• My Problem With Osinbajo
• The injustice against Igbo
Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, a former minister is a lawyer, essayist, poet and a political activist. He spoke to AKANI ALAKA on the contemporary political developments in Nigeria, relations among the ethnic groups in the country, the civil war, agitations for self-determination, the need to restructure the country, as well as the jostling for the 2023 presidency among politicians from the South, among other issues.
Just recently, Nigeria celebrated its 59 Independence anniversary. You also celebrated your 59th birthday some days ago. As an historian and somebody whose father also played a significant role in ensuring that Nigeria became an independent nation, would you say the country’s founding fathers will be proud of the position the country is in now 59 years after?
I think we ought to have gone much farther than we have gone. And if I am to be frank, I will tell you that those that fought for Independence of Nigeria, including my father and many generations before them, will not be too pleased with the situation we are in today. We were meant to have gone much further, become much stronger, much more united. We were meant to be the greatest asset of the Black man on planet Earth. But we have failed in all these respects. And consequently, I will have to say that I am rather disappointed. We are like a giant that has shrunk into the position of a dwarf. We have been dwarfed in many ways – even by countries that are far smaller, with less potential than us, even in the African continent. And that’s not good enough. And I think it all boils down to one thing – the fact that we have had leadership that has not been the best for much of the past 59 years. And of course, the other part of the problem is that we have not been able to answer the fundamental questions like, for example, the national question and the outstanding issues concerning the Nigerian civil war and so many other things. And I think this is why our development has been stagnated and in many ways, has become retrogressive.
You talked about the national question – what is that national question and do you think there have been sincere efforts to address it?
I don’t even think most political leaders or politicians in Nigeria even know what the national question is. And that is really, really worrying because as long as you don’t answer that national question or address that issue, we will continue to go round in circles. Of course, it starts with one fundamental question, which was asked in 1947 by the great Chief Obafemi Awolowo in his book, The Path To Nigerian Freedom. And the question was simply this – “Is Nigeria really a nation?” He (Awolowo) concluded by saying, No, that it’s a geographical expression. He added that there is as much difference as between a German and a Turk as there is between a Fulani man and an Igbo man and everybody ought to be able to develop at his or her pace within his or her own region or zone. That was essentially Awolowo’s contention in 1947. And many decades later, I still think he was right. We pretend to be one nation, we tell ourselves that we are one, but deep down, we know how much we resent one another for various reasons. We continue to act as if this is a marriage that is eternal, even though we don’t want it. That’s the reality of Nigeria’s situation today. Most politicians will not say this to you because they are interested in getting votes from all over the country and so, they prostitute their principles and compromise on so many issues. But the new type of politicians that I think will deliver this country will not think like that. I don’t think like that. I will rather tread the path of truth and justice than to say things that are politically correct in order to gain favour with Northerners or anybody from any other part of the country. The path of truth is the path that will deliver this country into the light of God and the greatness that she deserves and we must not shy away from treading that path. We are not a nation; we are a union of ethnic nationalities that are yet to resolve our fundamental differences and fundamental issues. The questions that were raised before the Nigerian civil war and in the course of that war are still being raised today. And my prayer is that it does not take another war or civil conflict in this country for us to resolve those issues. We can resolve them in amicable and peaceful way, so that everybody will feel equal before God and everybody will feel they have equal opportunity to aspire and to excel in this country as citizens and not that we have some that are born to rule and some that are destined to serve.
How can we, as a country resolve this question – because some like the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, want every tribe in the country to go their separate ways as independent entities while others think restructuring of the polity will give every Nigerian a sense of belonging. On which side of the divide are you?
