Why Southern politicians are against self determination- Akintoye

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The Nigerian Indigenous Nationalities Alliance for Self-Determination (NINAS), an umbrella body of self-determination groups in the South-West, South-South, South-East and Middle Belt with Ilana Omo Oodua, has scheduled a one-million-man protest for the United Nations General Assembly which begins on Tuesday, September 14. In NINAS, a renowned Historian, Professor Banji Akintoye is representing the South-West and Yorubaland; the Lower Niger Congress under the leadership of Tony Nnadi is representing the South-South, South-East and Middle-Belt Renaissance Movement under the leadership of Professor Yusufu Turaki is representing the Middle Belt. In this interview Professor Akintoye explains what informed the protest and lists way out of the quagmire the countrye has found itself, among other issue.

Prof, you and other leaders from the Southern part of the country and the Middle Belt are planning to lead a protest to the UN General Assembly next week. Why this protest and what do you hope to achieve with it?

 

All of us who are planning the one million protest at the United Nations Headquarters, New York on September 14 are leaders of NINAS—Nigerian Indigenous Nations Alliance for Self-determination. As the name makes clear, we are struggling to retrieve the self-determination of our various indigenous peoples of the South and Middle Belt of Nigeria.

It was part of our strategy from the beginning to mobilise the support of the international community for our cause. But recent illegal and unconstitutional acts against us by the Nigerian Federal Government have made it necessary for us to take this major step of a One million Protest Rally now. As is well known, the masses of the Yoruba youths have been conducting their self-determination quest by peaceful and law-abiding means. That is in accordance with their deliberate decision from the beginning. So, they had mega-rallies in Ibadan, Abeokuta, Oshogbo, Akure and Ado-Ekiti, each drawing millions of protesters, and all peacefully, without any clash with the police, without anybody being arrested or wounded, and without any property being damaged. In fact, after each peaceful rally, leaders of the Yoruba self-determination struggle respectfully thanked the police authorities. (One of our youths’ principles of action is that they would not regard or treat the police as enemies).

In spite of all these, when our youths planned their last rally for Lagos, the federal authorities panicked and prepared to prevent or stop the rally. You all know what happened. They illegally attacked Sunday Igboho’s home in the dead of the night, damaged a great deal of property, killed two people and arrested 12 others. Their expectation was that this would stop the youths from continuing with the Lagos rally. It did not. So, when the rally started, the police responded illegally. Without any sign of violence among the enormous crowd of protesters, the police began to shoot, thereby causing a stampede. The police then unlawfully arrested 49 of the protesters. Sadly, one young woman who was trading near the rally site got shot and died.

NINAS leaders, therefore, decided to fast-track their international plans. Hence, the plan to hold the one million protest at the UN on September 14. We hope to bring powerfully before the United Nations and the rest of the world an unforgettable picture of the savagery, the killings, maimings, rapes, kidnappings and wilful destruction of property that various peoples have been continuingly subjected to in Nigeria since 2015. We hope to make the world see that these outrages are from the Fulani ethnic nation of the North-West in Nigeria, an ethnic kinsmen of President Muhammadu Buhari. We hope to paint a picture of the refusal of the Nigerian Federal Government to defend us or to punish the marauders. We hope thereby to convince the world that we deserve to be supported in our quest for self-determination out of Nigeria.

How much of support is NINAS getting from all its members and the generality of the peoples of the South and Middle Belt for this decision?

NINAS leaders in Nigeria fully support the decision. The persons who will carry out the rally in America are the citizens of the Nigerian South and Middle Belt who reside in the United States, and they are massively itching for the rally. Countless groups are mobilising from all over the United States. We expect it to be an earth-shaking event.

In an earlier statement, you said you would be asking for a UN-supervised referendum for self determination. How feasible is this?

Commonly, in situations such as ours where people seeking self-determination cannot get the consent of the government of their country to a referendum, where an attempt by the people themselves to hold a referendum will be resisted by the government of their country, the best recourse is to request the United Nations to accept to come and hold a referendum. The latest example in Africa is the UN-supervised referendum in the South Sudan in 2010. We are studying the situation meticulously in order to decide the point to approach the UN. We are also taking some steps that will help us when we approach the UN. Yes, absolutely, we have the capability to attract a UN-sponsored and supervised referendum.

How much oxygen is your protest at UN drawing from the admission in April last year, of the Yoruba and Igbo Nations into the membership of UNPO?

As expected, UNPO is guiding, supporting and assisting appropriately. It is a lot of welcome help.

Your crusade does not seem to resonate with the political class from the South who have been saying Nigeria is better together and have openly been campaigning against separatist organisations.

