• Modupe Onitiri’s declaration: Ibadan invasion and hypocrisy of Yoruba Nation agitation

    Modupe onitiris declaration ibadan invasion and hypocrisy of yoruba nation agitation - nigeria newspapers online
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    News outlets and social media was awash with stories of the ripple effects of the invasion of the Oyo State secretariat by Yoruba Nation agitators, rumoured to be members of the faction led by Mrs. Modupe Onitiri-Abiola.

    Several of the frontline leaders in the Yoruba self-determination struggle have dissociated themselves from the incident and disowned Mrs. Abiola. Abiola is one of the leaders in the Yoruba Nation agitation. She emerged, like a bolt out of the blues, in the heat of the “struggle’. She took everyone by storm, her vibrancy, articulation, and message seemed to resonate with a lot of people.

    She might have ridden on the name recognition. At some point, there were insinuations that she was perhaps assigned from Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu (at the time a presidential aspirant) on an espionage mission to spy on what was happening in the agitation or as an agent of disharmony to frustrate the entire struggle.

    Her antecedents, being a widow of the late Chief M.K.O Abiola and having previously contested for the governorship of Lagos State, gave her some leverage and immediate followership within the movement.

    In many of the Ilana Omo Oodua meetings, when questions were raised about her sincerity and unalloyed commitment to the struggle, Prof Akintoye would usually respond that “Omo mi ni Dupe; I like what she is doing.” Akintoye and many of the agitation’s leaders eulogise her doggedness and shower encomium on her, especially as she stand shoulder to shoulder with the other leaders of the agitation who are mostly men.

    When Onitiri-Abiola ran her N5 million-signature petitions, “Baba”, as Akintoye is fondly called, used his platforms and programmes to drum up support for people to sign the petition. It is, therefore, quite bemusing to see the vehemence with which all the agitation leaders have disowned her.

    I watched Arise TV as Dr. Reuben Abati interviewed Akintoye. When Abati raised the subject of Onitiri-Abiola and the Ibadan episode, “Baba’s” response was “They are not part of us, and we are not part of them.” He went further to say they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

    I am not sure at what point things went sour and took an awry turn between them. Speculations are that Mrs. Abiola suspected there was insincerity and ulterior motives from the “Baba” group and decided she was not going to be a part of anything that will be tantamount to deceit of the Yoruba people. She decided to rather chat a path more honourable (if it can now be described as such).

    The invasion of the Oyo State Government House was the culmination of that separate path she chose to chart.This treatise is not to determine the legality or illegality of the insurrection, as some people have chosen to classify it. This is more about keeping the records straight, and an assessment of the response of her compatriots to the Ibadan Declaration.

    The question then becomes, why did all the agitators suddenly dissociated themselves from the Onitiri-Abiola group? Was it the style and approach that she took? Is it because she was the one that made the attempt?

    Would the reaction had been different if it was pulled through by the Akintoye/Igboho faction? Is it perhaps, as it is being speculated, that since Tinubu has finally gotten the presidency, “the objective” of Akintoye/Igboho faction has been achieved, hence a Yoruba homeland is no longer paramount?

    If the latter is the case, would that not be contrary to what Akintoye himself had said on many occasions, that even if Tinubu became president, it would not change anything; that killer herdsmen would still have ingress into the Yoruba territory?

    If the Onitiri-Abiola “invasion” had happened during the Buhari administration, would the reaction of the factional agitation groups had been different? What has changed since Tinubu became president? Is Yoruba land safer? Are food prices cheaper? Is the general wellbeing of the Yoruba people better since May 2023?

    Have things not rather become more excruciating for Nigerians, including the Yoruba? What would Igboho andAkintoye do differently than what Onitiri-Abiola has done? Having gotten to a brick-wall with the United Nations (apart from recognition by the Unrepresented Nations Peoples Organisation – UNPO), letters written to Buhari with no response, what else would they have done?

    At the outset of the agitation, rumour had it that Sunday Igboho, who admitted previously working for High Chief Rashidi Ladoja (Otun Olubadan) was recruited to work for the emergence of Tinubu as the next president of Nigeria.

    Infact, on an occasion, one of the Channels Television reporters asked him on Live TV if what they heard about him working for Tinubu was true. I recall vividly that his response was that he had only seen Tinubu once. He admitted then that Tinubu once gave him N2 million to fuel his car. He flatly denied the insinuations that he was working for Tinubu.

    Then sometime during the agitation, we heard again that he was dropping the struggle. Several people frantically reached out to him for confirmation. I recall his response then was “E ma dawon lohun oo,egba gbe e…Yoruba Nation no going back. Bee nimo so fun yin.” I still vividly recall those re-assuring statements.

    There was a Zoom/Youtube interview session moderated by Chief Dele Momodu, with Igboho and Mazi Nnamdi Kanu in attendance. A key take away from that interaction was Kanu promising to work with the Yoruba agitators for the mutual benefit of the two nations (by which he meant realisation of independent states out of Nigeria). At that session, Igboho re-stated his commitment to the actualisation of Yoruba nation, using his now popular line “Yoruba Nation, No Going Back.”