The battle for restructuring is dead and buried. Restructuring is not discussed in the National Assembly. It’s not discussed even in the main political parties. As long as they are concerned, restructuring is a dirty word. To me, it is a way out of the mess that we have put ourselves in. But to most politically correct politicians, who are mostly insincere and cowardly, they won’t even talk about it. The leadership of the two main political parties – the PDP and APC – will not talk about it as a matter of policy and neither will most of the small political parties. But this is something so obvious that ought to have been done long ago, not now. And the problem now is that it may well be too late for that. The sentiment is so strong now for ethnic nationalism – it is happening all over the world. Look at what is happening in Germany, in the US with Trump, in the UK with Brexit, the right wing political parties in Europe like in Holland and Germany. The rise of ethnic nationalism is going on all over the world and Nigeria cannot be isolated from that. In this country, we have major ethnic nationalities that see themselves as members of that nationality before seeing themselves as Nigerians. There is nothing wrong with that. It’s the perfectly natural order of things and that is the conflict we have in Nigeria. This globalized hybrid state that we must all become one, to my mind, is not natural. Yes, we can become one if we share common values, common vision, a common understanding about how life should be and common worldview. But if we don’t have that, and if one believes that he is king and the others are slaves and must be slaves forever, then, on what basis can we continue to stay together? And why should we remain together, just because a rather misguided man in 1914 by the name of Lord Lugard, with his wife, decided that we should be together? I resent and reject that. I am a proud Omo Kaaro o o jiire, I refused to use the word Yoruba. I am a proud son of Oduduwa and I believe proudly and passionately in the rights of the people of the South-west to self-determination, if that’s what they choose to do. I believe that the people of the East, the Igbo, have that right as well, if that’s what they choose to do. And I believe in the power of referendum, self-determination and I think it is absolutely wrong for anybody to say I don’t have a right to exercise that right, provided I do it in a peaceful, logical and rational way.
Are you calling for the dissolution of Nigeria as a country then, because that is what this right to self-determination will amount to…
I’m calling for the self determination of any ethnic nationality that chooses to be self-determined based on referendum. This happens all over the world, international law backs it and it’s something that should be done, provided it’s what the people want and it is done peacefully. And that’s my view. Even if I don’t believe in it, I don’t think it will be right for me to impose my will on others and deny them the right to believe in self-determination or the right to referendum to decide whether or not we should remain as one. The UK that brought us together and declared our marriage one – between the poor husband of the North and the rich wife of the South – and said that we must remain one forever is doing that today. They are brexit-ing, based on referendum, from Europe, and they are also doing it internally within the United Kingdom. Scotland had a referendum recently. They narrowly agreed to stay in the United Kingdom. If they hold another referendum in the next few years, definitely, Scotland is leaving United Kingdom. All the polls suggest that, and they will be allowed to leave. It is on that basis of expression of freewill that you can say you will create and establish a nation. Now, if you don’t want that part to be taken by the people, the only way is to treat them with respect, love and apologise to them when you got it wrong. I will cite the case of the Igbo people and I have said it over and over again. A situation where three million people -civilians- were killed during the civil war, the greatest act of genocide in the history of African continent -black on black, not white on black- because King Leopold ll killed 10 million Congolese. But we killed three million Igbo -civilians, men, women and children- in a space of three years and we have not apologized for that. This is a crime against humanity. It is a war crime. And for that kind of thing, the Nigerian commanders in the field, the Nigerian Head of State at that time, all should be at ICC. But I haven’t called for that. All I am saying is that, at least, we should have the decency to apologise and also apologise for the fact that between 30,000 and 100,000 of them were killed just before the civil war by mobs in the North. These are the fundamental issues. Every country that has indulged in such barbarity in the past has apologised, including the Belgians. The only country that has refused to do so and has committed genocide is Turkey. And I don’t think we should be in the same bracket as Turkey. They killed one million Christian Armenians and they haven’t acknowledged it. We don’t want to be in that category. Everybody else, including the Germans, what they did in the Second World War, 50 million people died, six million Jews gassed to death, they apologised. Everybody at some time recognizes the power of apology, reconciliation and restitution but we haven’t done that. Instead, we are still killing Igbo people till today. Is that how a nation is built? And when they say they want to go because they are tired of being killed even now, we are still killing them. It is unacceptable. Sadly, it is not just the Igbo now that are being killed; if you go to the Middle Belt, Niger Delta, the West, Mid-West you will find slaughter. All these slaughtering are being carried out by Fulani herdsmen and, of course, you have Boko Haram in the North-east. It is so bad that Fulani herdsmen are even killing the local Hausa in the North itself. The ethnic group carrying out this havoc, seven per cent of the population, that’s what they are, and we will sit here and say we are one nation. We don’t have the right to retaliate, we don’t have the right to cry, we don’t have the right aspire to be leaders in this country because we are second class citizens, even, when we are the indigenous people of Nigeria. And you are saying we must accept that? I will never do that. Unless they change and these things stop, Nigeria’s unity can never be something that will be accepted by all of us.
