Senator Femi Okurounmu will be launching his memoirs, The Dream, in commemoration of his 80th birthday today. In this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, Okurounmu, who was the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on the 2014 National Conference, speaks on his book, developments in the country and other issues of national interests. Excerpts:
You will be presenting your memoirs titled ‘The Dream’ today at the University of Lagos. Can you give us a snippet of what to expect from the book?
In brief, it captures my early upbringing and background; the factors that led me into politics, my early exploits in politics especially my career with the Awoist movement. It also entails my total commitment to the liberation of the black race. I tried to ensure that Nigeria is portrayed as a modern black nation to the world and for the world to see what the black people can do, with Nigeria as an example. That is one of the things that drove me into politics to see that we erase the negative image of the black person and we develop a new, positive image of the black man by having a shining example of the black man’s performance politically, economically, militarily and in every aspect of development by making Nigeria a model, so that the world can see that the black man is not as incompetent as they think he is. So, this takes me through my exploits in politics, my career as a Commissioner, my career as a Senator, my various activities to further the interest of Nigeria and the frustrations that one encounters along the way. It also gives insight into why Nigeria is still the way it is today. So, that is the summary of the book. Lastly, I also gave some prescriptions on how we can get out of the woods in Nigeria.
Do you feel fulfilled at 80?
No, I don’t feel fulfilled because the dream has not been realised. Until that dream is realised, I cannot feel fulfilled. But the thing is to continue pursuing that dream until I die. Hopefully, a new generation will also take up the struggle and someday, that dream will be realised.
As one of the young Nigerians who witnessed Nigeria’s independence from colonial rule in October 1960, 59 years down the line, do you think we have made tremendous progress as a nation?
Of course, we have not! We got independence in 1960. At that time, we were at par in terms of developments with the South East Asian nations. Between 1960 and 1966, we were developing even at a faster pace than many of the South East Asian nations. Malaysia was coming here to borrow palm fruits from us and so on. In many respects, we were ahead of them. We had television before France and South Africa. A lot of things that we were doing in the Western region were not done by the European countries. In fact, the British were so mesmerised by the pace of development in the Western region that they conceded that the late Obafemi Awolowo would have been a very good British Prime Minister. That goes to show you how good Awolowo was and in terms of what he did for the Western region. So, we were developing very fast and because the West was developing rapidly, we became a stimulus to the rest of the country.
The East emulated us when we started free education in the Western region, of course, the East could not do it but they kept trying to catch up. We introduced Minimum Wage, others could not do it, but they also tried to copy us. So, in all the good things that the West did, we acted as a stimulus to the rest of the country so that they could follow suit. So, that made the whole country to develop. But since 1966 when the military took over, this development has come to a standstill. In fact, we are now moving backwards.
If you look at us in comparism with the South- East Asian Nations which I started with, they are now moving very close to the Western world in terms of developments but we are moving very closer to the animal world. The gulf between us and the rest of mankind is getting wider and wider to the point that the rest of mankind are looking at us as less than full human beings. So all the epithet that US President Donald Trump has been using to described African country such as ‘shithole country’ , we may not like it, but it is not far from the truth. He is just telling us the bitter truth because from the way we are behaving and our pattern of governance, we are moving closer and closer to the animal kingdom and further away from the rest of mankind. So, when you look at the totem pole of humanity, others are far ahead of us while we are at the very bottom rung of the ladder of development.
Why do you think the APC is foot-dragging on the restructuring of the country despite knowing that it is the panacea to Nigeria’s problems?
This present APC-controlled federal government has not been advocating for restructuring. The government is the President in a presidential system of government. It is not a collective responsibility with anybody. The President has all the powers. President Buhari has made it his lifelong ambition to oppose any form of restructuring. He has been an advocate of Fulani supremacy all his life. He has been a strong advocate and promoter of Sharia law and the Islamic faith. He has been a loyal disciple of Uthman Dan Fodio who believed that the entire Nigeria was meant for the Northerners to occupy, rule and control. That is why Buhari has had a long standing ambition to become President to continue this hegemonic ambition of Fulanis to rule, control and dominate Nigeria. Now, the ambition is even beyond Nigeria.
The entire Fulani people across Africa are looking for a home for all Fulanis and Buhari has been seen as a suitable Grand Patron for that agenda. So, right now Buhari is acting as grand patron of that agenda for the pan- African Fulani people. That is why you see a lot of killer herdsmen today, many of them are not Nigerians. They are coming from Mali, Niger, Gambia and all African countries where you have Fulanis. They believe that this is the place God has ordained for them to be their home and Buhari is facilitating that for them. That is why they are killing our people and they want to take over our lands. If you notice, as soon as they ravage a village and kill the villagers, they take over the village and they rename the village and give it a Fulani name. Very soon, they install an Emir and turn it into an Emirate. That is what they want to do all over the country through RUGA settlement.
