June 28, 2022

Delusions and fallacies of Yoruba exceptionalism - Shola Oni

We Yoruba believe that we are unique people of great intellect with which we could negotiate with anybody on anything, and successfully get ourselves out of any difficulties. But the reality is that we have been selling ourselves short since the late 1800s. We have gained nothing from negotiations. The Yoruba negotiated with the British and were short-changed. The Yoruba negotiated, and are still negotiating, with the Fulani, and have suffered, and are still suffering the consequences.
Prior to the 1914 Amalgamation, the British conquered and subjugated the Fulani/Hausa territories. Lugard thereafter appointed emirs that were willing to do his bidding. This was Lugard’s system of ‘indirect rule’; using his selected proxies to rule over Hausa/Fulani emirates.
In his 1902 report to the British parliament on the Northern Protectorate of Nigeria, Lugard wrote:
‘The misrule of the Fulani had rendered them hateful to the bulk of the population, who would welcome their overthrow, and I can myself see no injustice in the transfer of the suzerainty thus acquired to the British Government by the same right of conquest. This suzerainty involves the ultimate title to all land, the right to appoint Emirs and all officers of state, the right of legislation and of taxation. I explained this to each of the Emirs whom 1 installed at Sokoto, Kano, and Zaria, and also at Katsena. What they had won by conquest they had lost by defeat.’
The British engagement in Yorubaland was totally different. Here, the British achieved their ‘conquest’ without a fight. The Yoruba negotiated and signed treaties, over 80 treaties in all, with the British. The unsuspecting Yoruba rulers did not appreciate or envisage that the British had no intention of honouring those treaties. In 1899, the British proclaimed a ‘protectorate’ over the Yorubaland that they did not own. By 1914, the British had proclaimed Yorubaland as their colony, even though the Yoruba had not ceded their sovereignty to the British. To show their total disregard for the Yoruba, Lugard invited only ‘his’ Emirs to Zungeru to plead their allegiance to the British crown at the 1914 Proclamation of Amalgamation; he did not invite the Yoruba Oba.
The Yoruba then found themselves having to negotiate for their independence, something that they had not given up in the first place. The Yoruba delegations, led by Awolowo, at the independence conferences, negotiated for a Nigeria that the Hausa/Fulani did not want, and only reluctantly agreed to. To keep the Hausa/Fulani in Nigeria, the Yoruba made several concessions that were all to our disadvantage. After the inconclusive 1959 elections, the Yoruba again chose to negotiate, this time with the Igbo. But as the Yoruba talked, Azikiwe of the Eastern Region went north to give away everything to the Hausa/Fulani. And that has been the story ever since.
The first Republic saw a split in the Yoruba leadership. One faction chose not to oppose the Hausa/Fulani hegemony that had by now emerged but instead sought to negotiate with it. In the process, the Western Region was dismembered and Awolowo was falsely accused and imprisoned. Although the new political alignment was not acceptable to the Yoruba masses, the leadership did not relent in negotiation with the Fulani. The Yoruba masses rebelled. The Western Region became ungovernable, and on 15 January 1966, the military in a bloody coup d’état installed their interregnum which has remained in place ever since.
Since 1967, the Fulani have systematically decapitated the Yoruba leadership. They needlessly assassinated Colonel Fajuyi in the 1967 coup d’état. They assassinated Abiola for winning the presidential election. They did not spare others like Dele Giwa and Bola Ige. Those that they have not managed to kill are in exile, notably in the Benin Republic. Yet the Yoruba leadership continues to negotiate, for restructuring, referendum and self-determination, regardless of the fact that the Fulani, time and time again have shown no interest in negotiating.
Fulani military officers without negotiation terminated the pre-independence trilateral agreement on regions and in its place created states to favour the North. Fulani governors of the 12 Arewa States without negotiation promulgated Sharia law and police. Unlike the Yoruba, the Fulani do not negotiate; they simply do or take whatever they want. Since Nigeria’s independence 62 years ago, the Fulani north has ruled for 45 years whilst the south has ruled for only 17 years.
The Yoruba have not always been this easy to disregard. In the olden days, you got a fight from the Yoruba. The ancient Yoruba fought to preserve their land and their identity. For example, the Yoruba defeated and halted Uthman Danfodio’s jihad at Ilorin. Anyone who doubts that should read Hugh Clapperton’s 1926 account of the encounter. He wrote:
‘After this, the whole of Houssa, with Cubbe, Youri, and part of Nyffe, fell under their dominion. The whole of the interior, from east to west, was terror-struck. Bornou, in the east, was attacked with success, as was also Yourriba, in the west. Here they found more resistance than anywhere else, as they (the people of Yourriba) could not be made to believe in his doctrine or prophecy, as they were confirmed Kaffers, who, on the invasion of the Fellatas, put all the Mahometans to death, whether natives, or in caravans trafficking; quite denying the plea that God had given to the faithful their lands and houses, and their wives and children to be slaves.

It is clear beyond reasonable doubt that we Yoruba have to fight the Fulani once more. Despite our perpetual appeasement to them, and giving them the largest share of our resources, the Fulani have shown themselves to be our implacable enemy. Fulani herdsmen use their cows to destroy our farms, our livelihood. They use AK47 rifles, that the Buhari government enabled them to carry, to murder Yoruba men, women, and children. They rape our women and girls and make spouses and parents watch as they do so, and thereafter murder them all. Fulani terrorists wantonly commit genocide on Yoruba land, particularly against Christians. They kidnap our well to do and our not so well to do for money that the Buhari government would not attempt trace and confiscate.

The time for negotiating is over. Our independence is not negotiable. We must fight for it, if we have to.
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