Prof. Banji Akintoye, renowned historian and leader of Ilana Omo Oodua, the umbrella body of Yoruba self-determination groups, has written to President Muhammadu Buhari notifying him of the intention of the Yoruba nation to leave Nigeria.
Akintoye in a letter dated August 6, 2022, told Buhari that the letter was to formally give him “notice of the decision of the overwhelming majority of our Yoruba nation and people to exercise our right to self-determination to have our independent and sovereign country separate from the country of Nigeria”.
According to him, it was to formally inform Buhari “that we desire to commence this process of self-determination officially so as to establish our independent and sovereign country as soon as possible, hopefully in constructive dialogue with the Government of Nigeria.
“We Yoruba people solemnly and unalterably reject any arrangement that would subject us to continued membership of Nigeria,” he said in the letter.
The letter read in part, “Even much worse, Mr. President, you and we do know that, consequent upon, and beyond, all these serious distortions and devastations, a bloody and generalized war is now imminent in Nigeria.
“As these would-be conquerors and their allied terrorists continue to unleash their devastations on indigenous peoples across Nigeria, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo (president 1999 – 2007), has publicly alerted the world that war has become inevitable, and is imminent, in Nigeria. According to countless additional sources from all parts of Nigeria, including statements and threats by terrorist and bandit groups, this final war will be triggered by a massive invasion of Abuja by a combination of terrorist and bandit forces, followed by claims by these forces that they have taken over the authority of the Nigerian federal government, and followed by a general demand that the peoples in all parts of Nigeria should surrender their homelands, and that since the indigenous peoples will not surrender their lands to the Fulani and their terrorist allies, the war will spread all over Nigeria for years to come and lead to massive refugee floods from Nigeria into most parts of West Africa, generating massive disruption, poverty and human suffering across West Africa .”
He said, “We can no longer continue to watch as we face the probable extermination of our people through the unprovoked and persistent aggression by another ethnic group with which we are living together in the same country.”
According to him, the people of the South West region have been attacked by heavily armed marauders and militias, who have been invading “our homeland for many years from the Northern part of the country of Nigeria to which we belong”.
In the letter, the Chairman of Ilana Omo Odua proposed as follows: “That the Nigerian Federal Government, in view of the serious urgency of the situation, shall, within the coming days, but not later than Friday September 30, 2022, inform us that they have graciously agreed to our proposal for negotiation and that they have set up a negotiation team that will meet and dialogue with our Yoruba nation’s representatives.
“That as soon as we receive the communication from the Nigerian Government, we shall forward the list of our negotiation delegates to the Nigerian Government.
“That the Nigerian Government negotiation team and our negotiation team shall meet to appoint co-chairpersons, and to agree on a date for the first negotiation meeting, the procedure, and the venue.
“That ECOWAS, the African Union, and the United Nations shall be invited to send observers to the negotiation meetings.”
“Mr. President, we eagerly and most respectfully await your response to our proposal as spelt out above.
“Mr. President, we include below in this letter a Map of Yorubaland in Nigeria, depicting our desired sovereign Yoruba Nation-State,” he added.
The letter read in part, “Mr. President, we, Yoruba, have taken our time to consider various options available to us as a civilized people in today’s civilized world. We have arrived at the most reasonable conclusion and the most sustainable option in the best interest of our people. “Throughout the past sixty years of independent Nigeria, we Yoruba, having attained to a considerably higher level of modern education and other modern developments than all other Black African nations before the coming of European colonialism and the amalgamation of hundreds of peoples to form the country of Nigeria, have patriotically and consistently made positive efforts to impact the lives of the other nationalities of Nigeria with our high standards. However, our efforts have not yielded any much of good results for our people or for the other different ethnic nations, owing to serious divergences in cultural and value orientations, amounting to a clash of cultures.
