The travails of Sunday Igboho

Sunday Igboho, now in detention in Republic of Benin:

By Bolanle Bolawole


In journalism parlance, the Sunday Adeyemo aka Sunday Igboho story is unfolding; it is yet to reach what in literary terms is called the denouement. Denouement is defined as “the final part of a play, film or narrative in which the strands of the plot are drawn together and matters are explained or resolved” It may take some time before the Igboho story reaches its “final part” when all “the strands of the plot are drawn together and matters are explained or resolved” It is, however, also a running story, again in journalistic terms; meaning that fresh angles, fresh facts, fresh figures emerge every day as the story inches towards its final port of call. In this age of social media, “fresh” facts, figures, rumours, fake and outlandish news on Igboho rule the waves per second; one contradicting the other, and one knocking off the other. This will likely continue until the stage of a denouement is reached. With Igboho already having his day in court in the neighbouring Republic of Benin, commenting on the case is supposed to “sub judice” but because the jurisdiction is outside these shores, Nigerian journalists and other commentators can be expected to give themselves the liberty to freely comment. Besides, the political situation that birthed Igboho and the circumstances surrounding his present travails are such that millions of Yoruba self-determination activists all over the world cannot but take interest in the likely denouement of the ongoing legal tango involving the political activist in Cotonou.

I will post my own full comments at a later date but, today, I print here those of a friend and political associate whose views usually approximate mine on unfolding political events in our beleaguered country. Titled “Sunday Igboho and the Malala Yousafzai spirit”, it is written by Prof. Babafemi Badejo, former Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia and professor of Political Science and International Relations at Chrisland University, Abeokuta. Enjoy it:

“I am an admirer of Malala Yousafzai, the young Pashtun girl who was literally shot into fame, allegedly by the Taliban. Since fate got me to write my Ph.D. dissertation, submitted to UCLA, on Pakistan, I have always had a soft spot for the country. I spent about six months of field trip in the country in 1981 and it was a beautiful learning experience.

“Malala was shot for daring to continue going to school when the Taliban had decreed an end to schooling by the girl-child. The gunman thought he had ended Malala’s life for it to serve as a lesson to others but the British repaired Malala to the extent that one can hardly notice the damage. Malala lived to continue her education in Britain and became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize that she won with Kailash Satyarthi in 2014.

“So much has been written about her and there are many quotes of hers. I once listened to Malala on audio talking about how her Mom rebuked and pressed her to cover her face because men were looking at her and Malala quipped that she, too, wanted to look at the men! Described as the “bravest girl in the world” by Christiane Amanpour in a CNN interview, her response to a question has become a compelling CNN promo. Amanpour had noted that she still had huge dreams in spite of being shot, to which she responded: “They only shot a body but they cannot shoot my dreams.”

“Sunday Adeyemo, a.k.a Sunday Igboho, was arrested in Cotonou on July 19, 2021, ostensibly by security agents acting on the request of Nigeria. Like Moremi, the stunningly beautiful Yoruba heroine who saved Ile-Ife from its tormentors in Yoruba folklore, Igboho decided to save his people at Igangan from Fulani herders who were being led by a so-called Sarkin Fulani. Gun-wielding herdsmen had been kidnapping, maiming, raping and collecting ransom that the Sarkin Fulani of Igangan reportedly facilitated.

“Igboho organized his people and disarmed the tormentors and put them on the run. Like Malala did on the Taliban (and Moremi on the oppressors of her people), Igboho exposed to his people that there was no reason to be afraid of a bully. Overnight, Igboho acquired the status of the bravest Yoruba man, even if the Yoruba traditional authorities went quiet as if nothing had happened.

“Prior to the disarming of the Sarkin Igangan, Igboho had been a local agitator for the realization of an independent Yoruba nation. On October 1, 2020, a rally in support of the self-determination position was avoided by many, including those who were expected to have led the peaceful rally, but Igboho showed up. His extraordinary achievement at Igangan rubbed off on some of the so-called Yoruba leaders who, all of a sudden, started to join Prof. Banji Akintoye to speak up on Yoruba self-determination struggle.

“The voice of Yoruba fat cats who wanted restructuring was being drowned. Even a compromise position like confederal Nigeria that I advocated as being superior to both the current militarized centralist federation of Nigeria and an independent Oduduwa Republic was pushed back. The Igboho rallies drew large crowds that did not provoke disorder. Political, religious and traditional authorities were not enthused but could not but notice the popular warmth towards Igboho.