So, they want to have Emirates all over the country now where they can settle Fulanis through which they can now use as stepping stone to take over the country militarily. So, this is the ambition Buhari is pursuing and that is why he has never favoured restructuring. If you remember, the 2014 national conference was strongly opposed by Buhari and because Buhari opposed it and also because Tinubu wanted an alliance with Buhari, Tinubu who has been a champion of restructuring made a volte face and then started to oppose the 2014 conference that was aimed at restructuring. Since then, Tinubu has become an opponent of restructuring. So anything Tinubu says about restructuring is just from his lips, it is not from his heart because he wants to succeed Buhari as President which I think is a pipe dream. Tinubu believes the only way he can succeed Buhari is to oppose restructuring and do everything to appease Buhari to worm himself into Buhari’s heart so that he can be Buhari’s successor. Right now, Tinubu is not in favour of restructuring and the Yoruba leaders of APC don’t even want to be quoted as supporting restructuring because that will alienate them from Buhari.
Why do you think Buhari will not want Tinubu to succeed him?
If you reconcile that with what I have said, the Fulanis want to take over this country. To achieve that dream, they can’t hand over to a Southerner. It is not in Buhari’s plan to hand over to a Southerner. You can quote me. By 2023, you will see the dynamics that will be playing out. Look at all the appointments Buhari has made since he got there. He appointed 10 personal aides; eight of them are Fulanis, one Yoruba and one Igbo. The Yoruba and Igbo guys are photographers. They are to take their photographs while they are planning their schemes. The two southerners are just photographers.
The President won the election over four months ago yet he has not inaugurated his cabinet. Are you worried by this development?
The President rigged himself to victory. I won’t concede that he won the election. He used the machineries of the state, the military, police, other security agencies and INEC were all used by the President to rig himself to victory. So, he is our de jure President. But since February, he has not decided his cabinet.
Remember in 2015, it took him over six months before he could appoint a cabinet, so he is repeating the same pattern. There is a cabal surrounding him who are going to be dictating to him whom he should appoint or not depending on who are going to be found amenable to the fulfillment of their agenda. Even if he is going to appoint a non-Fulani, it must be a person who is going to be susceptible to accepting and working their own agenda.
That was the same thing they did in 1999 when they decided that Olusegun Obasanjo will be the President in preference to Olu Falae. They wanted a Southerner who will carry out their own agenda. So, they purposely went and release Obasanjo from prison because they know he was the man who has always danced to their tune and who they can continue to dictate to. So, they brought him out of prison and rigged him to the Presidency.
Former governor of Ogun state, Aremo Olusegun Osoba launched his book few days ago and he said you have no knowledge of what he went through in the hands of the military in the struggle for June 12. What is your reaction to that?
Those who know Osoba know that he has always been a double-faced politician. One face, he will want people to see him as a progressive, on the other face; he is working with the security forces. Osoba has always been an agent of the security forces.
He has one leg in the military and the other leg in the progressives’ camp. If he has never been told that, I am telling you now. So, when he narrated what he went through in his book, of course, for anybody who is a double agent, such person will get into trouble.
So, he got into trouble in the early stage of the annulment of June 12 because he has been a close collaborator with (Ibrahim) Babangida who annulled the election. It was Babangida that sponsored Osoba’s governorship in Ogun state in 1992.
So, we all know that Osoba was a double agent. While being a close associate of Babangida, he was now pretending to be supporting MKO Abiola. That was what got him into trouble with the military.
Initially, when Abiola’s election was annulled and everybody thought it will be a short struggle for Abiola to reclaim his mandate, Osoba pretended to be with us in that struggle so that he can also benefit if Abiola eventually become President.
That pretense of being with us is what got him into trouble and he got detained. In fact, people like Gani Fawehinmi had to go and fight for him in court. But as soon as he realised that the struggle will not be a brief one and the military are not prepared to handover to Abiola, he abandoned the struggle.
When the late Sani Abacha formed his five political parties, we in Afenifere decided that we will not participate in any of the five parties. Osoba was present when we took that decision but as soon as we left the place, he decamped and took his followers and they all went and joined Abacha’s transition.
So, Osoba participated fully in Abacha’s transition in all the elections conducted from ward to local government level, Osoba’s men participated. So, he was not part of the NADECO struggle.
Osoba is a liar and traitor. He tells lie and wants to distort history because he knows he has betrayed Nigerians, he has betrayed the progressives cause and the Yoruba people. I believe that anybody who participated in Abacha’s transition betrayed Abiola. It is as simple as that. So for a traitor, he is just trying to justify his treacherous actions and throw blames on other people. Osoba is a traitor.