•Why I want Yoruba man to be president in 2023
•Nigeria must restructure to stop secession
By Dapo Akinrefon & Shina Abubakar
The Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Abdulrasheed Adewale Akanbi is an outspoken monarch who has been criticised for his position on many issues. In this interview he discusses issues ranging from politics, traditional institutions, secession and the 2023 general elections. Excerpts:
There have been agitations for secession
and self-determination. IPOB in the South-East is calling for the Biafra Republic, while the South-West wants Oduduwa Republic. What is your take on these agitations?
My take is that there should be devolution of powers; the center has to be weak, and the states given more responsibilities. State Police should be allowed. With the Federal Government controlling the Police, the governors don’t have any power over the police in their states. I am also advocating for some constitutional power to be given to the traditional rulers, we need it. I am the first Chief Security Officer of this land, nobody knows this land more than I do. The Police Area Commander or the DPO here is posted from somewhere else, they are not from Iwo, how can he know Iwo more than me, I am the one who knows Iwo because it is my domain.
Some people are insisting on secession. Are you in support?
What makes Nigeria great and what makes this country to be singled out as the hope of the black race? I don’t know if you are aware that the black race globally looks forward to this country to provide leadership, how do we then break up? I believe that the way to make it better is to eradicate corruption. We need to enforce a lot more or maybe the leadership in the country should go the way of China. If you steal money in China, it is punishable by death. If the amount of money stolen in Nigeria is stolen in Britain, there won’t be Britain anymore, but this country is so strong. There is strength in our diversity and unity is our strength.
So, you are not in support of secession
No, how can I? There is strength in our diversity. What we should do is to find a way to make this country better. It is not to break it. We are called the giant of Africa. What makes Nigeria the giant? When they were calling Nigeria the giant of Africa, they were yet to discover oil, so what makes it giant? It is the population. This is the most populous black nation in the world. If you ask: those clamouring for this Oduduwa, are they united? Are your leaders and kings united? I started talking about this when I first came on the throne. I have said it severally that we have problems with the traditional rulers in the South West. We are not united; we don’t even have the Yoruba Council of Obas.
We are agitating without leadership, it is like the #EndSARS protest which lacked leadership and was hijacked by hoodlums. So, are we going to become a leaderless nation? That’s anarchy. It is like saying there should be no king in Iwo. When there was no king in Iwo for 10 years, we know what it robbed Iwo of. Iwo went backward more than 80 years because of 10 years of interregnum.
You have to go back to history. I know that not all the Igbo people will be agitating for secession because as an Igbo person if you have businesses in Lagos, you know that Alaba or Okokomaiko will no longer be open to you. Since the Igbo have been fighting for Biafra in 1967 when I was born because the agitation must have started before the 1967 civil war, where has that led to now? So, it is like you want to start something in the South-West (Oduduwa Republic), just to disturb, a cause that doesn’t have a future.
We have had cases of traditional rulers in the South West being kidnapped or killed and palaces burnt, why do you think monarchs are now the target?
You have to ask yourself, does criminality belong to one tribe? Do we have criminals that are Yoruba, Igbo and others? Why we are saying the Fulani should leave the South West? I believe there is an underlining issue or political issue with what is going on. I see all these as a sponsored political movement, just to cause some uproar and to spoil the relationship that we have built with the Hausa/Fulani. Those agitating for the Oduduwa Republic are not united; why don’t you put your house in order first and see where it will lead us. When the Yoruba come together as one, especially the leadership and by leadership, I mean the kings, then, we can achieve a lot.
So, you are saying that there is no unity among the kings?
If the kings are not united, first it will be impossible to achieve peace in Yorubaland because everybody will just be protecting their domain. So, this Oduduwa nation you are talking about is not achievable.
Even with regards to our identity, were we called Yoruba before? The Yoruba name came from the Hausa, because the name “Yoruba” is from “Yarubawa”. Is that our real identity? Is that your name?
Some people will say they are not Oduduwa children and you call them Yoruba, so it means that some people will still secede from the Oduduwa nation. I believe there are better ways to resolve these issues. Let me tell you, I am a Diasporan, corruption sent me out of this country and when I came back, I fought hard to become a leader. Today, I am a leader; I know the antidote for this country to be better.
As a king, I have never sold a plot of land, I have never taken anything from my people, not one dime; I have never taken a contract from anybody, no government has ever given me one contract. There is corruption even in the traditional system. I have gone through a lot, I had to sacrifice so much, corruption cannot send me out of Nigeria and then, I would become part of that system that created corruption. I am not going to be a corrupt king, I have never been. I want Nigeria to be better and great and I will tell my people the truth. Do you know that the Fulani people have been living for over 400 years in my domain and they never killed anybody? They lived in the bush. So ask yourself: who is doing this? Is it only the Fulani that have criminals in this country? And that is why I said, I am not telling criminals to come to my domain. I saw that they were chasing little girls and women because they are Fulani, are those criminals?