“Igboho had been a grassroots mobilizer for politicians like former Gov. Rasheed Ladoja of Oyo State. He lacked finesse but spoke as he saw it. He condemned – even cursed – Yoruba leaders, irrespective of whether they were revered traditional, political or religious authorities. This was costly. Aside from the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN), many wanted Igboho dead. It was no surprise, then, that the FGN deployed its security apparatuses at the beginning of July 2021 to “crush” Igboho in an overnight attack. The jury is still out on the constitutionality of that attack which violated many aspects of the rule of law. Two of the people reportedly preparing for a peaceful rally in Lagos were killed as others were arrested and remained in detention. But Igboho escaped, further boosting the myth around him. He was eventually arrested in Cotonou, Benin Republic, on Monday, July 19, 2021.

“It is still not clear if he would be freed to continue his journey or would be extradited. Whatever is the case, the solace would be in Malala Yousafzai’s words quoted above. The FGN can only shoot a body or jail a person. They cannot shoot or kill a dream. Moremi had to be captured before returning to save Ile-Ife, the spiritual headquarters of the Yoruba. Nelson Mandela’s dream continued to burn beyond his incarceration. Yoruba sage, Obafemi Awolowo, was incarcerated at one point.

“The need to jettison the 1999 Constitution is clear. Killing Igboho can no longer change that. The Governors from the South of Nigeria have already caught the bug for change, even if there are differences on what the aftermath should look like. Yoruba Governors have also begun to show more assertiveness, joining other Southern Governors to issue the Asaba declaration of May 11, 2021. The Asaba Declaration has been very popular in Southern Nigeria. The positive spirit was reiterated at a follow-up meeting of the Governors in Lagos on July 5, 2021, when a deadline was set for legislation on the ban placed on open grazing of cattle to be in place in all the Southern states. This was in spite of the president of Nigeria, the president of the Senate, and the Attorney-General of the Federation leading the chorus from Northern Nigeria to denounce the position of the 17 Governors from the South.

“It is high time the meeting of the 17 Governors from the South of Nigeria is thrown open to embrace other devolutionist Governors all over Nigeria but especially from the North-Central geopolitical zone. Benue state’s Gov. Samuel Ortom should be readily welcomed into the devolutionists’ camp. I will not call them “progressive governors” because none of them is fighting corruption by, for instance, transparently making open how they spend their security vote.

“Demands for restructuring must be preceded by the restructuring of Nigerian values away from the current emphasis on materialism at the expense of integrity and character. The issue is not only whether a president is from the South of Nigeria in 2023 as the Governors from the South of Nigeria demanded at their Lagos meeting. It is also to realise a critical mass of not greedy National and State Assembly members in conjunction with a visionary leader who is an epitome of integrity with great, selfless-serving spirit – the emphasis being on the people as opposed to a few friends to be enriched as the national patrimony continues to be looted.

“Igboho’s dream of a just, fair, and equitable treatment for his people is already kindled and it cannot be killed through incarceration or elimination. In fact, the FGN is unwittingly making Igboho a martyr when he should not have been one among a sophisticated and highly educated people as the Yoruba – but since the Yoruba at this juncture lack self-less visionary leaders, there is room for an activist like Igboho. Should he be released by the Republic of Benin authorities, Igboho would thank his stars that he would only be in exile. And if he is extradited and jailed but not killed, he would need to be strong and accept that only few Yoruba leaders will speak up and stand by him. The sizable Yoruba Diaspora would help Igboho’s heroic leadership. He should expect that his millions of supporters at home would be relatively unorganized and actively disorganized by the greedy Yoruba bad leaders of whatever category. But the tide is already turning!”

My comments: A fire has been ignited by those making peaceful revolution impossible; to quote the assassinated American president, JF Kennedy, they make violent revolution inevitable. In the same way that the Yoruba agitation struggle has left the bus stop of restructuring for the station of self-determination; the modus operandi of the struggle may soon leave peaceful means behind – compelled to do so, like Nelson Mandela warned Pik Botha and the apartheid regime of South Africa. Martyring anyone will further fuel the struggle. And incarceration is neither an option. That much the world learned from Fidel Castro and his comrades of the Cuban revolution.

Said Fidel: “The fact is, when men carry the same ideals in their hearts, nothing can isolate them – neither prison walls nor the sod of cemeteries for a single memory; a single spirit; a single idea, a single conscience, a single dignity will sustain them all”.

Added Walt Whitman: Those corpses of young men/Those martyrs that hang from the gibbets/Those hearts pierced by the gray lead/Cold and motionless as they seem/Live elsewhere with unslaughtered vitality/They live in other young men, O King!/ They live in brothers again ready to defy you!”

But the price may be steep – really, really steep!

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