As a journalist, Oyeyemi was the Assistant National Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (1992-1993); Founding Secretary, League of Democratic Journalists (1995) and Chairman, Oyo State Sports Writers Association’s Disciplinary Committee (1995). In 1990, the Nigerian Union of Journalists (Oyo State Council) named him the Best Investigative Journalist. He received the GSE award of the Rotary International in 1991 and in 1993 was listed in “Who is Who” of the Nigerian media world.
His works as a journalist has appeared in the P.M. News, Lagos, in which he maintained a column Politics Nigeriana; TheNews and TEMPO magazines, The Guardian, The Punch, and the Daily Times newspapers all in Lagos; Nigerian Tribune and Daily Sketch, both in Ibadan; Triumph, Kano, and Bencorps, Makurdi. In the United States he has written for the Southeast Missourian, a politically influential newspaper in the State of Missouri as well as the California based Desert Weekly as Guest Columnist and a string of African publications in the American North East. He was also the founding Editor of the New York based pro-democracy medium Democrat-In-Exile.
He was a member of the Nigeria Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) as well as a media resource consultant to many advertising and public relation companies between 1990 and 1995. Between 1991 and 1993, Oyeyemi was the Director of Media Affairs (West) for the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Presidential Campaign and later Personal Press Assistant to then Presidential Aspirant for the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar who was a former Nigeria Vice President.
He was declared wanted by the Abacha regime that was desperate to host the World Cup Soccer competition in 1995 following his Exclusive Report on the outbreak of Typhoid in Ibadan in TEMPO magazine.
He fled Nigeria few days after the murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1995 to the United States. He became the foreign correspondent to the Nigerian Tribune reporting from the NorthEast America and the United Nations. His exclusive political stories from New York made the Nigerian Tribune best selling newspaper in Nigeria between 1995 and 1998.
Oyeyemi testified against the Abacha dictatorship at the New York City Council hearing on human rights abuse in late in 1995 and in May 1996, at the Senator Kassenbaum inspired US Senate hearings on the same subject in Washington D.C. He later served as the Media Affairs Director of the New York based United Committee to Save Nigeria.
Oyeyemi who has been published in several anthologies including Amidst the Splendor, Tranquil Rains of Summer and America at the Millennium is also the author of Songs From Exile, a poetic commentary on the Nigerian political events of the 1990s. He is one of the “Outstanding Poets of 1998″ selected and published by US National Library of Poetry. A member of International Society of Poets, he had a weekly column “Echoes of Freedom” that ran several years in the Saturday Tribune in Nigeria. He occasionally contributes articles to internet fora.
He received a combined honours Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Political Science from the great University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Ile-Ife, and Masters of Education Counseling from Wilmington College, (now Wilmington University), Wilmington, Delaware. He has a Post Graduate Diploma in Applied Behavioral Analysis from Florida Devereaux University and also has a Diploma in Journalism from the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Lagos.
Oyeyemi who is presently the Chief Consultant of Mount Zion Mental and Behavioral Health Services is a member of American Counseling Association. He is the President of Zion Wheels Inc., Mount Zion Properties and ROC Communications Inc. He is married with children.
INTERVIEW BY AFRICAN ABROAD-USA
1. Has Nigeria been saved from potential collapse by the emergence of Goodluck Jonathan as acting president after all the effort of Pro-Yar Adua’s forces to block his emergence?
I do not think so. Rather I see the emergence of Goodluck Jonathan as a postponement of the true destiny of Nigeria. The true destiny of Nigeria is its eventual break up. This is because those who are holding the 150 million Nigerians hostage have not let go. I do not expect them to let go because no one who has power has ever done something like that – that is letting it go or giving it up without a fight. You either force them to relinquish it or you take it from them, I really wish Nigeria could be saved, but all the available variables are pointing to the contrary.
The fact that the so-called Yar’Adua forces tried to block the emergence of Goodluck Jonathan is part of the variables I am speaking about. The Hausa/Fulani oligarchy sees Nigeria as their inheritance with which they can do as they please. The rest of us are deluding ourselves that we have a country where we are all equal. This oligarchy thinks that allowing any man from any other ethnic group to rule Nigeria is like allowing an outsider, who has no claim or right to rule their great grandfather’s estate which they consider Nigeria to be. This difference in understanding of what Nigeria is or should be is a major reason I am convinced that the destiny of Nigeria is its eventual break up. When that will be is a matter of the determination and fortitude of the leaders of other component ethnic nationalities.