Some critics, especially from the North had always faulted the call for apology to the Igbo people over the civil war with the argument that the war was a reaction to the killings carried out in the first coup of 1966, led by officers who hailed mostly from the then Eastern region…
I am very conversant with the history; I am part of it. They came to my father’s house in January 1966; I was conversant with what they did. And my father was the only person that was taken away from home that night who was not killed. About 20 people -key leaders in the military and the government of that era- were killed. My father only escaped by divine providence because the federal troops saved him at Dodan Barracks and I appreciate that. And I appreciate the pains that were caused that night because I felt the pains too. I will never forget it. I witnessed it. I saw it. And I suffered the consequences of that for many, many years because it traumatized me. The killing of all those people was barbaric and unacceptable. I have said so. Definitely, the majority of the participants were Igbo, I am not disputing that. But the question that you have to first answer is did those Igbo officers conduct a referendum in the East before embarking on the coup? Did they do it on behalf of the Igbo people? Because if you say you want to punish a whole ethnic nationality because of the action of a few people -barbaric action in terms of the slaughter. They killed 20 people. You now say you want to wipe out entire nationality, I think that’s an unacceptable behavior. The reaction is even more barbaric and quite unacceptable in my view.
The argument was that the killings took place during a war situation…
It was not a war, because there was a coup in January 1966, 20 leaders were killed from all over the country and only one leader was killed in the South-east. It was a tragedy. It was a wicked act. I accept that. But there was no war at the time, there was a coup, an attempted coup. The coup failed. And what happened next? The Northerners now decided to do a counter coup. Again, there was no war. It was what they called a Northern revenge coup to avenge those that were killed in the first coup. And what did they do? Here is what they did. They killed 300 Igbo officers in one night. They killed an Igbo Head of State – Ironsi. They killed a Yoruba Governor of the Western Region, Fajuyi and they killed a number of other people – all in one night. Now, look at it in numbers – 20 of yours were killed, you killed 300 of theirs, plus the Head of State and Yoruba Army officers six months later. And there was no war declared. You didn’t stop there, but went a step further few months later and you slaughtered in the North -the official figure is 30,000, the real figure is close to 100,000- Igbo civilians who knew nothing about coup plotting, who did not participate in it, who are equally victims and were still mourning that their people were killed. Those killings took place in few pogroms in a space of two months and again, no war had been declared at that time. But you didn’t stop there. When the Igbos said it’s enough, let’s go back to the East, as they were going back, you were killing them at train stations, firing bows and arrows at them. And when they got to the East, they now said ‘look, if you want to wipe us all out, it is perfectly natural for us to say we want to leave’ and they now said they want to go. First, you agreed that they will go based on terms agreed to at Aburi, then, you now change your mind that even Aburi, which you have signed and agree on, you are not going to accept. They must stay by force and the war started. And what did you do during the civil war? You killed three million Igbo civilians. The number of Biafran soldiers that were killed was not more than between 30,000 and 40,000. But you killed three million Biafran civilians. One million of them were starved to death with the policy of starvation that you put in place. And you justified that policy before the world when you, Nigeria, said starvation is a legitimate weapon of war. Have you ever heard anything as inhuman as that? I know who said that. I don’t want to mention the man’s name. Another government official, a minister in Gowon’s government, went to America and when Americans were crying that we were committing genocides against the Igbo people, he said ‘no, we are simply defending ourselves, we will starve them to death.’ The people that said these were politicians, civilian leaders, but military commanders executed that policy. Then, at the end of the war, you said ‘no victor, no vanquished,’ but that was the biggest lie from the pit of hell. You gave them 20 pounds and then, you took all their properties. It is only in the South-west that their properties were not taken and you turned them into not second, but third class citizens. And today, one of those who participated in that war and all those atrocities is now our President. …Now, we have killed many in the last four years. You killed many IPOB people. And now, they are saying they want to go and you are saying they have no right to go. Is that just or right?
