Mogaji Gboyega Adejumo is an Afenifere Chieftain. He is also a proud Ibadan man and one of the emerging Yoruba leaders. He is also quite knowledgeable about Yoruba and Nigerian history.
He was our guest a few days ago on our daily City People TV Instagram Live Chat with the Publisher of City People, SEYE KEHINDE. Below are excerpts of the chat where he revealed the Yoruba’s agenda.
I welcome you to this chat, sir. We are to talk about the Yoruba’s Agenda which is getting bigger and bigger by the day. And many people are wondering what the Yoruba really want, and why there is so much agitation lately about this Yoruba’s Agenda. So, maybe you can start from there, Sir. Please enlighten us about what the Yoruba really wants.
It all started 16 thousand years ago. Don’t be surprised that I went back. I’m not saying it is restricted to sixteen thousand years ago, no. But, science has proved that human fossil was found at a place called Iwoeleru, twenty-four kilometers from Akure and fifteen kilometers to a place called Isharun. Human fossils that had been carbon-dated properly and they bear the same DNA as with the DNA of the modern Yoruba. In which case, we evolved here in situ. We didn’t come from anywhere, we evolved here, we owned the land, and throughout the trajection, people have seen the power of the Yoruba everywhere in the world. In our culture, in our language, in our spirituality, and all of these even before the advent of the white men. We had our own kind of democracy, which can not be said to be inferior to any type of democracy. We have the Alaafin, the Oba – that’s the executive we have the Chiefs, the Oyomesi as the legislative arm. We have the Ogboni and the Oshobo as the judiciary. And we have the army headed by the Arookakaefo. In which case, we had separation of powers. We had the rule of law. We had every principle that guides every aspect of democracy and we were guiding what we had so jealously. And we were ruling from the banks of River Niger to the banks of the Volta River in Ghana.
You can’t take anything away from the Yoruba. But we found ourselves in a situation where some people came and lumped us together with the others. We don’t so much mind being together with people, but we want to be respected. We don’t want to be treated like second-class citizens in our own land. And when the Oyinbos came and did their abomination in 1914, they had a very first constitution, which was called the Clifford Constitution in 1922, which had only two principal Nigerians in it. And that was the southern of Sokoto and the Alasi of Oboyo. Go and check it out. No other traditional ruler was in that constitution.
So, they saw the need for another constitution in 1946 and it was a military constitution, which led to a whole lot of rot, just like we are having now. So, it is not just happening now. Go back into history. We voted and protested and saw as at 1946 that it was not what we needed. We need the federal, truly federal constitution which came. At least the British realised their mistakes and in 1949, they scraped that constitution. And between 1946 and 1959, we had 4 constitutions. We had a 1951, we had a 1954, we had a 1957 then we had a 1959. I’m taking the 1942 out, but we had all of these coming with the Yoruba saying, “We do not mind being here, but give us our own.” And throughout that period of 1946 culminating into 1949, the Colonial masters succumbed and gave to the Western Nigeria the very first experimentation of an African organised and run government. And the government after Baba Obafemi Awolowo in 1951 became the first government in the whole of Africa to be run by an indigenous set of people. And look at the wonderful work that Baba Awolowo did. So, he couldn’t have done all of that in 1946 to 1949 and evolved that into documents that is called The 1949 Constitution, which is not the construction of the people. It was drawn by a man called Yakubu, which has nothing to do with…
And look at the way it is now. We have all manners of inequality, of inequity even. We don’t have liberty in this land, and neither do we have equal opportunities. It is a total reversal. We don’t have a federal system, we have a feudal system. So, why would anyone wonder what the Yoruba want? We want freedom. We want to be free. Between 1951 and 1964, the experimentation was so good, they had to allow poriportal manifestation of that because the first the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, leader of government business from 1951 to 1954. But after that, it was called the premier. And look at all the fuss that came. First, in free education in the whole of Africa, first in television in the whole of Africa, first in modern amenities in the terms of having to have industrial area in the whole West. First in Africa! Look at Ikeja industrial area, look at Apapa, look at everywhere. And outside of Lagos, come to Ibadan. Go to Vendor, you will even see up to today the palm trees and everything that gave rise to the evolution of the palm that other countries in the world are coming here to come and borrow our technology, to come and take our seedlings.