This is despite some speculations that even the Hausa/Fulani are doing their best to take care of themselves because they are already looking forward to their own country in the future. But before that future arrives, they want to milk as much the many resources in the South of Nigeria as possible. Those advancing this view are saying what the rest of us already know that the Hausa/Fulani people know what they are doing; that they are very smart politicians who always think and plan ahead. It is being suggested that they are already contemplating their own country and that the attraction Nigeria has for them is the wealth in the South. Those holding this kind of view are positing that if you remove the wealth in the South, they would not spend a day longer than necessary to be part of Nigeria.
But I am not inclined to share this view because of so many reasons. One is that the North is not as monolithic as we all used to believe. The recent Jos Riots sticks this out as a thumb. Two is that this oligarchy has the levers of power under its armpit and they can and have been doing practically what they want with Nigeria without any challenge from other sections of Nigeria. Three is that the oligarchy have succeeded in planting satellites all over the country and have used those satellites to undermine the collective wills of those various sections thus undermining their ability to put up a resistance and challenge the oligarchy. This has resulted in consolidated confidence on the part of the oligarchy and they do not feel threatened in anyway. It is this confidence that is giving them the audacity to hold Nigerian’s to ransom for so long without a president and there was nothing the rest of the country could do about it. The so-called protests did little if anything and as of now nothing really has changed in my view.
2. As Nigeria turns 50 this year, there are some who believe that Nigeria is yet to achieve true nationhood. Do you subscribe to this and why?
Nigeria has no capacity to attain nationhood. I look through the various component ethnic groups in Nigeria and I am not able to identify a single one that expresses satisfaction. It is my view that the silent majority are angling to extricate themselves from the contraption called Nigeria. It is obvious that every ethnic group wants deliverance from the bondage called Nigeria. It is evident that no one believes in the quagmire called Nigeria. None of us has any emotional connection to the country called Nigeria. Nigeria is not our making. It does not belong to us. No one wants it.
Nigeria is not a nation. It is a country of nations. These component nations desire to be independent nation-states. A country or a nation (for the purpose of this context) is more than the physical buildings. It is more than a beautiful Capital Territory. It is more than the existence of powerful armed forces. It is more than a government that controls. A nation, to exist has to be ingrained in the psyche of its citizens. There has to be that emotional connection. It has to run as blood in the veins and marrow in the bones of those who subscribe to it. My own definition of a nation is that consummated indescribable feelings that command the unalloyed love, permeated with buoyant affection and infused with unsolicited loyalty of those who subscribe to it. A nation is that which is patently invisible but translucently obvious and recurrent in the gliding waves of the sea of sub-consciousness, of its people.
If you look at the top 25 countries with the highest indices for human development, there are certain things that are common to them. Through a research I conducted very recently, I found out that 80% of them have their population belonging to a single ethnic group with at least about 60% majority. 70% of the 80% have over 80% of their population belonging to one single ethnic group. In this same group of countries, 88% of them have a single religion as being dominant at the range of about 70% and above. Among these countries, 72% of them have a single dominant language. The data also reflected that 84% of all these countries have at least two of these three all-important variables: Ethnicity, Language and Religion in majority. What this data is saying is that for any country or nation to make it, it must have at least two of the following: speak the same language, be of the same ethnic group and practice the same religion.
This is not the case with Nigeria. The largest ethnic group in Nigeria is 29% going by the official figures, which are questionable given the number of ethnic groups in Nigeria. Those who practice the same religion were put at 50% while there is no dominant language. We all have nothing in common. Our aspirations are different. Our hopes are different. Our dreams are different. Our primordial attachment is very strong. Other ethnic groups in Nigeria feel dominated. They are not happy about it. They feel like outsiders in their own country. No one likes to be dominated. No one likes to be in bondage. No one likes to be enslaved. No one likes it when others take advantage of him or his/her people. We are all ethnic jingoists. Yet we are unwilling to accept it. We are all in denial. We all pretend to be Nigeria lovers, when indeed we all hate Nigeria. Our ethnic group is where we derive our identity. It is where we derive our worldview. It is where we derive and form our character. It is what describes us as human beings. It is the kernel of our authenticity. It is what makes us unique. It is what makes us special.
