Connect with us

celebrity radar - gossips

It would be a grave mistake for anyone to think the Yorubas are cowards. Nobody can stop Yoruba leaders from seeking the liberation of their people. We defeated the Fulani before and we will defeat them again”—Femi Fani-Kayode Interview granted on Jul 28, 2019 NIGERIAN TRIBUNE

Published

on




BY next Monday, it will be 53 years since the unfortunate counter-coup of July 29 1966 happened. For students of history and people who are probably alive since that period, a lot of things have been said and written about how Nigeria’s challenges became ethnicised. You have also written and spoken about that. On account of the 53 anniversary of that incident, do you have any memory it brought to mind?

Well, it’s an extraordinary type of memory. And as you are absolutely right, it was a historical event of immense importance, because if you don’t know what transpired at that time, you may not fully understand or comprehend why we have the challenges that we have today; why we are literally in a mess today. You need to go back to that era to know what happened. Sadly, history is not taught in our schools and most people don’t know these things.

So, I will just go through the historical analysis of it; and what led to what they call the Northern officers’ revenge coup of July 29, 1966, which you just mentioned.

But we can’t talk about that without looking a little bit further back into what caused it. It is interesting we are having this interview right in the Government House of Oyo State. I came to see my good friend, Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State.

This very building where we are having this discussion is the building that Sir Adesoji Aderemi, the then ceremonial governor of Western Region used to live in. It was just a ceremonial position; he didn’t have powers. And right next door to this building, is the residence of the deputy premier of the Western Region; and that was my father. That was the house I grew up in, from the age of three to six. And I went in there yesterday for the first time since January 15, 1966 and everything that happened on the night of January 15, 1966 came to my mind the moment I got to the gate; the driveway, the building and all. I went on a tour of the building and saw everything. And that is where all the challenges started for us, because that is where the first coup took place in this country. And, of course, everybody knows what happened that night. Every single person that the five young officers, the five majors that led the mutiny, arrested and whose homes were invaded that night was killed.

The only person that was not killed was my father. Some called it an Igbo coup; others said it was not. I’m not ready to rule on that right now. But it was a coup and a brutal, bloody one.

So, we went to that house; we drove up that drive. The officers that led that action were predominantly from the East. The gentleman that led them to our home was an officer by the name Captain Nwobosi. He is still alive. They came in and my father went to meet them outside, because they were shouting his name. They didn’t enter our house until my father had gone to surrender himself to them, which was the right thing to do. It was courageous of him to have done that. He met them outside and they started beating him outside.
We were standing on the balcony watching things happen. I went on that balcony yesterday. And then, they all flooded the house; all of them. They scattered the whole place. I was six years old. And I remember one of the officers came to me and placed his hand on my head and said I should please, stop crying; that they were not going to kill my father. That was a moment of compassion for me, during an act of violence. And I found that curious. But I stopped crying from that moment on.
And then, they put my father in the back of the lorry. We were watching from the balcony. My mother kept screaming ‘don’t kill him.’ That was how they took my father away. They then went to Akintola’s house, which is not far from here as well. It is still there. Ibadan is such a historically beautiful place.

When they got there, the facts are that Akintola didn’t come out to meet them. And he knew they were coming, because my mother had called him that something was happening. They were taking her husband away. He now brought his policemen inside the house and they started shooting from the inside. My father was in the lorry, tied up. And there was a big gun battle. Akintola refused to step out. And they wounded two Nwobosi’s soldiers. And this was what enraged those boys.
So, by the time Akintola’s men’s ammunition ran out, they had to surrender at that point. And Akintola stepped out of the house, white handkerchief in his hand. The minute he stepped out of the front door, they killed him in front of his whole family. That was why Akintola was killed.
From there, they drove to Lagos with my dad. That night, they killed the prime minister; they killed Tafawa Balewa. They killed the minister of finance, Okotie Eboh. They killed the Sardauna of Sokoto in Kaduna. They killed so many people, government officials, senior Army officers; people like Pam, people like Sodehinde… so many people. There is a list of names that I have and I remember them vividly. They killed some in Lagos, some in Kaduna.
But, unfortunately for them, they didn’t kill two people; that if (Yakubu) Gowon, who was in charge of Dodan Barracks; and the head of the Army, (Aguiyi) Ironsi, who managed to escape with his life.