The civil war was followed by a succession of military regimes and in 1999, Nigeria returned to democracy. How well would you say we have done as a democratic nation since 1999?
I don’t think we have a real democracy and I will tell you why. In a real democracy, political parties can be formed based on whatever criteria you choose. Anybody can literally get up and say, this is my party, register it, I’m going to run as an independent, as whatever in my local government area. But here, INEC, which is essentially a tool for government of the day controls everything in terms of elections. And if you have a man who is the chairman of INEC working against you as the president, which is what happened in 2015. (Attahiru) Jega worked against Jonathan at that time. I’m accusing him of that right in this interview. And I’m also saying that there was time he was asked to resign and the evidence was clear on why he has to …. but, in my view, very naively, (former President Goodluck) Jonathan decided to keep him there. If you can control the INEC and the chairman of INEC as an opposition party or if you can put your man there to run INEC as this government has done since 2015, then, you know you have no democracy. Yes, they can let you win some states as they did in 2019, but they can rig you out wherever they like. If you control the courts and you can remove the Chief Justice of Nigeria just like that or you can raid the houses of judges at night with the DSS and you have, more or less, captured the judiciary and intimidated the judges, you don’t have a democracy and neither do you have rule of law. If you can send DSS officers to the National Assembly to go and raid the place and lock out legislators because you cannot control the place as happened some months ago, then you don’t have a democracy. Today, the APC, by design, controls the National Assembly. They control it because they control virtually all the elections and so, they returned as many people as possible through INEC – mostly unfairly. They control the elections tribunals, in my view. They control the courts, in my view, and they control the media, in my view, because this kind of interview, I will be surprised if you publish what I am saying. You may publish it online, but if you publish it in your paper, you may get into trouble. They control the television. If you go there and you say anything against them that is strong, factual, the NBC will come down on the television station. And you called that democracy? It is tyranny. It’s a dictatorship. And everything that I, FFK, said in 2015 during the course of the election that would happen if Buhari became the President has happened. And everybody that insulted me then, laughed at me then, and said I was talking rubbish, even from within the PDP itself, are now being prosecuted. All of them are now calling to say I was right. And everybody that stood with them (APC) then, including Atiku, Obasanjo, Kwankwaso, Tambuwal, Dino Melaye, Saraki has come back now. And now, they are all victims of this monster that they helped to create in 2015. Now, we fought them in 2015 and we are still fighting them up till today. And until the end of time, we will continue to fight them, not as individuals, because I have nothing against anybody personally. If anything, I have more friends in APC than in PDP. That’s the truth. But in terms of ideology, politics and what I think is best for my country, I see them as immortal enemies; I see them as nothing but darkness. And I see those that seek to liberate this country from their shackles as the light and the vessels and the tools of God to fight that darkness. That’s my position. So, if you asked me that do I believe that we have a democracy? My answer is, no. They have corrupted it, they have abused it and I knew this was going to happen. And let me tell you that it is going to get worse.
What has APC done to our democracy since they took power in 2015 that made you to arrive at this conclusion?
