BY FEMI FANI-KAYODE
(Being a verbatim copy/transcript of a speech delivered by Chief Femi Fani-Kayode to the Alajobi Group- the group that wrote “the Yoruba Constitution”- on the occasion of the commemoration of ”June 12”, as published by The News Magazine of 2 July, 2001).
”I must commend the vision, strength of character, and the clarity of purpose of the Alajobi Group together with that of the expanded
committee on the Yoruba Constituent Assembly for coming up with this noble and innovative initiative and for drawing up this truly progressive and pristine constitution for the Yoruba people.
I salute their courage, their sense of history, their excellent timing and their obvious and deep-seated concern for the fate of the Yoruba race in the 21st Century and in a wider Nigeria. These are concerns that we all, as responsible and literate Yoruba men and women, certainly share. It is for this reason that I can therefore make the following emphatic and categorical statements on the proposed constitution.
Firstly, that I have read it carefully and that I have considered the legal and social implications of every word and every line of the document.
Secondly, not only do I fully endorse its provisions, but I also encourage every Yoruba man and woman in Nigeria (and indeed in the diaspora), not only to get hold of a copy, but also to imbue its laudable and beautiful message of self-determination, autonomy, decency, tolerance, and the restoration of the dignity and self-respect of the Yoruba people.
Again the collective objective of the proposed document is clear: It seeks to preserve and protect the culture, the heritage, the values and the sense of excellence of the Yoruba nation. It seeks to emancipate us from the shackles of unitary servitude and it seeks to give us a resounding and irresistible voice, not just over our own destiny and over our own affairs, but also a strong and respected voice in the comity of civilized nations. It seeks to reject the muffled, garbled, confused, and clearly weak echo that present-day Nigeria has bestowed upon us as a people.
Though we have never been conquered, subdued or overwhelmed by any other nation on the African continent, it is sadly clear
that we are not, in the Nigeria of today, the masters of our own souls or the captains of our own ship. It is sadly clear that in the Nigeria of today we are not the architects of our own destiny.
And of course this regrettable state of affairs is not only unnatural but it is also completely unacceptable. You cannot muffle the Yoruba and you cannot hold back their progress in the name of one Nigeria. And that is precisely why the document that the Alajobi Group has prepared is not only timely but it is also clear that the adoption of the spirit of its provisions, is vital for the future welfare, and indeed survival, of our people.
This is a duty that is incumbent on each and every one of us that are Yoruba men and women, and whether we like to admit it or not, posterity and history will judge us, kindly or unkindly, depending on which side of the divide we find ourselves in this noble quest. Today the Yoruba number at least 40 (Forty) million people in Nigeria alone.
Our strength is self-evident but till now we have refused to use it. We have a historical legacy that manifests the deepest and most profound form of liberalism, dignity and grace and we have an in-built and instinctive craving for excellence, fairness, lively debate, education and progress that is second to none.
We have a keen sense of justice and we have an overwhelming desire for decency in public and private affairs that cannot be matched anywhere else in this part of the world. We have a resilient soul, a fighting spirit and a courageous heart, qualities which our rich and noble history cannot but testify to in an eloquent and incontrovertible manner.
We have a historical lineage that is not only more enlightened, more cosmopolitan and more sophisticated than most but in addition to this it is clear to us that we have a key role to play in the restoration of the dignity of the black man worldwide. It is for all these reasons that I can proudly proclaim with every fiber of my being and every atom of my soul that, before all else, I am first and foremost a Yoruba man.
In my family, the Fani-Kayode family of south western Nigeria, we value education. We cherish it, we live by it and we are proud of it. But this is not a value that is peculiar or particular to my family alone. I am proud to say that it is a value that is intrinsic to and deeply entrenched in the very nature and culture of the Yoruba.
It is a value that is deeply entrenched in the deepest recesses of our body, spirit and soul. Our quest for excellence and distinction simply knows no bounds. And of course that is precisely why policies such as free education at all levels is something that the Yoruba people are prepared to live for and, if need be, prepared to die for.
They, perhaps more than any other, recognize the fact that education, in practical terms, is a liberating force: it frees the mind from the barren and provincial bondage of myopia and it frees the spirit from the insidious and pervasive prison of ignorance.
They, perhaps more than any other, appreciate the fact that once you are educated the sky becomes your limit. But sadly all of this is now under threat as we have been compelled by our former colonial masters to be part of an artificial, man-made and implausible entity called Nigeria, the majority of whose ethnic groups, from at least north of the River Niger, certainly do not value education as much as we do.
