Renowned journalist, columnist and administrator, Mr Adetola Adeniyi, in this interview speaks on why 2019 general election should not be conducted without the country being restructured, how years of Fulani hegemony has brought the country to its kneels. Excerpts:
You’re one of the strong voices calling on the government of Nigeria to address the national question. And the national question is giving power to the people, including the minority in the country wherever they are. Why have you been so tenacious in your call to the government and people of Nigeria to address the national question?
I have been so tenacious, dating as far as 1973 when a friend of mine, a Fulani man, we were at the university in the US, Mr Ali Adamu, wrote a booklet in 1972, which was entitled, “The North as the problem of Nigeria”. In that book, he tried to analyse that in spite of the enormous advantage the British bequeathed to the North, the North still has the largest number of beggars, delinquents, that was in 1973. By 1981 and 1982, when I called a press conference at Iyaganku and the topic of my address that day was the national question, that the constituent parts of the country were not free, were not being allowed to exercise their right to advance their causes, being deprived of self-expression to their ambition on how to progress, they are being tied down. I looked at JAMB, which I called Jamba policy, which I objected to, and wrote copiously against, I looked at federal character and all those things that tended to make a section of the country to continue to feel disadvantaged, to continue to feel inferior and I thought that the Fulani that have been monopolising power since 1914, have done so to the greatest disadvantage of the North, of the other people in the North, except the Fulani. The Hausa are overrun and enslaved, the Jukun, the Tiv, the Langtangs, the Beroms, the Gwaris, the Ibibious, Efik. The minority in the North are the major problem in terms of the enslavement which they suffered. Aminu Kano, God bless his soul, is a Hausa man, he said Nigeria will never know peace until the Fulani emirate system is demolished. He said so because they suffered because of the Fulani hegemony, because of their domination. He said until all the parts in Nigeria will be freed from the Fulani domination that the country will not move forward.
Why we are so fixated on the national question is to ensure that every Nigerian is aware they are being denied of the fundamental human rights, that they are being enslaved in their own land. British colonialism has gone, but what we have instead or what the British planted in place was the worse form of colonialism.
But there seems to be this kind of complicity when it comes to Fulani domination even in the North. The other ethnic groups rather than using the leverage they have to liberate themselves, you find them queuing behind the Fulani, especially when the issue is between the north and the south. Don’t you think this contradicts your call for them to liberate themselves?
That is what we see on the surface. If you interview someone from Zango-Kataf or you talk to somebody from Minna, Bida or Makurdi, they will tell you that they feel more bitter about their situation. When you call a Langtang man and you call him a Hausa or Fulani, he will be angry with you, because those people you said are queuing behind them are the minority that take the crumbs from the table,. And don’t forget that during the era of slave trade, there are still some blacks that were traitors; there were still some blacks that were used by the slave masters to maltreat and enslave their people. You find that in every society. So there will always be a few people. Even we have some Yoruba collaborators as well as Igbo and Ibibio collaborators. But in a slave colony, the master will be there; there will also be slaves, who want to be like the masters and they are having some little benefits. You see them even more voracious, wicked than even their masters. When the British colonial masters were here, we had some policemen who weren’t white but Nigerians. Tthey were even worse than their masters that were the white. When you ask those who are in the north that they are backing those who have enslaved them, they will tell you that is not so. People like Danjuma, Dogonyaro, Babangida and so on, they have all realised to their chagrin. The other time, David Mark was almost weeping when he visited his people and saw how they were slaughtered by the Fulani herdsmen. They have now realised that they have all been ridden been used by the Fulani. The Middle Belt constitute the majority and the Hausas. When go to the army, especially the fighting forces, they are usually the Middle Beltans; they will be the one to lead the coup, but a Fulani man will then be made the governor, a Fulani man will be this and that. They have now realised that they have been used. They are regretting it and they are going to regret it for the rest of their lives. If you read the last statement issued by the Northern Christian Elders in the last meeting they held, I am sure you will have a different opinion from what you have expressed. They are not supporting them. Secondly, they have been so enslaved; they have been so frightened, they live under fear. Most of the people you are talking about are unprotected; they live under fear. The Fulani men you are talking about have AK47, but those you are referring to are not in charge of the military, and they are not in charge of the SSS. All the forces of intimidation are with the Fulani. So it is a matter of ‘we have left our fate to God.’
But with the continuous gruesome attacks by Fulani herdsmen across the country, using cows as a decoy, while armed militias keep attacking different parts of the country with military task force sent to an area to maintain peace in an area that is being attacked looking the other way, don’t you think it could be part of the strategy of the Fulani to maintain a stronghold on the people and create an element of fear?