As at 1955, the economy of the old West was at par with that of Singapore and South Korea. The Sahiba Arabian family were all coming to UCH Ibadan to be properly treated health wise. And look at what has happened to the Yoruba in land of the first. There is now quota system, federal capital, look at what has happened. Our cut off marks will be 200, and some other cut off mark will be 80 and the one of 80 will still come out and be the Oga. Look at what happened to us recently when somebody was sent to the international court and then was found to be the person with the least qualified credentials coming from Nigeria. That is to tell you the pathetic state of which we have been reduced to. The Naira, don’t let me talk about pound sterling. The Naira, at a time, was one Naira to two pounds. That was the strength of the Naira. And it’s so so sad now that the Naira is 195. How did we get here?
If we are going to be talking about what has led to the Yoruba cause, look at June 12. Won by a Yoruba man, but what happened was that it was annulled simply because of the antecedent of a man. They are going to be talking about what has led to a Yoruba cause. Take a look at all the structures, go to Customs, Immigration, Police, or the Military, what do you have there? Even Apapa that generates 67.7% of non-oil revenue into the coffers of the federal government, only one local government in Lagos, what is happening there? Go there, you won’t find one Yoruba man. And should we simply roll over and die and accept the status of second-class citizens? Are we going to continue like this? We are industrial people. We don’t want anybody to hold us back from achieving our potentiality.
All over the world, if they say, “Ah, Nigerians are doing well.” Half of the number of people would be Yoruba. Everywhere, wherever you find them, in the academia, in the industry, in the police, in the military, all over the world. Why do we have all of that? Yoruba as a language is taught in 48 American Universities. 48. Yoruba is spoken in Benin Republic, as the official language, as well as in Cuba and Brazil. Why is it that it is even abroad that all of these things are happening? And then here, our patrimony is being trampled upon in the contraption called Nigeria. It’s such a way that you almost have to go the way of the Jews and say, “By the Rivers of Babylon, when we sat down then we will, when we remember the glory of the Yoruba.” That is what it has become. So, we have no choice. It is like going to simply roll over and die, but what would happen to your children? What would happen to my children? But to fight this fight, I am going into this struggle with everything we’ve got to liberate our people. Otherwise, the issue will ask us and even judge us to say, “What did you do? Did you just open your eyes to see all of this happening to the industrial Yoruba.” The illustrious Yoruba, we didn’t do anything about it. So, that is it. It’s a very clear situation, my brother.
How did you feel on October 1st, when we celebrated 60 years of Nigeria? What was going through your mind?
I am a member of Afenifere, the Pan-Yoruba Group. I belong to the highest policy-making body of the Group. We are fewer than 60 in the whole of Yoruba land who belonged to the National Focus. It was from Afenifere that I was seconded to be the umbrella body of all Yoruba groups, and that is the Yoruba Summit group. And I am the publicity secretary. So, if you ask me what do I feel about October 1st, going back to the Communique I issued on the platform of the YSG (Yoruba Summit Group), which had on that day, the leader of Yoruba, Papa Adebanjo, who had Professor Akintoye, Dr. Akingba In fact, mention all the Yoruba leaders, they were there. So, I said, we are giving this government till 4th of October to Restructure. Failure to do that, we would now be left to our own devices about how to actualise self-determination. Nobody has come to challenge us and they can’t stop us.
