Yoruba at The Crossroad/
Right from the start, there has been one recurrent theme weaving through the unfolding saga of Yoruba emergence from the interlinked chaos of internecine warfare and status as subjects of foreign imperialism: On the way to rebuilding Yoruba civilization as one capable of thriving in the current world, those driving the process keep getting lost in Nigeria.
 
For the sake of emphasis, the focus of this essay will be somewhat narrow. Here, I will explore components of a primary flaw in the strategy employed thus far by some of the individuals and groups that have sought to lead the Yoruba from the years just before 'independence' to the present.
 
With recent events showing that heartfelt desires for some sort of process that will allow the constituent nations that make up Nigeria to affirm or reject the proposal that the continued existence of Nigeria as it currently is should not be tampered with, it behoves all Yoruba with the capacity to reason to start envisioning not only what will happen next if Nigeria indeed continues as it is but, to also give some thought to what will/should follow if it does not.
 
Therefore I start, slightly off-tangent (but with purpose) by touching on one crucial issue that Yoruba no longer have much time to find a way to resolve. This issue is about if/how the millions of Ibo who, over the last 40 or so years, have made Yorubaland their home, can be integrated into the body of the Yoruba nation.
 
Whereas in the years leading to the Nigeria-Biafra war only a handful of Ibo resided in major towns outside Eko, within 20 years of the war ending, not only had the population of Ibo in Eko exceeded pre-war numbers, various towns and cities (small and large) became hosts to ever-increasing numbers of Ibo migrants. The question that only time can answer now is whether or not these millions of new foreign residents in Yorubaland can integrated into their host communities in such a way that the hosts do not end up the losers. Because (if we are being frank) there is no good reason why such a presence should be allowed to become permanent if it cannot be shown that there are processes on the ground (or in the planning stages) which will make the change one that is beneficial to host communities.
 
In truth, not since the period of mass migrations that some historians have named 'The Oduduwa Era' have the indigenous people of Yorubaland been confronted with such a huge wave of migrants who are determined to settle the land. This phenomenon has until now been given cover by the ongoing existence of Nigeria - i.e. the mass migrations are viewed/described as mere instances of so-called Nigerians moving from one part of "their country" to another part. At 2014's 'national conference', some of the delegates ensured that the question of citizen residency rights was placed on the agenda. This question in fact became one of the main talking points of the final document prepared by the 'conference'. However, it cannot be confirmed whether or not anyone requested that the obligations owed to host communities by their guests should be given equal weight...
 
While a discussion about the rights of all citizens is always worthy endeavour, it must be noted that the nature of some other unresolved current issues will determine whether or not such discussions can be given all the attention that they deserve as these unresolved issues may, upon resolution, make all previously decided upon courses of action obsolete. 
 
As previously stated, not since the period of Oduduwa has Yorubaland had to had to absorb migrations of this magnitude. Neither the Fulani invasion of parts of northern Yorubaland or the conquest by British imperialism can be compared to what is going on right now as in both cases, the effects of the incursions were limited in one instance by the relatively small area of the area affected (along with the decisive halt effected by the comprehensive defeat that was inflicted upon Fulani 'jihadists' in 1848), and, in the other instance, by the low numbers of British who came in to administer the country (very few of whom remained as residents after 'independence').
 
As also previously stated,  this new colonisation is different because no part of Yorubaland is unaffected.
 
Add backing by statute and law to the claims that these new colonists must be awarded equal shareholder status in Yoruba patrimony (as was proposed by some at the 'national conference') and what is certain to result will be the end of Yoruba as a distinct culture in all spheres of human societal organisation. A result that is not viewed as undesirable by some of the clueless bunch masquerading as 'leaders' as it will greatly enhance the continued validity of their governing principle - which is that, "Nigeria's unity is non-negotiable."
 
One of the primary purposes of write-ups like this one is to express the fact that at this time, there are Yoruba who still know without a doubt that the only thing that is non-negotiable is the continued existence of a civilization that it took our ancestors thousands of years of disciplined and focused striving to create. Yoruba civilization will not be sacrificed in return for some worthless and progressively dysfunctional contraption that a bunch of ignorant (and most probably mentally unsound) foreigners manufactured and imposed upon us a hundred years ago.
 
As such, not only do we know without a doubt that we have a natural right to collectively determine the characteristics of any nation that calls us it's own, so too do we know that others caught up with us inside this same cage (that is constructed out of sterile ideas, cultivation of ignorance, corruption of ideals, and brute force) have the same right.
 
We therefore support the rights of all peoples to control every inch of their indigenous territory and, to recover ownership from those individuals and corporate entities who are currently exploiting said territories absent the acquired collective consent of the natural owners.
 