We do not have and we have never the Nigerian military; what we have since 1943, since they created the West African Frontiers has been Fulani army. It has been controlled by the Fulani. What we have is the military wing of the Fulani. If there was a Nigerian army, a non-commissioned soldier would not challenge Brigadier Ogundipe when he was to take over the command after the assassination of Ironsi and co. If there was a Nigerian military, Danjuma would not insist that Yar’Adua, who was not a full lieutenant colonel should be promoted to the position of Brigadier-General overnight, second in command to Obasanjo as the head of state, because he felt the power resided in the Fulani hegemony, in the Fulani aristocracy, in the Fulani dynasty.
But Danjuma seems to have made a volte-face no; he is one of those campaigning for the liberation of the Middle Belt.
That is what I am saying; they are even regretting. I am sure Danjuma will regret to the end of his life that he had a hand in the death of Ironsi and in the death of Fajuyi. I learnt from sources that he lamented that these were Christians and he a Christian allowed these people to be strangulated and to be killed while they were having crosses on their necks. He said he didn’t realise he was doing it for these people he would not like to pronounce, he almost used an abusive the word.. If the situation repeats itself today, I am sure Danjuma will not do the same. He will think twice. That is why I said you should listen to the Northern Christian elders’ pronouncement. I am sure Danjuma will regret till he dies.
You have always maintained that the period we had a semblance of a country was during the First Republic, when all the regions were developing at their own pace with the governments of their own, and that seems to tally with the current agitations for restructuring of the country. How do we carry out that restructuring people are talking about?
The easiest way is for the leaders of all the ethnic nationalities in Nigeria to come together. Every Nigerian knows the problem of this country. An average Fulani man knows what is wrong with Nigeria, he knows that the system is not working, but for selfish interest, they allow this to continue to drag on. Easiest way is that they should sit down just as Czechoslovakia, let the Yoruba leaders, Fulani, Hausa leaders, Berom leaders and others come together and say this is how we want the country, this is how we want to live together. We want a confederation, we want a federation, we want a parliamentary system; let them agree and let them say there will be equal representation at the centre. So if they say go back to the region, either at the level of linguistic, or using culture or others things, because the Hausa man is different from the Fulani and the Fulani is distinct from the Igbo. We know that the nationalities are distinct; let them go and agree: the Yoruba from the Western region, those from the North-West I know most of them are Hausa, but we have a lot of Fulani that speak the same language; they can live together and have a lot of resources to develop. Let the North-Central, that is Benue, Plateau and part of Bauchi agree to stay together. Let the Adamawa and the Kanuri stay together. Let the Igbo agree to stay together. And for the centre, each region will send at least 10 to 12 people which will be a total about 60 to form whatever they want to form; that is what we are clamouring for.
But the problems we have in Nigeria since 1914 were created, enforced and imposed on the people by the military force. The presidential system was a military one; the balkanisation of Nigeria into 12, 19, 30, and 36 states was the handiwork of the military. The local government reforms, the states that aren’t viable were all done by the military.
But you said that the military we have is at the service of the North. Does that presuppose that the military is doing the bidding of the Fulani North?
That was what Ahmadu Bello told them, and what the British always told them. Mao also said it, that power grows out of the barrel of a gun. So they believe that the only way they can continue to prevent the freedom of other parts of the country is to hold them by the force of arms. That is why Ahmadu bello was recruiting people into the military from the northern region, and it helped them while the Yoruba and Igbo were reading to become doctors and professors. They didn’t need to consult anybody before they could stage a coup and live on complete dictatorship.
So, where I am leading to is that we must have a complete counter force if peaceful means is not accepted. But a counter-force is going to be costly; it is going to cause a lot of blood. It is going to ruin a lot of things in Nigeria.
Can you please explain the nature of the counter-force you are talking about?
The counter-force is if a Fulani man is carrying AK 47, he didn’t bring it from heaven; somebody gave it to him. The government, the police or the Fulani army gave it to them. So let the Yoruba and the Igbo farmers carry AK 47 too. So that when they attack them in the farms, they will also shoot back. But that will lead to a state of anarchy. That is what is happening, but we don’t want that to happen. If there is war today, if there is going to be any physical battle, in fact, the Yoruba are going to lose more in it. When you say there is no electricity, when you say they is no petrol, the Yoruba are the ones suffering it much, because we consume more of the commodities than any parts of the country. Ordinary detergent, we consume more than any part of the country because of our level of development and standard of living. We have more infrastructure and houses than any other parts of the country.
But this present government does not believe there is need for us to ask the national questions or to find answers to them or that there is need for the restructuring of the country…
Which government are you talking about? I worked so hard to get this government into power; I can boldly say that without any form of contradiction. I wrote more articles on Facebook than any other journalist in this country, not campaigning for Buhari, but campaigning against Jonathan. I did the same every week in my column in the Sunday Sun, because we felt that Buhari’s rigid form will tend to fight against corruption to the standstill and give us a new lease of life. But to our chagrin, we find out that corruption under Buhari is worse than that of Jonathan.
