Home Opinion OYO101: FAILED TAKEOVER – Has Agitations For A Separate Yoruba State Ended?...

OYO101: FAILED TAKEOVER – Has Agitations For A Separate Yoruba State Ended? | Muftau Gbadegesin

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In 2021, it was impossible to think about Yoruba Nation agitations without confronting one of its most significant and outspoken actors: Sunday Adeyemo, aka Igboho.

Boastful and gregarious, Igboho’s foray into an otherwise sleeping movement sparked renewed hope and confidence in the group. Many posited that his secessionist and often controversial remarks would catalyze the state’s birth. Perhaps, in their most daring declaration, most of Igboho’s foot soldiers opined that his messianic and triumphant entry into the struggle would translate to the actualization of the state without any consideration for the opinion of the silent majority. Plus, among the hypes that pitted him with the government was that he had the keys to the heart of skeptics, critics, and cynics of the group and that his power would help unleash the potential of one of Nigeria’s most vibrant, educated, and civilized people once the struggle moves from dream to reality.

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A Ride in the park of history

But calls for a separate Yoruba Nation from Nigeria preceded Igboho or its contemporary agitators. Aderemi Suleiman Ajala, a Nigerian archeologist and anthropologist, once traced the historical background of Yoruba Nationalist Movements in a seminal paper titled Yoruba Nationalist Movements, Ethnic Politics, and Violence: A Creation from historical consciousness and socio-political space in South-Western Nigeria to 1900s.

“Since 1900,” he wrote in the abstract of the work, “the Yoruba people of South-western Nigeria have put its ethnic history at work in the construction of its identity in Nigeria.”

The exercise resulted in the creation of ethno-nationalist movements and the practice of ethnic politics, often expressed through violent attacks on the Nigerian State and some ethnic groups in Nigeria. “Relying on the mythological attachment to its traditions and subjective creation of cultural pride,” he added, “the people created a sense of history that established a common interest among different Yoruba sub-groups in the form of Pan-Yoruba interest, which forms the basis for the people’s imagination of the nation.”

A Case of Similar Intention

Conscious of the place of history in demanding a separate Yoruba state, the likes of Sunday Igboho, Professor Banji Akintoye, Modupe Onitiri Abiola, and a host of other ethnic jingoists and irredentists have continued to exploit various public discontent and disaffection with the Nigerian state to their advantage.

Take the incessant farmers and herders’ clashes that defined most of former President Muhammadu Buhari’s era in the south-west as a classical case study. In effect, Igboho’s relative obscurity to popularity was in part the role he played in places like the Igangan area of Ibarapa, where he took up the role of a liberator, savior, and freedom fighter. Most importantly, it was the government’s inability, both at the state and federal levels, to stanch the spate of bloodletting and communal clashes that threw him up as a regional champion.

That same consciousness and awareness of the place of the Yoruba people in Nigeria also influenced the formation of groups like Egbe Omo Oduduwa by Chief Obafemi Awolowo in 1945. After serving its purpose of rallying Yoruba people under one umbrella, the group would later morph into the Action Group, a leading Nigerian political party in the pre-independence era. “The initial purpose of Egbe Omo Oduduwa, established in London, was to unite the Yoruba people like the tenets of the Ibibio State Union and the Ibo Federal Union.” Wikipedia noted, “The organization grew in popularity from 1948 to 1951; Egbe Omo Oduduwa would later support the formation of the Nigerian political party, Action Group”.

Trudging the same path of history, the Afenifere, a sociocultural organization for the Yoruba people of Nigeria, founded in 1998 by respected elders-statemen, Pa Ayo Banjo, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, late Chief Bola Ige, and Chief Olu Falae, among others was equally conceived to fight the interest of the Yoruba, give them a voice and protect them from Nigeria’s often chaotic political landscape. In 1999, as Nigeria prepared for the return of democracy, the group threw its weight behind Olu Falae, a founding member of the group under Alliance for Democracy.

Instead of backing Olusegun Obasanjo, the eventual winner of the poll who was perceived by Afenifere to have the backing of the Northern military establishment, the group decided to support a candidate it felt would speak its language and side with members in times of need. Similarly, the formation of the Oodua People’s Congress followed a similar trajectory of championing the course of the Yoruba.

Founded by the late Dr. Federick Fasheun in 1995, OPC, a group described as a Yoruba nationalist, regionalist, and vigilante organization, is also known as the Oodua Liberation Movement or the Revolutionary Council of Nigeria. While the group aimed to actualize the annulled mandate of Chief M.K.O Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election, the group diverted into addressing various existential threats facing the people.

Dead but alive

Sunday’s Igboho expected hibernation after his Ibadan’s house was ransacked by operatives of the Department of State Service, signaled a temporary death of the group, but the surprised last week gun duel between a faction of Yoruba Nation agitators loyal to one Modupe Onitiri Abiola and Nigeria’s security operatives reawakened the movement’s existence. Indeed, the use of lethal force by the separatists has added a new twist to the call for a separate Yoruba state. For one, that latest episode has altered the dynamics, narrative, and dimension of ethnic agitations in the southwest. Whether peaceful or violent, the face of that movement has changed forever. Not surprising that the likes of Sunday Igboho and Prof. Banji Akintoye quickly offered disclaimers and distanced themselves from the armed insurrectionists. Of course, the swift intervention of the state government helped douse tension and restore normalcy, but efforts to prevent such audacious acts against the state must include critical stakeholders at home and abroad.

Perhaps, had the state learned from the event of May 28, 2023, in the neighboring Lagos state, it wouldn’t have been caught off guard by the sudden invasion. On that day, the Lagos Police Command announced the arrest of two Yoruba Nation agitators in the Alausa area of the state and recovered charms and weapons from them. Hear what the agitators said on that day: Yoruba Nation has taken over! “The suspects were arrested with dangerous weapons and different offensive insignias bearing Yoruba Nation Army and so on.” The police spokesperson Benjamin Hundeyin noted that the suspects claimed they came to officially inform the police that the United Nations had approved the take-off of the Yoruba Nation.

Back to the question that formed the title of this column: Has Agitations for a Separate Yoruba State Ended? No, it has not. At least permanently, so far, multidimensional poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, cronyism, favoritism, Yahoo Yahoo, kidnapping, and corruption have continued to define critical issues of growth and development in the region.

OYO101 is Muftau Gbadegesin’s opinion about issues affecting the Oyo state and is published every Saturday. He can be reached via @muftaugbade on X, muftaugbadegesin@gmail.com, and 09065176850.

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