Since 2015, what have they done? First, they introduced religion and ethnicity into government. Every security agency in this country – whether the military, the one that have to do with external or internal security – 17 agencies in all – they are all in the hands of Northern Muslims, except for one, which is the Navy. And that’s unacceptable in a multi-religious, multi-cultural society. A situation where the whole of the judiciary from the Supreme Court to the Court of Appeal, the Federal High Court has just changed now – but the three tiers of the judiciary were being headed by Northern Muslims. It is just now that we have only one being headed by Northern Christian, that’s the Federal High Court. A situation whereby in the National Assembly, the Senate is headed by a Northern Muslim, House of Representatives headed by a Southern Muslim – Femi Gbajabiamila, he is a good friend of mine, I have known him for over 40 years – but he is a Muslim as well. So, you have Muslims heading both wings of the National Assembly. And you know what they have done with Femi Gbajabiamila? They have surrounded him with Muslims – his deputy is also a Muslim and the four principal officers around him are also Muslims. So, what is there for us in that place? In the executive, apart from the security agencies, look at all the key appointments – nine times out of 10, they go Northern Muslims. Go to the Villa today – the official language is Hausa, 90 per cent of the people that are working in the Villa are Northern Muslims. Look at the appointment of chief executives for the key agencies – they were Northern Muslims, look at the ministerial appointments in terms of substance – the North-west where the President comes from, the Hausa-Fulani catchment area, you have 10 substantive ministries, those are full ministries, not Ministers of state, 10 in the North-west. Next is the South-west where I come from, we have five substantive Ministers and everywhere else – the South-east, the North-central and North-east have three substantive ministers each. That means the North-west where Buhari comes from, which is the Fulani heartland has over three times the number of substantive ministers that all the other zones have, except for the South-west. And south-west has only half the number the North-west have. Is that fair?
But there are northerners, like Junaid Mohammed, who have argued that reverse was the case between 2015 and early 2019 with more people from the South being in charge of substantive portfolios as you have called them…
It is not true and even if that was the case, it is even better because that would have reflected the fact that the President was not attempting to play an ethnic card. We would commend him for that. But that is not even true. But I am saying let’s talk about today. He is now fully entrenched in power and he is now showing his true colours. And I find it quite inexcusable and unacceptable that it is happening like this and we are expected to say nothing because everybody is scared to talk, including the opposition party, the PDP. You are dealing with a monster – and I’m not saying that Buhari is a monster – you are dealing with a monstrous system and yet, you are acting as if you are playing chess. You don’t even know that it is about to consume you.
But you have a vice president who is from the South-west; I know that you have been critical of him…
I have nothing against Osinbajo at all. Again, I have known him for over 40 years. He is a good man, he is somebody that I have always liked and respected, he is an absolute gentleman until he became the vice president and then, he changed. I don’t know what happened to him. I don’t know the psychological problem, whether it is the love of power or the lust for power, he has changed. And I hope and pray, and I pray for him every day that the Yemi Osinbajo that I loved and respected before will one day come back. He has changed.
What do you think has changed about him?
The Yemi Osinbajo that I knew would never sit with those that seek to destroy his faith and his ethnic nationality. The Yemi Osinbajo that I once knew would never be a slave to anybody. The Yemi Osinbajo that I once knew is a brilliant lawyer, greatest authority of the law of evidence in this country, would never shed his intellectual strength and virility and bow before people that are barely educated and serve them like a houseboy. Right now, they have used him and they want to dump him. They are insulting him every day. I’m close to many people in what they called the ‘cabal’ by the way. Buhari was very close to my dad, Abba Kyari who is the Chief of Staff worked in my father’s law firm for 14 years. Mamman Daura was very close to my uncle, Chief Sobo Sowemimo who was my father’s principal partner in that law firm. Alhaji Zangon Daura was director of my father’s company, a big construction company. So, I know these people very well. And they have their own worldview, I have mine. I have nothing against them. But those worldviews are diametrically opposed. By the way, I have immense respect for Abba Kyari, I liked him very much, though we are on opposing sides. But for Yemi Osinbajo to have become like a houseboy to them simply because he might want to become President in 2023 is something I find despicable. And it tells me something, that, maybe, I never knew him that well because power is not something you sacrificed your principles for. It comes and it goes. He didn’t get there by his own volition. He got there through the prayers of Pastor Adeboye and the goodwill of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Now, the things he is doing today, Tinubu would never do it. When the Fulanis were killing our people, raping our children in the Middle Belt and the Southern part of the country, Osinbajo will say we should not retaliate, but rather, we should pray for them? You go to America and say the whole issue of genocide going on in Nigeria is something that is exaggerated. You refused to see leaders of Christian Association of Nigeria for the first three years you are in power, even though you are a Christian and it was only when election was approaching that you now start to romance them. But when you are in problem with your President and they want to remove you, you run back to CAN, begging them to help you. And I speak out of love. I don’t hate him. I don’t hate any of them. I respect him, but I disagree with him. You spend your time plotting how to jail every Yoruba person. Deji Adeyanju, who was behind his detention? I wouldn’t say it was him, but he should ask himself that question. And you are working against Bola Tinubu quietly.
