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It’s Not Impossible That DSS Planted Weapons In Igboho’s House, Anything Can Happen In Nigeria – YCE Secretary-General, Speaks
The Secretary-General, Yoruba Council of Elders, Dr Kunle Olajide, and Sunday Igboho
In this interview, Dr Kunle Olajide, the Secretary-General, Yoruba Council of Elders, tells OLUFEMI OLANIYI that security agencies should address the issue of killer herdsmen the same way the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, was extradited
Nnamdi Kanu of IPOB was recently arrested and brought back to Nigeria and a few days after, the Department of State Services invaded the residence of the Yoruba Nation agitator, Sunday Adeyemo, aka Sunday Igboho. What are your thoughts on these events?
I think at this stage one must say the Federal Government security agencies that succeeded in linking up with Interpol to get Kanu extradited to Nigeria should do much more internally to arrest the criminal herders, who are destroying farms, raping women, killing and maiming innocent farmers and others. We expect them to do far more to ensure security within the country. With the skills they have demonstrated to link with Interpol, they should be able to use such skills and proficiency in apprehending criminal herders, who have invaded the entire South, killing, maiming, destroying means of livelihoods and kidnapping for ransom.
But the majority of the herders perpetrating these crimes are said to be foreigners. What do you suggest should be done?
I hope you still remember that during the first term of Mr President, he said openly that all Africans, who wanted to come to Nigeria, were free to come without visas. He said they should take visas at the border posts. That was when Nigeria was deliberately opened to them. I believe strongly that it is the responsibility of the government to prevent foreigners from coming to harass us here in the country. One intriguing thing is that why must those perpetrating criminal activities be Fulani alone, especially since Mr President is Fulani. Nothing has been done to check these people.
The government has failed to declare the criminal Fulani herdsmen as terrorists, while Nnamdi Kanu, who did not carry a cutlass in the earlier part of his protest, was declared a terrorist. But those murdering and maiming innocent people all over were never declared as terrorists. The government cannot exonerate itself by saying the criminals are foreign Fulani. Who should protect our borders? Is it the responsibility of ordinary citizens or the Federal Government? Government should do its job.
Are you saying the government is pampering the criminal elements among the Fulani, while it is going after those advocating self-determination in the South?
It is obvious to everybody that there is no even-handed justice. These people have been perpetrating all manners of wickedness since Mr President assumed office. They were not this bad and vicious before President Muhammadu Buhari came into office. Government, to the best of my knowledge, has yet to apprehend these criminals actively to give us the impression that it is very hard on them, because the primary responsibility of any government in Section 14(b) of the Constitution is to protect the lives and properties of citizens and ensure their welfare.
There are beliefs that human rights activists are not tackling the government despite the injustice you have mentioned. Do you agree to this?
I don’t want to agree with you on that because people like Femi Falana, Olisa Agbakoba and others are still very active on the field. I don’t think so; but perhaps, those who have gone underground are afraid of their lives because what obtains in Nigeria today is not democracy. It’s quasi-democracy, which is semi-totalitarian. But a lot of Nigerians have been impoverished. Nigerians have got progressively poorer in the last six years. About six years ago, $1 was equivalent to N120, but today, it is about N500 to a dollar.
But the government has consistently blamed the alleged misrule of the last Peoples Democratic Party government for everything, including the economic woes. Do you agree with that?
No! Were they not aware of the misrule? Why did they campaign to hold office? The impression they gave us was that they were coming to correct the misdeeds of the previous administrations, but what do we have now? Our situation is by far worse than what they promised to correct.
The DSS claimed to have recovered weapons from the residence of Sunday Igboho. Is this not a good reason for it to arrest and prosecute him?
You said it now that the DSS claimed that it found guns there, but Sunday Igboho has denied owning the weapons. He said they either planted the guns there, harvested them, or they brought them out from their armoury and displayed them as exhibits found in his house. Those of us who have been around for some years in this country know that anything can happen in Nigeria. Were the weapons put there to incriminate him or did he have the weapons to incriminate himself?
Remember that the Minister of Defence (Maj. Gen. Bashir Magashi (retd.)), told us that Nigerians should defend themselves. Even in the court of law, if that clip, where the minister said that is shown, nobody will blame Nigerians, who have weapons to defend themselves in their homes, because the Federal Government authorities openly canvassed that everybody should go and defend themselves.
Do you think Igboho’s travails have anything to do with the quit notice he gave to criminal herdsmen in the South-West region?
Thank God you added criminal elements among the Fulani to the question. To answer the question, of course, his action could be the reason he is being hunted now. For five years, these criminal herders have been killing, maiming and doing all sorts of wicked acts, and we have been shouting on top of our voices, but the Presidency kept mute. But here is a young man, who felt his people should not continue to be killed and kidnapped by the rampaging herders, so he had to rise up. You are very well aware of the maxim that whoever makes peaceful changes impossible, makes violent change inevitable. So, this young man had to rise up and give the criminal ones notice to quit and not the entire Fulani.
The law-abiding ones are allowed to stay. When the government fails to act, individuals then rise to protect their lives and property. In any case that has been vindicated by the Minister of Defence, who said we should defend ourselves.
Are you saying the YCE is in support of Sunday Igboho’s strategy to chase away criminal herders from the region?
Any strategy to protect our people is welcome as long as it is within the ambit of the law. He (Igboho) gave them notice to quit when the government failed to act. To us in the YCE, we don’t see that as a crime and that is why people erect gates in their areas and say you don’t move in and out beyond this time. Everybody has a right to defend themselves, especially when the government apparatuses in charge keep telling us that they cannot cope, they don’t have adequate personnel and enough funding, and we are left at the mercy of criminals.
