Bola Bolawole is one of the proponents in the call for Yoruba nation. In this interview with Kehinde Olatunji, he spoke on issues bordering on separatist agitation and the hullabaloo among Yoruba nation leaders.
Buhari’s nepotistic attitude fueled calls for separatist agitations
What prompted the protests at Ojota recently, where someone was reportedly killed at a time many thought you had toned down your campaign just like Biafra agitators?
Well, to the best of my knowledge, the agitation for Biafra has not died down. You may experience what we call a lull in the activities of people or organisations. There could be some low points in agitations, but it does not mean that the agitation has been abandoned. I am not aware that the Biafrans have abandoned their struggle and I am also not aware that those who are struggling for Yoruba nation like Sunday Igboho, Prof Banji Akintoye and their followers, have abandoned their struggle. Maybe, they are approaching it in some other forms, but I think they are still agitating for their own separate entities out of Nigeria.
But Sunday Igboho has distanced himself from the protest at Ojota.
I have not seen anybody that said that he is the one that organised the protest at Ojota, but of course, I am aware that it is not possible to have an agitation without some people being behind it. What we should do, instead of asking Gani Adams or Igboho, go to some of the protesters. They should be able to tell us those behind it. Since the people who gathered there are humans, they should be able to tell us who brought them there and the purpose of their gathering.
Do you think the call for Yoruba nation is necessary at this time, given that elections are just around the corner?
It is very necessary because the situation that prompted the agitation for Yoruba nation is still very much with us. I am sure you know that five – 10 years ago, we didn’t hear anything about agitation for Yoruba nation. But somehow, we began to hear about the agitation, especially with the unbridled nepotism of the government of General Muhammadu Buhari, how he positioned the Fulani in the commanding height of the economy of the country, how he positioned the Fulani in the commanding height of the security architecture of the country, how he turned this country from a federation of nationalities to the estate of the Fulani. That was what made other ethnic nationalities to begin to think that if they did not do something, they will soon become slaves to the Fulani. They reasoned that they must agitate to liberate themselves from the Fulani. That situation is still there. Look at the structure in NNPC, it is still Fulani, look at the structure in the security sector, it is still Fulani. Every appointment they are making now, the majority is still going to be Fulani. So, those who are agitating against the imbalance, I think they are justified to continue their agitation until the imbalance is redressed.
Since the Fulani president is leaving, don’t you think the Yoruba nation should calm down till a new government comes on board, which might even favour them given the fact that a Yoruba person is also in the race?
A Fulani president is expected to leave in May. Let us hope that he will leave, because we are already being told that elections may not hold or may be postponed because of the so-called insecurity. So, if elections do not hold or they are postponed, what happens? Will the Fulani president remain in office or will there be an interim national government or what are we going to have? So, it is too early to say that the Fulani president is leaving, it is too early to say that there will be elections. Remember that among the four leading presidential candidates, we have two Northerners there and the election can go anywhere. So, don’t be too sure where the pendulum will swing.
I want Nigerians to dedicate themselves to the cause of fairness, equity and justice. It is only when you have fairness, equity and justice that there can be peace, progress and development. If there is any ethnic group that thinks it can continue to lord it over the others and continue to have its way, it is foolhardy to think that way. Like one philosopher said: If you hold power today, don’t think you will hold power forever, if you are controlling the forces today, don’t think you will control the forces forever, if you are oppressing people today don’t think that you will oppress them forever, one of these days, they will fight to liberate themselves and that is what we see happening in Nigeria now. A word is enough for the wise.
What are your thoughts on the internal crisis in the Ilana Yoruba group among Prof. Banji Akintoye, Prof. Wale Adeniran and Maxwell Adeleye?
It is very unfortunate that they are fighting among themselves. I am familiar with all the people you have mentioned. It is unfortunate that they are disagreeing over money, over positions and washing their dirty linen in public. But I want to say that from my own understanding of what is happening in Yoruba Nation, Prof Akintoye has not resigned from the Yoruba struggle, he only gave his mantle of leader of Ilana Yoruba to his deputy, Prof. Adeniran, so that he can focus on his assignment as the overall leader of all the Yoruba self determination groups. Adeniran just stepped up from being deputy leader to being the leader of Ilana, which is just one of the many organisations making up the Yoruba self-determination groups. They had a disagreement and Maxwell said he is no longer the spokesperson of Prof Akintoye and there is no problem about that. When he called me, I told him there is no problem if he wants to step down, but why is he now running down the person he served as his spokesperson yesterday? It doesn’t show maturity and commitment to the Yoruba course on his part.
