olusegun Obasanjo who he said is the most anti south leader Nigeria has ever produced.
Nigeria is at a critical point in its existence. The call for restructuring as a way out is growing. What are your thoughts?
My thoughts remain the same. I recall that in 1983, I called a press conference in Ibadan, the theme of which was the national question. I said that unless the Nigerian national question was addressed, the (Shehu) Shagari government should not go ahead to conduct the election for second term. And that if it did, the government would not last for three months. I noted that the country was sitting on a keg of gun powder, and the political structure was skewed in favour of the North as it was then because there is no more North now.
I was arrested and detained, and of course they went ahead to have the election. But the government collapsed in three months by December 31. For many years, even when I was regional editor of the Daily Times, I have always felt that (Lord) Lugard was a devil; that bastard born in India had mischievous agenda for India, Nigeria and Sudan, those three countries where he featured as a soldier, as a mercenary, an administrator and as a trader. It was the Royal Niger Company that really brought him to Nigeria. The British actually didn’t want any of their colonies to be independent or to ever be able to govern themselves.
What they wanted to do, which France did to a large extent, was to make their colonies caricatures of Britain or France, so you will neither be African nor English. With that devilish plan, Lugard and most Britons of his era believed that pink pigmentation of the skin was superior to dark pigmentation. That was why they gave government in the Sudan to the Arab North and suppressed the South of Sudan which forced them into war for several years. In India, they encouraged the caste system for a long time and preferred the lighter skinned Pakistanis and Bangladesh to the darker skinned middle and Southern Indians.
In applying the same thing here, they found out that the Fulani, who at that time, had not really intermarried as they have done now, so you had about half a million of them who were “fair” skinned. And they also found the Southerners to be more progressive, more aggressive and better exposed than the then colony of the Fulani. Before then, even before Lugard was born, the Fulani led by Uthman Danfodio…one of the lies sold to most of us in Nigeria was that Uthman Danfodio came from Fouta Djallon, hat is not true. He was born in Sokoto and buried in Sokoto, I visited his grave. What I’m saying is that the so called North had been conquered when the Fulani killed the king of the Hausas and took over.
But they are so clever politically; they didn’t take away the language of the Hausa because it would be difficult for them as a minority to impose their Language on the larger community, so they allowed the Hausa to retain their language while they also retained their fulfude.
So Lugard allowed them to continue, he used what is now called indirect rule. But for the North at that time to survive economically, it needed the South which was already exporting timber, coal, cocoa and so many other things, and had an existing port; the South was very wealthy, and given that kind of background, they wanted to make sure, especially when they established the West African Constabulary – the Frontier force – they ensured that the bulk of the recruits were from the North because he also foresaw as Ahmadu Bello later did, the dictum of Chairman Mao that power flows from the barrel of the gun.
They recognised at that point in time that they must get soldiers from the North, equip them such that if they failed politically, they will use their military wing to impose whatever they wanted on the rest of the country. Lugard violated the natural boundaries of North and South, the River Niger was there; the River Benue was there, so the boundary ought to have stopped before Niger and Benue which was what it was before the amalgamation. But by amalgamation and the unfortunate incident of Afonja betraying the Alaafin during the Awole reign, Alimi betrayed Afonja and had conquered Ilorin. In fact, they wanted to push the boundary to Oshogbo, but for the Ijesha army that drove them back. At the time they were driven back in 1888 or thereabout, the British were already in Nigeria; Lugard was already here. So they prevented the South, the Yoruba from pushing the Fulani further back.
The British eventually ended up giving them such a large expanse of land, and false population figures; the political arrangement was so designed that whether it was parliamentary or presidential system, the so called North must have majority in government. Then they went ahead in 1952 to give them terrible false figures in census to ensure also that if they base everything on population, they will say the so called North had more population. They also went ahead to falsify figures about even religion, giving the impression that the North was Muslim, that it had larger Muslim population, but it’s not true. I was a commissioner in National Population Commission in 1988 to 89, and I know that apart from Bida and Kano, there is hardly any town in the whole of the so called North that can boast of large population.
So, they had the military, they had false population figures, they had false landmass; everything was tailor-made to ensure that the so called North will continue to rule Nigeria.