Some people believed at that time that some of the qualities ascribed to the current president were over-exaggerated. That under him as Minister of Petroleum was the issue of a missing money, which has not been even resolved till today. Some even talked about the issue of PTDF, they tried to bring these things up but people still opted for him…
I don’t want to dwell on the suitcases scandal that broke up during his regime; I don’t want to comment on Idiagbon taking his son to Mecca, when they said no underage should go to Mecca. I don’t want to talk about the N2.8 billion missing under his watch; I am talking about corruption in terms of nepotism, unabashed impunity, caring less about what anybody would say. You make your brother, your uncle, your niece and you put them in sensitive positions in a country of over 193 million people, with diverse religions, diverse ethnic backgrounds. You just populate government with a section of the country. There cannot be worse form of corruption.
But the argument from the government is that appointments are adequately representative of every section of the country?
No, you cannot say because you have someone as a cleaner in Aso Rock, you then you say there is a Yoruba there. But you have someone who is in charge of defence, someone who takes decisions. When we are talking about appointments, we are talking about someone who takes decisions in such places; someone who is in charge of SSS. You can have 1,000 Igbos there who are just cleaners, messengers and janitors; we are talking about those who take decisions. Who is in charge of the military, SSS, Police, NIA, Military Intelligence, army and the force authorities? Who are the people in charge of these sensitive positions? That’s just the issue; it’s not about you being the Press Secretary or an Ambassador or someone who is the chief comedian in the ministry of education and culture; that is not what we are talking about. We are talking about those holding key positions, sensitive positions in the country; those who are holding the power of life and death over the people of the country. Those are the contexts we are talking about, and they are certainly not equitable at all. Insultingly, irritatingly they are still defending it. And that is why we are saying that we really don’t have a government that people should have confidence in. If people can be true to themselves, I can say that about 89 per cent of Nigerian citizens don’t have confidence in this government.
But the president dropped a hint yesterday that he might need Nigerians’ votes again in 2019.
I think it is a dream, because my position is that there should be no election. I mean I am so disappointed in those that want to become governors, those who want second term, who want to be senators and all that. How can you say you want to become a governor, senator or president in the present situation the country is in? It means that life will just continue as we have been doing since 1914; it means they will not address the issue of restructuring or equitable distribution of resources. They will not address the issue of the kind of government they want: is it parliamentary, is it regionalism? They won’t address those, but they want to sweep everything under the carpet and start campaigning to hold offices. I am so disappointed in Nigerian politicians and I want to say that apart from Buhari, the politicians in Nigerian are about the worst enemies of this country, because they are so self-centred and selfish, and they only think of holding offices. How can you hold office in a building that is about to collapse? You want to be governors in a country where governors cannot pay salaries, what type of governorship are you looking for? Why do you want to be governors when over 27 or 28 states cannot pay salaries? Why do you want that system to continue? Why do you want to be a president in a country where citizens are not receiving their normal dues? How do you want to become a president in a country where power is just flowing from one source? How do you want to be a president in a country where all citizens are dissatisfied? So, they cannot be talking about who wants to be president in 2019 or who wants to be governor of ABC in 2018. They should be talking about what kind of country are we looking for in 2018 and 2019? Will Nigerians survive till 2019? Will it survive till the end of 2018? Are they sure? Because what we have now is no more than peace of the graveyard. There is no more peace? Everyone is shouting; they are no more under the table; they are no more whispering, it is loud now. Nigerians are tired of this present arrangement. They are tired of the situation where our children are going out of the country in droves and are being killed in Libya, being disgraced in South-Africa, because the situations are not palatable, the country is not conducive to live in, and people would rather die than remain in Nigeria. The youths, over 20 million of them, graduates who have not got jobs, some of them left the universities seven years ago. But instead of addressing those problems, you are saying you want to be governors, senators, House of Representatives members, is that the issue now? The issue every Nigerian should be addressing is how to restructure this country.
If you go back to regions, what we are proposing is that, that is even if we say we want to have bi-cameral or we need some part time House of Representatives and the representatives should be paid for by the regions they represent. And the representatives’ salaries and emoluments should be paid by the regions they represent. So, if you are representing us from Ogun East or Oyo South or Ebonyi South senatorial district, it is the people of that district that should be paying your emoluments, so that there will be no question of putting too much money in the centre. And if you do that, there will be no senator that will go down there and misbehave, because he knows it is the people that are paying his money. It will not be like the situation that people will vote for a senator and will not see him for four years. So, we want a real restructuring and not just fiscal restructuring of the country, not just geopolitical restructuring but the restructuring of the attitude of the people that will represent us, the leadership structure itself; which kind of leaders are going to emerge.