Not only have we been compelled to live in this artificial entity but we have also been told in clear and unequivocal terms that our brightest and our best will never be allowed to preside over the affairs of this strange and hybrid mega-nation.
Sadly it does not stop there. We have also been told that we will never be able to discuss the terms under which our various nationalities should remain together in a wider Nigeria and we have been told that we will never be allowed to discuss the rules under which our unsolicited and forced union should be sustained.
The powers that be and those who erroneously believe that they were “born to rule” this country in perpetuity keep telling us that they will not allow a sovereign national conference to take place. They keep telling us that they will not allow any form of restructuring. They keep telling us that they will not allow resource control.
They keep telling us that they will not allow the establishment of a true federation. They keep telling us that they will not allow ethnic emancipation. As a matter of fact they keep telling us that they will not allow anything that is clean, wholesome, progressive and good to take place in our public and national affairs.
And instead of anything good, they rather insist on introducing into our body politic, alien and archaic concepts and retrogressive and backward philosophies such as “political sharia” and so many other questionable contraptions that are not only barbarous and primitive in nature but also downright repugnant to what the British once described as “equity, natural Justice, and good conscience.”
And it is precisely because of this retrograde and abysmal attitude that there is cause for concern today about the plight of the Yoruba in a wider Nigeria. It is precisely because of this sort of thing that there is a need for the sort of proposals and constitution that the Alajobi group has come up with.
That is precisely why we seek to establish a system which can at least attempt to guarantee a higher degree of ”separate development” for the various nationalities and ethnic groups that have been compelled to live together in this extraordinary mega-nation of ethnic incompatibilities. This is precisely why every true Yoruba nationalist will be pleased with what the Alajobi group is doing.
For we as a people have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. We must never shy away from our noble heritage and we must not run away from our proud history. We must not shun our obvious appointment with destiny and greatness and we must always walk with our heads help up high.
For we know where we came from, we know who we are and we know where we are going. And even though the powers that be in Lord Lugard and Lord Harcourt’s Nigeria have cheated us, robbed us, killed us, brutalized us, divided us and made us simply powerless, we are still a strong and virile people. We are still a great race.
And like all the other great races that came before us, it is in the face of our collective adversities, our present-day challenges and our ever-present struggles that we as a people shall rise up again and dominate our entire environment.
And when that time comes, no-one and no group of people will be in a position to say “no” to the rise of the mighty Oduduwa nation. It is at that time that we shall expand our borders and re-establish the ancient boundaries.
It is at that time that we will drive the alien invaders out of Kwara and parts of Kogi. It is at that time that we will reclaim what is rightfully ours and deliver our Yoruba brothers and sisters that have been forced to languish in those parts in a sad and pathetic condition of debilitating bondage.
It is at that time that we will vigorously respond to the plight of our Itsekiri cousins. It is at that time that our fellow Africans, and indeed the world generally, will know what being a Yoruba is all about and what having a Yoruba nation can mean for us all. For now we seek only to lift up our people to where they rightfully belong: nothing more and nothing less.
For now we seek only to nurture and protect that which we deeply cherish: nothing more and nothing less. For now we seek only to confirm the incontrivertible fact that we have a role to play in God’s greater plan for the final emancipation of the African continent: nothing more and nothing less.
For now we seek only to establish the fact that we are a people that are not only close to the heart and seat of Almighty God Himself, but we are also a people whose irresistible and manifest destiny it is to lead mother Africa and all her beautiful peoples to the citadels of abundance and excellence and to the pearly gates of the Promise Land.
And if it means that before the Yoruba nation can achieve its divinely ordained purpose that Nigeria must go then I say today, and I say it loud and clear to all who care to listen, that it is indeed, good-bye Nigeria and hello Oduduwa Republic.
If we cannot have a true federation, it is good-bye Nigeria. If we cannot have devolution of power, it is good-bye Nigeria. If we cannot have a secular state, it is good-bye Nigeria. If we cannot have resource control, it is good-bye Nigeria.
If we cannot have regional armies, it is good-bye Nigeria. If we cannot have regional police forces, it is good-bye Nigeria. If we cannot have regional Parliaments and a maximum degree of separate development, then it is good-bye Nigeria.
