Iba Gani Adams, the Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, has said in this interview with ISIOMA MADIKE that the issue of restructuring is over flogged while maintaining that time is now for the exit of the Yoruba from Nigeria as bad governance and insecurity have continued to fuel the agitation for the Oduduwa Republic. Excerpts…
How would you react to the agitation of the Oduduwa Republic being championed from the Diaspora?
Well, I think we have over flogged the issue of restructuring and the delicate aspect of it is that when you talk about restructuring in Yorubaland now, the majority of Yorubas will tell you that restructuring is late. Many personalities in Yorubaland have personally called me to say that restructuring is no longer tenable with the way things are in the country. The aggregate opinion of Yorubas at the moment is that it is time to have a peaceful dissolution or disbandment of the entity called Nigeria if you like.
Should that be taken to mean that you are in support of the Oduduwa Republic?
Yes, I believe it’s time to have self-determination and to move out of this country peacefully. And for the past two months, I have come to key into that opinion, especially when the United States’ government came out boldly to say that there are ISIS and al Qaeda terrorists groups in Northern Nigeria and that they would soon move down South. Incidentally, the Nigerian Army spokesman did not deny that, in fact he said that the army was aware of that. He even said that has been the situation for the past seven years but that those two deadly groups are not a threat to the country.
I was shocked at what the man said. I couldn’t imagine that that was coming from an army spokesperson when we know what has happened in some other countries- the havoc the terrorists groups have caused in countries like Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries of the world. Even America that has strong security intelligence was not spared likewise some European countries. We were shocked at our own level and the information in our disposal of some of the suspected terrorist groups that had invaded parts of Yorubaland in recent times is a source of concern to some of us.
What has this got to do with the agitation?
It is the immediate thing that led to the realisation by our people that it is, indeed, time we have a new nation before these dangerous organisations infiltrate and overrun Yorubaland. This is because, if we don’t have a new nation, and we allow them to infiltrate our land, we are doomed. Don’t forget that this is a commerce region, the commercial hub of the country. And when there are four, five bomb blasts, investors will be scared and they will leave for safety to other countries. We live in commerce, industry and business. We don’t have a strong Federal Government patronage in Yorubaland. We developed our area individually with businesses we are doing and our profession. So, when you have a security threat in such an environment, the region is gone for good. And for any reliable Yoruba person, deep-thinking persons should know that it is time for the Yoruba to exit from Nigeria peacefully. The pressure was coming from the Diaspora.
Does the agitation have the blessing of the pan-Yoruba organisation?
When we had the last Yoruba summit, we had a divided opinion on the issue. Some said we should continue to push for restructuring while others favoured selfdetermination. Those in the later divide believe that it is time to detach from Nigeria. And at the July 7, meeting, we agreed, because of the divergent opinions that the best thing to do in the circumstance was to give an ultimatum for the country to restructure on or before October 1, failing to do that we would now reshape our struggle to selfdetermination. That was what happened when you saw our people in the Diaspora hinging on that position to rally others in almost 170 countries to protest peacefully,using that to drive home their point. And day by day, the government in power is not helping matters, a good example being the rail line that is being constructed from Nigeria to Niger Republic. When people criticize that, the government denied that there was no truth in it but four days after, the information minister came out not only to confirm the insinuation but to say that the government would continue with the project. Another sore point is the issue of fuel hike as well as the hike in electricity tariff. Insecurity in the North East is yet another festering issue. The activities of bandits is on the increase daily, even as we speak now, the economy is comatose coupled with unstable polity. What about nepotism? So, anyone who says that he or she believes in the indivisibility of Nigeria from the Southern part of the country is either a government contractor or a political jobber or simply feeding fat on these problems. But for the serious minded, it is time to renegotiate the country.
Do you think the North will support this?
The Arewa Consultative Forum secretary has come to say that it is better that different parts of the country go on referendum to decide whether to continue as one entity and to avoid war in Nigeria. It was a lead story that we reacted to last Saturday. And we agreed with him totally on that and we have taken that also as the position of the North. What other support do you need? We also believe that regions should hold a referendum, if any section supports remaining in Nigeria they will vote in that direction, and those that wish to opt out of the country will also vote in like manner. That to me is the most civilised way that we should go about it. That way, the country will avoid the unnecessary war in a situation of forced exit. Such a referendum will be based on a geo-political zone. Truly speaking, a country of over 200 million people can’t afford any war again.
Would this agitation not be truncated by those ben- efiting from the present arrangement?
When the people rise, those benefiting now will realise that they are in the minority. The voice of the people is the voice of God. There is no powerful element that can hold his entire race to ransom. It’s only when the people are not ready; when they are ready, they can’t be stopped. How many people will security agents kill? The people that destroy this country are not up to 2 percent of the population, but the problem is that with the structure of Nigeria, no prophet can fix it. All growth indices in the country are in the negative. Corruption has continued on a large scale to the extent that we can’t even probe people who stole Nigeria blind. President Muhammadu Buhari, like others before him, has failed in this regard. We thought he had the guts to do that, but we have seen that he could not probe politicians, who are about 98 per cent of the corrupt people in the country. Some of them can buy their states.
But some people are of the opinion that the country’s GDP is better than that of most African countries, if not the best. How would you reconcile this fact with the economy indices you are quoting here?
To be frank, there is a serious problem in the country, economically. Forget the figures anybody is dishing out. Government officials too are now convinced that there is no money in our treasury. To survive, the government has to borrow, and continue to borrow. That is why they are giving people money for interviews to support their borrowing. The other day, I saw one of the respected lawyers in the country defending the loans, and I said we are finished because there is no way they can have a tangible project in which they can use to siphon the money without borrowing. What we now realise from oil, we can no longer survive with it, and they have to service some debts. So, there is a serious problem economically, that without even talking of the exit, the country cannot survive economically for the next three years. Forget the lies. The president should stop blaming past governments and face reality.
Do you believe the Yoruba will realise the Oduduwa Republic in a peaceful manner?
Well, this has to do with our culture; we have our own way. We usually fight our cause intellectually. Recall the events of June 12, we didn’t fire a shot, we didn’t resort to fighting physically. We simply employed our intellect and put it to use, though we also had support from other regions. We even had a few figures in the North that supported us too. But majorly, we approached that struggle intellectually and that is the way we Yorubas fight. We use strategy and tact to achieve what we want because the Yoruba will not want to lose a soul needlessly. We are not saying that in a struggle you may not lose any person; we always look for a minimal loss in terms of human beings. And even our Biafran brothers, they have also tried their best in this regard, they did not bear arms, they were only being provoked.