By Yinka Odumakin
VETERAN journalist Yakubu Mohammed of defunct Newswatch fame did a yeoman’s job for opponents of restructuring in his piece “Mind Your Language” published in The Guardian of October 5, 2017.
He succeeded in doing more than a day’s job for a day’s pay but failed to hit target as he picked on the wrong men.Lacking sufficient arguments to fill a column against some of the finest patriots Nigeria can boast of , he ridiculed his reputation deploying untruths recklessly to exhaust the space.
Users of hate speech: Mohammed sought in vain to portray Chief Ayo Adebanjo with a proud 65 years of unblemished public engagement, Akin Oyebode, renowned Professor of International Law and Banji Akintoye, foremost Professor of History and a former Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as users of “hate speech” .
Unable to fault the fecundity of these rare gentlemen on the well reasoned positions they have canvassed on the need to return Nigeria to a federal union, Mohammed resorted to “if you miss the ball, don’t miss the leg” tactics and ended up being unconvinving.
Enemies of restructuring
He picked on Chief Adebanjo first and said he “has proved less than a statesman” because he “believes” and “thinks” that “northerners are opposed to federalism”. He insults him without quoting a line where the Chief ever branded all northerners as enemies of restructuring .
His next target was Prof. Oyebode whom he assaulted on the charge that the eminent scholar contended that “anybody who mouths the shibboleth that Nigeria’s unity is not negotiable is merely advertising his or her own ignorance”. Anyone guided by knowledge should of course know that any entity is a daily dialogue and there is nothing settled in its life.
Perhaps realising that the charge is jejune and not strong enough to hang the man of deep intellect, he went to lie against him that he was one of those who brought about the 1999 Constitution. He wrote:” Remember this respected professor?
The one who was alleged to have helped to bring about the 1999 constitution when General Abdulsalami Abubakar, who succeeded General Sani Abacha as head of state, was eager and desirous of handing over to a democratically elected government, the one who now turns around, without batting an eyelid, to describe the same constitution as an illegitimate child of the military?
Nobody says the erudite professor is not entitled to his opinion, except that one is left aghast that all the academic accolades and the international exposure do little to curb some people’s propensity for the use of the language of violence”.
In a desperate bid to deliver on the task of demolishing some of the greatest exponents of restructuring, an experienced journalist of his hue failed to check recent history which would have shown him the falsity of his assertions.The Constitution Debate Co-ordinating Committee, CDCC, headed by Justice Niki Tobi with 24 other members did not include Prof. Oyebode who has consistently criticised the 1999 constitution since its promulgation.
He moved on to Prof. Banji Akintoye whom he accused of sounding so ” militant” in his appearance with Alhaji Tanko Yakassai on Channels TV recently to the point that he mistook him for an “old parade commander”. I watched that encounter and it is still available on Channels website.The erudite Prof was cool,calm and collected all through.
Scoring cheap point: In an attempt to score cheap point, Mohammed also lied against Prof. Akintoye that while he agreed in the course of the interview that APC was right in setting up a committee on “True Federalism”, the refined gentleman dismissed the capacity of Governor Nasir El-Rufai for the assignment saying “that small boy governor can’t do it” not only because he is avowedly opposed to restructuring but because, in his view, he lacked the capacity and the experience for it”.
The only score on which Prof. Akintoye faulted Governor El-Rufai choice was his open opposition to restructuring. He never talked about his age or experience.He could not have. Prof. Akintoye was 29 in 1964 when he contested election into the Federal House of Representatives. Some Newspapers said he was the youngest candidate nationally.He became a Senator at the age of 44 in 1979. How could such a man call a governor that is almost 60 a “boy” in 2017?
The Yoruba pedigree
These finest specimen of human beings who are from the Yoruba region and their likes are too refined to trade insult or use the “language of violence”.They have so much arguments to put forward that they do not need to abuse those who do not see issues from their prism.
If Mohammed is looking for purveyors of “hate speech ” whom he should admonish to “mind your language” he has sufficient men among those he defended in his article with relish.
Starting with Governor El-Rufai,came on Channels TV months back to deploy unparliamentary language against proponents of restructuring .“Most of what you see in the media, most of the people that talk about restructuring or give long lectures about restructuring are unable to give you any concrete ideas about what it really means. As I said, a lot of the talk on restructuring is political opportunism and irresponsibility in my view”.
The Vanguard of October 5, 2016 quoted Alhaji Tanko Yakassai as dumped down on the Yoruba.
“From Action Group to UPN, to NADECO to PRONACO, the agitation for restructuring is concentrated among the South West people of Southern Nigeria. The whole aggression originated form Action Group, and the intention was to deny the North the benefit of population and land mass.
Population and land mass
It is, therefore, a gang-up to deprive the North the benefits it was getting for being richly endowed.This agitation is not driven by patriotism, rather it is driven by hate and envy and this campaign started with some politicians in the South West way back in 1959….The agitation is not borne out of good intention, they know that they have evil intention in this idea of restructuring.”
In backing the quit notice issued by Arewa youth,The Nation of June 9, 2017 quoted Prof. Ango Abdullahi who is Mohammed ideal elder statesman as saying “I am disappointed in the decision taken by Northern Governors’ Forum disowning and condemning the agitation by this young agile and progressive youth groups. Let me ask these Northern governors whom are they representing,are they representing spirits,ghosts or people of the North?”
I must not fail to point out the disingenuous attempt by Mohammed to separate Chief Olu Falae from his colleagues by attempting to create some imaginary wedge.
All the gentlemen he critiqued and Chief Falae are on the same page as evident with the Ibadan declaration they all subscribed to on September 7, 2017 at Adamasingba stadium.
Neither does the simplistic postulations by Mohammed on the calls to return to the federal spirit of the 1963 constitution cut it at all. Nobody has said we should return to the letters of 1963 constitution.
Mohammed is advised to sustain his professional integrity by sticking to the path of truth and contribute his quota in weaving the conversations on the side of consensus building. He has lived too long in the Yoruba region not to know that the Yoruba public intellectuals consider all sides of a matter before taking positions.The issues they raise about restructuring is for the good of all Nigerians and they cannot be bought or blackmailed to abandon the truth .