And the truth is this, go to the United Nations Charter and see, the right of every Indigenous Group is there to aspire for Self-determination. Go to the AU, African Union Charter, the same provision is there. It’s even there in ECOWAS. So, what do I feel about…? How do you want me to feel? I went to school when we were paid fifty kobo per day. I am not saying fifty naira, I said fifty kobo, per day for meals. Ten naira in the morning, that is breakfast before you go for your lectures. And then, the same thing. Sorry, ten kobo in the morning, ten kobo in the afternoon and ten kobo in the evening. And we were even given morsels. And we were doing so well. Then, the school I attended, the nuclear research facility that some people came from America and said it was their job to be selecting one of the best we could find. But go to Ife today, what has happened to that? When the schools were being funded and we had education, and as soon as this new president came, first he jacked it up from 50 kobo to 150 kobo and three months later, he removed feeding out of it, cut all the funding. And that is to tell you the pathetic state as to which we have found ourselves. Education that used to be the bedrock of development. Awolowo made the first-more in 1967 when he came out of jail and he was asked to come to university of Ile-Ife to present a paper. And he said there was no nation that can grow and develop without science and technology. And that is the reason he started the University to give the West all the necessary tools to be able to develop. But what has happened? They cut off everything. It’s like a deliberate action to spiting the growth of the Yoruba.
So, what do I feel? I feel that we are stunted. I feel they have hijacked our lives. I feel sputtered. I feel like somebody is putting his wheel on my head and I can not breathe. That was how this first of October went. What is there to celebrate? Nothing. A whole lot of failures. The Vice President went to Aba a few years ago and described Aba as the next industrial revolution about to happen.
There is nothing to celebrate in terms of achievement. I wouldn’t know if anyone would like to celebrate failure. I don’t know where failure is celebrated.
What would you call the biggest problem that we are faced with as a nation?
The biggest problem we have been facing is those people with the sense of entitlement to everything who would feel like they own the land and have no clue about how to even pretend that they have absolutely nothing to offer. And I’m serious about what I am saying.
There is wisdom in knowing your limitations. There’s wisdom in knowing your strengths. There’s something we call SWOT Analysis.
You look at your Strength, you look at your Weaknesses. After your Weaknesses, you look at what is the Threat that will come your way. And then you look at… sorry, you look at Opportunities that will come your way and then you look at the Strengths. If those who have a sense of entitlement in Nigerian enterprise have done a proper SWOT Analysis, they would be able to realise that their weaknesses far out weigh their strengths. And that, there should be equal opportunities for all. Rather than being true to themselves all about the number of opportunities available unto one. And then, they should have looked at the threats that would come from having to themselves bring all the patrimony, the commonwealth of the whole nation. If that is not what they are doing then, we would be talking.
Look at all the army of formations, military formations, even Navy, the air force, 16 security positions. 16 to the North. And look at Lagos, for example. Lagos and Kano were at par in terms of population for like twenty years. I consulted with the World Bank. And the figures we used, as at 1989, was eighteen million for Lagos. And we are using seven millions for Kano. But then, they did their abracadabra and Kano is nine million, while Lagos is eight million. Even let us take that. In 1972, Lagos had four municipal local government. Kano had two, in 1972. Now, they broke the Jigawa away from Kano. Between Kano and… As at that time, listen to me, my brother.
Lagos had municipal 4 local governments, Kano had two. Now, they broke Jigawa away from Kano. Between Kano and Jigawa today, they had seventy-seven, and Lagos had twenty.
Yes oh. They have 27 local government and Lagos has 20. They are so unashamedly protecting that, which, of course, is injustice. They are unashamedly protecting that. Go and look at the whole of South East and count the number of House of Reps seat. Maybe they used such to determine… If they want to go and vote now, in the legislative house, they are seventy-seven votes coming from Kano and Jigawa against Lagos State. How do you compete? In which case, it is already designed to fail. An allocation. Is that not how they allocate money? Is it not the constitution that they use?
So imagine that amount of money in terms of VAT. I went to national television, I was on Channels. And I said, “69 percent of the VAT accruing to Nigeria today is coming from the Southwest. Now, what do we get back? We hardly get back fifteen percent. The same people who don’t want bear-alchohol, who say it is “Haram” to smoke, they collect all the VAT from all these items that is Haram and spend on themselves. Now, what do we get? For even allowing the Haram, for even making money out of it, for even posting it into the government Treasury, what do we get? So, we can’t go on like this oh. These are the ones who are, they have simply told us we don’t matter. They have simply told us that the Yoruba lives does not matter. That’s what they are telling us.
