An activist for more than six decades, Pa Babs Hussain (also known as Aragbaye), 89, is the current president of the North Korea-Africa Friendship Association. In this interview with GODWIN DUNIA, Aragbaye, who reflected on his days of activism, spoke about the need for Amotekun to be armed, the 2023 elections and the turmoil for the Yoruba nation.
Nigeria just turned 62, at 89 years old, what is your opinion on the state of the nation?
So far, it’s been 62 years of stagnation and if, for whatever reason, you mean there’s any progress so far, it’s way below expectations. I mean, the expectation of what we fight for. Currently, the country is drifting and cascading from one mismanagement to another and becoming more and more harmful to the people.
What permeates the atmosphere today is uncertainty and hopelessness and I feel bad about this development and very apprehensive. I don’t know if the government is willing to do anything to save the situation, otherwise the crisis is very imminent; that would engulf the entire country. It can start like the wetie operation that happened in 1965.
Do you feel that your years of activism and those of other colleagues seem to be in vain?
That is not what I meant, because in those days of our activism, we recorded many successes, including the Independence that we are celebrating today. In those years we had our shortcomings, of which we did not realize until now that the realities are upon us as a country.
For example, while in the struggle both for independence from colonial rule and against other internal struggles, whatever method we had adopted lacked some fundamental principles and with that, we achieved limited results and, in some cases, we recorded outright failure. This is what applies to current activists and I think that area needs to be corrected.
Most of the activists often advertise individual people than problems. They probed themselves beyond the issues in both the media and the public sphere, and this shortcoming invariably helped opponents identify areas that were exploited against us. But that doesn’t mean we weren’t committed and stubborn. Some of my post-independence comrades include Aka Bashorun, Omojola, Ola Oni, Edwin Madunagu, Olu Awotesu, etc. Most of us in this group hardly appear in the media, but we operate without being recognized.
You referenced the Wetie operation in the Southwest earlier, what actually led to that, what happened then?
We reacted against the election results, which were against Chief Obafemi Awolowo and in favor of Chief Samuel Akintola. The elections failed and things degenerated. I was among the top contenders for those wetie stocks, including Olu Awotesu, Soji Odunjo, Ayo Ojewumi (the then Tribune editor), and Dapo Fatokun. The operation was in October 1965, but the crisis began in 1961, when I was a scholarship student at the International Friendship University in the Soviet Union. The University was in honor of Patrice Lumumba. Before I went to the Soviet Union, he was a member of the Action Group (AG).
In 1961, the then Minister of Agriculture and Development of the Western region, Chief Akin Deko, attended the UNFAO conference held in Rome, to advocate an increase in the world price of the cocoa product. While the conference was going on, the regional prime minister, Chief Ladoke Akintola, denounced Deko’s presence and his proposal to increase the price of cocoa at the conference and he was immediately expelled from the conference. This affected the price of the product as it fell and had a consequential effect on Nigeria as the largest producer at the time. Therefore, the AG called for Akintola to be removed; that was what triggered the Wetie operation.
You often write and refer to Chief Obafemi Awolowo, what is your perception of him as a person and as a socio-economist?
Before leaving the country in 1957, I met Awolowo and interacted on several occasions; he was simple, very disciplined and tolerant of ideas. For example, he was so tolerant of Akintola. Despite his limited knowledge and incompetence, he appointed him President of the Western Region Finance Corporations when AG came to power in 1951 and most members, such as Remi Fani-Kayode, criticized his appointment. But Awolowo believed that there should be room for learning and improvement for everyone.
In his socio-economic experience, Awolowo understood the philosophy of money more than any politician dead or alive and was a great steward of resources. In 1979, he warned the former civilian president Shehu Shagari not to devalue the naira, because he was being pressured by some forces lurking in sinister motives to devalue the naira. Awolowo was part of the team that interviewed one of the best governors of the Central Bank (CBN), Clement Isong. Without a doubt, his economic knowledge and advice greatly contributed to the development of the Southwest region during his tenure.
So how would you react to the naira status today?
Let me tell you this fact, most of our past and present CBN Governors, apart from Prof. Charles Soludo, who is now Governor of Anambra State, were not competent. They don’t understand the philosophy of money. They politicized economic and monetization policies and that has been the downfall of our current economic situation.
You wrote a book on Amotekun, the Southwest regional security team, are you also in favor of putting together the team as proposed by Governor Akeredolu of Ondo State?
