Chief Adegboye Onigbinde is a former coach of the Nigerian national football team, the Golden Eagles. Onigbinde has been involved in sports administration in the country at different levels over the past four decades. He is still a member of FIFA’s Technical Committee. Recently he was found in a gathering of politicians from various political groups where issues affecting the Yoruba nation were discussed. His presence baffled many who wondered whether he had officially joined active party politics.
In this interview with Olusesan Laoye, he explains why he was at the gathering and talks about political leadership, and other national issues Excerpts:
Recently in Ibadan there was the gathering of politicians in a colloquium organized by the Yoruba Patriotic Movement, you were present, and people around kept wondering when did Baba Onigbinde becomes a politician. What is your reaction to this?
There are few things we must get right, that meeting by the ordinary meaning, was not a political gathering. As far as I understand it, it was meant to seal the bond of unity among people of Yoruba ancestry because if you expand it further, it could be something political because we are talking about the affairs of human beings.
In Nigeria when you say that you belong to a political organization, the next thing they will ask you is the name of your political party. That is not what the movement was about. It was about unifying the Yoruba and to make them come together as one. If that is the case and as Yoruba man, and I am interested in the unity of my people, that actually explains my presence. I was invited. Do you think that forum is the best way to cement the unity of the Yoruba people in view of their sophistication and great level of enlightenment that always want them to express their different opinions?
I remember that no one was canvassing for a political party at that colloquium. Virtually all the political parties had their members present at the gathering and if that was the case, it was a sign that we all have agreed that we should come together and talk about the way forward in the Yoruba nation. The idea of that colloquium is to come together and discuss affairs the people and not about forming a political party but the unity of the Yoruba people.
As a leader in the South West and the country at large, do you think with the political situation in the county the people of the South West have been fairly treated in the areas of political appointments and infrastructural development?
Well, that is a difficult question to answer. I think that you are aware that observers claimed that Nigeria has over 500 languages. The question now is, how do you share things equally? This is not possible. The south west is having its own share, whether it is adequate or not, we need some extensive study which we cannot confirm in this kind of interview. Having the position of number two man in Nigeria, I think is something. We also have our people as Ministers.
The running of a nation is a continuous affair; we shall continue to juggle here and there. It was easier, when we were in three Regions, Western region, Easter Region and the Northern region, it was easier then, but now with the conglomeration of tribes and ethnic nationalities and even at the state level it is not easy to satisfy all the sections. With this situation do you now support restructuring of the county to give room for proper confederacy?
I think that is the best thing to go about, because in some cases it is unfortunate, we are like strange bedfellows. I don’t understand your culture and you don’t understand mine, then how do we come together harmoniously. But if you operate within your culture and tradition and I operate within my mine, we would then have a common ground where we contribute to the development of the country.
Things were much better when we were running a Regional government. You see we are having all these political problems because the centre is too strong and that is why everybody wants to be at the centre, so, if we go into a confederation, which would make each section of the country to be a federation it is good. But again, there may be some difficulties, for instance, if we now say that the South west of Nigeria should be independent or have some degree of autonomy, the Yorubas are present not only in the present South West of Nigeria. Kogi is not in the South West but you have Yoruba there, Akoko Edo in Edo state, the Itsekiris also claim Yoruba origin.
It even goes beyond there; it goes as far as to the Republic of Benin where you find the Yoruba. Again this could give us some breathing space. Let me say this, at a meeting where this issue was discussed, I expressed my fears and that was what that body was about. I mean the Patriotic Movement. I expressed my fears that if the Yoruba is created as a nation today, are we united, and I asked a question that it was just a coincidence that I am from Modakeke, in Osun State but how many kilometers separates Ife and Modakeke.
A Stranger would not know and it is only we the people of the two communities who know where our boundaries are, yet we are not too friendly. Are the Ijebus friendly with Remos, despite the same dialect, are the Egbados friendly with the Egbas, are the Ibadan friendly with Ibarapa, so what are we talking about. We all still need a lot of work to do and that was why I joined the group hoping that things and issues like that would be worked out. But I am now beginning to see some signs of self-interest and so on. This new development is actually unfortunate.