I am aware there are people who keep chanting that TRIBALISM is our bane when indeed it is our real strength. I am aware that most of us like to be politically correct and say, Nigeria must unite when in fact we all know that breaking it up is the best thing for the peoples of this geographical expression.
For example, a Yoruba man anywhere in the world would do his best to raise his children in Yoruba ways. An Ijaw man would do the same. An Igbo man would do the same. An Efik man would do the same. A Kanuri man would do the same. A Mumuye man would do the same. An Edo man would do the same. Every man would do the same. None of us would raise his child as a Nigerian. This is because Nigeria does not exist in our consciousness. It is not in our psyche. There is no emotional connection. There is no cultural connection. There is no identity connection. There is no sense of belonging of any sort.
Nigeria has not yet attained nationhood. It probably never will because it can never do so. It is an illusion to expect nationhood from a conglomeration of nations that are fundamentally different in a lot of ways.
3. As one of the courageous Journalists who fought the military junta of Babangida/ Abacha for the enthronement of democracy in Nigeria, are you satisfied with over 12 years of democracy in the country?
It was Marcus Garvey who originated the aphorism that “every man has the right to decide his own destiny, and in his judgement there is no partiality.” The great Robert Nesta Marley turned this into lyrics. Only a wicked person would see something wrong in this philosophy. The ethnic groups in Nigeria have not been able to determine their own destiny and this really make me unsatisfied. How can I be satisfied when those who work hard are in penury? When those whose lands are producing the resources are in poverty? When Nigeria deprives those who value education? When Nigeria stands in the way of those who value cattle rearing? When Nigeria is rebuffing those who want to make Arabic education a priority? When Nigeria is holding back those who want to jump into the age of technology? When Nigeria is denying those who want Sharia law? No group has been allowed to self determine its destiny in Nigeria. Every one is miserable because they are forced to be part of Nigeria and they are not allowed to express their views about the situation.
Can’t you see how Nigeria is impeding those who want merit? How Nigeria is humiliating those who value integrity? Can’t you see how Nigeria is disgracing those who want self-respect and dignity? Nigeria now seems to incubate crime and criminals. Nigeria is lawless. Nigeria encourages uncouthness. Nigeria encourages abuse of elders. It disparages the youth. It undermines our age long traditions.
For the today of our rulers, the tomorrow of every Nigerian child has been frittered. For their freedom, Nigerians have been psychologically and emotionally enslaved. For its greed, the hunger of every Nigerian child has been exacerbated. For its domination, the education of every Nigerian child has been compromised. For their wealth, the exploitation and poverty of Nigerians has been perpetuated. For their bitter politics, the Nigerian congeniality and love has been sacrificed. For their fundamentalism, faith in the Nigerian state has become futile. For their conscience, the discomfort and distress of Nigerians has been edified.
If you are a human being, with blood running in your veins, it is impossible to walk in the squalor of Mushin and the suffocating want of Idumota and be satisfied. It is difficult to have a cousin needlessly die of typhoid and be satisfied. It is very difficult to have your brother burnt to death in an explosion elicited by filling the keg with petrol to beat the artificially induced shortage and be satisfied. It is difficult to witness your father worked hard all your life and have him killed by armed robbers and be satisfied. It is difficult to have your son or daughter shot to death by bribery chasing police officers and be satisfied. It is indeed very difficult to witness a man serve his country all his life only to slump to death while queuing to collect his pension or gratuity and be satisfied.
I will be honest with you that there have been pockets of good job done here and there by very few governors. But the majority is a heartbreak. This is not what we were fighting for. Elections are rigged shamelessly. The peoples’ voices have been muffled. This is not a true democracy. No, it is not and I am not satisfied.
4. Why is the North insisting on 8 years after having ruled the country for a total of 36 years of the 50 years of Nigeria?