Therefore, they didn’t allow either Zik or Awolowo to rule, and unfortunately, Zik was more pliable – he was a great man, but he was not a deep thinker. So you had only Awolowo standing against all the devilish designs of the British. But some people may ask why we tolerated this for over 100 years. It wasn’t for lack of effort, people tried, but as Zik said to all of us, you don’t argue with a man carrying the gun. It has been very difficult to free ourselves through civil means, and this had prompted the riots in Benue, it prompted Adaka Boro and all the militants that have tried at one time or the other. And (Emeka) Ojukwu tried, he really tried with his secessionist bid to free the Igbo and the rest of the country from this very manipulative and very power hungry Fulani.
Remember that earlier on I said my own word is not restructuring, you can only restructure a structure, but to me there was never a structure. There was no structure, you had over 250 nationalities and somebody just yoked them together, they didn’t create any structure. So, what we should be doing is actually to go back to pre 1914. Leaders of this place called Nigeria, must come together and discuss the terms of coming together as a country. That hasn’t been done. We Nigerian people… if there is anybody that can be so called because there are no Nigerian people. We the people living in this expanse of land were not involved in what they did with the expanse of land. There is no structure given to that land, it is a landmass with several nationalities, what we should do is to go to pre 1914 as Solomon Asemota, one of the greatest thinkers on these issues said.
But if that cannot be done, we can at least go back to 1952/54, that is, going back to the regions using language, culture and all that to negotiate how to live together. Also, to ensure that the landmass itself has to be redefined in a way that natural boundaries are agreed upon. You cannot be taking about Western region, and leave the Jembe and so on in Kogi or you have emirs in Yoruba land or emirs in Zango Kataf or in Kafanchan, which are Christian lands.
If there is a correct census in this country, I can say that Western Nigeria has more Muslims than any other part of this country. You have had Islam here in Lagos since the 11th Century, and in other places like Iwo, Oyo, Ijebu and so on. That’s why they called it ‘Esimali’ because it came from Mali. We had Muslims before Uthman Danfodio was born, but they (Fulani) have done so much that not only have they conquered the most vociferous and most enlightened part of Nigeria politically and militarily, they have also enslaved us religiously by calling somebody head of supreme council of Islamic affairs. What is supreme council of Islamic affairs? Somebody that had never been voted for! He has only been a Sultan, then using a puppet like late Dr Lateef Adegbite, and now using another puppet called Ishaq Akintola who is now the secretary of the so called Islamic affairs; there is nothing like Islamic affairs.
But because of it, the Sultan will dictate to South West when to fast and when not to fast; when to kill ram and all what not. And they won’t allow Muslims from the South to lead prayers in the North. They made it such that the Southern Muslims have submitted themselves to the superiority of Fulani Muslims. And they have accepted to be second class even in their religion. That’s why I’m also leading a forum to free the Yoruba Muslims and ask the Alaafin of Oyo or the Awujale of Ijebu land to act as the Supreme head of Muslims in the South West. So that when the Sultan is dictating to the Fulani people, the Awujale or the Alaafin of Oyo will dictate to us here. The Sultan should never be arrogated as supreme head of anybody outside his sphere of influence.
You have spoken extensively about how the entire South has been subjugated by the Fulani, but why is it that the South cannot come together to stop it?
There was a strong alliance between Awolowo and Joseph Tarka, meaning that it’s not just between West and East, but also between West and Middle Belt. And when Awolowo was incarcerated in 1964, (Michael) Opara came to the West and they formed UPGA which was a marriage of East and West. Again, at a point, there was betrayal, or rather the Fulani played a hand. The Fulani like I said, are still the most sophisticated politicians in Nigeria, there is no doubt about that. Because the only industry they have is power, and they have always had British and American advisers, till tomorrow, and we didn’t have that. Up till today, the South does not believe they need the British or the Americans to advise them on politics. But the Fulani have always submitted themselves to British influence and directives.
It is not that they (the South) didn’t try, but we have always had fifth columnists among the Yoruba and among the Igbo. Once they dangle some political office in their face, they fall for it. That has been the bane, but we have all passed that stage. Maybe some governors are too chicken hearted to talk, maybe some ministers cannot talk, but they are only negligible minority. We now have a hurricane in the South, nobody who knows history can stop it. I have argued in some of my articles that it was the military wing of the Fulani that brought us into this mess. It was them that followed the part and pattern decided for them by the British.