So, where is the problem? The problem starts from inequality. The problem starts from not allowing everybody to have what is called competition. And I was like, “Please, we all went to school.” And I am not using it in a derogatory way. No, it’s not derogatory. We are not saying that some people didn’t go, we all went to school is a statement of fact. But the fact remains that we must compete. I wasn’t given any double promotion, I wasn’t given any triple promotion. I worked from primary one to primary two, making sure that I read my books and I passed. If you don’t pass, then you don’t get promoted. Why will somebody be promoted and given triple promotion for not even having to go to school?
What I’m trying to say is very simple. We had the Western region, we had the Eastern region, and we had the Northern region, they were all competing. The Northern region was doing their groundnut, the Eastern region was doing their palm oil and coal, the Western region was doing their Timber and Cocoa and the rest. Each region was using its own resources to develop. And that is competition. in which case, you have your farm, I have my farm, somebody else has his farm. Let each person go and work on his farm. If you want to bring that out, you would sell. Don’t come and take all that I have in my farm and take sixty-nine tubers in the name of one federal that is not federal and you give me eighteen bags. Out of my sixty-nine, you give me eighteen. You kept forty-one to yourself. Why should I work my land to produce that and you won’t work your own, you will come and take from me? And you will say that, “Who spoilt Nigeria?” They spoilt it because they are lazy. They spoilt it because they are still doing crazy. How can somebody be doing what Abraham did four thousand years ago? Crazy. He would take your cow to someone else’s farm, to a person who has worked hard, to till the land, to plant, to feed the family, as well as sell. And then, you would take it upon yourself and say, “Headers farmers clash.” Who is clashing? What is the fight there? That I’m in my own land? That I’m in my farm and then you are coming to come and tidy your cow. What is the fight? Then you are the aggressor. So no fighting you. I didn’t leave my land to go and fight you. You are the one that came from wherever you have come from to come and feed on what I have planted. That’s not a fight. That is not an aggressive disposition. That is criminal. Whoever does that is a criminal person. But these federal government will not call it criminal. They will say it is farmers/header’s clash. What are they clashing about? You don’t report them, they will still graze on my land.
Each time there is a mention of restructuring, people tend to give it all sorts of colouration. Can you explain to us, Sir, what does the restructuring concept mean to Afenifere?
Well, the structuring was something that came up as recent as 2013. We have always said since the 1963 Randolph constitutional conference, Obafemi Awolowo presented a case of the Western region, was that we should have a nation of regions. Like, each region would be responsible for how the people would want to live their lives, including their own constitution. So we have the 1964 constitution. We had our coat of arms, we had our consolidated house in Lagos. Incidentally, the Western Nigeria house is now the Nigerian house, I hope you know that? Obafemi Awolowo bought it from the Western region… I’m telling you that for a fact. What I’m trying to say in essence is this–
Take that again, Sir, I didn’t hear that.
The Western house that was bought by the Western Region in London is the same house they call The Nigerian house today. So, what we are saying is very simple. The Yoruba would want to say, “Take us back to where we were in the 1963 Constitution.” They pick the situation because the military pays. That is what we have been saying, it never changed. That’s the Afeni-fere constitution. But, throughout the course of time others have come, the South-south rule is talking on resource control. 1991 was calling for national conference. It’s all geared towards the same thing. But once they started talking of restructuring was when we were engaged to Jonathan, President Jonathan. That the country must be restructured. That the structure is not working. And that was what led to the 2014 conference, which was a purely Afeni-fere initiative. And, he did what he had to do. Unfortunately, those who had power to go back to the North without airport, and then Buhari came. And when things are not going well, that is when Pastor Osinbajo in 2016 started gathering all the Yoruba together. And that was when the Yoruba group was formed as the Umbrella body for Afeni-fere. That was what led to the 2017 Ibadan declaration. Which the vice president started with his special advisor, Ugu. And all the state governors were well represented. In fact, Dr. Fayoshe came. It was even an NPN, Chief Akingala SAN, who raised the motion that we should all say the Yoruba want nothing but restructuring. In which case, the restructuring is to say, “Go back to where we were.” And that is the position of Afeni-fere. But now that the president has come to say that, Adeboye, Afeni-fere and everybody calling Obansanjo, everybody calling for restructuring are apathetic. How will you know where they stand? You know what exactly they are telling us. So you wait for us to now determine the next natural step, even Afenifere.
