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Modupe Onitiri’s declaration, Ibadan invasion and the hypocrisy of Yoruba Nation agitation ~ by Peter Omonua

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News outlets and social media is awash with the ripple effects of the invasion of the Oyo State Secretariat by Yoruba Nation agitators, rumored to be the faction led by Mrs. Modupe Onitiri-Abiola.

Several of the frontline leaders in the Yoruba self-determination struggle have dissociated themselves from the occurrence and outrightly disowned Mrs. Abiola.

Mrs. Abiola is one of the leaders in the forefront of 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 she was perhaps assigned from Chief Bola Tinubu (at the time a Presidential aspirant), on an espionage mission, to spy on what was happening in the agitation or an agent of disharmony to frustrate the entire process.

Her antecedents, being a widow of Chief MKO 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 “Omo mi ni Dupe; I like what she is doing”.

Professor Akintoye and many of the agitation leadership eulogize her doggedness and showered encomium on her, especially as she stood shoulder to shoulder with the other agitation leaders, who were mostly men. When Mrs. Onitiri-Abiola ran her 5 million-signature petitions, “baba”, as Professor Akintoye is fondly called, used his platforms and programs to drum up support for people to sign the petition document.

It is therefore quite bemusing to see the vehemence with which all the agitation leaders have disown her. I watched Arise TV as Dr. Reuben Abati interviewed Professor Akintoye. When Abati raised the subject of Mrs. 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 tantamount to a deceit of the Yoruba people. She decided to rather chat a path more honorable (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 the sudden dissociation of all the agitators from Onitiri-Abiola group? Was it the style and approach that she took? Is it because it was her that made the attempt? Would the reaction had been different if it was pulled through by the Prof Akintoye / Chief Igboho faction? Or perhaps, as is being speculated, that since Tinubu has finally gotten the presidency, “the objective” of Prof Akintoye / Chief Igboho faction has been achieved and hence a Yoruba homeland was no longer paramount?

If the latter of these reasons, would that not be contrary to what Prof himself had said on many occasions, that even if Tinubu became president, it does not change anything, that Killer herdsmen will still have ingress into the Yoruba territory? If the Onitiri-Abiola “invasion” had happened during the Buhari regime, would the reaction of the other 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 Yorubas?

What would Oloye Igboho and Professor Akintoye 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 Organization – UNPO), letters written to Buhari with no response, what else would they have done?

At the outset of the agitation, rumour had it that Chief 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 hear about him working for Tinubu was true.

I recall vividly that his response was that he has only seen Tinubu once. He admitted then that Tinubu once gave him N2 million to fuel his car. He flatly denied such insinuations that he was working for Tinubu. Then sometime during the agitation, we heard again that he was dropping the agitation. Several people frantically reached out to him for confirmation. I recall his response then was “ema dawon loun oo; egbagbe e…Yoruba Nation no going Back; be ni mo so fun yin.” I still vividly recall those re-assuring statements.

There was a Zoom/YouTube interview session moderated by Chief Dele Momodu, with Oloye Sunday Igboho and Mazi Nnamdi Kanu in attendance. A key takeaway from that interaction was Kanu promising to work with the Yoruba agitators for the mutual benefit of the 2 nations (by which he meant realization of independent states out of Nigeria). At that session, Oloye Igboho re-stated his commitment to the actualization 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 Prof Akintoye and Chief Igboho since the ascendency of Chief Bola Tinubu. From the new ‘song’ emanating from Olayomi Koiki (chief Igboho’s spokesperson), the inexplicable audacity displayed by Oloye Sunday Igboho on his return to Nigeria, the sudden taciturn, even silence of Prof Akintoye; they all seem to lay credence to the rumor of “mission accomplished”.

It takes very little to connect the dots.

I was listening to Yeye Dara (Dara talk Show) yesterday, herself, a very ardent disciple of Chief Sunday Igboho and Prof. Akintoye.

In her characteristic uncouth and vitriolic outbursts, while responding to some individual who accused Baba and Igboho of abandoning the agitation after Tinubu became president, she said and I quote: “Ehen, ti won ba sise 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” Might we 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 is beyond the self-respect of the persons of Prof and Oloye. It amounts to betrayal of trust of monumental and imaginable proportion, a terrible blot on the integrity of their leadership.

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 programs spoke about the travails of Adeyinka Shoyemi (popularly known as Adeyinka grandson). Awikonko said: “Iran yoruba kii se iran ti eyan ma’nku fun”. He went further by saying “Iran yoruba does not appreciate their heroes, except when that hero dies”.

Few days ago, President Tinubu was quoted in the papers (Punch Newspaper 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 (IGP. 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 ko wa tan bayi!!

Is it the Nigeria that is not ripe for State Police, that will be ripe for total restructing 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 ara wa kuro loko eeru”?

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

When the history of yoruba nation and the agitation for its actualization is written, the narration may be kinder to Mrs. Modupe Onitiri-Abiola. She would qualify as the heroine of agitation/ struggle. It would be said that she put her money where her mouth is, very unlike those who agitated and soon as their ostensible ‘objective’ was realized, 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, 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 Awolowo, Bola Ige, Ajasin and the rest; to fritter it away for a ‘morsel of Amala and Ewedu’ from Aso Rock is a mystery and beyond me..

To wrap up on Mrs. Modupe Onitiri’s Declaration, Ibadan Invasion and her subsequent ostracization, 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 US 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 Ibos. He said if you catch an Ibo 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 who he took a bullet for will sort him out. That should tell us something.

Peter Omonua, Ontario, Canada; pomonua@yahoo.com.

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