Nigeria is getting better under Tinubu, says Prof Banji Akintoye

Renowned Emeritus Professor of History and leader, Ilana Omo Oodua Prof Banji Akintoye, speaks to DARE ADEKANMBI on the reforms being introduced by President Bola Tinubu, what he expects the president to do, likely pushback from those affected by the reforms, among others.

How would you rate the actions taken so far by President Bola Tinubu?

His actions and decisions to date have been very good and I would like to congratulate him. I also congratulate the Yoruba people too that Tinubu has not gone there to behave like a lily-livered person. He has gone there to behave as a serious-minded nation builder. That is what we are. We Yoruba are civilization builders. Tinubu has gone in there to show exactly that and we are grateful. A man was president in Nigeria and he took members of his own family as chiefs of the military: the Navy, Air Force and Army. Haba! That was barbarism of the most terrible order. We should thank God that Tinubu has shown that is not how it should be done. He is teaching Nigeria how to govern properly. We the Yoruba must be happy about this and be proud of him.

If anybody said he understood how the Central Bank of Nigeria was run in the last eight years and is happy about it, such a person must be fooling himself. Godwin Emefiele has been a very big negative surprise. It is good that the new president has removed him and ordered a probe of his activities at the apex bank. Tinubu should look for a competent replacement that understands banking, economy and monetary policies very well. The person should not be a crook.

On subsidy, I would also say it has been a very opaque thing. If anybody said he knew about how the subsidy was being administered until about three years ago, that fellow would be deceiving himself. Subsidy is a scam. They were just setting aside money and sharing it among the big and fat cats. The removal of subsidy has come with some pain now. But I am sure the pain will subside. When he removed it, the fuel marketers threatened fire and brimstone. All the agitations against subsidy removal will die down naturally. People will get used to the fact that business is business.

What about security and the appointment of new service chiefs?

We have not felt his impact in the area of security. The murderous members of the Fulani clan are still killing people. The removal of former service chiefs and appointment of new ones is at the top level. We are yet to see the effect at the bottom. The Fulani are still pouring into the country from all over West Africa in large numbers, ready to fight, kill and maim. We the Yoruba don’t want the Fulani herders in our territory any more. Nigeria or no Nigeria, we don’t want them. When we settle, we will create our own cattle ranchers who will ranch cattle the way it is done in the civilized world and we will be able to feed ourselves and export the rest. It was within a generation that Argentina started cattle ranching and became the largest meat exporter in the world. In 1976, Chief Obafemi Awolowo sent me there to study how they did it. We of the UPN were going to do it in Nigeria. We can do it now. We don’t have to wait for Nigeria.

Another thing we must do in the West is to modernise our agriculture very rapidly and desperately because the Fulani herders have destroyed agriculture in most parts of our homeland. We must create a system that revives agriculture quickly, provides employment for our young people on the farms, provides food for our people, provides some export for agriculture and that protects our land. We are hoping the Federal Government will help us by providing the resources for us to do that because it is Nigeria that destroyed our agriculture.

The removal of subsidy is causing some pain to many Nigerians, particularly the poorest of the poor. How would you advise the Federal Government to go about giving palliatives to them?

The pain is temporary and it will fizzle out soon. Those who are benefitting from the subsidy regime are still pained and could not believe President Tinubu would be courageous to end it like that. So, those involved are making lives difficult for the ordinary Nigerians. They believe if they do that, there will be outcry that will force the government to restore it. But Tinubu must not restore the subsidy. It is gone forever.

The reforms of the country’s monetary policies as they have to do with lifting restrictions of forex and so on…

The reforms are wonderful. The bulk of the people doing currency exchange in this country are largely from one ethnic group. They will get it at a very low rate from the CBN and they will sell it at the black market and make huge profits. By buying just some foreign currencies at the official price, they become instant millionaires. But now that it is liberalized and people buy at the same rate, then there is no possibility of the abnormalities of the past happening. Tinubu knows what to do and we are watching him proudly and gladly.

With these reforms, the president is surely going to step on the toes of powerful cartel. Do you see the likelihood of a pushback from those whose interests are affected by these reforms?

I must tell the truth here at this point in addition to the truth I have spoken before. We informed Yoruba people are worried that those people are not going to be ready to lose all of these things. They are going to fight back at some point. So, we the Yoruba must not lose guard. That is all.

Are you saying in terms of supporting the president?

We must be ready to defend our own. The time of danger is likely to come. We must be ready for that time.