Gowon then rallied the troops and they now fought back. He was there when they got to Dodan Barracks. It was during the gun battle that they saved my father’s life. The battle started when my father got there. There were three officers from the Middle-Belt: Gowon, somebody called Captain Tarkoda who died in the civil war and Tarfa, were the people that saved my dad’s life. The officers that took my dad, most of them were shot dead during the gun battle, but Nwaoboshi managed to escape.

Now, the coup failed and Ironsi became head of state, quelled the coup de tat, arrested all those who planned the coup but were not dead and detained them.

Now, this is where the direct answer to your question comes, because what happened was that after that, Ironsi, who himself is an Igbo man, locked up all those arrested and did not prosecute them. You have to look at it in this context; the North felt that the Sardauna and some of his wives were killed, Tafawa Balawa was killed, Okotie Eboh was killed. Maimalari, the most senior Northern officer in the Army, was killed. So many people were killed from the North, West, South-South and the North-East, and yet, these boys were just locked up and were not being prosecuted.
So, the impression they had was that there was some kind of conspiracy; that even there was a possibility that Ironsi, Zik, senior Igbo leaders in the NCNC knew about the coup. I am not confirming that; I am just telling you that this was the perception at the time. So, the Northern officers were getting increasingly restive and annoyed and they started conspiring that they had to avenge what happened. Their leaders, both in the political class and the military, had been killed. They weren’t prepared to let go. And they were frustrated by the fact that Ironsi did not do anything; he didn’t prosecute the boys; he just locked them up.
Apart from that, there was the whole issue of unification decree which Ironsi enacted, stopping Nigeria from being a federation, which was something completely unacceptable, because Nigeria was put together based on the principle of federation where each of the regions would be able to have some autonomy. That was final nail in the coffin.

They now conspired; and on July 29, 1966, what they called the Northern officers’ revenge coup took place. Now, in the January 15 coup, I think about 15 key leaders, both in the political and military class, were killed. But in the Northern officers’ revenge coup, 300 Igbo officers were killed in one night. Quite apart from that, the Igbo head of state, Ironsi, was killed. The gallant Colonel (Adekunle) Fajuyi, who refused to leave Ironsi alone, was killed here in the South-West. When they came for him, Fajuyi said ‘I will not let you kill him; you can’t take him without taking me.’ And they said ‘well, in that case, we are going to take you as well.’ They took them away, beat them up very badly and shot them in the back of the head.
As far as I am concerned, Fajuyi and Ironsi were great heroes. They died heroic death. They were tortured before being killed. It was a tragedy of monumental proportion, because apart from them, 300 Igbo officers were killed.

After that, Gowon was made head of state and the rest is history. And Nigeria never ever recovered from that, because the military came in for a number of years; we had military governments and everything came to the centre. There was no longer a federation; it was essentially a unitary state, which was ironic, because that was what they said they didn’t want. And as a matter of fact, the country almost broke up after that, because the North just wanted to revenge and go. But it was the British civil servants that were left here that prevailed on them not to leave. They have a Northern word meaning ‘break it up’ that they use. But they prevailed on them and they decided to stay.

And that was when the seeds of what we have today were really planted.


What is the reality, particularly for the South-West, today?


The reality of today is that we are under occupation. Look at the South-Western states where we have Fulani herdsmen with Miyyeti Allah identity cards mounting vigilance on our streets, a situation where you have Boko Haram from the North-East coming down here and are far more powerful today than they were a couple of years back. Nigeria has become a country where you have military Generals telling them that if they stopped being Boko Haram, they could be president of the country! where you have Fulani herdsmen occupying a vast space around the country and slaughtering people. For the Yoruba states, we have the RUGA drive and so on. That is the challenge we are facing now.

We are trying to keep the peace, despite all the provocations. There can’t be peace, unless you stop killing others. You go to people’s communities and take over the place, slaughter them and rape their women, and our government has refused to call these Fulani herdsmen terrorists. You condone them as a government, encourage them and support them covertly. How can there be peace in that situation?
In this country today, every single security agency in this country, apart from the Navy.