But some of your subjects are not happy with your invitation to Fulani herdsmen?
I am inviting Fulani, I am not inviting criminals. Criminals are different from a tribe. I am not tribalistic, that is the problem of Nigerians. Tribal issues create a barrier, I have Fulani living here and they are my subjects; I have Igbo living here who are my subjects. I don’t belong to any tribe; I am the king of everybody that lives in my domain. When Evans was arrested, why wasn’t he tagged an Igbo kidnapper? Why now Fulani criminals? Today, the Deputy Treasury Secretary of the United States of America is a Nigerian and today we have many Hushpuppies in America, they tagged many Nigerians as criminals in American and other countries of the world. Why don’t they say all Nigerians should go because they are criminals? Let me tell you, I just gave a Fulani girl a scholarship who performed well in JAMB. I just visited Sokoto, we have Permanent Secretaries, Special Advisers, Commissioners that are Yoruba, they are there and at the same time, we have criminals who are in jail, who are Yoruba. So, you don’t criminalize a tribe, a criminal is a criminal regardless of where he comes from. Do you know that some of the cows that the Fulani rears are given to them by Yoruba? The farmers and herders issue can be resolved. I am working on that, I am organizing a conference soon to call them together.
We will set aside three to six months to teach the herders in Iwoland on how to do ranching, then the farmer can have their farms back and in three to six months, we will ban open grazing and then anybody we see afterward, will be arrested.
Politicians are sponsoring some terrorists from Libya, the remnants of Gaddafi’s Special Forces that he trained, I have been involved in a war before so I know that Gaddafi had been training some special forces from all over Africa to overthrow different governments. Charles Taylor was part of it, Prince Yormie Johnson and Foday Sanko were part of Gaddafi’s army. Between 1989 and 1992, I was in the Liberian war; so all the strategies of terrorists coming from North Africa, we know and then, we have many of them settled in Gao and Timbuktu right now. They don’t have anywhere to go, so people go there and sponsor them to come here and create tribal issues among us.
The people coming here don’t even speak Fulani, they are terrorists. They have AK-47s, who gave them? Is it the Nigerian government? These are the proliferation of arms through our porous borders, our borders are not easy to man, and you need a lot of resources to man those borders. It is over 1000 kilometers from Niger, all the way down to the Benin Republic to the Atlantic. So how can you secure that?
Back to the South-West, recently, you were invited to the inauguration of the South West Agenda, SWAGA, where you adopted SWAGA. Are you adopting Asiwaju Bola Tinubu for President of Nigeria in 2023?
It is a southwest agenda for a Yoruba person to emerge as the President. I don’t know who is going to get there. Only God knows but the Yoruba Presidency should be a Yoruba agenda, if it’s Igbo, it should be an Igbo agenda. It’s a race. If a Yoruba man wants to be a President, I am in for that. If a Fulani man is the President, who do you think he will trust with NNPC and the IGP slot? That is what I am telling Yoruba that you have never helped your people to be there. The Yoruba that has been President was never helped by his people. Obasanjo was helped by the Hausas, so who do you think he favoured while in office? So, if any Yoruba wants to get there and you don’t help him and he looks elsewhere for help, he has to promise them some juicy appointments. I don’t know if he (Tinubu) wants to be President, he hasn’t said it. Do you know where he took his birthday colloquium to this year? Has he ever taken it to the north before? That’s because he is looking for their support. After all, when the Yoruba refuse, he will look outside. I don’t know who, but any Yoruba man that wants to be President has my support so that when he gets there, a Yoruba can be the IGP, Chief of Army Staff and others. If you don’t help him, a Hausa/Fulani will be there again and I am not particular about anybody.
Do you think there will be an election in 2023 considering the spate of insecurity?
There will be an election. God, in His infinite mercy, will help in that direction. The Yoruba agenda will be great and a Yoruba man will be president. Yoruba don’t help their own, they didn’t help Obafemi Awolowo, they didn’t help MKO Abiola, and this time around, if Yoruba misses it, it’s game over.
You have been doing a lot of empowerment for your people, yet there is a section in Iwoland that seems to project you as not doing enough?
In five years of my reign, do you know what has entered in this town? Iwo is the fastest growing town in Nigeria and I am proud of that. We have achieved what so many kings have been unable to achieve.
During the fourth year of my reign, I got a Federal College of Education to my domain, a marginalised town, a town without federal or state presence