But can all these be true?
Tinubu knows it, I know it, and everybody knows it. That’s my only grouse with him. His aides are going round saying they must block me, not to let me talk on TV, even going to various newspaper houses. I know everything. I have been in this game since 1990. There is no editor I don’t know in this country, there is no newspaper publisher I don’t know in this country. When it comes to the media, I have very strong friends and I know what is going on. And you, because you are not ready for one-on-one debate, public discourse with me, you want to shut my mouth, shut the opposition up. But it can never happen.
What is your take on this debate on whether the North should retain the presidency in 2023 or that it should shift to the South?
I am not interested in this argument of whether North or South should rule. You think the North is going to give you power again? Do you believe that? Any Southern leader that is naïve enough to believe that in 2023, this so-called North that most of them now worship and regard as god will give power to them, is stupid, doesn’t understand this game yet. It is not going to happen. Two, I refused to discuss this because they have just had an election now. He (Buhari) is barely in power for a few months and we are stupidly debating whether it will be zoned back to the South in four years’ time, when we know it is not coming. You know what they do? They dangle it before you to give you hope and keep you mesmerized, living on hope every day. And when the time comes, three years from now, they will say, ‘sorry, politics is a game of numbers. We have the numbers, you don’t have the numbers, you’re all divided, Igbo fighting Omo Oodua, Omo Oodua fighting Igbo, you are divided, we are united, we keep the power, it’s a game of number.’ And you will say, ‘what a pity, maybe in 2027, we can get it.’ That’s the game they are playing and we are falling for it. The only way out of it is for us to stand united – that’s the three zones of the South and the Middle belt – and say enough of this games and say we want a peaceful devolution of power from the centre to the various zones, restructuring of the system, so that we can give our people hope, we are not interested in your presidency anymore. They control everything – INEC, the security agencies – you have the knife, the yam everything and you are telling me to come and sit at your table and eat crumbs, I am not interested. It’s either we restructure and save the union or one way or the other, this country is going to disintegrate. People like me – we are pacifists, we simply talk, plant ideas and express the will of the people. We don’t believe in violence, we only speak and we speak truth and tread the path of honour and justice no matter how costly that might be to us. Now, there are others behind us that don’t even want to hear us. They say, ‘why are you talking?, you’ve spoken for so many years, you old men.’ They called me an old man at 59 and those that are older like my Baba, Baba Adebanjo, Professor Akintoye, Baba John Nwodo of Ohanaeze, Pa Clark and all the others – these are generations much older than me, do you want to know what they call them? I won’t even tell you. The youths are not interested in people like them or even like me anymore. They are settled in their minds that this matter can only be settled with force of arms. But we have consistently said no way. The path of bloodshed and violence is one I will not tread except it is in self-defence. So, the government and those that hate us for speaking the truth should acknowledge this. If anything, we should all be working together to keep the peace, but they should allow us to express ourselves. And we challenged them on the basis of ideas to let the people decide, don’t intimidate or gag people. And that’s why what they did to Nnamdi Kanu was completely wrong. What they did to IPOB, Sowore was wrong. These are men that never take up gun, they never kill, they never threatened violence, they never attempted to violate the constitution, in my view. But you now lock them up for treason and you are prosecuting them. That’s the dilemma we are facing as a country.
With what you’ve said now, does it mean that people like Asiwaju Tinubu who are alleged to be positioning themselves to run for the presidency in 2023 are just wasting their time?