I am talking about all the arms of the military. There are 17 of them and is headed by a Northern Muslim. How can you have justice in that situation? A situation whereby the president is a Northern Muslim; you go to the Villa today, 90 per cent of the people there are Northern Muslims. It has never happened before in our history. You have a situation where today, apart from the executive headed by the president. The president of the Senate is a Northern Muslim. You go to the judiciary; every arm of the judiciary is a Northern Muslim. The Chief Justice of Nigeria is a Northern Muslim, the president of the Court of Appeal is a Northern Muslim, the president of the Federal High Court is a Northern Muslim. Where is the justice in that?

Now, if you say you can live with that in the name of one Nigeria, then you now move to the next level; a situation whereby a particular ethnic group, the Fulanis that they call bandits are slaughtering people everywhere. They are even killing Hausas in Zamfara and Katsina states. It is only in Nigeria that we call them bandits or kidnappers; these are well-organised Fulani militias killing indigenous populations throughout the country.
People say that the only people that can stand up to them are the Yorubas. In fact, they are blaming the Yorubas, because 50 per cent of our people supported this government. Not more than 50 per cent, both in 2015 and 2019, the rest supported the other candidates. And it is us that others are looking up to, saying that the Yorubas will do something. But they have now come into Yorubaland brazenly and we are still looking at each other do nothing.

You talked about some people looking up to the Yoruba to stand up to the Fulani militias but it is common to hear people from other ethnic nationalities refer to the Yoruba as cowards who only talk. Don’t you think that position might be justified at a time like this?

That is something I have heard some people say and it is something we need to address once and for all. I speak to you as a Yoruba man. You say the Yorubas are cowards, yet in 1840, it was the Yorubas that stopped the Northerners from coming further South. We fought them in battle at Osogbo, defeated them and sent them back to the North. We killed their horses and cows and we ate them. Go and check the history. That was in 1840.

You say Yorubas are cowards but when some of them formed an alliance with the Fulani and went against their own people in the South-West in 1964 by rigging an election, we know what happened. All hell broke loose and there was ‘Operation Wetie’.

You say the Yorubas are cowards. Yet during the Nigerian civil war, it was Yoruba officers and a Yoruba Third Marine Commando that won the war for Nigeria. What is Third Marine Commando? It was made up of 98 per cent Yoruba officers and it was led by a Yoruba officer, Benjamin Adekunle.

The Third Marine Commando stopped the Biafrans at Ore and they pushed them out of the Mid-West and South-South back into the East and took their surrender. The officers were the ones that recovered all that and pushed the Biafrans back and you say Yorubas are cowards. The Biafran Army that took the whole of the South-South and the Mid-West and almost entered Yorubaland at Ore was led by a Yoruba man by the name of Banjo. Did you know that? And you say that Yorubas are cowards, they don’t know how to fight.

Go and look at the history of the civil war, Obasanjo, Alabi Isama, Akinrinade, Adekunle and a few others who were so gallant in that war, were Yoruba officers. The only Army unit that did reasonable well outside these people and the Third Marine Commando was the First Div under Shuwa, a great man. People like TY Danjuma were under Shuwa. And you say that Yorubas are cowards.
Let us go on; 23 years after the civil war, we had what we called June 12. The whole country was brought to a standstill. Chief MKO Abiola won a presidential election; he was a Yoruba son and he was deprived of his mandate. When the June 12, 1993 election was annulled and a Yoruba traditional ruler said we should accept it and support Babangida, we know what happened. His home was burnt to the ground within one hour and the country was made ungovernable for the next seven years.

From the time he [Abiola] was deprived, everybody else deserted him but the Yoruba fought, formed NADECO with a few people from outside. But it was primarily a Yoruba struggle and the Yoruba stood firm and brought the country to its knees. General Sani Abacha was made Head of State but the struggle persisted and people like Kudirat Abiola and so on dided in that struggle and so many Yoruba sons, anybody who was somebody, was either in exile or was killed or was detained.

Can’t we take a useful lesson from all these experiences? And speaking as a historian, do you think we can get to a state as a country where we come to justice even without restructuring?