The only reason I can give is that the North believes that Nigeria is their inheritance. They do not see Nigeria as a country as the rest of us would like to see it. Their plan from day one is to rule Nigeria forever unless the rest of us are ready to stop them. Just eleven days after independence in The Parrot of October 12, 1960, the Sardauna of Sokoto and the Premier of the Northern Region said the following:
“This New Nation called Nigeria, should be an estate of our great grand father, Uthman Dan Fodio. We must ruthlessly prevent a change of power. We use the minorities in the North as willing tools, and the South, as conquered territory and never allow them to rule over us, and never allow them to have control over their future”
Just six or seven months after that interview, he gave another interview to the DAILY TIMES of May 3, 1961 saying the following:
“I’m set and fully armed, to conquer the Action Group, AG, in the same ruthless manner as my grandfather conquered Alkalawa, a town in Sokoto province, during the last century”
The basis of this boastful interview could be traced to the events that occurred in 1959. It would be recalled that as a result of the elections of 1954, there were 162 seats in the Nigerian National Assembly. Out of this, the South has 83 seats and the North has 79 seats (these 79 seats include the Yoruba parts of Kwara). This allocation of seats was based on earlier census and it shows that there were more people in the South than in the North. If you take away the Yoruba of Kwara, t means that the North would have even less than 79 seats. But because Ahmadu Bello was afraid that his kinsmen would not be able to effectively compete with the rest of the country and dominate it the way he envisaged, he refused to allow Nigeria to have independence in 1957. After the West and the East received self-governance, the British overlords, in order to assuage his fears and put Nigeria in his control, created in 1959, 312 seats for the Nigerian National Assembly without any election or new Census – repeat without any elections or census. Out of this 312, the North was allocated 174 from the blues in the anticipation of the Parliamentary Political System being put in place for Nigeria’s independence in 1960. This effectively put political control of Nigeria in the hands of Ahmadu Bello and his stooge, Tafawa Balewa who in 1950 was reported by the TIME MAGAZINE of October 10, 1960 to have said there was no basis for Nigerian unity and it was only a wish of the British.
He was able to carry out his threats of conquering the Action Group. The kangaroo trial of Chief Obafemi Awolowo without any evidence and his imprisonment was the first step. The rigging of elections in the West to install Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola which led to resistance on the part of the Yoruba people. In the heat of this Western Region crisis in 1964, a Mallam Bala Garuba was reported in The West African Pilot of December 30, of that year to have euphorically said the following:
“The conquest to the sea is now in sight. When our god-sent Ahmadu Bello said some years ago that our conquest will reach the seashores of Nigeria, some idiots in the South were doubting its possibilities. Today have we not reached the sea? Lagos is reached. It remains Port Harcourt. It must be conquered and taken.”
If you analyze the quotes I have just referred to, you will understand why the North is insisting on ruling for another 8 years despite having ruled Nigeria for the 36 of its 50 years. If you remember, when Olusegun Obasanjo became the Head of State in 1976, it was by the grace of T. Y. Danjuman, a Northerner. When Obasanjo became the president in 1999 it was by the grace of another group of Northerners led by IBB. After he became president and there were impeachment considerations, Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi implored the armed forces not to be loyal to their commander-in-chief. This was not a Freudian slip. He was making the appeal in the belief that Nigeria has a caliphate army. Given the history of the political role of the “Nigerian armed forces”, no one doubts this. It was the fruition of a deliberate plan by Alhaji Ribadu, the Defence Minister under Alhaji Tafawa Balewa as instructed by the Sardauna of Sokoto, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello.
The enslavement and exploitation of the rest of Nigeria has gone on for so long that it has become a state of mind. Even Southerners who do not know their own history now believes that there are more people in the North than in the South which is far from the truth. Some of the politicians from the South who have assimilated this falsehood are the ones that are easily bought off to betray their peoples and compromise the country because they have been psychologically pulverized to believe that they can only be second rate in this country. They have been convinced to the point where you have politicians without any self-esteem and they have now believed that the best they could attain was only second fiddle to the Hausa/Fulani elites.
This oligarchy has been allowed to get away with a lot of outrageous acts. As a Southerner, you cannot get a government job anywhere in the North except through a contract. You are treated the way a Lebanese or any other foreigner would be treated. Their use of the military has helped in a way. Until the 1975 Coup d’etat that brought in Murtala Mohamed, the North was still paying custom duties on materials and goods that passed through the Western Region. They used the military to stop that without any form of discussion. But an answer has been found to this issue of the military. Do not ask me what it is because I will not tell you. Everyone would find out at the appropriate time.
But if you really want to know, it is difficult to grudge the North for trying to do the best it can for its elite at the expense of the rest of us. The first law of nature is self-preservation. But it is left for the rest of us to challenge them for our own survival or acquiesce, if it is in our interest. But trust me, enslavement is never in the best interest of anyone.
5. There are reports that some elements within the Yoruba race may declare OODUA republic given the underdevelopment of Nigeria. Do you think this is a viable proposition?