When (Alani) Akinrinade, Black Scorpion (Benjamin Adekunle) and Alabi Isiama, who were the war heroes that I know, but for them and the Christians in the Military who were mostly Yoruba, there was no way the so called federal military could have defeated the Igbo. That is now painful, when you read Jimanze Ego-Alowes’ book, ‘How the Yoruba won and lost the Biafra War’. We fought; allowed ourselves to be used by the Fulani to kill the Igbo, but the first thing they did for us was to create 12 states and weaken the federating units. They gave the Yoruba just one state, and gave the so called North about six at that time, and gave the East three because they wanted the minorities separate from the Igbo. Thus, the Yoruba became the first casualty.
Then the worst came when someone of very doubtful paternity called Olusegun Obasanjo, who for reasons best known to him has remained the greatest anti south southerner in this country. It wasn’t Murtala Muhammed that took Federal government out of Lagos, it was Obasanjo. It was Obasanjo who imposed presidential system on Nigerians, it was him who took over all the achievements of the South: the University of Nigeria, Nsukka; the Obafemi Awolowo University; the television stations; Liberty Stadium… it wasn’t Murtala Muhammed that nationalised them, it was this Obasanjo..
He is a rootless man that believes that he can only “satanically” hang on to that mirage called Nigeria since he cannot say he is Igbo, even though we have question marks about his connection with Obi Onyejekwe, there is a question mark about whether Ashabi his mother was from Yoruba land or from Nupe, there are question marks on whether the man his mother married later who was called Obasanjo and who according to a television broadcast in 2005 in Abeokuta was actually ‘Sango Sonjo’ but who changed his name to Obasanjo when he became a Christian. So you have all these questions hanging around his name and around his paternity. He has done the greatest harm to restructuring Nigeria; to making Nigeria a truly federal state than any other person in Nigerian history.
Of course, since they knew who he was, even after (MKO) Abiola was denied the presidency, the Fulani, using some proxies… because among those who brought Obasanjo back to power, it was only Aliyu Mohammed Gusau who is Fulani. Babangida is not Fulani, he is Gwari; Danjuma is Jukun, but the Fulani used them to choose somebody they know will always dance to their tune to make him president, they have tested him before. But before then, the military government of Abacha, which was itself a creation of the Fulani had gone ahead to divide Nigeria into 36 states and created 774 local governments that had no rhythm nor rhyme. I know a particular place called Chalawa in a Local government in Kano; there are not up to twelve houses there. And the only house there that is plastered, not painted, is a 2-bedroom bungalow.
You call that a local government headquarters, to compare with Alimosho Local Government, to compare with Ibadan, to compare with Obafemi Owode. You have local governments dotted all over the North that cannot boast of ten thousand or even five thousand people in population. And yet the sharing formula for Nigeria’s resources is based largely on landmass, which is false; on population, which is false and on local governments, all of which are fraudulent. So for peace and stability to return to this landmass, we have to go confederate, anything short of it is just window dressing; anything short of that is still going to collapse. Nigeria must be based on a confederation.
Let us have six republics: the Caliphate Republic; the Elkanemic Republic, which is Borno; the Igbo Republic; the Niger Delta Republic; the Yoruba Republic and the Middle Belt Republic. And those six republics would then come together and have the confederal republic of Nigeria on agreed terms. Every republic will have its own constitution, police and military but to be coordinated by the federal military for national defence against external enemy. Why should the federal government have the ministry of education, why should it have ministry of agriculture or ministry of lands and housing? Federal government does not own land, you cannot be doing agriculture when you don’t have any land. The land belongs to state and local governments. So, once we have that, let every region develop at its own pace.
There is no point in talking about whether or the North wants that to happen. We cannot be talking about the North when there is no North. You can’t be killing people in Benue and say they are Northerners; they are not. I spoke to some professors in Niger State, they told me that they are more bitter about this so called Nigeria than we Yoruba are; that they have been the perpetual slaves of the Fulani that they cannot even talk. They slaughter Benue people almost on daily basis. The Zango Kataf people in Southern Kaduna are being killed on daily basis, and you are calling them Northerners? You only have the caliphate that has overrun the rest of the so called North, but they never succeeded in overrunning Kanuri, the Borno people.