I personally think the call for restructuring is dead and buried. Those who believe they own this country will not accept restructuring and they have said so. So, why are we flogging a dead horse?
The issue of justice; there can never be justice, as long as a particular group of people believe that they were born to rule. There can never be peace, as long as they believe that they have the right to take our lands.

We are trying to keep the peace, despite all the provocations. There can’t be peace, unless you stop killing others. You go to people’s communities and take over the place, slaughter them and rape their women, and our government has refused to call these Fulani herdsmen terrorists. You condone them as a government, encourage them and support them covertly. How can there be peace in that situation?

In this country today, every single security agency in this country, apart from the Navy.
I am talking about all the arms of the military. There are 17 of them and is headed by a Northern Muslim. How can you have justice in that situation? A situation whereby the president is a Northern Muslim; you go to the Villa today, 90 per cent of the people there are Northern Muslims. It has never happened before in our history. You have a situation where today, apart from the executive headed by the president. The president of the Senate is a Northern Muslim. You go to the judiciary; every arm of the judiciary is a Northern Muslim. The Chief Justice of Nigeria is a Northern Muslim, the president of the Court of Appeal is a Northern Muslim, the president of the Federal High Court is a Northern Muslim. Where is the justice in that?

Now, if you say you can live with that in the name of one Nigeria, then you now move to the next level; a situation whereby a particular ethnic group, the Fulanis that they call bandits are slaughtering people everywhere. They are even killing Hausas in Zamfara and Katsina states. It is only in Nigeria that we call them bandits or kidnappers; these are well-organised Fulani militias killing indigenous populations throughout the country.

People say that the only people that can stand up to them are the Yorubas. In fact, they are blaming the Yorubas, because 50 per cent of our people supported this government. Not more than 50 per cent, both in 2015 and 2019, the rest supported the other candidates. And it is us that others are looking up to, saying that the Yorubas will do something. But they have now come into Yorubaland brazenly and we are still looking at each other do nothing.

You talked about some people looking up to the Yoruba to stand up to the Fulani militias but it is common to hear people from other ethnic nationalities refer to the Yoruba as cowards who only talk. Don’t you think that position might be justified at a time like this?


That is something I have heard some people say and it is something we need to address once and for all. I speak to you as a Yoruba man. You say the Yorubas are cowards, yet in 1840, it was the Yorubas that stopped the Northerners from coming further South. We fought them in battle at Osogbo, defeated them and sent them back to the North. We killed their horses and cows and we ate them. Go and check the history. That was in 1840.

You say Yorubas are cowards but when some of them formed an alliance with the Fulani and went against their own people in the South-West in 1964 by rigging an election, we know what happened. All hell broke loose and there was ‘Operation Wetie’.
You say the Yorubas are cowards. Yet during the Nigerian civil war, it was Yoruba officers and a Yoruba Third Marine Commando that won the war for Nigeria. What is Third Marine Commando? It was made up of 98 per cent Yoruba officers and it was led by a Yoruba officer, Benjamin Adekunle. The Third Marine Commando stopped the Biafrans at Ore and they pushed them out of the Mid-West and South-South back into the East and took their surrender. The officers were the ones that recovered all that and pushed the Biafrans back and you say Yorubas are cowards. The Biafran Army that took the whole of the South-South and the Mid-West and almost entered Yorubaland at Ore was led by a Yoruba man by the name of Banjo. Did you know that? And you say that Yorubas are cowards, they don’t know how to fight.
Go and look at the history of the civil war, Obasanjo, Alabi Isama, Akinrinade, Adekunle and a few others who were so gallant in that war, were Yoruba officers. The only Army unit that did reasonable well outside these people and the Third Marine Commando was the First Div under Shuwa, a great man. People like TY Danjuma were under Shuwa. And you say that Yorubas are cowards.
Let us go on; 23 years after the civil war, we had what we called June 12. The whole country was brought to a standstill. Chief MKO Abiola won a presidential election; he was a Yoruba son and he was deprived of his mandate. When the June 12, 1993 election was annulled and a Yoruba traditional ruler said we should accept it and support Babangida, we know what happened. His home was burnt to the ground within one hour and the country was made ungovernable for the next seven years.