All those who are now saying they have stepped down and have gone to the public to denigrate Prof. Akintoye who they were defending yesterday are wrong. They claim that they are resigning from the Yoruba course. You can’t resign from a course that you believe in, it means that they never had an initial belief in that course. It means that they must have been in that course for a particular purpose other than the interest of the Yoruba nation. It is very unfortunate. You can disagree. I have studied lots of revolutionary struggles and I am familiar with them, there are always disagreements, but you don’t go to the public with your dirty linen and begin to work against the course that you claimed to have believed in. We call such people counter-revolutionists and they are not good for the struggle. I am not happy with the way they are behaving like children. We call what they are exhibiting infantile radicalism, whether they are professors or not. The way they have gone about it is not the way to go about it. If you have problems, sort it out internally and don’t do anything that will jeopardise the course that you said you believed in. If you believe in a course, don’t do anything that will cut the course.
There are lots of Yoruba people who don’t believe in the struggle, do you think it is alright that way?
For those who don’t believe in it, you will not enjoy the benefits. We will excommunicate you from Yoruba nation when we get it. Revolutionary struggles are not carried out by the majority, it’s always by the minority. It’s only a few individuals, that’s why we call them the vanguard of the proletariats. A few people will organise, the proletariats will lead those who are interested and will upturn the structure and build another one. Whether you are in the majority or not, you will just be followers.
Many IPOB members and their sympathisers are no longer identifying with the struggle because Peter Obi is in the race, in fact, many of them have changed their profile pictures from Biafran flag and Nnamdi Kanu to Obi’s picture. Don’t you think those struggling for Yoruba nation should toe this line of action?
Yoruba have never been like other ethnic groups in Nigeria. Yoruba have always held on to their own ideology of equity, justice, fairness and fair play regardless of whose horse is gored. Yoruba don’t support somebody because he is their own. Yoruba will support you if you fit into their concept of what is right, just and equitable. That is why Yoruba are always in opposition, they don’t care. Provided they (Yoruba) know they are fighting the right course, which was how we fought June 12 and won it despite the fact that it was tagged Yoruba struggle. Was MKO not pronounced the winner of the election posthumously? Was he not given the highest honor in the land. Is June 12 not democracy day, despite the fact that it was only Yoruba that fought it to the end?
The Yoruba people won’t behave like other ethnic groups, we will not say that because the Presidential Candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Bola Tinubu could become president, therefore, we abandon our agitation for Yoruba nation. Our agitation is not because we want a Yoruba president. We are agitating because we want a restructured Nigeria; we want a Nigeria where Yoruba will be free to develop at their own pace. We believe that we are being held down, we believe that we are not able to demonstrate our talents. We believe that if we are allowed to progress at the level of Awolowo by now we would have been better than Brazil, Singapore and China. China was behind us in those days. Malaysia came to Yoruba land to get its palm kernel, today we are importing palm oil from Malaysia. Yoruba people are not agitating for Yoruba president, we have had one. We are agitating for the restructuring of Nigeria. A Yoruba president will come and go, if the structures are not made okay, there will be no development for any ethnic group.
We want a restructured Nigeria like we had in 1960 so that various regions can develop at their own pace. That was the time we had the development that we are referring to today. We are agitating to go back to that arrangement whereby the Yoruba will be able to travel at a faster pace than now. They are being held back now, and we don’t want that anymore. We want a situation whereby within the next five to eight years, we will catch up with Brazil, Singapore and China. We will be a world power and our economy and education would be one of the best in the world like it used to be. That is what we are fighting for. If it’s a Fulani, Igbo or Hausa president that can do that, it’s okay with us. If Goodluck Jonathan or Olusegun Obasanjo had done that, it would have been okay for us. Many of us voted for Buhari in 2015 because we thought he would restructure the country.
So, you need an assurance that restructuring will take place before the agitation for Yoruba nation ceases?
Our minimum demand is restructuring, but I must tell you that there are many Yoruba agitators who have moved away from restructuring because they believe it cannot address our situation 100 per cent, that what they want is for Yoruba to have their own nation. It used to be restructuring but they have delayed it so much that people are now saying that restructuring cannot even solve the problem. But I am saying that, at least, let us have restructuring, if it doesn’t solve the problem, we can now consider the next line of action. But if we restructure and Yoruba region is able to organise itself, like it did under Awolowo, we will make progress and there will be no need for anybody to be calling for Yoruba nation.