Sunday Igboho: The dilemma of Yoruba leaders

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Femi OGUNLANA
The 1979 Frederick Forsyth’s novel titled, “The Devil’s Alternative,” gives the picture of a President of America faced with a difficult choice – the release of two prisoners or their continued detention. Should the prisoners be released, World War III could be ignited by the Soviet Union which might lose face in the event of the prisoners being released! Alternatively, the triggering of the greatest oil spill in history by the enemies of USSR which needed the prisoners to reveal an important secret against Soviet Union will be witnessed! The US President was thus faced with the ‘Devil’s Alternative,’ from which the title of the novel is derived. Whichever options he chooses, men are going to die in thousands.
It is obvious (though they won’t admit it openly) that most leaders of the Yoruba nation have been brought to a very pretty dilemma sequel to the sudden emergence of Chief Sunday Adeyemo a.k.a. Sunday Igboho, to lead the struggle to liberate Yorubaland from the clutches of uncouth Fulani herdsmen who are ravaging and plundering the land with impunity and irksome audacity, atrociously and heinously. These murderous Fulani herdsmen are having a field day in Oke-Ogun and Ibarapa areas of Oyo state and elsewhere generally foisting a reign of terror on the land with farmers abandoning their farms. The consequence of which is ominous. Yet, the federal government, which has the control of all security forces is looking the other way, doing nothing to rein in the criminals, thus giving rise to various theories of an expansionist agenda by the Fulani with the tacit backing of the Fulani federal government.
It is in perilous periods that true leaders are unfolded; standing by their people, imperiling their own lives in the process. It is an irony however that in this great hour of needs, when the Yorubaland is being molested by marauders, most Yoruba leaders are standing aloof, they pretend as if all is well, they refrain from making pronouncements condemning invaders of their land. It is a portentous silence as if they had sworn an oath to live by the Code of Omerta (apology to the Sicilian Mafioso), in matters that concern the wellbeing of their people as far as the culprits are northerners. Amid this criminal silence, Sunday Igboho, a private man, rose in defence of the people, against the killer Fulani herdsmen in the region, issuing quit notices and enforcing the order in most daring ways. His bravery alarmed the powers-that-be in Abuja especially and they gave order for his arrest but this has not been effected. Overzealously, Oyo state governor, Engr. Seyi Makinde, also castigated Sunday Igboho and threatened to arrest him too but faced with public outrage he has as well backed down. The leader of the Yoruba liberation movement replicated his audacious move at Ogun state specifically in Yewa area of the state forcefully evicting the Fulani herdsmen. Leaders of thought in the north and various groups in Arewa land spontaneously rose against the sacking of Fulani herdsmen’s settlements in the south threatening war as a consequence and asking the federal government to incarcerate Sunday Igboho.
But surprisingly, mainstream Yoruba leaders have persisted in refraining from openly speaking on the matter; it has been mum all the way. The leading Obas, political leaders, religious leaders, professionals, the usual vociferous class, have all taken an holiday from public domain since the advent of the liberation struggle of Sunday Igboho. It is shocking! It is humongous dilemma to them, a “Devil’s Alternative.” They all have different reasons for sealing their lips at this critical moment for the Yoruba nation – whether to remain like sitting ducks and be overrun by homeless herdsmen who have not hidden their intention to be masters of the land or for the Yorubas to girdle their loins and fend off the invaders. Upbraid Sunday Igboho and attract the opprobrium of the angry vast majority of Yoruba people, support him in the open and curry the detestable phlegm and anger of the northern cabal. Those are the two choices for the conventional Yoruba leaders. Many of them are angling to take shots at the presidency or vice presidency in 2023 or beyond and so are real scared of being perceived by the “owners of Nigeria” to be standing by the side of the liberators. At the same time they dread overwhelmingly being labeled quislings (traitors) by their people if they voice out against Igboho which their paymasters wanted. It is real devil’s alternative! But they have only exposed themselves as “dealers” and not leaders. In matters of life and death real leaders take a stand and not sit ensconce on the fence. At critical moments good leaders take a stand based on convictions.
What manners of leaders do we have in Yorubaland that criminals are killing their people and they are not bold to denounce the action! It is appalling! We even have a traditional ruler denying Sunday Igboho. Even if what had been attributed to him was not true, he ought to have been diplomatic. Farmers have abandoned their farms for fear of being hacked to death by the unabashed marauders, who claim haughtily they are the master of the land; so, Yoruba leaders’ silence only means complicity. If the leaders of the Fulani can defend the criminal herdsmen openly, Yoruba leaders should be courageous enough to speak against the evil agenda of the invaders too.
Unlike the American President in the “Devil’s Alternative,” who ingenuously came up with a choice, a solution that left his country unscathed, Yoruba leaders cannot spin a way out of the dilemma – condemn or commend Sunday Igboho; they are just holding their lips like school children frightened by their teachers, ever unimaginative, un-innovative. We have seen them for whom they are; collaborators and compromisers, weaklings who put their own interests above their peoples’ just because they want to be good boys of the north. Yet, the northern leaders have never shied away from supporting their own to the irritating extent that the governor of Bauchi state, Bala Muhammed Abdulkadir (hope he is not a relation of Soliu Abdulkadir, the ejected Seriki Fulani of Igangan), spoke brazenly to justify the bearing of sophisticated arms by Fulani herdsmen. We also saw Sheikh Gumi holding a meeting with bandits and suggesting thereafter that they be “settled.” The northern leaders never cringed but leaders down south are ever tongue-tied in matters that concern the north. Nonetheless, they never are regarded as forces to be reckoned with by the north; they continually play second fiddle to them; they are ever being used and dumped for all their years of serving their whims and caprices!
Whatever, Sunday Igboho has etched his name in the minds of the genuine Yoruba people as a patriot whose place would be among the greatest of the Yoruba, a courageous defender of the race, far, far above the quislings, who are fed crumbs by their “masters” up north.

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