Sunday Igboho has gone underground now. Do you think he should turn himself in to the DSS?
I support his going underground because the kind of attack that claimed the lives of two persons at his residence could have killed him as well. Life is precious. The DSS said a few persons were arrested and those arrested should be able to tell us what happened there. Giving himself up is a personal decision for him to make.
He joined the struggle for Yoruba self-determination recently and has been very active there. Do you support this?
We have freedom of association and expression as enshrined in our constitution. This means you can hold opinions as long as they don’t violate the Nigerian law. Until about one year ago, I was very much against it because I thought Nigeria could still be salvaged by getting a brand new constitution.
Have you changed your mind about it now?
I haven’t changed my mind but I now come to appreciate the position of the younger generation, because their future is being wasted and there is a lot of deception in the polity. There is no sincerity of purpose at the highest level; so, the young men out there are right. It is also not against Nigerian law to say you want to go away as long as you don’t apply violence. We do not criticise him; we don’t oppose him and if it is possible for Nigeria to be salvaged, so be it. I am a Nigerian nationalist, because I have seen better days in this same Nigeria. If those who hold the reins of power now are not interested in one Nigeria where you have equity and justice, then, it may be necessary to say let’s have a peaceful dissolution of the country where we will all sit down and each will go its own way without violence.
The Ilana Omo Oodua, which is headed by Prof Banji Akintoye, is bent on self-determination for the Yoruba race. What is your take on this?
Yes, even in a group people can have different opinions but there are some of us that believe Nigeria can still be salvaged by having a brand new constitution and not just restructuring. Restructuring will be a by-product of that brand new constitution. There are a lot of issues to be discussed. A lot of people find themselves where they don’t belong and they don’t like this arrangement.
The people of Southern Kaduna will perhaps want to be in a different state and there are Yoruba people in Kogi State, where they are in the minority and Yoruba people, who are about 90 per cent in Kwara State, are being marginalised. There are many issues other than just devolution of power. I don’t like the word, ‘devolution’, and I don’t use it. The impression that word creates is that we are appealing to the Federal Government to come and give power to the federating units, whereas the powers were stolen from us at gunpoint on January 15, 1966 by the military.
When you are robbed of what belongs to you and you know who robbed you, then, you get them arrested. You don’t keep begging armed robbers to give you your things back. I don’t use devolution of power, I use restoration of power and a brand new constitution will restore power back to the people, who own the power. Sovereignty belongs to the people and Nigerian people reside in states and local government areas and not in Abuja. Why do you now give the bulk of the power to Abuja where people don’t reside?
There are also claims that the 1963 Constitution is better for Nigeria. Do you share this sentiment?
Yes, it is by far better than the one we are using now, even the 1959 Constitution. That one was the basis of our being granted independence. In these 1958 and 1963 constitutions, 16 items were on the exclusive legislative list, but now, we have 68. Why must it be? The Federal Government collects our revenue from the Apapa Port, from Value Added Tax and so on, and takes the money to Abuja and the bulk of the money is doled out to where the least contribution is made to the purse. For me, I will be happy with one Nigeria, but things must not continue this way. There must be equity, fairness and justice and only a brand new people’s constitution can guarantee that.
Southern governors announced the ban on open grazing in the entire South, but the President is opposing this by seeking to resurrect the gazette on grazing routes. How do you view this?
Not only southern governors banned this, the entire governors under the aegis of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum made a pronouncement banning open grazing. In any case and to the best of my knowledge, there were no grazing routes in the southern part of the country, which Mr President is referring to. The population of Nigeria at that time was probably about 40 million people. I was active politically that time and a lot of things have changed since that time. I don’t know the grazing routes Mr President is seeking to reopen in the southern parts of Nigeria. I know for sure that such did not exist in the South-West, which I know very well. Ranching is the only civilised way of animal husbandry now.
Do you agree with those who claim that the attempt to reopen the old grazing routes is a ploy to grab land and give the same to herders?
There are no grazing routes and what I see is that there is a lot of ignorance at the highest level of government. But whatever sinister plan they have cannot work in the 21st Century. These decisions that are not well grounded are causing a lot of economic depression and that was why we were declared the poverty capital of the world in 2017. It is a big shame and no investor will want to come and invest in a country that looks unstable and where leadership appears not to be able to differentiate right from the left.
Do you think the 2023 elections will hold with the current security situation in the country?
Personally, I don’t talk about the 2023 elections because my prayer is that we should survive this present year as a nation at the rate things are going. The leadership of the Yoruba nation is not interested in 2023 elections as far as I am concerned. The political elite may be interested in it, because I don’t see any difference between the APC and the PDP. They are six and half a dozen. They have conspired together to impoverish Nigerians. That is why they come six months to elections and distribute motorcycles, grinding machines and share some few cash and that is why Nigerians have been progressively poor.
We don’t want to see them until we have a brand new constitution, where the people will decide the basis of the union once we have a new constitution ratified by a referendum and not by the National Assembly, because the National Assembly is a product of this same fraudulent constitution. But since this is the government we have in place, let the executive send a bill to the National Assembly for a referendum on our constitution and another bill for the enactment of the Constituent Assembly Commission that will arrange constitution conference election and Nigerians will go and stay together for six months and give us a brand new constitution. Our political elite are living in opulence and no human being will restructure himself out of opulence. They want to keep us as slaves forever.
Source: The PUNCH