Yinka Odumakin is the Spokesman for Afenifere group. He’s a strong critic of President Buhari administration. He’s always talking to the power that be whenever the need arises. He’s also an activist who has paid his dues in politics. A few days back, he spoke to City People what he feels about the government of Buhari in handling Fulani herdsmen and other pertinent issues… Below are his views. Enjoy.
Tell us about your view of Nigeria today.
We are at the edge of the precipice. I remember the American Journalist who took a tour of Yugoslavia, shortly before Yugoslavia collapsed. He met different people and religious groups. When he finished his tour, he wrote a book titled: The Impossible Country, The Last Days of Yugoslavia. That book was in the press and before that book was released, Yugoslavia collapsed. The way Nigeria Is running today, somebody would be writing the same version of the same book at the moment. The Impossible country, the Last days of Nigeria.
Why do you think that way?
You can see that the elements of consensus that should build unity in a multi-ethnic society are all absent in Nigeria. The essence of the state is to be habitat to different forces of the society. For example, when two people are fighting, the state is to determine the gravity and what sort of punishment would be suited for the offence. But when the state becomes biased or supports one party then there is a problem. Look at Ondo State for example, in Nigeria, there is something they call the Land Use Act, which states that the land belongs to the governor. Even if the Federal Government wants to use land in the state, they must go through the governor.
The governor did not ask herdsmen to leave Ondo state, he only asked that they leave our Forest reserves. He has the power to decide that, but when the presidency through Sheu Garba came out in defence of herdsmen you know that the state has collapsed. It is the federal government that should ensure that the order is enforced.
Last year, Sars arrested 4 killers of Funke Olakunrin, the daughter of PA Fasoranti, who was killed some years ago. The day she was killed, the brother of Funke, Taiwo was at the scene. The Policemen told him it was Miyetti Allah that killed her. One of them was an officer of Miyetti alah. A first Class Oba of Ifon was also killed on the street there. Fist-Class Oba. A few days ago the deputy registrar of FUTA was killed. What would have happened if an Emir of Kano was killed on the street there? And they are told that it was some Yoruba boys that killed him.
There is no responsible government that would allow criminals and bandits to dwell in their forest reserves. So that was why he asked them to leave but the Presidency was the first line of defence for the herdsmen. When the Ankara boys were kidnapped, it was this Mayeti Allah group that was sent to negotiate with the kidnappers. When the governor of Katsina state was asked who the kidnappers were, he said he had to ask some other people. That is the state of Nigeria today. We are in a serious situation. The is no government in the World that behaves like Nigeria.
The government here behaves like what I have called Fulani government of Nigeria where the government has no responsibility to those who are not Fulanis in Nigeria. Remember In January 2018, when herdsmen killed 28 people In Benue state? The governor was summoned to the villa but nothing was done and no commitment to arrest the perpetrators. They were told to go and live in peace with the people.
Human Lives don’t matter to them.
The governor of Kaduna even came out to say that the Fulanis wanted to revenge because they lost battles during the riot. He had to travel out to settle them and pay them to stop killings. And that was for cows, how much more human Lives. The governor is taking steps to ensure the safety of life but the federal government is the first line of defence for these people.
I remember in one of my interviews with you, you spoke about some of these issues. Did You see some of these things coming?
Well in 2011, we already had a deep knowledge of what was coming. Then I was the spokesman for General Buhari. I worked with them closely and I saw that this is not about Nigeria. It was about a sectional (redentist Paroqual) agenda. That has been carried out in the past 5-6 years. They have opened the floodgates for Fulanis within Nigeria and even outside Nigeria. They can come in, get passports and became citizens at the border and, unfortunately, this agenda is being carried out (Christ before affixes).
Danjuma said the security forces are colluding with criminals to kill. The government has been pampering foreigners. They don’t see us as fellow Nigerians.
In 1985 when Buhari was the Head of states, at OAU, there was a contest for security general, there was a Nigerian and a Niger republic citizen who was also contesting. Mr President voted for the Man from the Niger Republic over Nigeria. They only need us when they need our votes and resources. There is a serious clash of civilization among us and when this happens, they side with their own.
Can you please shed more light on that sir?
Fukuyama wrote a book titled: The End of History. Where he was talking about a unipolar world where the world was going to be peaceful under one ideology. His book was selling fast until his teacher wrote a counter called the Clash of Civilization where he explained that the world is going to witness more crises. Rather fighting for ideology, they would fight based on Religion, Region, civilization and the clash would be fierce. Now between the end of the Cold world war and now, the word ‘genocide’ has been heard around the world now that around the time of the war. We have seen countries joined by Civilization and separated by culture coming together as the Arab countries have done. You will see countries with similar civilization joining themselves at the border to fight when there is a clash. And that is what we are seeing in the case of the Fulanis who are joining themselves against the indigenous people of Nigeria who are meant to be their fellow Nigerians. If care is not taken, this would be the end of Nigeria.
There are three different opinions on how to move Nigeria forward. Some people believe we should wait for 2023. Some people are saying Nigeria should be divided and some people still think we can work together. Where do you belong in all these sir?
Well, over the years, I have always canvased for restructuring. Let us draft constitutional solutions to Nigerian problems. But we have partners In Nigeria who don’t want peaceful give and take. they want it done in their own way. And that’s why we can’t hear ourselves and we can’t have peaceful restructuring. The APC who even campaigned for restructuring doesn’t even know what it means anymore. When the country reaches that point, it is near the end time. And that is why we are having all these tensions here ànd there. That is why the ACF is invoking the age of 66, and we know what happened then during the civil war.