We are not surprised or bothered by the current attitude of our political class from the South. Our carefully decided attitude is to respect them as our relations and kinsmen. We can understand their predicament. Quite understandably, most of our Southern politicians cannot take their eyes off the enormous personal benefits accruing to politicians and public office holders in Nigeria. But increasingly, the screws are tightening on them. The masses of people who are being forced to reject Nigeria because of the escalating poverty and hopelessness, because of the escalating insecurity and savagery, because of the overall dehumanisation increasing very rapidly in all the states of the South. Nobody and nothing is safe anymore in Nigeria. The attitude of the Northern elite demonstrates to the people of the South that things will only get worse in Nigeria. I am sure you have been following the vituperations among the people of the South-West after some Fulani leaders came visiting some Yoruba leaders last week, and after the Sheik Ahmed Gumi visited Igboho like a conqueror a few days later. The move towards self-determination is becoming a rush –even a stampede. How much the average politician will be able to hold on to Nigeria in this scenario remains to be seen. More than ever, the self-determination masses are saying more and more that there will be no elections held in their homeland in 2023. It will be their will against the will of the dwindling minority who still want Nigeria. In politics and in life, only the big fish can swallow the smaller. Indeed, the dam is already beginning to break. When the governments of Rivers State and Lagos State are legally withdrawing VAT from the Federal Government, you are beginning to see the reverberations of the self-determination movement. The same is true of the laws in Southern states against open grazing of cattle. The leaders of the self-determination movements in most of the South and Middle Belt promise peaceful struggles. We are now seeing that their peaceful quests are bearing fruits, energising state governments to move away from the tutelage of Abuja. More is sure to come. We are approaching a point of ultimate decision. The ones who are moving away from the federal stranglehold are still saying that they are for one Nigeria, but that does not matter. Actions matter more than words.

The Federal Government appears uncomfortable with this step and is reported to have sent a powerful delegation led by the Chief of Staff, Prof Ibrahim Gambari to use with international network and understanding of the workings of the UN and its organs to undo whatever your have done to seek global attention. Are you worried by this?

The Ibrahim Gambari mission is a desperate and futile exercise. What can Gambari do? Most officials of the UN and almost all governments of the world have been fairly well inundated with the massive information from the self-determination advocates from Nigeria. They also know that very devastating petitions have been filed at the International Criminal Court against many key officials of the Nigerian federal government. Is Gambari going to have the temerity to tell UN officials and the world that all these things are untrue? No, we have nothing to fear from a thousand Ibrahim Gambaris.

What exactly are the problems with the country and how do you think they can be addressed peacefully?

Sir Ahmadu Bello described the 1914 Amalgamation as “the mistake of 1914”. He was right. Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, first Prime Minister of Nigeria, said repeatedly that there is no Nigeria Unity—that “Nigerian Unity is only British intention for Nigeria” and that Nigerian peoples themselves are diverse in every way and have no desire to unite. When Chief Obafemi Awolowo proposed that a secession clause be written into the Nigerian Constitution to enable any nation that wanted to secede to do so peacefully, Sir Ahmadu Bello agreed. General Yakubu Gowon, as Military Head of State following the July 1966 coup, made the following deep statement, “suffice it to say, putting all considerations to test—political, economic as well as social—the basis for Nigerian unity is not there.”

We Nigerians refused to heed these words of wisdom from our earliest topmost leaders. After that, with the military governments headily coming after one another, and with the oil bonanza pouring out a steady stream of wealth to be shared by the rulers and the elite, nobody had time to think about whether Nigerian’s unity existed or not.

After the civil war, Chief Awolowo came forth bravely with a bold agenda to share Nigerian wealth equitably for the development of all, and thereby make equitable opportunities–the cement that would bind Nigeria together. The wealth-grabbing elite rejected his agenda and scuttled his bid for the position that he needed to make the agenda work. At that point, Nigeria was essentially lost. Everything thereafter only demonstrated more and more succinctly that Nigeria is a mirage, that Nigeria is unsustainable.

All along, the Northern political elite, more power conscious, more power hungry, than the southern elite, saw clearly what was happening and manipulated to grab the essentials of power that would enable them to hold the reins over an essentially ramshackle entity. The last military Head of State, Abdulsalam Abubakar, to establish the sham firmly, sneaked in a constitution which vested all power and resource control in the Federal Government, knowing that the Federal Government was already in possession of the North, even if the president happened to come from the South. The path to the ultimate dissolution of Nigeria was charted quite firmly by that exercise—since the other peoples of Nigeria were sure to wake up and demand some share in power.

Yes, we peoples of South woke up and began to demand what we call “Restructuring.” Though living abroad, I was one of the captains of the “Restructuring” drive. It was futile. It was bound to be futile because what we were doing was foolish—we were asking the conquerors to come down and shed some of their power. Till today, some of our well-meaning leaders are still shouting “Restructuring”—apparently not knowing the truth that, in all the history of mankind, no people holding power have ever been coaxed to give it up.

