He is a known voice among the Afonja Descendants in Ilorin, the predominant Yoruba inhabitants who lay claim to been the first settlers on the land called Ilorin. He has been at the forefront of the agitation for the installation of Yoruba monarch in Ilorin as against the existing Fulani Emir, the Emir of Ilorin. He is a Pan African scholar and activist. Meet Abdulkareem Olola Kazeem who spoke with our Correspondent in Ilorin recently. Excerpts:
My name is Alhaji Abdulkareem Olola Kazeem, President, Afonja Descendants Union, the Yoruba inhabitants of Ilorin. I organized the famous Ekundayo Panel in 1978 through which I succeeded in creating awareness to the entire world about the right of Afonja people in Ilorin. Consequently, the report of the panel stated that I quote “In the event of a vacuum being created in the Ilorin Emirate stool, succession to the throne should be by plebiscite between Afonja family and Alimi family but unfortunately, till date that report has not seen the light of the day. I have the report with me. Most of the members of the panel are no longer existing but Justice Ayo Salami and I survive till this day. Ayo Salami was the adviser to the panel while I was the spokesman for Afonja family. The panel was instituted during the Obasanjo / Yar’Adua regime but after the military government, many things happened. The ripple of that eras agitation remains till now. Recently, some Chiefs in Ilorin Emirate agitated for a rating but they were turned down. Unfortunately, these Chiefs were graded even during the colonial era when the white men were there. For example, Oba of Jebba and Ohoro of Shao were graded chiefs during the white colonial masters; even Ganmo has been a well-known community ever since then as Yoruba dominated area. Former Governor of Kwara State, Admiral Lawal graded Oba of Ganmo to third class but today, he ungraded courtesy of the maneuvering by Dr Bukola saraki and the sitting Governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed who are acting the Fulani script. See a close place to us there, Amayo, the traditional head is graded. Gbagede that doesn’t even have a market to finance its chiefdom is been graded. It may interest you to also know that the funds used in financing all adjoining graded communities come from Ganmo, yet the Ganmo is not graded because the authority people chose the path of conspiracy, Saraki and Abdulfatah Ahmed.
But Sir, your agitation dates back to the 70s, I think you are making a mistake bringing in Dr Bukola Saraki and Alh Abdulfatah Ahmed into the matter?
(Cuts in)..No, no no, let me tell you, the then Governor Adamu Attah graded Shao, Jebba, when Gov Lawal came in, he maintained what he met on ground and even added some others and graded them it was this Dr. Bukola Saraki that came into power, he downgraded them because the Emir of Ilorin asked him to do so.
Why do you seem to indict Emir of Ilorin in this matter?
The Emir of Ilorin is the stranger in this matter that wants to use government power to secure his minority interest. He needs to protect his seat. He noticed that during these chiefs contribute very well during meetings so he feared that these people may turn against them, so he used Saraki to downgrade them. That is why I am championing the course that the Fulani invaders must go back to where they came from and let us have our peace back. Please add this, if Bukola Saraki wants anything good in Nigeria, he must first do the right thing by supporting our course. He must support the majority Yoruba people in their struggle. If you look at the structure of local governments in Kwara State, you will understand me better; out of sixteen local government councils fourteen are Yorubas, but Saraki is supporting the minority so the situation on the ground exposed him. As it is now, these Yoruba majorities are against him and he cannot win any election using the minority, if he wants our support, he must shift towards the majority tribe, which is Yoruba. Saraki himself is Yoruba, from Abeokuta, he is not from Ilorin.
If Saraki makes a U- Turn and supports the course of Yorubas, will you change and give him support?
Haa, it’s an issue of permanent interest not permanent enmity. All these talks against Saraki is because he is supporting Fulanis against Yorubas, he ours, we will give him all the required support if he decides to lend support to our course. I as the leader of this struggle, I have no personal issue against him, that issue is my interest and after it, nothing more. Saraki is not my permanent enemy, he is Yoruba, I cannot be against him. During his lifetime, his father, Dr Olusola Saraki contested the Presidency with MKO Abiola in their party. Then Saraki said that he is from Abeokuta, so his son cannot be Fulani, he is only playing politics with our issue and that is why we are not giving him required support. His grandfather Muktar is from Abeokuta, he came to Ilorin to learn the Quran and after he left, his son came to live in Ilorin, also a Yoruba man. Bukola Saraki is only following his father’s trail of being a politician and that is why he is pitching his tent with Fulani minority for political powers. They are using him to sabotage our efforts and ambition. When this President was sick, Bukola Saraki was shielding him as a Fulani man would do, but he is only deceiving himself, he is not Fulani. Let Saraki return to Abeokuta to fight for Presidency and leave us Kwaran alone.
In the real sense of it, do you still think this Yoruba agitation for a Yoruba traditional ruler for Ilorin is achievable?
What do you mean? If it is not achievable why will I continue to struggle up and down since all these days? This struggle is my life and we will continue to do all we can to achieve it God helping us. In the days of Pharaoh in Egypt, things like this happened. Several kings passed without granting Israel the freedom they were fighting for but some day a King came that granted their hearts desires and it scaled through.
Have you ever involved monarchs like Alaafin Oyo and Ooni of Ife in your agitation?
Of course, we did it several times. Many of the chiefs here had taken our matters to them; I am the leader of the Afonja group here. I have at several times been involved with Alaafin over this issue. It was a serious mistake that Captain Luggard and Bower placed Ilorin as part of the North. That is part of our reasons for agitating that Nigeria should be restructured. A restructuring will correct the present mistake as done by the colonial masters. These Fulanis know that they are in the minority in Kwara State that is why they are doing all that they could to exclude every Yorubas from gaining access to power over them. Traditional rulers of Shao, Apado, Ganmo, Jebba and soon will never work with the Fulani monarch. Wait, the elections are on the way, you will see what I mean and how Yorubas will vote against their enemy, I mean Saraki. Since he is against our interest, we cannot see him as ours but as an enemy.
But how is it possible to start rotating the royal stool of Ilorin between Yorubas and Fulanis?
That is what Ekundayo panel recommended, I quoted it earlier, it is to be between Afonja people and Alimi people. Saraki became Governor here through Atiku, former Vice President so he is bound to do the bidden of the Fulani people. Imagine, they said Shao is not qualified to be graded as a Chief in Kwara state; Fatai and Saraki are the brains behind this plot.
But Gov Abdulfatah Ahmed is of the Igbomina extract of the said Yorubas, why is he not with you in this agitation?
He is a stooge to Bukola and a ready tool to the Fulanis whose political ambition drives him, he doesn’t know that the only way to survive this war waged against by supporting the Yoruba people. If he is still looking at the rigging machinery, this has failed, they cannot rig any election again. They have always gained power by rigging that cannot happen again because the new reality is that Yoruba people are in majority. This is a matter of interest, I advise Saraki to shift his interest so that he too can have his way but without that, he is doomed, quote me.
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