EXCERPTS OF THE PRESS CONFERENCE ORGANISED BY A CONCOURSE OF YORUBA CIVIC AND SELF-DETERMINATION GROUPS UNDER THE AUSPICES OF THE YORUBA SUMMIT GROUP WHICH HELD IN LAGOS ON FEBRUARY 07, 2019
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press,
We, leaders and members of a broad spectrum of Yoruba civic and self-determination groups, including Yoruba Koya, Builders of New Nigeria, Voice of Reason, Agbe Koya, Odua Peoples Congress, Atayese, Yoruba Unity Forum, Coalition of Self-Determination Groups, Yoruba Liberation Command, Afenifere, and tens of others, altogether amounting to many millions of Yoruba people, youths and women, thank you for honouring our invitation to this very important Press Conference.
We are here to make a very important statement for and to the Yoruba people at this very critical point in the history and experiences of Nigeria, and in the history and experiences of the Yoruba Nation in the context of Nigeria.
Our statement is a clarion call to the Yoruba nation as dark clouds thicken over Nigeria with the approach of Nigeria’s 2019 elections.
Desperate statements are being reported from the mouths of highly placed public officials. Acts of violence connected with the elections are being reported from various parts of Nigeria. We owe the duty, and we here and now fulfil the duty, of calling upon our own Yoruba people to exercise patriotic self-control and restraint and to ensure that violence will not occur anywhere in Yorubaland.
As the 2019 Nigerian Elections approach, we the Yoruba nation in Nigeria need to keep clearly and boldly in sight the safety, security and general well-being of our people, our families, our villages, our towns and our cities.
The desire of almost all Nigerians and all lovers of Nigeria is that the elections will be peaceful and will make it possible for Nigeria to settle down peacefully. Various agencies at home and abroad are pleading with Nigerians for free, fair, peaceful and credible elections.
We Yoruba nation add our voices to all these good wishes. Also, and in particular, we urge our Yoruba people of all political parties, all religions, and all social and economic circumstances, to work consciously together for peaceful electoral processes in our Yoruba homeland.
Let us never forget that we Yoruba lived in very orderly political systems for more than a thousand years before the coming of British rule and before the amalgamation that included our Yoruba nation in Nigeria. Let us all know that in today’s world, our Yoruba nation is widely respected for our culture of religious tolerance and accommodation, for our culture of political orderliness and democracy, and for our hospitality to strangers and foreigners in our homeland.
These qualities have become great assets to our Yoruba nation in the world of today. As one London University professor wrote recently, these qualities are major achievements of the Yoruba nation, they are great gifts of the Yoruba nation to the human race, and they are achievements that we Yoruba people must consciously preserve and sustain because they can lead the Yoruba nation to great heights of respect, support, and prosperity in the modern world. The said London University professor wrote the following memorable statement: “The kind of tree that has produced the poisonous fruits that we now see in Boko Haram could never grow in Yoruba soil”.
Therefore, whatever happens in the elections, we Yoruba people must make absolutely certain that no violence will occur in any Yoruba village, town or city. We do not have anything to gain from violent outbursts, or from hurting or killing one another, or from destroying any valuable properties belonging tour own people. Let us all behave in ways that will demonstrate and honour our highly advanced civilization.
Moreover, it is critically important that, while the elections are going on, we must bear in mind the kind of developments that can follow after the elections. As we all know, most parts of the Nigerian Middle Belt and South have been under virulent aggression for the past four years from armed herdsmen and their accompanying militias. Our Yorubaland has suffered much from the violent destructions of farms, attacks on villages, killings of men, women and children, kidnappings, and extortions of money for ransom. In various parts of our homeland, many farmers have abandoned farming altogether. Some localities of our homeland are living under conditions of violent and primitive occupation and subjection. A survey conducted by some of our leaders shows that nearly 190 hostile Fulani camps exist today in our farmlands. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of potentially hostile men have been infiltrated, and are still being infiltrated, into our major Yoruba cities.
Though we hope and pray for peace, yet we must be aware that the aggressions against our homeland and people can increase suddenly and very sharply after the elections. Therefore, we need to be prepared to protect and defend our families, homes, farms, villages, churches, mosques, and every neighbourhood in our towns and cities. Our obvious preparedness and readiness for the protection and defence of every area of our homeland can discourage attackers and ward off attacks. But if they still come attacking, we must meet them with manly bravery and throw them back. On no condition must we flee before them. On no condition must we abandon our farms or surrender any part of our land to them.
We are going through hard times in Nigeria these days. Though we cannot but participate in the politics of Nigeria, we need to recognize that what today’s situation demands of us is not mere politics as usual, but great vigilance and determination to defend ourselves, our families and our whole homeland.
As we all know from experience, and as General Danjuma has said, those being attacked and killed by the Fulani herdsmen cannot depend on the federal authorities to defend them. Gen. Danjuma said that those who choose to wait for the federal government and the Nigerian armed forces to defend them would only die one by one. We Yoruba must resolve that we shall not die – and that, under God, we shall live to prosper again, and to revive the strength, capabilities and prosperity of our Yoruba nation.
Before, during and after the elections, we Yoruba must be vigilant on a second by second basis. We must mount eternal vigilance. It is our duty to our families and loved one today. And it is our duty to our progeny for ever.
As a significant part of Nigeria, and in fulfilment of our patriotic duty to our country, we Yoruba also respectfully urge all other peoples of Nigeria to see to it that these coming elections shall be orderly and peaceful in their homelands. Dire predictions and prophecies are being made by some in the world concerning the coming Nigerian elections. We Nigerians can, and we must, surprise the world.
Professor Banji Akintoye
Leader, Yoruba Summit Group