What you have said now raises more fundamental issues, if those in the same area are not united, how then can the entire country?
There are two options. One is combatant and the other one is dialogue. Let us meet force with force but will that pay us? Definitely every sane person would opt for a peaceful resolution. In this regard if you are now looking for a peaceful resolution, you have to sit down to discuss, concede, accept and reject and finally reach a decision.
There is now the clamour that the resolution of the 2014 National Conference should be released and implemented because some people believe that it contains solutions to some of the issues causing agitation and restiveness all over the country, what is your take on this?
Well it is bad that the government is still keeping this document that eminent Nigerians from all over the country worked on. Why they have not released the resolutions is still very strange to us. If there are issues like the state police and so on as it was said, I agree with it because that was what we started with. You see there is a lot of deceit in Nigerian politics, deceit and self-centredness and that is what is killing the nation. Since the time that the document was presented, why can’t they release it so that even a public debate could be held? We can even hold a referendum on it. But if some people decided to keep it under lock, then what can we do.
The argument all over, and from the opposition and those who were at the conference was that the present government because of the stand it took on the conference is not at all interested in the report and that is why it has kept silent.
What do you say to that? I would not accept that in its entirety. When you want to build a house, there must be a foundation and then you must look for a good quality material. If we go into that now, without the frame work of what is on the ground, and without laying some sound foundations, it would fail.
Then, what is the foundation? The people in the oil region are crying of marginalization, the people in the South East are also talking about their own; the same in the South West, we have to resolve that first otherwise, if we throw that open now, what I said earlier on will happen.
What then is your rating of the present government with an increasingly common argument that the government seems not to have solutions to the problems confronting the country particularly the ongoing recession?
If I may ask, when did the recession start and when was the foundation laid for the recession. I must confess to you, the recession did not start with the present government, it started decades ago. If the previous administration had taken the steps, or even half the steps that the present administration have taken, may be by now, we would have gotten out of the problem.
The recession did not start in one day. We were all alive when government was selling properties to their cronies, was it Buhari who started that? It is just being revealed now how some people built bunkers and bush houses to keep money in containers and water tanks and so on. All these things have been there before the present government came. So the recession is something which ought to have been fought by previous governments. Like I said, the recession started a long time ago and by modern technology, you can bring the tallest building, even the cocoa house in Ibadan down in 15 minutes, and if you want to rebuild it how long will it take to do that, definitely it will take a long time. So something that happened a long time ago cannot be rebuilt in a day, it would take some time.
This now takes us back to my earlier argument about the confab report. If the federal government now says you go your own way and I go my way, then those who have stolen the money kept in bunkers and tanks would go away with what they have stolen and keep them. That was actually what I was saying about laying the foundation for the kind of things in the conference report to happen.
Frankly speaking, do you think the present government has met the aspirations of the people?
As far as I am concerned, I believe that the aspirations of the people cannot be met by the government alone. That is why the change which President Muhammadu Buhari started with, has not been imbibed by Nigerians. Honestly, change starts with the name and if everybody can say that, then we would realize what we are talking. Tell me which government has come out to reveal all these stealing in the past decades.
There is one thing people don’t understand, Abacha died in 1999 and up till today the money which he siphoned out of the country is yet to be repatriated. Now Buhari has been saying that we have got this and we have got that, yet all the money recovered so far has not been put together, the process of getting everything together would take time. Some of this money would still be used as evidence in court, so they can’t touch it.
There are some houses which have been confiscated, which have not been sold. But an average Nigerians would keep on saying that of all the money recovered nothing has been done. What they don’t understand is that the money is not yet in the government’s coffers for spending. That was why I said it would take time for us to see the effect of what is being done by the present government.
This is also why I said that I don’t agree completely with the argument that the government is not doing anything since it came to power two years ago. Again, I cannot recollect any government that has done has much as this government in the areas of fighting corruption and violence. Look at the problem of the Boko Haram, which started long before Buhari assumed power. He came in and solved the problem within a year.
Apart from that, until every Nigerian believes that he has a role in changing Nigeria, the country would not move forward. We are not disciplined in Nigeria and that is why things are what they are now. I believe that Buhari’s government is far ahead of other governments we have had.