We know the outcome of the war during the Javari war, how they were routed and defeated. But Yoruba will not fight first. On June 12, Abacha was taunting us to fight but we fought in different ways. We don’t fight like animals, we only fight as a last resort. War is not what we want. We want these crises resolved peacefully without a war if they can afford it. It’s not that if they push the war, we would run, we won’t run but fight the war.
There are some prominent Nigerians who are canvassing for voting in the year 2023 and who still believe that the system should be continued. What’s your view on this?
Voting can’t resolve it. I remember late Pa Enahoro who had always argued that one man one vote is not the solution of Nigeria because there are deep ethnic clashes that can’t be solved with it but has to be resolved through negotiation. No leadership in Nigeria is really trying to prevent the breakup, all they are doing is promoting it. But there is still a chance in terms of resetting Nigeria and going back to federalism and to allow everyone to practice their culture and determine their affairs. But running Nigeria from Abuja would lead to destruction.
Sir, what would you say about the sudden disappearance of Mr President over the last two years?
Well, there are lots of rumours out there which we have to disbelieve to maintain our sanity. But working with them, I know that there is nothing they are not capable of doing to deceive the rest of the people. They believe what they call Takia. It means it’s not an offence before God to deceive unbelievers. That’s why we can’t throw away what we have heard but it would be tragic if what we heard is true for the sake of power to deceive the rest of us. The people running Nigeria are the President, the Chief of Staffs and some small boys.
Looking back at what Nigeria became after discussing exhaustively with your fellow compatriots the situation of Nigeria, what would you say about that?
Well, we spent months at that conference. There was a clash of civilization there but we were able to manage it and come to a solution. We didn’t disagree on any of those solutions and those documents are still there. We would have moved forward tremendously If those things were implemented. But Buhari just put them on the shelve. I remember this same person in 1963 when they brought out the 8 point demand. They spread confederation. But now they want federalism.
I remember a formal Head of state was engaging some northerners recently and they were saying that they have not forgiven him for what he did when he is was in power. The wanted to divide the country but now they believe they have conquered Nigeria and the believe it is now indivisible.
Did you speak about the issue of the herdsmen?
Yes, we discussed all the issues. On the herdsmen, our proposal was that let us do ranching. If you want to read animals, Go apply for land in Alausa, they will give you the rules and regulations of the land and you will do your ranching. No issue affected Nigeria that we didn’t talk about and come to a consensus on at that national conference. The only issue that the conference referred the government to set up a committee to work on was the question of Revenue sharing. That was the only outstanding issue.
What is your opinion on Sunday Igboho having to defend his community?
Well, we understand why he is outraged just like every other people. We know the amount of money his community had to pay on behalf of the herdsmen. Women have been raped and the killings of their people now and then. We have spoken with him both privately and publicly. We have asked him to let the state deal with this matter. It’s not that we don’t understand the basis of the outrage or we should continue to live under fear. But we salute his courage towards the situation. But we have to maintain the stability of the system so as not to bring war.
So what are you advise to the government on how to handle the current situation.
Well like General Gowon did to gen Buhari in 2011, has to appeal to the sense that he was one of those who fought the civil war and he should stop all the phonetic effort to appear as if there is a conscious plan to divide Nigeria and devoid ourselves of peace. If we don’t want to be together, let’s come together and agree to go out separate ways In peace. We don’t need any war again so we should be careful. When Danjuma spoke, we knew what he saw. We still believe that we can still put this country together based on inclusive governance to ensure that the country continues and will allow every section of the government to live on their own. When we practice federalism, that was the time the Saudi royal family were coming to Nigeria to receive medical treatment at the UCH in Ibadan. But in Nigeria today, even the president goes abroad for treatments.
We have what it takes if we allow federalism, that is the kind of Nigeria that would work.
How did you see Jega’s interview and the things he said about Buhari’s government?
If people like Jega and the rest of them are beginning to talk that way, that tells you that those of us talking here have the reasons for what we are saying because Jega was the one who conducted the elections that brought Buhari into power. Someone was telling me that I don’t say anything good about this government which is not true. I commend them anytime they do something good like when he declared June 12 a public holiday, we commended him openly. We commend Jega for speaking the truth because they know the truth. Truth is the truth and it’s the truth that exalts a nation.
Does it bother you that you were one of the people who knew Gen Buhari’s shortcomings but didn’t speak up when people were idolising and praising him?
Well, I worked with Buhari in 2011, but not as a person. The reason why I worked with him was that he had Pastor Tunde Bakare on that ticket who was my tight friend as his vice running mate. And I remember after he called Pastor Tunde, he called Jimmy Agbaje and me for a meeting and we came to a consensus that he should go in if he could make a difference. It was later that he called me to be his spokesman to which I refused but Pastor Bakare insisted saying that he didn’t want to go at it alone so I accepted and when the elections were over, we went our ways. When he was running in 2015, they set up a committee that included my name but I also rejected because I saw some things which I told Nigerians about in 2014.
What is the relationship between you and the vice president?
Well, we supported him when necessary, but we have also challenged him when he went against our fundamentals like when he probed the national conference and he was abusing us which he need not do. He made some mistakes, when the helicopter collapsed twice, we spoke up, when they were against him, we spoke up clearly. He is one of us no matter the mistakes he has made. We are not disowning him for that.
I have heard a lot about the Afenifere, some say they are in support of Sunday Igboho while some say they are not. How many factions are there and which do you belong?
We have just one Afenifere. And like I said earlier, we have not gone against Sunday Igboho. We only said that there are ways they fight in Yoruba land. If we had faced Abacha, he would have destroyed Yorubas. We fought where Abacha had no answer and there are fighters. Even Gani Adams has been on this battle for years. So we appeal to Sunday Igboho to learn more from those ques and tamper his courage with skills and understanding. It should be a collective decision and not a personal fight.