An interesting point to note is that while only an infinitesimal segment of the Yoruba population will defend the activities of fellow Yoruba who are presently extracting cash wealth from the resources of others under cover of Nigeria's laws - and this because they (or those close to them) are direct beneficiaries of said exploitations - the percentage of those who will defend the rights of their fellow nationals to exploit the resources of others greatly rises when it comes to Ibo defending (overtly or in code) the right of their fellow nationals to continue having access to Yoruba natural resources in the form of land.
 
They will tell you that they paid for this land however, a case can be made to support the assertion that these payments give them as much rights to the land as are given to Yoruba who claim to 'own' oil-wells in foreign lands just because they paid sums of money to some unscrupulous persons to facilitate the allocations of said oil-wells to themselves.
 
In most cases, the people who sold these lands acquired them through the agency of customary law and, since it is customary law that grants ownership, then customary law should also have a say when it comes to the disposition of land. So, what does it say? Well, according to our customary law, all land is the collective property of all humans descended from those who first settled or farmed it. All humans descended - i.e. all that are currently living, the dead, and those yet to be born. Which in turn means that no one person (or even group of persons) has the right to sell the land to foreigners since by so doing, they alienate other persons (who, by blood, are co-owners) from their inheritance.
 
The implication here being that we cannot support the right of Niger-deltans to recover their collective property without also supporting the right of Yoruba to assert their ancient right to collective ownership of every inch of Yorubaland. If one instance of alienation of rights cannot be justified by pointing at moneys paid to some individuals belonging to the group that collectively own a resource, then neither can any...

The main objective of the Yoruba nation's political leaders in Nigeria has been to find a workable alliance with one from the other two member nations of the so-called 'big-three' in the Nigerian geo-political space. The arguments between Obafemi Awolowo and his rivals/rebellious subordinates have centered around which, from Ibo or 'Hausa-Fulani' would make the better partner. Ladoke Akintola parted ways with Awolowo because while he believed that it was better to count on the promises made by Ahmadu Bello, Awolowo felt that Nnamdi Azikiwe, having learned his lesson, would be a better option.
 
Fast forward to the next round of civilian politics in 1979 and Awolowo was still trying to find a way to work with Ibo while some from those who had been his allies in the first republic (as well as new-ish blood like Moshood Abiola) preferred to look northward.
 
This is not to say that Yoruba leaders ignored the so-called minorities - they did not. Awolowo sought to form working relationships with politicians from what was then called the mid-west as well as the middle-belt and the north-east. But even whilst he was so engaged, his main objective still remained finding an ally from one of the other 'big two'.
 
This inclination is one that present day leaders of the Yoruba still have. We see it in the way Tinubu bent over backwards at the last two elections (2011 & 2015) to accommodate his 'Hausa-Fulani' allies and, we see it in the way aspiring leaders of Yoruba in the PDP camp (especially in the key state of Lagos) went beyond the call of duty in the months leading to 2015's elections to prove that they are the best friends that Ibo have in Nigeria. While Obasanjo in his incarnation as a PDP grandee also indulged in romancing the Ibo, this was not the main focus of his strategy and, this is why it is by examining Obasanjo's career that we see in action (be it imperfectly), one crucial (yet mostly ignored) tactic whose employment is the key to successfully manoeuvring through the complex puzzle that is Nigeria's world of political power.
 
The strategic mistake that Yoruba leaders made (and still make) is actually quite obvious: They keep forgetting that in politics, even in the most civilised climes, the law of the jungle prevails - and one of the most inflexible strictures of this law is that in every pack of predatory animals of the same species, there can never be two alphas.
 
In Nigeria, due to their sizes, Yoruba, Hausa, and Ibo are the three alphas. Yet of the three, only one has produced a Nigerian head of state who departed office on a relatively high note - i.e. alive and, not a fugitive from (or prisoner of) coupists.
 
How did Obasanjo do it?
 
While he spent much capital wooing Ibo during his terms as Nigerian president, the secret of Obasanjo's success lay more in his alliances with so-called minorities and, most crucially of all, with outsiders (some of whom, though members of the 'big-three', were by virtue of being confirmed outsiders, virtual 'minority' persons).
 
Obasanjo understood very well that alliances between two alphas, which on first appearances may look extremely intimidating, are fragile and are as such, unreliable in the long term. He understood that it is better to make alliances with 'minorities' and outsiders - to form a mutual defence pact which because it is the best either party could do, would stand a better chance of being totally committed to and as such, more durable.
 
This operational device is also the great secret weapon behind the baffling domination over the last five decades of Nigeria's political sphere by Fulani and, to some extent, by some others from 'minority' backgrounds like Babangida.
 