A Yoruba man is Customs CG for the first time and Chief of Army Staff decades after Lieutenant General Alani Akinrinade occupied the position. Are you happy with these things?

I am very proud of these things. I know they will do a good job. They are Yoruba men.

Are you expecting that Tinubu will restructure Nigeria or at least see to the devolution of powers to the states?

He is going to try to restructure the country, but they will stand in his way. These reforms he has carried out so far, they will try to roll them back to the status quo. I repeat. We the Yoruba must be ready for that trial.

With the early signs so far, do you see President Tinubu addressing some of the issues that gave birth to the agitation for Yoruba Nation which your group has been strongly crusading?

Nigeria has become the mighty evil on earth. He must remove as much of the evil as possible. And by and by, the truth about Nigeria will tell itself.

How do you mean?

Tinubu is doing very well now, but we remain watchful over him and we are worried what these people will come up with. That says everything. We don’t belong here. The kind of government we want Tinubu to run, he can’t do it without resistance from those who will not be satisfied. The kind of government that a Yoruba man will do is not welcomed in Nigeria. Chief Awolowo tried it, did they allow him? When I was a senator, they said it. My colleagues from the North told me in the Senate that they knew Chief Awolowo meant well and had good intentions to make Nigeria a stable and prosperous country. They said they knew he had the capability to do it and he was sincere. We knew he had bright, young people like you to help him. But we did not want those things he was talking about. When Chief Awolowo died in 1987, one of their leaders sent a condolence letter to the Yoruba, condoling us and said Chief Awolowo loved his people and gave them free education which raised them above other people in Nigeria. He said if they had allowed Awo to be elected president of Nigeria, he would have done those good things he did in the West for the whole of Nigeria, but we didn’t want it.

The North does not want the modern kind of Nigeria that the Yoruba people want. So, when I said those of us informed Yoruba should not let down our guard, I know what I am saying. I am not joking. I have seen it again and again in Nigeria. They don’t want a government that is highly modernised and ready to move forward, gainful employment for all, highly modernised agriculture, heavily modernised economy and so on. At a higher level, some of these people are comfortable with the system of sharing money which was perfected across the range of the Nigerian economy. The president is already dealing with the rot in the CBN; there are many other areas he needs to look into. According to reports, the NNPC does not return the money it makes to government. They keep the money. The sacked Accountant General of the Federation stole N199 billion and we did not hear anything about him again.

You said foreigners are still pouring into the country and the borders have been thrown open now. What advice do you have for government on how to prevent unwanted elements from coming in without checks?

It was Buhari that instituted the influx of people into the country without checks. He made a public announcement to that effect in 2019 while visiting Egypt. He said anybody can come from any part of Africa into Nigeria with papers or documents. They have been coming since then and the number has been gradually increasing. It has even reached a very high level. Something has to be done about that. We did not give Buhari the mandate to sell the sovereignty of Nigeria to Africa. But he has done that. So, this government must do something about that expeditiously.

Some members of the Yoruba Nation invaded a radio station in Ibadan recently. What do you make of this development?

That was a product of a little rebellion in the self-determination struggle itself. A woman called Onitiri came and joined us and we were happy. Then she turned around and turned against us and began to do absurd things. We Yoruba are educated people. We don’t do the kind of things she is preaching. She claimed she is in possession of a document that the United Nations or an organisation in the world gave her that the Yoruba people should go and take their land from Nigeria. From the beginning, we have been saying our struggle is going to be peaceful and law-abiding. I wrote a 34-page book on why we should handle our struggle in a peaceful and law-abiding manner. That is what we have been doing until this woman came and said she is led by the Holy Spirit to act on the document she claimed she has and with which she had been deceiving some of our youths. Those were the people that obeyed her to carry out what she asked them to do. They said they would occupy Yorubaland. How do you occupy Yorubaland where there is still a government there? We will get ourselves to the path where we will leave Nigeria. There is no question about that. We don’t need that kind of lawless behaviour. So, they have acted in a lawless manner and those young men are now in serious trouble. I even heard this morning that one of them died in custody. It is a very serious matter. That lady hoodwinked them. Those of us at the vanguard of the struggle don’t know her. It is not the same Yoruba nation we are championing that she is looking for. I was horrified when I heard the news. So, I went on social media and I made a general announcement that our young people should not listen to her. She came out immediately I spoke and abused me. The liberation of any country is not carried out in that way. You make your demands known, rally in the streets, petition government, petition the UN, send delegates around to go and inform the rest of the world about the agitation. At the right time, something will break. That is what we are waiting for.

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