I brought it up in the book, which means I’m all for arming Amotekun, even to the teeth. I was in Ibadan during the inauguration of the team on January 9, 2020. Arming Amotekun is necessary if we are serious and not ready to be overwhelmed by the inordinate ambition of Fulani.
I think this is the third time that the Fulani have been bullying and challenging the South in general, not just the Yoruba, with the concept of extravagance and invasion. They want to control the watercourses and they take it seriously; forget all the political statements to undermine this fact. It is on this premise that Boko Haram and banditry arose.
I was among the first Yoruba to suggest a regional security team in 2019. It caught the attention of governors. Akeredolu, Makinde, and Fayemi, while Governors Sanwo-Olu, Oyetola, and Abiodun were still awaiting news from Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. There is a need to arm Amotekun. This region is under threat from Fulani hegemony and I really commend the boldness of the governor of Ondo State. That state is strategic; there is no region you travel to that you won’t cross Ondo State. I should go ahead and assemble the team; I am willing to help in the arms deal anywhere in the world, I know what is needed.
Why do you think the Fulani want to take over the rest of the country?
It is an agenda; the current president is part of that agenda and they know why they wanted to do that. He started with his Uthman Dan Fodio, who perceived the country as ‘a property’ of his ancestors. This is a very wrong notion. That is why they are always using politics to define our history. We must not allow this; our history must define our policy and not the other way around.
As a supporter of the Yoruba nation led by Professor Akintoye, do you think this can be achieved now that the elections are closer and we have candidates from all regions?
First of all, I am very concerned about the upcoming elections in 2023. It is likely that there will be an intentional crisis in the whole country, because the hegemonies and the Fulanis are threatened by these upcoming elections and I think they can create problems for the purpose of an election is defeated in the end. I suspect very strongly, plans that would derail the elections. With the state of things, Asiwaju Tinubu is not going anywhere. The current structures are not conducive to successful national elections. And these are deliberate actions of the Buhari administration.
For example, there are 262 command offices of which Fulani extraction staff currently occupy 252. Now, after Buhari, I want to see the president of the south who would be allowed to change all these arrangements. These are some of the factors of the impending crisis that I predicted earlier.
Once again, like it or not, we are anticipating the declaration of the Yoruba nation as soon as possible. And the day the Republic of Yoruba or the Republic of Oodua is declared, the GF will say no! Then Nigeria’s existence would be over and it definitely wouldn’t be a tea party. Yoruba chooses to leave the colonial agreement of 1914; has reached an advanced stage.
I often heard Buhari say, ‘Nigeria’s unity is non-negotiable’, and I wondered, ‘does he want to force Yoruba to unite with Fulani? Do you know that the Yoruba nation has existed since 1893? And that the Yoruba Obas met in 1937 on the same subject of hostile unity and that there was a conference in Ibadan in 1948, where the Yoruba elders gave a seven point agenda on whether they would stay in Nigeria or not?’ It was on this basis that Awolowo wrote his first book, Path to Nigeria Freedom, and suggested a federal system of government for the country, which had been a bastard.
But has one of the Southeastern presidential hopefuls, Peter Obi, promised to talk to all secessionists?
I think the idea of dialogue or restructuring is too late, the question is, would they (North) agree? Except there is divine intervention, because the Buhari administration has not helped in that direction. The agitation for the Yoruba nation has gone beyond the level of calling for dialogue in 2023. It has become crystal clear. Going back may be too late by now. The United Nations has given its recognition to the movement and President Buhari has been notified.
Your leader and friend, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, recently requested support for the Igbo presidency, what is your opinion on this?
Yes, I am aware of that, when you specifically asked for support for Obi.
Now the logic behind that call is one, for fairness; They need to have their chance. Two, is to unite the entire southern part of the country. You will recall that the Ndi Igbo, through Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, have been supporting the North in some way other than the Yoruba. With the insecurity crisis that the country is going through, Governor Samuel Ortom is often behind the southern states.
So Pa Adebanjo is working to create stronger ties between the southern states and their people.
I know Adebanjo very well; he has been like this for a long time. Among the few Awoists we have today, Adebanjo is the only one who understands the meaning of Afenifere. And it means more abundant life for one and all. All other so-called Awoists simply pronounced Afenifere; they don’t live for it. That is why Awolowo suggested a free education program to liberate people, because knowledge is power.
At 89, you are the president of the Africa-North Korea Friendship Association, how has that impacted the continent?
So far, it has been helping to foster good relations and enlightenment from that part of the world to the potential rich from Africa.