By Dayo Johnson, Shina Abubakar, James Ogunnaike and Sola lsola
Some South-West groups involved in the campaign for self-determination for Yoruba have replied some prominent traditional rulers from the region who told them to abandon their bid.
The leader of the umbrella body of Yoruba self-determination groups, Ilana Omo Oodua, Prof Banji Akintoye, said the monarchs are in support of their agitation but just being diplomatic.
National Organising Secretary of Afenifere, Abagun Kole Omololu, said the royal fathers spoke to please the Federal Government while the Secretary of the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), Dr Kunle Olajide, asked the agitators to listen to the monarchs.
The natural rulers had, last week, enjoined the Yoruba to embrace peace and eschew acts that could lead to the disintegration of Nigeria.
The rulers, including the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji; Soun of Ogbomoso, Oba Jimoh Ajagungbade III; Olowo of Owo, Oba Ajibade Gbadegesin, Ogunoye III; Oluwo of Iwo, Oba AbdulRasheed Akanbi; Onisan of Isan-Ekiti, Oba Gabriel Adetila; Olu of Moloko-Asipa, Igbore, Abeokuta, Oba Nureni Adesina; and the Elemure of Emure-Ekiti, Oba Emmanuel Adebayo, reportedly spoke when a delegation of the Yoruba Appraisal Forum [YAF], led by its National Coordinator, Adeshina Animashaun, paid them peace advocacy and courtesy visits in their palaces.
According to them, violence will only end up worsening the already tense situation in the country.
The royal fathers appealed to the individuals and groups agitating for a separate Yoruba nation to sheathe their swords and rather join hands with other patriots to work the development and growth of Nigeria.
Responding to the monarchs’ position, the leader of the umbrella body of Yoruba self-determination groups, Ilana Omo Oodua, Akintoye, who spoke through his communications manager, Maxwell Adeleye, said: “The royal fathers are just being diplomatic. They are traditional rulers over the people, and those are the people you see at our rallies.
“Their own is even more delicate than politicians because they run with the traditional mandate of the people.
“Most politicians bought their mandate; they did vote-buying to win election. For traditional rulers, it is by tradition; they don’t speak for themselves but for the people. What they are saying presently is just being diplomatic.
“The traditional institutions have been placed under government, so they are employees. The current Constitution of Nigeria recognises traditional rulers as employees of local government chairmen, not even the governor.
“It is the local government chairman that will recommend the appointment of a king through the ministry of local government and chieftaincy title; that is why I said they are just being diplomatic. The traditional rulers are with us.
“They are all calling for restructuring; that is what they are trying to say. They agree that the country is gone, that Nigeria is a fraud and the current system is anti-people. The only way we can resolve it is by restructuring and it means they agree that Nigeria is a fraud. That is a sign that they are with us.
“Our position in Ilana Omo Oodua is that whatever you read on the pages of newspaper about our kings saying no to Yoruba nation is a lie, they are just being diplomatic for financial, economic and security reasons because the traditional ruler receives their income through the local government chairmen.
“I want to assure you that majority are with us. What we have now is a tiny minority trying to subjugate the majority because of their financial and material superiority which is not for the benefit of the common man”.
Olajide on his part said, “These are our fathers and, by our tradition, they have the pre-eminent position in Yoruba land.
“They should be accorded respect. They commute with gods of Yoruba land, so we listen to them”.
The YCE Secretary went on: “Besides, we know what happened in Nigeria between 1967 and 1970; the Igbo are yet to be reintegrated properly into the Nigeria society.
“About 2 million Igbo were killed and because of that people are afraid of anything called secession now.
“Those of us who are elders, we do not know how we can secede in Nigeria without bloodshed. It will be fiercely disputed by other parts of this country.
“So those of us who are elders and who want minimal damage to our people and who do not believe we should sacrifice our youths in the pursuit of Yoruba nation, we believe Nigeria can still be salvaged.
“Once you have true federalism, the country could be salvaged.
“There is nothing wrong with Yoruba nation, but, honestly, those of us, who have seen and know the history of this country and who were witnesses to the civil war, would not want such thing to be repeated”. National Organising Secretary of Afenifere, Omololu, said, “I do not know of any Oba that is enjoying Nigeria as it is. They have been reduced to pencil which can be erased at any time.
“They know in their deep hearts that they are speaking to please the Federal Government.
“Why should they be comfortable with an alien culture that has destroyed the values that we hold dearly in the name of one country, a country that is a patchwork that every group is pulling to itself.
“Is Yorubaland too small to be a sovereign nation where our Obas can live according to their worth? I believe they should have kept mute.
“The more they speak against separatism, the more they attract sympathy for the cause.
“Those of us who are for restructuring know we are not popular with the grassroots, anywhere you turn they keep praying for Yoruba nation.
“The process should be handled cleverly. If the Federal Government continues its hard-line posture on restructuring, then we should not expect a prosperous Nigeria in our life time”.
Also speaking, Dr Ademola, Coordinator, Kiriji Heritage Defenders, said his group has written a letter to the Olubadan to say Yoruba nation is the way out of Nigeri’a problems.
“Some of the Obas are not speaking for the people. They are only creating an impression to the Federal Government that some of them are still with the arrangement called Nigeria”, Ademola said.
“Those of us in the forefront of the agitation will organise it in such a way that they will have no option than to join us. What they are doing is just protecting some interest”.
The Baale of Ekotedo, lbadan, Chief Taye Ayorinde, said the report that the monarchs oppose Yoruba nation is false.
“Secession is the hallmark of what they said and there is a difference between secession and restructuring or reviewing the constitution”, Ayorinde said.
“Some groups went to see the kings one by one and those groups inserted their own opinion into what the kings said and there was no video evidence to back the claims up.
“The monarchs were talking about restructuring. ‘Don’t say you want to secede from Nigeria because it involves bloodshed’. Nobody wants to go to war at this time.
“Everybody can see that the country is now like North versus South, a country divided against itself.
“The traditional rulers did not say that they don’t want agitation, what they said was that the method of agitating is not by secession”.
Chief Jimoh Olawale Taofeek, founder, Oduduwa United Peoples Association, also known as Egbe Isokan Omo Oduduwa World-wide, shared his perspective.
“The traditional rulers didn’t reject Yoruba nation. They only appraised the issues that led to agitation for Yoruba nation and returned the verdict that the agitators have a genuine cause, based on the insecurity that pervades our region, others are nepotism, marginalization among other things”, he said.
“They also consented that part of the reasons for Yoruba nation agitators for peaceful break-up is that some sections of the country have been positioned to be superior to other sections.
“Hence, they warned the Presidency that if the insecurity, marginalization and other forms of disputes continue, a break-up of the country might be inevitable.
“Although, few of the royal fathers initially said that they didn’t support the break-up of the country. Instead, they advocated for restructuring of the nation such that true federalism would be practiced in Nigeria.
“Olubadan also said in one of his interviews that there is no doubt that in Nigeria, a lot of people have grouse against the way our system is being operated. What we have is not true federalism. This gave rise to separatists’ movements”.
The Deputy Chairman of Oyo State Council of Obas, Oba Alao, said the agitation for self-determination boiled down to the fact that government has failed Nigerians which led many people and groups to be agitating for secession or self-determination.