“Yoruba people have now decided to manage their own affairs and to command unencumbered control over their lives and destiny. The Yoruba are denied the opportunity to exercise their God-given rights in a Nigeria that is dragged down by a ponderous, ineffective and bloated central government that is regularly burdened by contentious religious involvements, by a powerful culture of public corruption, and by the headstrong efforts of one ethnic nation to subjugate the others. Mr. President, you might be aware, given your military service history, that in a memo in early February 1969, only nine years after Nigeria’s independence, the IC (Intelligence Community advising the US Government on the Biafran war) asserted that ‘further disintegration of Nigeria was likely’ and that the Western World might have to live with a ‘loose confederation’ or ‘formation of several completely independent countries’. What we Yoruba have now chosen is formation of our own independent Yoruba country separate from Nigeria.
“Mr. President, it is essential to remind you as the president of Nigeria that during the discussions leading to the independence of Nigeria from Britain in the late 1950s, Yoruba leaders at the time strongly advocated for the inclusion of a secession clause in the constitution, but they were overruled by the colonial administration. Thus, right from the onset, the doubt about the different nationalities co-existing in one country was very clearly expressed. Present-day Nigeria amounts essentially to something like forcing the nations of the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, and Belgium together as a country and expecting such a country to function optimally.
“You would remember also, Mr. President, that all the persons who served at the top of Nigeria’s affairs in the formative years of the 1950s and 1960s expressed serious doubts about the wisdom of keeping the many peoples of Nigeria as one country. Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the then foremost Yoruba leader and one of the foremost negotiators of a federal system for Nigeria, wrote at the time that ‘Nigeria is a mere geographical expression – – -” and that ‘if a member of a Federation became predominantly anarchistic, the other members of the Federation should, if they disagreed with such, be able to discontinue their association with the country.’
“Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the man who, as Prime Minister, headed the Nigerian federal government in the years immediately before and after Independence, said on a number of occasions before and after Independence, ‘Since 1914, the British Government has been trying to make Nigeria into one country, but the Nigerian peoples themselves are historically different in their backgrounds, in their religious beliefs and customs, and do not show themselves any willingness to unite. Nigerian unity is only a British intention for Nigeria’. Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa also once said during a visit to the University College Ibadan in 1964, that the toughest part of Nigeria’s insurmountable problems was the fact that the three largest Black African nations (the Yoruba, Hausa-Fulani and Igbo, each of which should be a separate country) were being forced together in one country. Even Sir Ahmadu Bello, the foremost leader of Northern Nigeria before and after Independence, once described the Amalgamation of 1914 as ‘the mistake of 1914’. In August 1966, General Yakubu Gowon who had, only a few weeks before, become Nigeria’s Military Head of State, made the following very deep statement: ‘Suffice it to say, putting all considerations to test – political, economic, as well as social – the basis for Nigeria’s unity is not there’.
“Even till today, Mr. President, the same kind of wisdom concerning Nigeria continues to be expressed with emphasis by leading Nigerians. For instance, Professor Ango Abdullahi, former Vice-Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, generally respected as the foremost intellectual from Northern Nigeria, said the following in a public interview in 2017, ‘If Nigerians are tired of staying together, they should be prepared to accept divisions instead of remaining in agony and disappointment with one another. – – – We are always talking that the Nigeria state is not working and asking how can we make it work. And if the best option is to call for separate countries, why not?’ In 2020, Alhaji Mohammed Mahdi Shehu, Chairman of Dialogue Group, Kaduna, said that the 1914 Amalgamation was done ‘out of mischief without taking into consideration the peculiarities of Nigeria and that since independence in 1960 Nigeria has stumbled from one form of calamity or tragedy to another. He added that, obviously, not even an angel can ever unite Nigeria.
“He added, ‘It is better for Nigeria to break into smaller, smaller, countries – – – to save properties, lives, relationships and posterity. – – Let us go to the negotiation table, break the Kola, and distribute the country to everybody’s peace. If we do not do it now, the future generations will curse us’. Mr. President, we Yoruba people have now painfully, and upon very careful and deep thinking, concluded that the false hope of unity promoted by the British colonial officials and imposed on all of us at Independence has not been achievable in the past sixty years of Independence. Rather, not only has unity proved impossible to achieve, outright anarchy has taken over. We Yoruba therefore seek to discontinue our association with Nigeria, and to do so in an orderly and peaceful manner.
