By Remi Adefulu
One of popular actor/musician, Pa Hubert Ogunde’s records, titled: ‘Yoruba Ronu, Otitokoro (meaning, Yoruba should think, truth is bitter),” is apt in describing what some Yoruba politicians believe is their lot in today’s Nigeria.
In that 1964 song, the late Ogunde had impressed it on the Yoruba people, to reflect deeply on what they really want within the Nigerian federation. Ironically, the call was made during the political crisis of the First Republic, when Chief Obafemi Awolowo, founder of the Action Group (AG) and his ardent political foe, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola were among the most popular and key figures in the Yoruba politics, in the South-West.
It was a period that saw the South-West embroiled in political turbulence which saw the Action Group played major opposition role to the ruling party that was controlled by the North. Akintola was tagged then as a traitor of the Yoruba race because of his romance with the ruling party, at the centre. The Republic was terminated by the military coup of January 1966 and one of the remote factors that caused the military intervention, Daily Sun recalls, was the South- West crisis.
Again, during the Second Republic in 1979, the South- West, under the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) played the opposition role to the ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN) that was again dominated by the north. And like it happened during the First Republic, all the Yoruba politicians who played key roles in the NPN were branded as traitors and also vilified by their fellow Yoruba men until the civil rule collapsed, and the military again, came in.
Interestingly, in 1999 again, when Nigeria embraced democratic rule, after about two decades of military rule, the South- West’s Alliance for Democracy (AD), another party dominated by Yoruba and influenced by the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, played the opposition to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Although, there was a slight difference in 1999 in that former President Olusegun Obasanjo, a Yoruba man emerged as President, on the platform of the PDP, which was dominated by the North, Obasanjo, like previous Yoruba politicians also suffered similar fate and was branded a Yoruba enemy.
But by 2015, when the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), came on board, it came with what seem like a balance representation of the North, South -West and with a few members from the South- South and the South- East.
Former governor of Lagos state and national leader of APC, Bola Tinubu; former governor of Osun state, Chief Bisi Akande; former Governor of Ogun State, Chief Segun Osoba; and the incumbent, Sen. Ibikunle Amosun; Ministers of Power, Housing and Works, Babatunde Fashola and his counterpart in the Solid Minerals, Dr. Kayode Fayemi; among others, brought the South- West into the APC merger in 2014, and for the first time majority of the Yoruba race was desirous of being part of the government at the centre. And it came to pass, after the elections.
Unfortunately, recent developments within the Yoruba APC family preceding the November 26 governorship election in Ondo state is beginning to create an impression that some persons, including Tinubu were allegedly scheming to form another party that may eventually pull the South -West out of the APC-led Federal Government. Although, Tinubu has consistently maintained his commitment and unalloyed loyalty to the APC, the events after events, continue to suggest otherwise.
For instance, the Ondo APC governorship primary, won by the Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu sharply divided the leadership of the APC, which forced Tinubu to call for the removal of the National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun after making serious allegations of corruption against him (Oyegun).
As the controversies degenerated, one of the Ondo APC governorship aspirants, Chief Olusola Oke defected to the AD to contest against Akeredolu.
Tinubu, Governor of Osun state, Rauf Aregbosola and several others were accused of supporting Oke financially and logistically, while Fashola, Fayemi, Amosun and others who were branded ‘Abuja boys’ backed Akeredolu allegedly at the prodding of the presidency. Not long after the election, which was perceived as a total knock out to Tinubu and his adherents, the likes of Fashola, Fayemi and Amosun were alleged to have teamed up with the North against the interest of their political benefactor, Tinubu.
In some quarters, the so-called ‘Abuja boys’ were branded ‘the Akintola of the present dispensation’. It was after the Ondo drama that the planned formation of a Mega party cropped up with Tinubu’s name and that of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, being touted as some of the backers.
Although, the former governor of Lagos has denounced the claim, some prominent Yoruba people, including members of the opposition PDP have warned the region against dragging itself back into playing the opposition game because of one man’s travails.
Prominent among those who kicked against such proposal is the founder of Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Dr. Fredrick Fasehun. He said Yoruba should not get themselves into playing opposition politics because of a man’s plight.
To him, in the Nigeria democracy, opposition parties are like endangered species “if the personal ambition of someone has brought us to where we are today, should we also blindly rush out based on the person’s personal ambition or because of the challenges such a person is facing within the party.”
He said under no circumstance should the Yoruba race allow itself to be dragged into the opposition because of anybody. “What we need to do is to form a vibrant unity under a socio-cultural organisation, it doesn’t matter whatever name we give the body. That’s the best way to achieve our desire under the present ruling party. The non-political group should control all Yoruba. It doesn’t matter the name. We must not at this point blindly follow an assuming leader because of his selfish interest.” He further argued that the selfish interest of an individual whose ambition was to nominate his stooges into public offices gave the President the audacity to appoint whomever he wanted, stressing that “the Yoruba ought to have sat down and decided on who should really represent them and not necessarily the ones we have today.”
Also speaking on the issue, a former lawmaker, Mr. Lanre Odubote, who once represented Epe Federal Constituency, also kicked against the proposal for a new party saying it would not help the people or the democracy.
Daily Sun also gathered that a chieftain of the APC, who is very close to Tinubu, was said to have specifically rejected the idea of Yoruba pulling out and has also called Tinubu’s attention to the implications.
One of the arguments of the APC chieftain, Daily Sun’s sources disclosed, is that the Yoruba “cannot afford to destroy the house it helped to construct.”
Members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) were not favourably disposed to the idea too, saying: “it won’t make any positive impact because of “the winner takes it all syndrome in Nigeria.”
The spokesman of Lagos PDP, Taofik Gani cautioned the leadership of the Yoruba who may be nursing the idea of pulling out, to be cautious so as not to be seen as trying to defend the personality of Tinubu under the pretext of defending the course of the South West.
According to Gani, “I am not in the school of thought that believes Tinubu is being vilified in his party. That would amount to promoting him and not the course of the South West. While I will not also subscribe to the idea that he should be abandoned to be humiliated by some cabal, it is important to take a critical look at the motives for which he coerced the region to support Buhari in 2015.”
Gani also said the Yoruba race should not allow the current developments in the ruling party to push them into fanning the embers of disunity in the country adding, “there is the need for us to be meticulous in handling this matter; the unity of Nigeria remains sacrosanct.
What is important now is to call a Yoruba summit that will cut across political parties’ affiliation where we will chat a way forward on the future of the region,” he added.
Also, Mr. Amos Olayinka of the PDP said that the Yoruba race must be careful not to rush into demonizing the perceived enemies of Tinubu like some people are already doing by calling the likes of Fashola, Fayemi, Amosun and others traitors.
In his reaction, Human Rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) dismissed the idea of going to a new party, saying such motives for now, was selfish and not in the interest of the majority of the Yoruba people.
An Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo in a recent media chat, asserted that the APC arrangement was done based on personal purposes.
He said “when they (the Tinubu and co) wanted to start this APC; we knew the foundation was not right. We complained about their compatibility. We said they were not compatible. They did not agree but continued. On the surface, they appeared compatible but the truth remains they were strange bed fellows.”