Mr. Yinka Odumakin is the National Publicity Secretary of the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere. In this interview with the vanguard newspaper, Odumakin declares that he has no regrets supporting former President Goodluck Jonathan in the last general elections. He, however, calls on Nigerians, irrespective of party affiliation, to unite against the Boko Haram terrorist group. Excerpts:
In the last few months, the activities of the Boko Haram have been on the upsurge. What do you think is responsible for this?
I think anybody with rudimentary understanding of social science will know that a dangerous ideology like that of Boko Haram takes a superior ideology to defuse, which we don’t have. Two, the political class in Nigeria or sections of it, in a desperate quest for power and without any programme, saw Boko Haram as something to be used to access power. I am not saying they are sponsoring Boko Haram; I am saying that we saw some sections of our political class lionising Boko Haram through their body language.
When you look at it globally, how many countries have been able to defeat terrorism? Even in developed countries where politicians are not playing politics with it, it took the United States of America 10 years to get Osama Bin Laden. All the most powerful countries in the world came together over ISIS, yet they have not been able to do anything about it.
For now, rather than to look at the causes of terrorism in our land, how to make our people better, we are playing politics with Boko Haram. We felt that once we remove one person, terrorism will be over as if it is a cap that you will just open and toss.
Recently, some Boko Haram suspects were transferred to a prison in Anambra State and that is raising tension within that state. What is your take on that?
The word ‘terror’, when you hear it, creates fear and an atmosphere of insecurity and fear of the unknown. It is the first time I am seeing this kind of thing in our country. We have fought a civil war, it was defined. So, I think they are making a point; those who are saying don’t bring them here. Their point is that, if you take one terrorist, just one, to a place that is peaceful, that one person can radicalise people in the prison because they are going to meet with prisoners there.
They can radicalise people in the prison and they can recruit from there. I think the way we treated Ebola is the way we should treat Boko Haram.
We should contain Boko Haram where it is now and defeat them and not unwittingly helping them to create more cells outside where they are now. I think that is why the people are protesting, saying don’t bring Boko Haram into our premises. So, I don’t think it is a good idea to begin to export them to where they are not supposed to be.
You were a member of the National Conference in 2014 and the conference came up with a lot of resolutions, which Nigerians see as the panacea to election malady. What is your opinion of the 2014 conference recommendation?
For me, there is no army in the world which can defeat an idea whose time has come. Forget about politics,the issues that were dealt with in that report, it is either we address those issues or those issue will address us.
Already, the issues have started addressing us. We cannot continue on this template.
That conference had recommended that there should be a review in the revenue sharing formular, that is why we are saying we should open up the economy. There are excesses by the governors no doubt but what is available now cannot sustain us. If we should continue with this template for another one year, it will be disastrous. Unless we have structural changes to allow autonomy for states in Nigeria, we cannot move forward.
That is exactly what is recommended. At least we have seen the federal government taking about 40 per cent while the remaining goes to states and local government. They went beyond that. But what I mean to say is that we look at the geo-political map of Nigeria we saw that there is no state in Nigeria that did not have resources that will make it develop.
Do you think the Buhari administration can fix the problems facing the country given some of the steps taken so far?
I think it will be unfair for me to come to conclusions about an administration that is just over 40 days in office. Let us allow him some more time.
Do you have any regrets supporting former President Goodluck Jonathan?
I never regretted any of my actions. I calculate the cost of my actions before I take them. I counted the cost and I supported him (Jonathan) based on my belief that he would restrucuture Nigeria. I believe that Nigeria was already entering a terminal crisis and it is all over us today. Most of the issues that made so many of us to conclude about the imperative of restructuring Nigeria are about to grind Nigeria.
So, if the hand of time had to be taken back and we are to go through the same process again, between those who say we are going to restructure Nigeria and those who say we should not restructure Nigeria, I will have no problem in doing what I did all over again. It is a principled decision, it is not about anything.
In the event that you are called upon to serve in the Buhari government, would you accept such offer?
I did not support the party (APC) during their campaign, I am not an opportunist, it would amount to opportunism. Some of us are principled enough to know what is right and what is wrong. I cannot do that for any reason.