“As you know, Mr. President, we, the Yoruba, are a well-defined and universally recognized indigenous nation or distinct ethnic group with substantial cultural and linguistic homogeneity. It is a well-known fact that we Yoruba have a rich history of accommodating foreigners and strangers in our homeland and extending to them the respect and protection required of civilized peoples, without prejudice to our rights over our territorial space and culture. Throughout our history in Nigeria, we have always respected and advocated for fundamental freedoms and human rights for all Nigerians and all Nigerian peoples. We are known worldwide for religious tolerance.
“Because we are an ancient civilization with solid modern achievements in education today, and a people with an old tradition of accepting and interacting smoothly and productively with various peoples throughout our history, we can live harmoniously with ethnic and cultural diversity in the same country. But we have painfully concluded that sustained attacks by one ethnic group on us and other ethnic groups in the same country, and a plan of conquest and subjugation by one ethnic group against the other groups in the same country, represent a conclusive negation of the existence and legitimacy of Nigeria. We can no longer bear the pain and indignity of living in constant fear and mourning, like a conquered and subjugated people, in our homeland.
“We can no longer continue to watch as we face the probable extermination of our people through the unprovoked and persistent aggression by another ethnic group with which we are living together in the same country. We have been attacked by heavily armed marauders and militias, who have been invading our homeland for many years from the Northern part of the country of Nigeria to which we belong. These marauders have relentlessly killed our people, destroying farms and villages, raping and killing our women, kidnapping our people, and extorting large amounts of money for ransom. There are no official numbers for our Yoruba people who have been violently killed in these atrocities (because the government shows no real concern about the killings), but a rough estimate of 29, 000 is now generally circulating among us, an estimate which many of our people believe to be too low. (It is important that even the Sultan of Sokoto has once said that the killings across the country are being ‘under-reported’). These atrocities have forced an estimated majority of our farmers to abandon farming altogether – a development that is now pulling our nation down into a devastating famine, and into unimaginable poverty.
“Our people know for sure that the Nigerian government does manifestly command the power and resources for stopping or measurably curtailing the atrocities of the marauders, and our people have therefore concluded that the Nigerian government’s total failure to stop or curtail the atrocities is proof of the government’s collusion with the marauders. Indeed, various proofs of such collusion abound on a regular basis – in police officers’ pointed tolerance of public possession of guns by the marauders and bandits, in police releasing the marauders and bandits even after they have been apprehended while killing and destroying, in government’s discriminatory demands that non-Fulani citizens should surrender to the authorities all guns (even guns that are licensed) while the marauders publicly carry guns, in government’s continual efforts to use legislation fraudulently to grab land for the Fulani across Nigeria.
“We have most painfully watched as our traditionally prosperous Yoruba nation is being impoverished. Unhappily, a significant percentage of our people have become street beggars and scavengers, a practice alien to our cultural heritage.”
The renowned professor also condemned the incessant killings being perpetrated by some criminal elements across the country.
He said, “Nigeria has become so grossly insecure that even you, Mr. President, cannot travel the roads in various parts of Nigeria with complete confidence that you will be safe from attacks by terrorists and bandits along your way.
“Recently, your motorcade on a journey from the Nigerian capital city of Abuja to your home state of Katsina was ambushed by terrorists and bandits, and some cars in the motorcade were damaged while some persons in the cars were killed.”
“In short, Mr. President, in the past seven years, Nigeria has enabled terrorists and bandits to acquire so much clout and confidence that Nigeria is now incapable of controlling them or their activities, as a result of which some foreign countries are now classifying Nigeria as a ‘state sponsor of terror,’” he added.