Queen Mother Nana Yaa Asantewaa was just a mother and farmer who spiced her vocation with being an intellectual, politician and human rights activist in a confederate Gold Coast, now Ghana. Though riven by a civil war of 1883 to 1888, the moment the British exiled Asantewaa’s brother and the King of Asante Prempeh 1 to the Seychelles in 1896, a fertile ground was laid for a deadly rebellion against its rule in Ashanti land. Frederick Hogston, Governor-General of the Gold Coast, hastened the rebellion. By obstinately demanding for the Golden Stool which was the symbol of the Ashanti nation, Hogston didn’t know that he was, apologies to Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, provoking an uprising, which would “bring out the beast” in the Asante people.
The Golden Stool, also called the Sika Dwa Kofi, was Ashanti Kingdom’s symbol of power since the 17th century. Totally made of gold, the stool is said to be 18 inches high and 24 inches of length and 12 inches wide. It never touched the ground and no Asantehene, King of the Kingdom, ever ascended the throne without it. Narratives of oral tradition had it that, Okomfo Anokye, a high priest who was also one of the two founders of Ashanti land, brought the stool by conjuration. Decorated with golden bells, myth had it that the stool descended from the sky, down to the feet of Osei Tutu I, the first Asantehene. Ashanti people believe that inside that stool was the soul of the Ashanti nation. It was this stool that Hogston wanted and it was this injustice of Britain that was resented by Asantewaa, Regent of the Kumasi Ejisu–Juaben district, who was livid at the British impudence.
Enraged at the pusillanimity of the men, Asantewaa stormed an all-men meeting where disagreement on whether to confront Hogston and his colonial taskmasters was ongoing. There, she made that famous speech that conferred manhood on a woman and effeminacy on men, to wit, “How can a proud and brave people like the Asante sit back and look while Whitemen took away their king and chiefs, and humiliated them with a demand for the Golden Stool? The Golden Stool only means money to the Whitemen; they have searched and dug everywhere for it. I shall not pay one predwan to the governor. If you, the chiefs of Asante, are going to behave like cowards and not fight, you should exchange your loincloths for my undergarments!”
As a mark of her seriousness to go to war against Hogston’s Britain, Asantewaa seized a gun and shot into the sky in front of the men. There and then, she was chosen by Ashanti kings to become Generalissimo in a war dubbed the Yaa Asantewaa War, the Ashanti-British War of the Golden Stool, with her leading an army of 5,000 warriors. Asantewaa and her army pummeled the British in the Fort of Kumasi and after months of fight, Hogston sent a 1,400 force to quell the rebellion, leading to the capture of Yaa Asantewaa. Fifteen of her close war advisers were equally captured and sent on exile to the Seychelles. Asantewaa died in exile on October 17, 1921 but, 36 years after, her dream of an Asante that was free of British rule became a reality on March 6, 1957, with the independence of the Asante people, making Ghana the first African nation in Sub-Saharan Africa to achieve this feat.
No one needs Nostradamus to predict that, by 2023 when President Muhammadu Buhari finishes his turn of duty, he would be an antihero, like Hogston. An antihero of traumatised, ethnically demonised, internally colonised Nigerians, that is. Sunday Adeyemo, a.k.a. Igboho, may then assume the trove of rescuer of his people, just like Asantewaa. In Buhari’s unexampled ethnic favouritism, unbridled disdain for any ethnicity other than Fulani and his self-appointed role as Usman Dan Fodiyo-reincarnate, he is gradually pulling off the chains from the hands and feet of chained ethnic nationality prisoners, something in the mould of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. With Buhari’s obsession for haranguing southern “villains” like Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu, unbeknown to him, he is gradually liberating Yoruba and Igbo people from their imprisoning belief in a collective good from a united Nigeria.
The ding-dong over Igboho has been on in the last few weeks. Arrested in Benin Republic over a week ago, Buhari has since then been bearing the Dracula teeth of the Almighty Nigerian government, with the aim of sinking them into the naked flesh of the separatist advocate. All things being equal, however, he may soon realise that, as the Yoruba say, you cannot violate the son of the initiate and the uninitiated in similar proportion, without having your hands burnt. Having succeeded in his crude and brash interdiction of Kanu, Buhari took another step forward to similarly Umaru Dikko-lize Igboho. With the situation of things, however, he is likely to discover that this is a barren exercise.
Unfortunately for the Buhari government, it hangs on its lapel the tar-brushed image of one that thinks only from the lens of ethnicity. It thus sent everyone to their tents. Indices that were hitherto opaque have become dominant. Every government move is painted in ethnic ink, no thanks to Buhari’s obsession with his Fulani stock. It is so bad that Nigeria under Buhari has become the most divisive ever in Nigerian history.
