Abagun Kole Omololu is the Organising Secretary of Afenifere, the foremost pan-Yoruba group that has been fighting for the rights of the Yoruba nation since time immemorial. He was our guest on the popular City People Live Chat on Instagram with the Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE who quizzed him on the state of the nation, and what the Afenifere really wants for the Yoruba. Below are excerpts.
How do you feel with all that is going on in the country right now?
The country is upside down, it’s not fair, it’s not right. This is not what our forefathers planned for us. Those who planned Nigeria and wanted Nigeria to be had an arrangement, a vision of making Nigeria the beacon and hope of the black nation. Unfortunately, it is worrisome, very worrisome.
What did you make of The Nigeria @ 60 celebrations?
Let me be honest with you, I didn’t even watch the TV. It’s like one is giving up. We’re not going to give up, probably I know what they are going to say, nothing. Like the way Abiola said it, an elephant was pregnant but it gave birth to a rat. We thought by now, the message of hope and big dreams that we expect would have been delivered not just going round in circle without really going anywhere.
Nigeria at 60 for God’s sake we are supposed to be at the forefront of developments. As at 1962, the Eastern Nigerian was the fastest growing economy in the world; I didn’t say in Africa, I said in the world. We started big, all those who ruled us at the beginning can rule the western world conveniently without a sweat.
The British Prime Minister said that Chief Obafemi Awolowo would rule the United States or the UK without sweat. He operated at the world level, he was one of the best the world produced, God gave him to us. His peers also tried their best, Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe and Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, they laid a very good foundation but we are going backward. The moment we change power from one to the other, it’s like we are going backward. It’s not right, what independence are we celebrating? Our youths are living the country in boats, they don’t believe in this country anymore. In our days, when we travel abroad, we just spend about three years and we want to run back home because there was something to come back home for. Many of my colleagues rushed back home after their studies abroad because there was something to come back home for but now, a lot of our kids will go abroad and you’re not going to see them again because there’s nothing they are coming back to do. It’s sad.
What would you say is the biggest problem facing us today as a nation?
Leadership. Bad Leadership. We have bright individuals and world-class brains in Nigeria but the people at the top are our problems. They are the ones who give direction, don’t ever blame the followers, it’s leadership. I was listening to the former prime minister of Malaysia who was talking about how he built his country. When you have selfless and purposeful leaders, the country will be good, a leader that is fair to everybody, a leader that seeks the best brain, a leader that doesn’t seek what the country can do for him but what he can do for the country. I watched a video where somebody was abusing America and Americans were so mad at him because they genuinely love their country.
Do we even have a country let alone love it? We wanted to have a country as at 1963 Constitution, the Independence constitution II, we were moving at world speed, things were happening, development, education was coming up and the west invested so much in it, but subsequently after 1966, the military came and combined with some civilians who wrote the unitary constitution for Nigeria. The two of them are still living, I’m sure they will be sad until their grave.
Look at what they have done to Nigeria and some people seize that opportunity to this is our empire and we do it the way they like. This is not the Nigeria of anybody’s choice. Go to America, Cuba, Brazil, and the black world outside Nigeria, they see Nigeria as their home but Nigeria is becoming a disappointment. So our problem is leadership. Purposeful and selfless leaders, the like of Obafemi Awolowo, we don’t have it.
Some people have tried to lay a good foundation but succession has been unfortunate. Look at our external debt which was cleared by President Obasanjo, but Jonathan’s government came and started spending money like tissue paper, not minding tomorrow. Sectional interest is the order of the day, the Yorubas have done their own, it’s our turn; whereas it was the Yorubas that helped you to get to power. We had thought that those who took over would have learnt their lessons, we never knew it was from the frying pan to fire. This is what is happening to us. Nepotism at the unimaginable phenomenon, I will do whatever I like, go and hang yourself is the message of the government. They appoint whomsoever they like not considering the best hands so that the society can move forward. Look at the way the government is being run, so sad, nobody is happy.
What’s the way forward sir?
Now, the way out, two things: Reorganize Nigeria the way it was when we agreed to be one country and make sure you marry it with the current trends of today. When we agreed to be one, we had the North, the East, the West and later the Midwest. But today we have several states, whatever we have, we can still go back to our future, I am not talking of regionalism. Revolve power to the states so that they can agree to work together for Regional development. The Yoruba will like to have one government inside Nigeria but the way the government is treating it with its ‘Go to hell’ attitude is very dangerous.
A lot of our youths no longer believe in Nigeria, they want Oduduwa Republic and I appeal to the government. The moment Afenifere speaks on Oduduwa Republic, there will be no going back. We are the restraining factor for our people, they are tired of Nigeria. We are modern people, we believe in science and tech and even though we are religious, our wisdom is there. God gave us the wisdom that can match those who are going into the moon, that is why we believe in education and we are investing in it. We are appealing to the government because we are not dark age people, if they call us dark ages, that is their problem, we are technologists and we believe in the technology that moves humanity forward. I am stressing, Nigeria needs… I’m trying to avoid the word restructuring, rearrange the nation the way it used to be. I want to build my own roads, don’t come and be having federal roads that are unpassable in my state. Why do I need federal roads when I can have my own contractors and ministry of works? This should reflect in whatever is coming from Abuja if at all anything is going to come. Allow me to make my own money; I am using these languages so that everybody can understand.
