Re: How the Olofa won his shoes
Sir: Chief Obafemi Awolowo lived to witness the fulfilment of his desire for the creation of new regions – or, as some might view it, the balkanisation of the Northern Region.
He was undoubtedly satisfied with General Gowon’s 1967 efforts; there is no public record that he made input into Murtala Muhammed’s 1976 state-creation exercise which came after a nation-wide fact-finding tour.
Since then the swing of the pendulum has seen a part of the country clamouring for a return to regionalism, labelling it “restructuring.”
This demand should logically be driven by the realisation that diminishing returns have set in since after the state-creation exercise of 1987. But it isn’t because irredentism clearly is the motive force.
Feudalism has been the substratum of monarchical rule from ancient times, whether in empires or in kingdoms – Ancient China, the Persian empire, Pharaonic Egypt, European kingdoms of the Middle Ages, Tsarist Russia.
The Sokoto Caliphate didn’t introduce feudalism to Hausa kingdoms; it was there in the Sarki ruling system. Of equal note is the fact that the Oba ruling system wasn’t a democratic one, nor based on any notion of human rights.
Ilorin’s case has to be seen as sui generis: in the century before the coming of colonial rule it had become part of the Sokoto Caliphate; the British viewed the emirate as such and conquered it to obtain a foothold for their later military advance northward.
It beats the imagination how Yoruba rulers of that time would believe the British would help them retrieve lost territories.
Over the last two centuries Ilorin has built its own unique character and culture, with Islam firmly binding and guiding its varied mix of people of Yoruba, Hausa, Fulani, Kanuri, Baruba, Gobir, etc, ethnic stock.
The defunct Organisation for African Unity voted to retain colonial boundaries of independent African countries in order to neutralise irredentism which would have rendered Africa unstable, fractured.
It was the fear of their own balkanisation that pushed most African countries to support the federal side in our Civil War.
Colonial boundaries deprived the Sokoto Caliphate of territories east of Yola and northwest of Sokoto, all the way to near Burkina Faso, as well as the Hausa territories of Niger Republic.
Would the return of Ilorin to the Yoruba fold see a push for similar result in respect of Yoruba-speaking areas of Benin Republic?
One does not sense any urgency among the Yoruba-speaking people of Kogi and Kwara states for their return to “the homeland.”
Agitation for that is foreign -driven. Yorubas didn’t fare badly in the defunct Northern Region and state creation has given them “freedom” like all “suppressed” minorities.
Most African countries have come to terms with their colonial origins and legacy, their multi-ethnic and multi-religious composition and resolved to make a go of it.
Thus it was only in two instances was irredentism seen at work – in the case of Ghana under Nkrumah who sought to annex western part of Ewe-speaking Togo. The folly ended with Nkrumah’s ouster.
Another instant was Somalia’s war with Ethiopia to “recover” areas of that country inhabited by the Somali ethnic group.
We would do well to emulate Ghana, about the only West African country that has not suffered civil war or insurgency since independence.
M T Usman.