From the time he [Abiola] was deprived, everybody else deserted him but the Yoruba fought, formed NADECO with a few people from outside. But it was primarily a Yoruba struggle and the Yoruba stood firm and brought the country to its knees. General Sani Abacha was made Head of State but the struggle persisted and people like Kudirat Abiola and so on dided in that struggle and so many Yoruba sons, anybody who was somebody, was either in exile or was killed or was detained.
Let’s go farther, a Yoruba man came to power by the name of Obasanjo and he created a level playing field. He brought the Northerners to heel and made it clear that ‘you are no bigger or better than other Nigerians. We are all equals.’ And for those eight years, things changed; every Nigerian felt like a human being and felt important no matter how big or small his/her ethnic nationality is. He didn’t persecute the Northerners but he treated them as equals as everybody else. That is the only way to keep Nigeria together and it took a courageous man to do that.

Now, the situation we are in today, because we have not called out our people into the streets to begin to resist, you say we are cowards. Why would we do that? We are waiting for everything to get to a crescendo, because you don’t rush into a war just like that. Yorubas are deep thinkers and smart people; we are refined and civilised. And like the Aare Ona Kakanfo, Gani Adams said, if we are going to fight for seven days, we will first plan for seven years before we go into that conflict, because we know the implications of conflicts. And the Yorubas are not given to fighting just like that unlike others. We never get into a conflict unless we have thought it out. You say the Yorubas are cowards, go and look at our history, we fought for 100 years before the British came.

You say Yorubas are cowards, two years ago, the Hausa-Fulani community attacked our people; I am an Ife and I know how our people are, and I won’t tell you what the reactions were, go and find out. The retaliation was swift and brutal and the Fulani suffered unprecedented losses in terms of both life and property. It took the appeals and personal intervention of my traditional ruler, the Ooni of Ife, to stop the retaliation and carnage. The fact that Yorubas are patient, accommodating, kind and compassionate, never mistake that for a weakness. If it comes to it, we know how to stand and we know how to fight.

Indeed, those who say that Yorubas are cowards, what they fail to appreciate is that it is not even a question of the Yorubas anymore. Like [Yinka] Odumakin said, if you push us too far and there is a conflict, you cannot take on the Yoruba people. Nobody can do so. They are saying that nobody has defeated the Fulanis; I heard Ango Abdullahi say that the other day, it is not true. We defeated them in 1840. Yes, the Fulanis took Ilorin and that only happened because a Yoruba man, Afonja, betrayed his Alaafin. But we defeated them squarely in battle in Osogbo, nobody else has done that before and we will do it again if we are forced to. But we don’t want trouble; we are not looking for trouble. All we are saying is that we refuse to be slaves.

But the Yorubaland has been so divided by politics that it may be quite difficult to speak with one voice on this matter…

Let me tell you this, gentlemen, this thing is beyond the political realm. If it goes too far, every Yoruba man, every APC man will line up behind the Yorubas, because that is how we are. We play politics; some can be behind APC and Tinubu, while others can be elsewhere, so politics is not the issue for us now. This is a question of an existential threat and I trust my Yoruba brothers in the APC, I will not run them down here, if push comes to shove and this thing goes too far, they will line up with their people. They will never go against their own people; I can tell you that much about Yoruba people. But we will continue to hope and pray that there is no conflict and we hope and pray that we can have, as far as I am concerned, what I will call a peaceful dissolution of this country, because I am fed up with the fact that my people, the people of Yorubaland are being treated like slaves in our own country. I am fed up with the fact that the people of the South are being treated like slaves in this country.