At last, reality reached the minds of some of us—hence the growing demands for “self-determination.” But the reality did not come easily. We needed the actual attempts by the political conquerors to physically crush and subjugate us before we began to see the true light of day.

Nigeria is unsustainable. The deficits are too heavy and too deep to be managed over. At bottom, what ails Nigeria is a conflict of civilizations, a conflict partly religious and partly economic and social. The South hungers for development, modernity and modern kinds of prosperity. The core North chooses to remain pre-modern, and rule with anti-modern precepts. The North fought back for decades the South’s attempt to get them to accept modernity—education, religious tolerance and liberality, essential basics of democracy, etc.

Finally, after grabbing power overall, the North is now reversing the direction of the conflict—by trying to force down the throat of the South such things as little attention to education, nomadic cattle rearing; the making of youths into masses of Almajiri; the doctrine that the Creator destined some people to be rich and the rest to be poor; the political doctrine of the small class of influential elite who would convert their influence to wealth in a country in which the masses of the people must accept poverty as an inevitable destiny, etc.

I was one of the young intellectuals who gave everything to promote Chief Awolowo’s equalitarian venture in the Unity Party of Nigeria in the 1970s. We rose to the task like young giants, and we boasted that we were on a great adventure to make Nigeria the “Blackman’s world power of modern times.” I still dream of that adventure and sometimes still fantasise about it. But I am persuaded now that it cannot be done in Nigeria.

What is the possible outcome of this clash of civilizations?

Well, the Fulani being consciously the invaders, are much better prepared than the people of the Middle Belt and South. But, even so, the only thing that can give the Fulani the ultimate victory is for the peoples (especially the elite) of the Middle Belt and South to continue to behave as they are behaving now—misunderstanding and underestimating the would-be conquerors, and continuing to live in pleasure and disregard of obvious realities. As things stand today, the would-be conquerors already smell ultimate victory – as we can see, for instance, in the strutting of Sheik Ahmed Gumi to Igboho, Sunday Adeyemo’s place of birth, some days ago.

If the Fulani and their kinsmen and allies from beyond Nigeria ultimately win, it will be total conquest and subjugation. They are already saying and writing disrespectful things about even the Muslims of the South (especially Yoruba Muslims), calling them infidels and unreliable. The implication is clear—that Southern Muslims can only expect what was done to Hausa Muslims following the Fulani victory in Hausaland in the early 19th century. As would be remembered, most of the prominent Hausa Muslims were ruthlessly pushed down (many of them assassinated) to make room for undisputed Fulani control of Hausaland. There are good studies on this subject.

But even with the aids of hordes and terrorists from outside Nigeria, and with most also federal backing, Fulani subjugation can never become a finished and settled matter. It will, by and by, be confronted by the enormous capabilities and resources especially of the South, plus the weight of the worldwide Diaspora of the Southern peoples. Even the early Yoruba Diaspora in countries like Brazil, Cuba, and Central America are already raring to intervene in the defence of Yoruba land. A whole Armageddon is the most likely—soaking the face of the whole Nigeria in blood, ultimately pulverizing Fulani hold on Hausaland, making what is now Nigeria the scene of hatred and blood-letting for probably decades, and spreading destruction and human suffering all over West Africa for probably a long time to come.

But we don’t have to go this path of Armageddon. The peaceful path is possible and we should explore it—The path of peaceful negotiation towards sane and constructive parting, so as to give ourselves and our descendants a chance to live as peaceful and friendly neighbours. We need to whip up enough of humanity and human good will to make this happen. I cannot agree more with other Nigerians who have been pleading for peaceful separation. I cannot agree more with our brother, Muhammadu Mahdi Shehu, Chairman of the Kaduna Dialogue Group, who recently publicly stated that Nigeria has become far too divided to be reunified, that even an Angel from heaven cannot succeed to reunify Nigeria, and that the best course of action now is to break up Nigeria into smaller countries, in the interest of all our people today, our descendants tomorrow, and other important human considerations.

For over 100 years we have struggled variously with this union into which the British pushed us, and we can say now that it has not worked. We can say too that we have reached the absolute bottom in the quality of our relations with one another. Some of the stories of the beast-like and fiendish treatments by some people of some of their victims in our ongoing conflicts can only mean that we are on the path to losing all of human character. Enough is enough.

We need to stop deluding ourselves. It is not given to man to make a success of everything. Only God commands the power to make a success of everything. We have very manifestly failed to make a success of this country. We need to bow to truth and reality. Countries failing and breaking apart are not anything rare or strange in our world. Let us do ours sanely and sensibly, via peaceful negotiations towards its humane parting.
Source: Sunday Tribune

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