If we cannot have these things then we may as well say that the unfruitful and barren “marriage” that two extreemely cruel, unfeeling and obviously sadistic englishmen by the names of Lugard and Harcourt decreed between the Northern and Southern Protectorates of Nigeria in 1914 is not only truly dead but it is also well-buried.
Again, if we cannot have our own constitution in the West, our own foreign embassies and our own National emblems, then it is good-bye Nigeria. If we cannot at least have the right to determine our own future as a people without any manipulation, subterfuge or input from the relentless, byzantine and barbarous Huns and Phillistines that hold sway in certain parts of this nation, then it is good-bye Nigeria.
And of course, once we are forced to say “good-bye Nigeria,” there will be no regrets, no turning back and no remorse. It will be a clean break and it will be a break that we are prepared to defend with the last drop of our blood.
And even though here we have not asked for and neither have we advocated secession, I dare say that in the next few years, if care is not taken, the spirit of secession will undoubtedly begin to rise up and shatter the very foundations of this nation. Sadly this is a reality that we have to live with. We can no longer allow ourselves to be in denial.
If things don’t change and if they don’t change fast, this country will eventually cease to exist. It is only an undiscerning fool that still cannot appreciate or recognize this bitter and unpalatable fact. It is only the ignorant and the deluded that can still insist on treating this matter with levity or that can dismiss the likelihood of such a sanguine and bloody course of events from unfolding.
Again, for the record, let me be clear. What we are calling for here is not secession or armed struggle. What we want, nay what we demand, is change: peaceful, progressive, wholesome, equitable and constitutional change. What we are fighting for is peaceful and purposeful constitutional reform.
And of course, based on the internationally accepted principle of self-determination of a people (a principle which has the full backing of international law), we have every right, as citizens of the world, to call for and indeed demand such change simply because that is precisely what our people, the over 40 million-strong Yoruba people of south-western Nigeria, desperately desire and certainly deserve.
We have not called for subversion, dissention or dismemberment here but instead we call for an understanding of our position and an appreciation of our strong resolve. Again let it be clearly understood by all and sundry that we will do whatever it takes within our means to liberate our people and to enable them to achieve their full potentials as human beings.
It is in the light of this that we totally reject the new-fangled and alien concept and philosophy that encourages wholesale and unrestrained racial integration. We refuse to become fully integrated with, and consequently held down by, other groups and ethnic nationalities who not only come from a different world but who also erroneously believe that they were divinely mandated to turn us into the biblical and proverbial “hewers of wood and drawers of water” in our own land.
We refuse to accept having any part of or any fellowship with those that have fully espoused and imbued the culture of ethnic hegemony, the culture of the nomad, the culture of the leech, the culture of the cattle-rearer, the culture of the desert, the culture of corruption and the culture of laziness.
We refuse to accept the culture and ways of those that our forefathers continuously warned us about. They told us that when these people enter a room with a snake that we should endeavour to kill them first even before killing the snake. That is how dangerous they are.
Yet they may overcome others but they will never overcome the Yoruba race and neither will we, as a people, ever bow down before them. And lest they forget, let our core “Arewa” brothers be reminded of one incontrovertible fact: that the only reason that the Yoruba nation is not on the march today is simply because a fellow Yoruba man is sitting on the throne.
Yet, the truth is that, Obasanjo or no Obasanjo, when the time is right, the militant march of the Yoruba nationalists will rent the air and shake the very foundations of this country. It is at that time that we will once again be in a position to achieve our wildest dreams and our greatest ambitions. It is at that time that they will know who we really are. It is at that time that we will prove to the world that our will and our firm resolve cannot be tested lightly.
Until then I encourage every Yoruba man, woman and child to stand firm, to stand tall, to be strong, to be courageous and never to give up because ultimately we shall prevail. For the vision is for an appointed time: though it tarries, it shall surely come to pass. The Lord shall see to that. He shall be our deliverance and our strong tower.
Until then I say God bless you all. God bless the Alajobi Group. God bless the Yoruba nation and may the Lord, in his infinite wisdom and mercy, deliver our beloved Nigeria from the hands of those that seek to keep her in perpetual servitude, darkness and bondage.
May He raise up a biblical Jehu who will, once and for all, cleanse this vast and beleaguered land with his sword. And may He raise up a gallant Garibaldi whose brief it will be to unite the Yoruba people and to lead them from glory to glory”.
(Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, a lawyer, delivered this speech at the Alajobi Group lecture to commemorate “June 12” at Premier Hotel, Ibadan,Oyo State on June12th 2001)