I am fed up that Middle Belters who have suffered in this country more than anyone else – Northern Christians, Middle Belters, minority tribes in the North have been treated even far worse than the Igbos in this country – they don’t have a voice. All of us have been acting as if we are not men, when we are bigger men than those who oppress us any day, any time. Our history is richer; we are culturally, spiritually stronger and we are warriors. But true warriors never go into conflicts unless they are absolutely ready. So, I have nothing but admiration for those that have stood up against the hegemony, people like Nnamdi Kanu and the others, who have said no to this hegemony. I have admiration for them because they have chosen their own cause; they have gone their own way. All these consultations we have been having, we are prevailing on our people to keep the peace. That is why you have not seen any action. But it will get to a point if we are not careful that our people will tell us ‘you are the problems, because you have been telling us to hold back.’ Then, what will you do? It won’t be a question of Fani-Kayode talking or the Aare Ona Kakanfo or Odumakin talking, they would have swept us all away, and tell us ‘you are not leading us in battle, we have had enough. We will take it up ourselves.’ What will you do at that point? We don’t want that; we want peace. But it is not peace at the expense of the lives of our people or our land or the raping of our women or our constant humiliation in this contraption you call Nigeria. If they don’t get it right and this matter is not settled and they don’t retrace their steps, then the only way out of this is for us to go our separate ways. Outside of that, there will be conflict in Nigeria and it will be a conflict that will be absolutely terrible for everybody concerned. There will be no winner or loser. It will be terrible for everybody and we pray that never happens.

You said that Yorubas are being treated as slaves, but comments on the recent list of ministerial nominees suggest that former Governor Bola Tinubu has been hugely compensated for backing the APC. How do you see that list?

The ministerial list is the business of the APC; I am not interested. If they like, they could go and bring anybody and make him a minister. I am happy at the fact that two of my good friends, Gbemi Saraki and Sharon Ikeazor, they are old friends of mine and a few others, former Governor Adeniyi Adebayo, are on that list. I disagree with them politically, but some of these people are good people. And frankly speaking, I am really not interested in the composition of the Buhari government; he can bring anybody he likes. The most important thing to understand is that Buhari is not the president of Nigeria. He is the president of the North and the president of the Fulani. Anybody that associates with him, all those working in his cabinet are basically vassals. Tinubu and co are basically people that have accepted the fact that they were born to serve whilst the others were born to rule and that is the fundamental difference between me and them. I can never be part of an administration that sees me as a slave. So, if you like give Tinubu and the South-West group 100 ministerial slots, it does not mean anything. They can take it away tomorrow and it does not mean they are going to give Tinubu the presidency in 2023. There is no way APC could have won if Tinubu was not with them. Do you understand me? Whatever he gets, he deserves it; it is not that they are doing him a favour. But if you go to the North, the campaign is already against Tinubu among the APC people. But that is their problem, it is not my problem. As far as I am concerned, the Yorubas have got nothing from this government. And you must know that Tinubu is not the leader of the South-West; he is a leader of the APC in the South-West. Virtually all other Yoruba leaders, from Obasanjo to all the rest, are against Buhari and as far as we are concerned, we represent those that want to liberate our people and you cannot stand against the forces of liberation. We will prevail eventually.

Let me describe as most unhelpful the comment that Tinubu made when he went to commiserate with Pa Reuben Fasoranti over the killing of his daughter, Mrs Funke Olakunri, that where were the cows if they said herdsmen killed her and that we all know who started kidnapping. That was most unhelpful. What was he getting in return? You are ruling out the possibility that the killers were Fulani herdsmen when almost everyone in that community was saying it was Fulani herdsmen that killed her. A son of Fasoranti said it, the community said it and he went there and was saying that was not the case. Why was he defending them so passionately? What is it they have on him? Are they pulling his string? Tinubu is being driven blindly by his ambition and no matter what, this Afonja spirit is something that comes with a heavy price. You must never sell your people down the line. And when you go and start defending Fulani herdsmen when a daughter of the leader of the Afenifere had been butchered and you are saying ‘it is not them, it is not them,’ who sent you? Who sent you to say that at a time we are all in pain? Just a few days ago, three people were abducted on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway by the usual suspect. Two or three days ago, one of my lawyers, Kayode Ajulo, was stopped on the road by Fulani vigilante and militias and they produced ID cards in Yorubaland. And you want us to just keep quiet, because we like Tinubu? You must be joking. His views are not representative of anybody except for himself and a few of his party members. Even his party members were embarrassed by that behaviour. We must get it right; Yorubas are not slaves. We have never been slaves and we will never be slaves.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Advertisement

Cover Of The Week

Advertisement

Trending