Sir, how do you see the fact that Yoruba leaders who are not political in nature are all talking about restructuring? Does it come to you as a surprise?
Why would it come to me as a surprise? Who would want to continue to be in this kind of quagmire? It is useless trying to prove to anyone that we are in a faulty structure. It is useless. The way we were developing in the ’50s and ’60s, is it the same thing we can say we have grown either politically or as swiftly, in terms of development? You can see people these days commissioning a machine that grinds corn.
And somebody commissioning Toilets. And commissioning weighing scale. Is that what we should be commissioning? When Awolowo was commissioning still one of the best stadia in the world? When Awolowo was commissioning an industrial Ikeja complex that housed about 13 companies, Larger rite, Rot iron, and the rest of them. And the Way cement. And then, somebody today is commissioning one bridge. One bridge. Commissioning bridge. When the defunct Western Region built Western houses in Lagos, built Airport hotel, built Federal Palace Hotel, built Cocoa house, and the governor today is commissioning, if you see the bridge? Go to Owerri and ask the people the kind of bridge and what happened to that bridge later. So, what exactly are we talking about? If the restructuring that we are talking about is not even accepted, they would later come to beg us with it. Because it is the smallest indivisible factor.
Who wants to live in a house that a man has thirty-six children and he is treating about seventeen of them differently. The rest of the ninety-five to five percent… So who wants to live in that kind of a house? So, who would not talk about restructuring. But I’m telling you, we are telling them restructuring today, they don’t want to restructure. There would come a time it would be one thing they would be begging us for that we would even tell them we don’t even want again.
Sir, when you look at the speech of Mr. President of October one, what do you make of it?
Oh, the speech that he was comparing Nigeria to Southern Arabia and saying it was unfair?
How can a president say that? Who is he talking to? The president of my Primary 6 shouldn’t say that. But people have answered him. Do I need to? How can a President say that Saudi Arabia is paying 168 dollars for fuel, for us to pay hundred? And people have told him, “What is your own minimum wage, that you are not even paying? 30,000 thousand. And the Saudi Arabia own is 400,000.” Is that not even telling someone that it’s either that the president does not know his left from his right hand or he thinks that we are all fools, we don’t know our left from the right. Is he the one who does not know or we are the ones who are ignorant? It is either him or us now. So what is there in that speech? Who is he? He is just an elected professional. He’s not a king. In fact, let us face it. Why are we like this in this nation? We elected a president who treats us like we are his subjects. Did you elect a king? A President for four years. And then, another four years. And that is only if he got elected or he led himself into power. This is a man who took over from Shagari in 1983. And what did he cite as the reasons for taking Shagari out? He said, fraudulent elections, corruption and all that. Let him tell us what is happening in his government. If it is not like two hundred times worse than what happened in Shagari government. So what is the legitimacy of his being there? When all what he accused Shagari of, him too is doing it. Or has done two hundred times more than what Shagari did. Allowed it under his watch. Nigeria is too much of a joke, honestly.
But, Sir, how do you also see the fact that some people say the Yoruba leaders are not united? They are various groups doing various things and all of that.
That’s… there. Who is united? Even when Jesus was alive, did we have a united discipleship? We still had a Judas. And then, who is united? Even when Moses was putting some people out, were all the Jews united? You can’t have everything in terms of one single line. And even those who are trying to unite the Yorubas, I can only find two persons. I can only find Oduduwa and Obafemi Awolowo. Outside of the two, I really don’t know of anyone who has been able to achieve that. The one that is spending money thinking that he wants to be president and he wants to get some people to come under his wings by patronage. Transactional politicians outstanding to be president on Yoruba land. You want unity. It is based on the fact that I can get money from you today. The day that does not come out again, you will see disunity. But what I know is this, everybody in Yoruba land today is angry. Take it from me.