Yinka Odumakin, National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, in this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, speaks on the aftermath of the #EndSARS protests and other sundry issues. Excerpts:
South-West governors, traditional rulers and Ministers met in Lagos state last week to proffer solution to the #EndSARS crisis last and Afenifere was not invited. What do you think was responsible for that?
The thing is very clear. Like we said, the Kaduna meeting is an afterthought on our unity as a country. They had a sectional meeting of the North where you have all the key appointees of the President, Chief of Staff, IGP, Chief of Army Staff, Lai Mohammed and others. Even in their communiqué, they were so insensitive.
There are places they said nomination from Federal Executive Council (FEC) to a northern summit initiative, which shows clearly that they don’t see this nation as one. They see themselves as slave masters while the rest of the country are seen as slaves. They tried to play what is called Taqiyyah into the Middle Belt. When herdsmen killed 78 people in Benue in January 2018, Buhari called Governor Ortom and said ‘go and learn how to live with your people’.
Now they want to use them as part of their crowd. It was when Southern and Middle Belt leaders said ‘no, this shows how incompetence you people are’, that was when Buhari said his Chief of Staff should start the rearguard measures. The South-East invited their traditional rulers and socio-cultural leaders but in South-West, they invited only the traditional rulers, governors and some ministers. Because our Obas have told them what is important to us in the South-West like restructuring, implementation of the 2014 national conference , we allowed it to go.
The governors know that we cannot sit down in a place and you go and issue a communiqué which is anti-people; to say that we commend Buhari for the way he ended the #EndSARS crisis and to say that we support the gagging of social media, we will never be part of that. We are glad that (Seyi) Makinde came out and said they never agreed on such things. With Governor Akeredolu coming out to say that he sees nothing wrong in freezing the account of #EndSARS people, we can now know the reason why they did not want people they think they cannot control, to sign on to what they want at that meeting. But we commend the traditional rulers for speaking the truth to power, for condemning what happened and for standing on where we stand.
Is Afenifere on the same page with Governor Akeredolu who said the government is right in freezing #EndSARS protesters account?
We cannot. We openly disagreed with him. Yesterday, I was with one of his aides on a national television, and I had to knock him clearly. I said ‘young man, there will be tomorrow. Akeredolu will not be governor forever.
He will finish his term and come back. He should not use his present to destroy his past and make a mess of his future. Akeredolu was a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). He has a pedigree. If it was any governor we don’t think has anything to protect that had said that, we will just ignore him. But for Akeredolu, how do you say that they can continue to punish people without trial? Will Akeredolu get up in Ondo state and starts freezing and punishing people without trial? Before you can punish anybody, their guilt must have been established.
How do you establish the guilt of those whose accounts you have frozen? It has to be through a judicial process. If there is a judicial process that says this people committed an offence, let us punish them, we can’t say you cannot punish in accordance with the law. We cannot say what Akeredolu is now saying in the second part of it that if those whose accounts were frozen have been offended, they should go to court. You did not go to court, but went to court of impunity to punish them and you are now saying they should go to court of law. You are SAN, a senior member of the Bar, past president of the NBA who should maintain the standards of law of how a society should be organised and not behave like anything goes politician. We don’t agree with that.
We condemn him in totality. When his aide said Afenifere was against Akeredolu, I told him that when Akeredolu took that position on Amotekun, did Afenifere not commended him openly, even though we knew it could be of benefit to him during the election? It doesn’t matter to us. But when you are making statements that makes you not to be different from the fascists who are running Nigeria aground, we cannot accept that! you are wrong and we have told the governor that he is totally wrong on this matter.
There is this notion that Nigeria cannot survive without the North based on their agricultural prowess. What is your take on that ?
So, before the amalgamation of the North and South, have we been feeding on air? That’s nonsense. Yes, the federal government has done so many agricultural projects in the North. When you go and look at the records of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), when they are doing Anchors Borrowers Programme, most of the money is spent in the North. But there is no section of Nigeria that cannot feed itself.
The food scarcity in some parts of the country may be due to certain factors. In South-West for instance, if you see what the herdsmen have been doing to the farmers, you will be alarmed. In the past, even our women go to farms unaided to plant agricultural products. Which man today will allow his wife to go to the farm alone and not throw her to Fulani herdsmen for raping? So, there are problems in this country but there is no part of the country that does not have the capacity for food sufficiency.
Some have claimed the attacks on Lagos during the #EndSARS protest was politically motivated, do you share that view?
I don’t think so. I say so because for years now, I have been telling my wife whenever we are driving in traffic and we see many young people on the streets, with no future, no job and no hope, I always tell her that the day these people will take to the streets, there will be serious trouble.
Today, Nigeria is the global secretariat of poverty. The attack by these youths was not only in Lagos, it was across the country. See the way people were looting. Even in Kwara, soldiers were begging them to loot peacefully. The social inequality in the country is so high. We have given no hope or future to our youths. Since they have been killing armed robbers in this country, have you seen any armed robber that was arrested and said ‘I am a worker with Unilever, Guinness or NNPC? No! If you are working in this Lagos, you will leave your house 5am in the morning, get to work and return home by 10pm at night. By the time you get home, you are already exhausted; even to eat is a problem and you went to sleep like that. Is that the time you will go and plan how to burgle somebody’s house? No! A young man was telling me to assist him get a job.
He said he has been a graduate for the past 10 years but has not worked for a day. During the #EndSARS protest, I met a man with MBA but have no job and no money. But people who cannot think are saying the protesters and those looting palliatives are hoodlums. The hoodlums are the people in government. Those looting palliatives are ‘foodlums’ who are looking for what to eat. I laughed when the governors said those who looted should return what they stole in 48 hours. Is that how these governors return what they steal?
Ahead of the 2023 general elections, what advise can you give to Nigerian youths?
I will tell the youths to keep their voters cards very well. They should be ready to shine their eyes, not to follow anybody because of money. They should know what they stand for and present their programmes, people will scrutinise them and them decide who have their interests at heart.
On election day, they should go to the polling units and ensure that their votes count and are counted very well. They should follow the process through and ensure that nobody steal their votes so that they can make a change in the polity. We can’t just continue like this in this country. We cannot continue to put our lives and states under these self-serving leaders who don’t care about the welfare of the citizenry but only care about what they can take out of the system.
The present crop of leaders have no idea for how to develop the society; they cannot proffer any meaningful way forward for this country. Any set of politician they follow will need new leadership and the young people are the new publics that must cause the needed change in our polity.
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