    However, anyone with a spirit of discernment would observe the sudden change in body language, rhetoric and tone of Akintoye and Igboho since Tinubu became president of the country. The new ‘song’ emanating from Olayomi Koiki (Igboho’s spokes person), the inexplicable audacity displayed by Igboho on his return to Nigeria, the sudden taciturn, even silence of Akintoye all seem to lay credence to the rumour of “mission accomplished.” It takes very little to connect the dots.

    I was listening to Yeye Dara (Dara talk Show) recentl, herself, a very ardent disciple of Igboho and Akintoye, when, while responding to some individuals who accused Baba and Igboho of abandoning the agitation after Tinubu became president, she said and I quote: “Ehen, ti won basise fun Tinubu nko, and so what”?

    Truth, they say passes through three stages: First, it is ridiculed, second, it is violently opposed, and third, it is accepted as self-evident. We might have gotten to the 3rd stage of truth regarding the true intent of Prof Akintoye and Igboho in the Yoruba Self-Determination movement?

    No doubt, in a democratic dispensation, anyone can choose to stake their interest with any politician or political group they believe would better serve their aspiration. To hinge that aspiration on some other people’s quest for self-determination is to be clever by half. It amounts to betrayal of trust of monumental and imaginable proportion.

    The backlash against Mrs Onitiri-Abiola consequent upon the invasion brings to fore what Iba Gani,“Akanda Oro Awikonko”, a Yoruba Talk-Show Host, in one of his recent programmes spoke about, the travails of Adeyinka Shoyemi (popularly known as Adeyinka grandson). Awikonko said: “Iran Yoruba kii se iran ti eeyanma’nku fun.” He went further by saying “Iran Yoruba does not appreciate their heroes, except when that hero dies.”

    A few days ago, President Tinubu was quoted in the newspapers (Punch specifically of Wednesday, April 17, 2024), to have said: “ Those who think they can threaten the sovereignty of Nigeria will have themselves to blame. They have a price to pay and we are not going to relent. I am irrevocably committed to the unity of Nigeria and constitutional democracy.”

    His Inspector General of Police, Olukayode Egbetokun, followed right behind, just few days later when he declared at an event in Ogun State that “Nigeria Not Yet Ripe For State Police.” Se kowa tan bayi!!

    Is it the Nigeria that is not ripe for state police that will be ripe for total restructuring, or worse still give you Yoruba Nation? With the sort of prevarication that has been displayed, how can other groups ever take Yoruba serious in the future when they say “Eje ka gba arawa kuro loko eeru”?

    That statement would henceforth sound like a cliché with no genuine intent and connotation. It would be interpreted simply as euphemism for ‘Give us an opportunity share in the largesse of the Nigerian cooking pot’.

    When the history of Yoruba nation and the agitation for its actualisation is written, the narration may be kinder to Onitiri-Abiola. She would qualify as the heroine of agitation/ struggle. It would be said that she put her money where her mouth was, very unlike those who agitated and soon as their ostensible ‘objective’ was realised, got their promised rewards from their paymaster and hung their boots.

    It is usually said that “A ko le tori ohun ti a fe je, ka ba nkan ti o ye ka je je.” (we should not because of what we want to eat deny ourselves of what we could potentially attain – translated colloquially).

    This is the closest, in my adult life that I have seen the Yoruba get to achieving a nation of its own since amalgamation. To then allow a very temporal ‘comfort’ of Yoruba presidency becloud the several decades of yearning, the aspirations of Chief ObafemiAwolowo, Bola Ige, Adekunle Ajasin and the rest, to fritter away for a ‘morsel of Amala and Ewedu’ from Aso Rock is a mystery and beyond me.

    To wrap up on Onitiri’s declaration, Ibadan Invasion and her subsequent ostracisation, Yoruba may want to emulate their northern and eastern neighbouring regions, who comparatively would readily take a bullet for their brothers, not just when there is an immediate payoff but even when there is no booty to be share therefrom. They should learn to stand with their own in times of trials and tribulations. What I see right now are a bunch of “Arikuyeri.”

    To that end, there is an analogy a respectable older friend, Mr. Thompson Adeyemi, gave me recently. He said a New York District Prosecutor once described Yoruba in the U.S. drug trade as a chain. He said once you can get your hands on one of them, he would lead you to draw (arrest) all the others in his cartel.

    He said the prosecutor distinguished them from the Igbo. He said if you catch an Igbo drug peddler, he will prefer to go serve a prison term than lead the prosecutor to his cartel members. He is going to serve prison term, assured that as soon as he comes back, those other members whom he took a bullet for will sort him out. That should tell us something.

    Omonua wrote from Ontario, Canada. he can be reached via: pomonua@yahoo.com

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