Yes, it is very possible that this may happen. I have no idea of the timeline because it depends on a lot of factors. The Yoruba are very deliberative and circumspective and they never rush to take decisions. They will do whatever they need to do at the appropriate time. But, I want to assure you that it is going to be unstoppable when this occurs. Presently, a lot of things are being put in place. All ramifications are being considered and prepared for. All possible impediments, internally and externally are being considered and prepared for. Cross sections of Yoruba people are tired of Nigeria. We think we can do better on our own. We believe it is our destiny to be free from Nigeria and nothing will be able to impede the realization of that destiny.
We have decided to seek to carve out our own NATION STATE out of Nigeria. As Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you a slave without your consent.” Our membership of Nigeria has worked out as slavery and robbed us of the orderly political and social environment in which to employ our God-given capabilities to pursue our development and progress. Our decision, arrived at in utmost humility to the opinions of mankind and with hope in the approval and support of the Creator and Ruler of all nations, is that it is time for us to have a separate, independent and sovereign country of our own in the world.
Some have suggested that the North has control of the Armed Forces and as a result would not allow us to declare our own country. They say that the North control the means of force and everything. That is true, but I always laugh when I hear such things. How we plan to deal with such challenges remains our ace.
As to its viability, the new Oodua Nation will in terms of land size (inland and coast water area as recognized by the United Nations) be bigger in land area than Germany, Italy, and United Kingdom. Oodua Country will be about 9 times bigger than Denmark, almost 13 times bigger than Belgium, over 4 times bigger than Portugal, over 10 times bigger than Switzerland, one of the places where the politicians of Nigeria like to hide their stolen money and over 17 times bigger than the State of Israel!
In population, it will be bigger than Canada, bigger than Great Britain about 2 times, bigger than Portugal about 4 times, Norway about 9 times, Belgium about 4 times, Sweden about 4 times, Denmark about 8 times, Switzerland about 5 times, Israel about 5 times and bigger than Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales put together
In terms of economic resources, the most important thing is the human resources. We need not the oil, even though we have some. We have a lot of arable land. We will revive our agriculture as a base for industrialization with application of technology. We will create an economy that would be the envy of others and once again set pace for the rest of Africa. But our focus would be on a lot of other things some of which I would rather not talk about right now, for strategic reasons. But I will posit that development economists tell us that the reason why a nation tends to make faster progress technologically, economically and culturally after it becomes an independent Nation, is to be found in cultural homogeneity.
Japan is just a string of Islands without any oil. It has the world’s three best selling cars in world history without having any steel or able to grow any rubber plantation to make tyres. It has economically conquered the world. Look at the State if Israel, what does it have and how big is it that all the Arabs are powerless at its feet. The age of Metuselah is nothing compared to the Wisdom of Solomon. The bigness of a country is not directly proportional to its prosperity, power and prestige.
It is meaningless to assume that bigness is everything. Statistics and facts available does not support that bigness is always a good thing. When Muammar Gaddafi visited Nigeria in 1982. His first statement at the Murtala Mohammed Airport was “Some nations are big for nothing,” as a way to express his disappointment in Nigeria.
Our detractors often try to suggest that the Yoruba are disunited. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Yoruba are very united. Do not buy the bogus propaganda that we are divided. We are one because we are children of the same father. We will rally together. We will build a country that will be the envy of the others. We will demonstrate that the Blackman is not cursed. We will through sheer hard work and determination which are our hallmarks build a country that its peoples will be very proud and the world will have no choice but to respect. We will revitalize our culture. We will re-engage with our values. We will restructure and modernize our language just as the Jews did to Hebrew after the creation of the Israeli nation in 1948.
We have done it before. We will do it again. We know what we have to do to take our seat in the comity of Nations. I just want to appeal to my brothers and sisters, all sons and daughters of Oodua that in this quest for Oodua Nation, we can not afford the luxury of illusions of impractical ideas, we can not afford the comfort of inaction, we can not afford to cower in fear, we can not afford the delusions of greatness as a member of a failed state where our heritage is being disparaged on daily basis, where the future of our children have been foreclosed, where we can never reach the height of our potentials. Like Benjamin Franklin once posited, those who gave up their liberty for their safety deserves neither their liberty nor safety.
Oodua Nation will be born. It is the destiny of the Yoruba people to be free and to give a lasting legacy to their children, posterity and the world.
Remi Oyeyemi is a journalist and a businessman.