We have shouted ourselves hoarse over Buhari’s inexplicable nepotism and favouritism. He transmuted valiantly from cronyism in appointments to abetting crimes of his ethnic stock. His Fulani stock can do no wrong and the criminal cattle rarer elements among them have received such governmental protection that is not known in the history of inter-ethnic relationship in Nigeria. While herders kill rapaciously in the south and the Middle Belt, he looks the other way to lick his plate of fura and nunu. Bandits who terrorize, kidnap, kill and who recently downed planes, in his and his Fulani ilk in government’s estimation, are engaged in normal businesses. In his very before, Sheik Gumi, who obviously has government’s support, traverses forests to hold tete-a-tete with dare-devil, self-confessed killers and national saboteurs and Lai Mohammed and others in his government laud him as cousin of Angel Gabriel. Boko Haram who killed hundreds are said to have been rehabilitated and sent back among same people they killed like jackals.
If the South and Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State were merely raising unnecessary hell over nothing, Emir of Muri, Abbas Tafida, gave the world another orange to suckle last week. Tafida issued a 30-day ultimatum to herdsmen in the state to vacate the forest, stating that they had turned Taraba forests into terror binges against residents.
What Tafida did is clearly indistinguishable from what Igboho did in Igangan, Oyo State. In that frustrating outburst, he did not just issue a quit notice against these criminal elements who he clearly identified as same people Buhari has wrapped his hands round in the last six years, he literally signed their death warrants. Irritated by same audacity to plunder and kill, former Chief of Army, General Theophilus Danjuma, on March 24, 2018, at the convocation of Taraba State University, Jalingo, had alleged “an act of ethnic cleansing” by the Nigerian Army under Buhari against his Taraba and Nigerian people. Without any equivocation, he alleged that the army was colluding with killer herdsmen, marauding unsuspecting persons in the process.
Igboho said same thing about his Yorubaland. Tafida did too last week about his subjects who have become victims of routine kidnapping, rape and murder by these nomadic criminals from Foutajalon. To confirm the howling of Danjuma, Tafida and Igboho, a few days ago, under the guise of searching for contraband rice, “men of the Nigerian Customs Service” stormed Ibarapa land in what the natives claim was reprisal attack by Fulani herdsmen they staved off a couple of months ago. Three men, including an Amotekun official, were killed and many sustained injuries. The so-called eight trailer loads of rice that the “Customs” claimed brought them to Ibarapa, were not found, save for guns bearing serial numbers of the Nigerian Army and blood and sorrows the intruders, said to be Customs men, left in their trails.
Not only did Igboho do just what Danjuma and Tafida did, he went a step further to say that the future of his Yoruba people could not be protected under a bigoted presidency of Fulani domination that Buhari runs. Buhari, he reiterated the conversation on southern Nigerian streets, seems to have declared war against anyone who dares to cry while the Fulani pummel them. To underscore his brash irreverence for law and lawful agitation, Buhari ordered the DSS to invade Igboho’s house. Two persons were killed and guns that were claimed to have been retrieved from his house were hoisted as emblem of their victory. And a cache of amulets that were later shown to have been in the news about a year before. In a Nigeria where, a few years ago, robbery evidence that bore the name of then Senate President, Bukola Saraki, was advertised by the police, which were later discovered to have been planted to criminalise this “enemy” of Buhari’s, what stopped the DSS, which entered Igboho’s house without warrant, from cloning the Saraki hoax?
Now, Buhari has brought every Yoruba to the realisation that Igboho symbolises them, no matter his limitations. Some people are even already pointing at the similarity of Buhari’s harangue of this man with same harangue against Chief Obafemi Awolowo by Buhari’s forebears. Tafawa Balewa, who, in cahoots with Ahmadu Bello, had accused Awolowo of treasonable felony and sent him to jail. True or not, that is the narrative you invoke when you have a leader who is bigoted inside an ethnic cocoon as Nigeria does at the moment. By Igboho’s suit of last Friday, filed at the Oyo State High Court in Ibadan, where he asked the court to declare that his campaign for self-determination by Yoruba people was legal and a fundamental right, Buhari has vicariously made every Yoruba man a plaintiff in that suit, while he and his Fulani people, defendants. To the best of my knowledge, that agitation has not led to shedding of a single pint of blood. The court will interpret the law to rule on what is illegal in Igboho asking for freedom for his people.
At the end of the meeting, Talon and his Benin delegation still stayed in the Nigerien embassy with Nigerian authorities for several hours in Abuja, held series of meetings with Nigerian economic actors, which included Aliko Dangote, one of the prime movers of the closure. Though Buhari opened the borders in August 2019, it is said that this has not translated into actual resumption of goods traffic between Nigeria and Benin. Now that Buratai is seeking to carry Igboho’s head to Buhari in the Villa on a platter, he may be reminded that a pounded yam of 20 years could still be steaming hot.