Monday, 24 January 2022 06:13

2023: Will the Yoruba act differently? - Bola Bolawole

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Bola Bolawole Bola Bolawole

Another General Election is approaching and partisan politics is in the air again – filled with its treachery and betrayals, nights of long knives, wisdom and tomfoolery, promises and deceits, hopes and frustrations with sharks and hawks of all hues jostling for supremacy. The doves and shrimps will not only be crowded out by the predators as had been the practice in the past, they will almost certainly be made easy prey as usual. Gainers and losers are often known ever before the contest begins. As Isa Aremu, Labour aficionado and Director-General of the Ilorin-based Michael Imoudu National Institute for Labour Studies (MINILS) once said, Nigeria’s political terrain is not just the survival of the fittest but the survival of the wicked. The wicked survive and thrive but the righteous are marginalized and perish. Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution (of the survival of the fittest) posits “the continued existence of organisms which are best adapted to their environment, with the extinction of others” who do not or who are unable to do so as fast and as best as other competitors or competing interests and or groups. As they say, when you are in Rome, act as a Roman. Failure to do, problems!

I crave your indulgence to go through excerpts from three write-ups that set the tone for the argument we shall advance here today, after which I shall return to draw some conclusions. You may have read all three because they all got a good mention in social media in the past week. The first is titled “A DERAILED ELDORADO” and it runs thus (with some editing by me): An acclaimed visionary leader; tested and trusted by his people. He had built several people into positions of influence. Had a protegee that he brought to the limelight. The protegee - a teacher, pastor, and seasoned lawyer. The protegee had helped the leader in the administration of his tenure. A very capable hand, indeed! Also a great orator! When the leader had an opportunity, he put forward his protegee for the second most important position in his land. The protegee took up the position. Politics happened. The leader wanted a position, the protegee also wanted to retain the position. The leader had one ideology; the protegee had a different ideology. Foot soldiers on both sides egged the leader and his protegee on. Discrediting one another. Forgetting  that they were brothers from the same zone. One with federal might, the other with grassroots support. Both sides were being played by external factors. ‘After all that I have done for my protegee, he ought to accord me respect and listen to me’, the leader thought to himself in his private moments.’I have been loyal enough and I deserve to retain this exalted position for myself’, the protegee soliloquised. The die is cast. A crack is created. With the unrelenting supporters of both men, the crack became a schism. With the latching in of people of other ethnicities, the schism became a chasm. Yoruba land became the epicenter of a political war between two brothers that were once confidants. No, I write not about those you think! I write about the great leader, Obafemi Jeremiah Awolowo; and his protege, Ladoke Samuel Akintola. These issues happened exactly 60 years ago in 1962. That fight ended the glorious years of the Yoruba people being the ones ahead of the other ethnicities. In contemporary Nigeria, the golden years of the Yoruba people were between 1952 and 1959. The years when Awolowo was the premier of western Nigeria. Those were the years of our firsts (first in this; and first in that)... By the time the brouhaha settled in 1966, Akintola's daughter had been killed. Awolowo had been sent to jail. Many houses had been burnt and a coup had taken the life of Ladoke Akintola. The visionary leader never got there till he died. The protegee died trying not to leave there. We lost our regional leadership and even lost the regional governance. All because a visionary leader and a brilliant protegee did not sit down to reconcile their differences (but) sought alliances with others (whereas they) could not achieve an alliance with themselves. Sixty years later, another visionary leader, another cerebral protegee who is a teacher, pastor, and lawyer. A leader with the strength of the grassroots, a protege with Federal might. Foot soldiers on both sides egging them on, in derisive manners. Will the Southwest lose out again? May affliction not rise a second time...” I cannot say who the author is.

I should immediately bring in snippets from the second write-up, “Thursday with Abimbola Adelakun” (The PUNCH, Thursday, January 13, 2022), titled “Tinubu’s presidency: Affliction must not rise a second time”. This is a bible passage (Nahum 1: 9). For the first writer, the first affliction was the Awolowo/Akintola tango while the second is the seemingly Bola Ahmed Tinubu/Yemi Osinbajo tango. For Adelakun, however, the first affliction is the sitting president, Muhammadu Buhari, while the second, which she swears must be averted at all costs, is Bola Ahmed Tinubu who, penultimate week, declared his intention to stand in the 2023 presidential election.