The flaw in the strategy employed by Awolowo and present day Yoruba political leaders (which includes the leaders of Afenifere and OPC) lies in the choices they make when they tried/try to build alliances. Alliances with the established Fulani power structure will never work in the long run because, having transformed themselves into one of the 'big three' (by absorbing the Hausa and using their numbers to bulk up their political profile), the Fulani are virtual alphas -  and as such ones who, in accordance with the law of the pack, cannot co-exist (on equal terms) with another alpha.
 
Ditto for the Ibo who as a people, are actually still engaged in the territorial expansion phase and as such, are not yet at the stage in a nation's evolution where it's focus is mainly on how to best maintain what belongs to it.
 
What this means is that for Yoruba to build a solid power base that will enable them to be always be the masters of their fate in the geographical space currently known as Nigeria, we have to look beyond alliances with the establishment power-blocs amongst the Ibo and the so-called 'Hausa-Fulani' - these are, and will always be, our rivals. In other words, for Yoruba, the best strategy lies in forming alliances with Middle-belt and Niger-delta nations - and also perhaps with those who are currently not a part of the traditional power-blocs that dominate the other two members of the 'big three' - perhaps...(as things could easily transform from one thing into it's direct opposite in this particular case.)
 
Since the alliances spoken of are ones that will not be based on domination but on establishing a relationships based on the one common danger that our peoples face in this Nigeria, there is the risk that because any allies found amongst Fulani or Ibo will eventually have to support initiatives that will not favour their fellow nationals, such allies may never be able to transform from 'outsider' to establishment powers.
 
The initiatives spoken of are the ones that will eventually have to be embarked upon by those Nigerian nations who, as the years pass, will be the most negatively impacted by the hegemonic tendencies of both Fulani and Ibo; of all the nations that make up Nigeria, these two peoples, both members of the 'big three', are not only the biggest wanderers, buy they also both have one belief in common: each believes itself to be Nigeria's 'master race' - the ones who were born/destined to rule/dominate others.
 
The political chaos that led to the Nigeria-Biafra war is often traced to the breakdown of order in the western region. What is not often taken into consideration is that this breakdown happened because of a long-running interference in the region's internal politics by both Ibo and Fulani. Interference that happened because each was trying to become overlord of the region's politics.
 
The mistakes of Awolowo and Akintola are being replayed as we speak as some of Yorubaland's current political leaders remain intent on solidifying alliances with Fulani or Ibo power blocs. This strategy has never worked and, it never will. Time now that Yoruba politics allows itself to be shaped by a new paradigm.
 
There is an unsaid component of the saying "no permanent friends or enemies in politics" that must be kept in mind if one is to fully grasp the lesson contained in the aphorism. It is that one must never allow for a state of affairs where ones allies become indispensable. Meaning that there must be nothing (or as few things as possible) that your allies can do for you that you cannot do for yourself if push comes to shove.
 
An example of a 'leader' who in days to come may be used to illustrate what was said in the above paragraph is Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti who, without the protection he enjoyed while his non-Yoruba allies in PDP controlled the official implements of state coercion and cash, is now basically a dead-man-walking (since the current APC government can pick him off anytime it so pleases). Unlike the situation with Tinubu during the Obasanjo years, the State over which Fayose governs does not have the revenue sources that will enable it to withstand a prolonged siege by a hostile central government. Fayose is now in fact dependant on hand-outs from fellow governors in the PDP camp but, as time goes on and, as each of his allies become more engaged with fighting for the survival of their own regimes (and protective legacies) in their own States, it is quite likely that at some point in the near future, a once again chastened Fayose will start looking for intermediaries who will plead (on his behalf) to those he is currently loudly engaged in PR battles against. Engagements which he may in fact have two reasons for keeping alive; the first being a way of soliciting for some sort of 'settlement' from the people he is attacking and, the second being a desire to prove to the sponsors on whose behalf he has been launching these attacks that he is still value for money.

He is joined in this weak strategy by the Yinka Odumakin wing of Afenifere - a group that has so clearly set themselves up as the implacable foes of 'Hausa-Fulani' that they have no other option except to sink or swim with their allies from the eastern banks of the Niger river...
 
Which brings me back to the saying about "no permanent friends...in politics" and, another piece of wisdom associated with it: Do not ever identify yourself so closely and completely with an ally that it's failure becomes your own - especially if you are not a member of the councils that make the final decisions on which it's actions are based.
 
Defending the actions of persons who were/are acting in their own self-interest (especially if their objectives are inimical to the interests of the group you belong to) will only serve to discredit you - a lesson whose import must be kept in mind by Yoruba members of the political party currently ruling in the centre.