When I say allow me, I mean I have my own resources, it is for me to pay some part to you as the federal government. Every resource in my state should be developed by me and I can pay tax to the federal government so that it can finance things that will unite us like immigration, the military, foreign affairs, and probably the central bank. We can have our own central bank of Oduduwa within the same country. I studied in the UK and there is a central bank of Scotland, they have their own currency and Mary Slessor is on their currency, this is development. The United Kingdom is a kingdom headed by a monarch, yet it is more federal than what you call the federal government of Nigeria. All the nations in the UK have autonomy in many areas. When they were part of the EU, Scotland and Wales have their separate representatives in Luxembourg and during the World cup, Scottish team, Welsh, English and even the tiny Northern Irish team represent their different nations.
Every of the four nations that make up the United Kingdom has its own government, parliament and educational system which is different from what operates in England and Wales, they all have different accounting bodies and all. Why would somebody sit in Abuja and be making decisions when people are already fed up with the system and they said they want to get out. Look at IPOB, they are all over the world and when Yoruba do their own thing, be careful with us because we never back down. When we fought Abacha to a standstill during the days of NADECO, a single bullet was not used, that’s who we are. If the federal government pushes our leaders back to the wall, we will turn back. I am an officer for Afenifere, the restraining factor and why our youths are not all out is Afenifere. We are the one pleading, telling them Nigeria will still be ok, that Nigeria will be structured. Can you imagine the federal government had restructuring on their manifesto, a president who is supposed to love Nigeria beyond anything said he is not going to do anything about it? All those who attended the 2014 national conference, look at those who represented us, Seye you and I are educated, those who know Nigeria in and out, superb intellectuals, highly trained individuals, bureaucrats, superbrains recommended so many propositions and yet the government got there and refused to do anything about it, I don’t think that government is sincere.
Look at what is happening presently, look at our youths, if they don’t curtail this, it can lead to so many things. Look at the Arab spring, the youths started it. You think our youths are docile but now they said they are fed up. I saw a video where police are killing our youths, shooting harmless youths and they started asking if this was what president Buhari promised them. Social media has made many things simple, these youths are connecting every day and it will not be Lagos alone, it will happen all over the country, even in the North. How many youths are you going to kill? The youths occupy the highest space of our 200 million population, they are 60 percent, how many policemen do we have? You must be a listening government, this is not a military regime, it is democracy.
How can the police be shooting at peaceful protesters? And whatever they are doing is in the interest of the poor policeman that the government is using as a tool. How much is the salary of a sergeant? Something some people will just blow off at a party, that is what we pay people that are armed with guns to protect us. I saw the video of another police officer identifying with the youths and behaving very well, she is SP Toyosi Shokunbi at the Meiran police station. She addressed the youths and they all corporated with her, this is the example of the police we want not some drunkards who will maul down innocent protesters. I know the IGP is an offshoot of Solomon Arase, he is a disciplinarian and one of the best police officers in the country, by now he must have gotten the video and would address the issue appropriately. The police bosses have gotten the video, I personally sent it to them.
So what Afenifere wants from Nigeria… we told our people about the danger of electing this present government, we were blackmailed, we were abused and asked why we should support Jonathan against Gen Buhari. We told them that Afenifere works by principles, we want Nigeria to be restructured, we want Nigeria to be great and Jonathan said he agrees with us but when we called the other candidate, he said he ain’t got nothing to do with it.
We don’t care who the President is, as long as he is going to do what we want, we were going to vote for him. But they took us to the pages of newspapers and blackmailed us every day. About 3 years ago, they didn’t want to hear anything about Afenifere and we don’t have anything order than our moral standard. Most of the leaders that have press and were part of the government were abusing us. When Pa Adebanjo spoke about our leaders who were sold out, especially our former governor during AD period who won election to restructure Nigeria, but could not marshal that when they got to the government. How many times have they stood up to restructure Nigeria? And it is only the party in government that can do that, the opposition cannot do that, we are not in government, you are the one to influence the national assembly and the president to do what the people want. This was the same thing Baba Adesanya and Pa Ajasin said and it is the trail Obafemi Awolowo left for us, that is what we are following.
Even though our son is the vice president, we still don’t follow people sheepishly, if they had agreed to restructure Nigeria by the time they were coming into government and with our son as the VP, of course, we would have voted for them. But no, deceived a lot of Yoruba people and now it is obvious that they voted a nepotist and jihadist into power. Have all the strange things happening in this country ever happened before? Foreigners coming into our country killing our people, raping our women and laying ambush on our farmers in their farmlands, kidnapping them, slutering them, what kind of life is this? Giving free entry to people to come and settle in a land that is not their own? This is the kind of government some of our leaders are supporting but we have wise up. We are still appealing to the leaders to listen to what Afenifere stands for, why we still look up to them today and call them leaders is because of the promise they made to the people. They should go back to their government and work on these things. Yoruba are very angry, they are fed up, and my appeal to the people in government is to listen to the yearnings of the people. I love a big country and I don’t want to need a visa to travel to the north or east, I will still prefer that Nigeria works but if they push us to the wall, the Oduduwa Republic will emerge. I am the Organising Secretary of Afenifere and whatever I say is representing the view and interest of our people.