Hear Adelakun (with slight editing by me): We always knew the day would come when former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu, would declare his interest in running for president. In a country where politics is about seizing power, his presidential ambition has been especially obsessive. After leaving government in 2007, he has been calculatedly amassing the resources that will land him in Aso Rock. Unfortunately, Nigeria cannot afford a Tinubu presidency. Following the retired Major-General Muhammadu Buhari’s years of the locusts with the impotence that Tinubu’s leadership portends is to doom the country. After eight years of maladministration by Buhari, we cannot waste one more day of our national life on another deadwood. Nigeria urgently needs a turning point. Everybody—including even some of Tinubu’s close associates—knows that he does not represent the future. Some things should be left where they were buried, and that includes Tinubu’s presidential dreams... This is a man whose identity is shrouded in incredulous falsehoods. Everything about his personality is shady, from his parentage to his age and to his educational history. His political career has been defined by an unflinching record of primitive accumulation of wealth and power. That is why, even without an observable source of livelihood, he could boast he was richer than the whole of Osun State. Not only has the destiny of Lagos revolved around him since 1999, he has also plugged his immediate family members into powerful positions just so he can control governance resources at every level. Such a person in charge of the resources of the entire nation will build a pipeline from the national purse to his private pockets... After the monumental disaster called Buhari, Nigeria cannot afford another leader whose driving motivation for the presidency is to merely fulfill a lifelong dream... The 2023 election should be a turning point. Recruiting another bumbler as president jeopardizes that chance... Under Buhari, Nigeria plunged badly on every index of social progress and national development. Buhari’s atrocious presidency has been an affliction tantamount to divine punishment. We have over-suffered. After Buhari’s presidency, that affliction of leadership must not rise a second time”.

The third writer, Ogheneochuko Arodovwe, x-rayed the tango between former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Pa Edwin Clarke over who owns the oil in the Niger Delta, and made some very important declarations. He described next year’s elections over which some people are already blowing their top as “another round of futile political activities to vote in new sets of homo-sapiens to manage and twist our destinies as it suits their whims”. He asserted, and I concur, that “Nigeria purports to be a federation but in her actions, she is everything but one. The country has continued as a unitary state in line with Aguiyi Ironsi’s Decree 34 of 1966. This same clause has been disguised and sneaked into Section 44(3) of the 1999 Constitution while the leaders carry about with the toga of a ‘Federal Republic’” He opines, however, that the various ethnic-nationalities who answer "Nigerians" today are going nowhere on the scale of development unless and until they toe the same line as other ethnic nationalities around the world: "Africa has remained underdeveloped, backward, chained because she has refused to toe the path of others – to unbundle all the Lugard-like experiments all over the continent and reorganize her political entities according to culture, language, psychological trait and history...The Yoruba nation, Urhobo nation, Igbo nation, Ijaw nation must all emerge and exist independently for there to be any experience of progress as we see elsewhere in the world... By this time, Nigeria would have been history, just as the Ottoman Empire is history today. Everyone would have relocated to their territories. Secondary matters of ownership of mineral and oil and gas resources would need not even be discussed...” Food for thought!

Now, back to the first write-up: The correlation between Awolowo/Akintola on the one hand and Tinubu/Osinbajo on the other is interesting and didactic, even if ominous, while the extrapolations between Yoruba political behaviour, past and present, gives no cause for cheers, especially if we cast our mind back to where it led the Yoruba and the entire country in the First Republic – crisis and collapse in the West, coup and counter-coup, collapse of democratic governance, civil war and decades of military dictatorship, the deleterious after-effects of which are still with us to this day. Whereas Osinbajo is yet to declare his intention to run, we know he may do so. It is the stock-in-trade of politicians here to hide behind one finger like a grasshopper before finally coming into the open to “declare” what is already known everyone.

Considering the red card that Adelakun flashed in Tinubu’s face, I want to ask, without necessarily offering a defence for Tinubu: What is Tinubu allegedly guilty of that Buhari is not guilty of many times over: double-speak, deceit, self-aggrandisement, governance failure, ill-health, old age, certificate saga, corruption, nepotism, incompetence, conflict of interest, controversy over ancestry, name it? Why is it, then,  that while Buhari’s own people fiercely defend him and ferociously ward off his enemies, Tinubu’s own people are the very ones throwing him under the trailer? An elderly Yoruba puritan and silent political operator offered an answer: While the Fulani operate as a nation, the Yoruba, though a nation, operate as disparate and variegated individuals. While the Fulani bound together to define, promote, advance and defend their common goals and interests, the Yoruba behave like the proverbial chicken gnawing at one another’s intestines. The reason for this is not far to fetch: The Yoruba "Omoluwabi" ethos, which we wear like a badge, is the dilemma. Good as this is, it is not fittingly applicable in Nigeria but should be reserved for when the Yoruba attain their sought-after and well-deserved nationhood. Not in this shithole or Animal Farm! Not in this banana republic! As someone else quipped: When others are shrewd and you are not, you are a fool! A big fool for that matter!

  • Bolawole is a former editor & chairman of the editorial board of The PUNCH newspapers. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio, television, traditional and digital media.

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