But of course, for selfish reasons, and for what their stomach will eat, there are some leaders of Borno, some leaders of Jukun, Benue, like Paul Unongo, Plateau who they decorate with an empty title of the chairman of Northern whatever. The person you can say is the leader of Arewa is (Ibrahim) Coomassie who is a Fulani from Katsina. They deceived Sunday Awoniyi and made him chairman. Chairman of who? They deceived Unongo and say he is the head of Arewa, how can Unongo be chairman of Arewa when they are killing his people every day? I’m saying therefore, there is no more North and the South must begin to recognize that fact.
We have been so timid because we have been brainwashed to believe that there is a superior force somewhere. No, we don’t have any Nigerian army now, what we have is a Fulani army that may still be exploiting some people in the military. The kind of military that went to massacre the Igbo does not exist anymore. I’m still asking whether there are Igbo among the people from 82 Division who went to harass people in Abia. I doubt if there were any Igbo or any Yoruba there. They will selectively call on their Fulani and some stupid Hausa who have still not seen themselves as slaves to join them.
What about the political conferences like that of 2014. People have suggested that we take this document and implement what we can.
At that point in time, it probably satisfied some concerns, but now we have grown beyond that. You cannot be talking about 2014 conference that recommended that you should create one more state in the South East, and create more local governments. We have gone beyond that, state creation is not the business of the federal government, local government creation is not the business of any federal government. Let the republics create them. If you want to create one million states in Yoruba republic, it is your business.
What is obvious from your point is that we cannot move forward without tinkering with the structure of Nigeria, but still you have a situation where the Hausa/Fulani…?
There is no Hausa/Fulani, you cannot be Ibibio/Efik, you cannot be Annang/Ibibio, or Ijebu/Egba. These are the things they use to confuse us; the use of language for political effect. You have only the Fulani, about five million of them.
You have this arrangement where the Fulani who like you said are in control of the military still opposed to restructuring. How do we go about getting the country you want?
Yes, they control the army, the intelligence service, the SSS, immigration the police and so on, but it is possible through two approaches; only two. First is brain, second is brawn. The Fulani brought us to where we are today using brawn, and a bit of trickery and deceit. But it was largely through the military. The creation of states, killing Biafrans, killing Southerners in the North, local government creation, presidential system… all those were made possible by the military. In fact, like I said earlier, it was the military even though they did well in providing infrastructure that was used by the Fulani to destroy Nigeria politically.
And I have argued that as unpalatable as it might sound, it is still the military that can take us out of this mess. It is either organised military or armed militia that will come from various parts of the country, this status quo cannot continue. The 36 states cannot pay salaries, the federal government cannot pay police salaries. They are owing the military pensioners three months salary areas. So, it’s either we wait for the oil to dry up or to be unprofitable, which will happen in the next few years, then everyone will go away. But what we are saying is, please come now, let us restructure Nigeria. The caliphate has more to benefit than any other part of this country.
Why do you say that?
They have a lot of resources which laziness and over dependence on people’s wealth which they have been spoon feeding on has stopped them from exploring. The caliphate, the North East and Middle Belt are so rich in agriculture that if you have Middle Belt republic and Caliphate republic, and Elkanemi republic, they can be exporting agricultural products: cattle, beef, tomatoes and so on to the rest of the world. They will make more money from exporting agriculture produce, but they abandoned all that because they are stealing the resources of the South. Lagos alone contributes more than 67 percent of VAT than the rest of the country put together. They say they don’t drink alcohol… which is a lie, but if you don’t drink alcohol and we consume it in the South, why are you using our VAT money to develop yourselves?
So, to answer your question, we will get out of it using our brains which is what we are doing now, trying to persuade everybody. If that fails, it would be brawn. But either of the two must yield to us the country we want. And it is in the interest of everyone to allow brain to decide for us. If Nigeria breaks into militia as you have in Somalia, it will not be palatable for anybody. So, let us go the Czech-Slovakia model. Let’s decide to stay apart peacefully and come together in a confederation than to wait for militia to emerge from every part of the country.
The people in Southern Kaduna will not wait indefinitely; people in Benue will not wait indefinitely. They have been able to conquer Plateau, but some elements of Plateau are going to wake up and say no, you cannot put army of occupation in our land. I told some people that you can say whatever you like about (Nnamdi) Kanu but I believe that there is no Nigerian today who commands the kind of followership he commands, so such a person cannot be dismissed. The forces they have gathered, you can drive them underground, but when they unleash terror on this country it will not be funny. The military may be the only organised force, but they don’t have monopoly of violence.