I laugh at them. And I feel nothing but pity for them. They deserve to be pitied. Asiwaju Tinubu is somebody that I have always liked and he will tell you this. I have criticized him vigorously on many occasions and I stand by everything I have said about him. But I have always liked him. He is one of these people I can’t help liking, because he is really a warm person to be with, I can tell you that. I used to interact with him a lot, even when I was a minister. In fact, let me go as far as to tell you that I may not have been a minister if not for his support. Would you believe that? That’s the truth. I don’t forget what people do for me and I don’t forget what people do to me. I have a long memory, it’s my Fulani blood; one-eight of my blood is Fulani, so, I have a long memory. But I always repay those that do me well with respect. That goes to show you that I have nothing against him personally. But on this one, they have used him to split the Yoruba – in 2015, APC got 51 per cent of the votes for Buhari in the South-west. Obasanjo, everybody was with them at that time, we (PDP) got 49 per cent. This time around, I think they got about 52, 53 per cent, according to INEC figures and Atiku got about 48 per cent. So, Oodua land is split right down the middle. He took that percentage to Buhari and APC. They have got what they wanted from him now and they are set to destroy him. And that’s why all the ministers that were nominated, not one of them came from Tinubu, take my word for it.
How true is that because some of the ministers like Sunday Dare, Aregbesola were believed to have been nominated by Tinubu into the cabinet?
Dare was not nominated by Tinubu; quote me. I won’t say Dare said it, but I know it. Aregbesola, my friend who I love and respect any day, anytime, even though we are in different political parties, a real fighter, was not nominated by Tinubu. These people were selected by Buhari himself. Tinubu will not tell you this, but they have already started. And his own boy who he made the vice president is working against him quietly. So, a time will come, if…..this government lasts up till that time in 2023, when he will know the mistakes he has made. Even, some of the Oodua state governors are actively working against him. I won’t mention their names. These are APC governors. But by the time we get to 2023, if we get there as a nation, that is when he will get to know what all these people are doing. And maybe, at that point in time, he will now retrace his steps and we will all come together on a strong platform where the sons and daughters of Oduduwa can come together to fight for their course in a wider Nigeria. And I’m still waiting for that. I will love that. I will welcome him with open arms because Tinubu, whether anybody likes him or not, one thing that you cannot take away from him, and I always tell people this. If you look at the ways in which he built up his lieutenants and put them in key positions, throughout the country, it is not just now. He started this long time ago. His own is to build you up. You are loyal to him, he builds you up and he puts you in a key position and he supports and stands by you. There is no other Oodua leader that has ever done that in my view. You can’t take that from Bola Tinubu. However, Tinubu has made the biggest mistake that any Oodua leader has made since Afonja. And that’s a very serious indictment of Tinubu.
What’s the basis for this assertion?
When you are looking at Nigeria’s history, you can’t escape one fact – and that is that every single Oduduwa or Southern leader that has aligned with the North at any point in time in history has always regretted it without any exception. Afonja betrayed his Alaafin and aligned with the Fulani, he ended up losing his throne, they killed him and took his throne and till today, you have an Emir in Ilorin. Akintola was killed because of his support for the North. My dad was not killed. But when June 12 occurred and a son of the South-west was denied the presidency, my dad said it publicly that it was a mistake to have trusted them. That now, he knows that Awolowo was right all along about the way the North operates, so he regretted it. The next one, Obasanjo, who was the greatest friend the North has ever known from the South. He saved the North on many occasions. And what did the North do to him? He ended up being jailed for three years. Then, when the country was about to explode over the Abiola issue, they now freed him and made him the President. But they now fought him because he refused to bow to them. And when he left power, they swore that they are going to destroy him. Yar’adua tried and Buhari is trying now. He may not say it publicly, but I know deep down, Baba Obasanjo is regretting. MKO Abiola was not just a friend, but he was a Muslim brother who was building mosques all over the place and who was close to the Northern Emirs than any other Oodua person that has ever lived. There is nothing he didn’t do for them. He won an election, they denied him that power. And what did they do? They killed him. Abiola, I’m sure, would have regretted before he died. After Yar’Adua, Jonathan came to power. Jonathan gave the North everything when he was in power. The only thing he didn’t give them was his own seat. This was despite the fact that he was being warned constantly that ’these people are trying to undermine you with Boko Haram, they have encircled you and you need to know how to manage them. You need to operate from the position of strength and courage and you need to put them in their place like Obasanjo did between 1999 and 2007. Treat them as equals, don’t relegate them, but don’t let them feel as if they are superior.’ But Jonathan pampered them, he appeased them, gave them everything they wanted and look at how they repaid him for it. They rigged him out, they threatened, bullied him, they aligned with Obama’s people and manipulated everything, including Chibok girls, Boko Haram and pushed him out of power. They have been haunting all his loyalists for the past four years. Even his wife, they are going after her. I’m sure Jonathan also regretted. Ironsi trusted the North in a very naïve way. He appointed the brother of one of the people that was killed in the January 1966 coup by his own Igbo brother as one of his closest orderlies. And the man was with him when he was killed. He was one of those that turned around to kill him. So, I am sure from the grave, he is regretting. Then, Bola Ige, one of the greatest Oodua leaders that ever lived and who was consistent in his political views throughout his life. Then, he now decided to run for the presidency. He broke off from Afenifere, set up a group and aligned with the North. He spoke Hausa fluently and even said he is a Kaduna boy. At the end, the North left him in the cold; he was killed in very mysterious circumstances. I am not saying Northerners are evil, but they are smart politicians, they know how to use and dump you. So, everybody has learnt their lessons and there is only one man left who has not learnt from the lesson of others. His name is Tinubu. He will learn from his own mistake and the noose is already tightening. By the time they finish with him, he will regret the same way that Abiola , Afonja, Fani-Kayode, Jonathan, Ironsi regretted. I’m not advocating that we should be hostile to the North. I’m simply saying you should not trust the Fulani and I am not saying that they should trust us either. What you should do is negotiate, you are clear, you get their words and you verify everything that they tell you. That’s how it is supposed to be and you negotiate from the position of strength, knowledge and understanding, not naivety and weakness. The failure to do this has been the failings of Southern leaders since 1960.
But the late Awolowo who took western Nigeria to join the North to fight the civil war…
Chief Obafemi Awolowo is a special case. He fought the North throughout his life as a politician, he saw what others could not see at that time and he opposed everybody that aligned with the North. He spoke truth and stood on principle. He fought like a lion, a tiger, all combined in one. The North conspired to destroy him. But before it comes to that, let me tell you that it is the same Awolowo that stood so strong, that made us proud, that also saved the North. I will explain. During the Nigerian civil war, they sold a lie to him, deceived him – when they were on the ropes and knew they couldn’t hold the Igbo without the support of Oodua people, they now approached him and said, ‘let’s us come together against the rebel. By the time we have subdued the rebel and quell the rebellion, there will be an election and we will support you to contest and to emerge as the Prime Minister or Head of State,’ a classic Northern lie. And you know who sold that lie to him? It was Gowon who is not even a Northerner; he is from the Middle Belt. But they used him to sell that lie and sadly, I won’t say Awolowo bought it. We, the Oodua people, bought it and at the famous meeting of 1967, Oodua leaders – my dad was there- Awolowo was elected the leader of the Oodua people because Oodua people needed to be united because of the war. My father, Chief Fani-Kayode was elected deputy leader of the Oodua people at that same meeting. It was Awolowo representing the Action Group side, my dad representing the NNDP side because by that time, Akintola was dead. So, I know what transpired. The whole idea was that we should all come together to support the Federal Government against the insurrection of the Igbo people. So, it wasn’t just Awolowo that was deceived, but all of us were deceived. And sadly, after the civil war ended, Gowon and the Northern federal government reneged on every single understanding they had with us. In fact, they wanted to extend their tenure and Awo did the honourable thing by resigning from office and he said this is not what you said you will do, therefore, I am not going to be part of it anymore. But deep down I know that even Chief Awolowo, wherever he is today, is regretting the fact that he stood with them, supported them and accepted the lies they sold to him just before the civil war. We, as a people, the Omo Oduduwa of the South-west would have gone much farther as would the Biafrans and all the other groups if we had gone our separate ways then. But look at where we are. We are still locked in a cage, still struggling to survive and still bowing at the feet of one small ethnic group. It is a tragedy of monumental proportions.