By Festus Adedayo
What could have prompted Aunt Adelina to declare in The Feast of the Goat that “Well, that’s what politics is, you make your way over corpses…”? After seeing what politics and politicians do with us in Nigeria, should I have asked that question in the first instance? Optimists that Nigerian politicians are, they have started a race ahead of God to the year 2023; and they do not appear to mind stepping on the blood and the corpses of their brothers into that office they covet so badly.
While at it, they are most times unmindful of how the people feel about their sprinting ahead of the Creator. Not even the perishability of their own selves do they give consideration. Being humans, can any sprinter be sure they will see that selfsame 2023? This time around, however, they seem to be hushing the 2023 permutations and projections.
So when last week, a group of loyalists of former governor of Lagos State and one of the leaders of the All Progressives Congress, (APC) Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, stormed the ancient cities of Ibadan and Oyo, in Oyo State to canvass his 2023 presidency, the picturesque that was hitherto operating at the realm of conjecture, about a kingmaker who wants to transmute to become the king, began to take a life of its own.
A very instructive statement from the leader of the group, Dayo Adeyeye, a former federal lawmaker, ex-AD, ex-PDP, currently in APC, brought home the raison d’être of the team, named South West Agenda (SWAGA ’23). While explaining SWAGA ’23’s agenda, Adeyeye said it was to “champion a common front for the Yoruba race.”
It must be borne in mind that Tinubu has not publicly told anyone he is interested in the presidency. However, he has embarked on some gallivanting of recent to the North which some readers of Nigeria’s political barometer labelled political moves ahead of 2023. Counterpoising this is also an alleged attempt by the feudal north, desirous of eating its cake and having it, to bring back former Nigerian president, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, into the presidential contest, so as to speed up the north’s return to power.
There is always a tomorrow. And when that tomorrow comes, the pounded yam of twenty years ago will burn the finger of the sinner. Adeyeye’s SWAGA ’23 reminds me of a sad occurrence that took place around 1969 in Ila Orangun, an ancient town in present-day Osun State. It happened during the Agbekoya tax revolt in the Western Region. It took the avatar himself, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, to quench the fire by walking into the forest on foot to negotiate with Tafa Adeoye, leader of the revolt. He was the only one the peasants trusted.
The Soun of Ogbomoso was killed, dismembered by the rioters. In Ila Orangun, the rioters also attempted to replicate the Ogbomoso mayhem on the monarchy. A senior member of Ila traditional council, Chief Elemona, was killed in a similar fashion as the Soun. The king, Oba Williams Adetona Ayemi, was forced to flee the palace for safety. It was suspected that the attack on the Oba and his chief was a carryover from Ila local first republic politics, the divide between First Republic rumps of S. L. Akintola’s NNDP and the Action Groupers in the town. The Oba was the leader of the Action Group before he became a king while the murdered chief was his main backer.
Then came 1978/79 and the return of party politics; the NPN group loyal to those who hounded Oba Ayeni out of the palace, moved to have an upper hand in the political equation of Ila Orangun and the UPN locals went into their vengeance archive. For those who know, payback is real in Yoruba politics. Indeed, from time immemorial, recriminations are permanent features of politicking and inter-party relations in the land.
Thus, as this Ila political rump attempted to secure ascendancy, the locals, through incendiary songs, vengefully reminded them that they had not forgotten how they sneaked murderous politics into the Agbekoya uprising, killing Elemona and hounding Oba Ayeni out of the palace. They sang: E gbagbe ibo ni? Igba ti e p’Elemona ti e l’Oba lu’gbo, e gbagbe ibo ni? translated, meaning, “did you forget that there would be elections when you killed Elemona and chased the Oba into the bush?”
If Adeyeye does not know, he should ask any deep Yoruba son or daughter to tell him the potency of payback politics of the people. Yoruba do not forget, they also very rarely forgive. As he mouthed his “a common front for the Yoruba race,” he probably had forgotten a woman named Mulikat Akande-Adeola. This Ogbomoso-born woman was a member of the House of Representatives and was highly favoured by all permutations, including the support of the presidency and a zoning formula which slated the House of Representatives Speakership to the Yoruba of the South West in 2011. All of a sudden, Tinubu and his Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) Yoruba ensemble forgot the propriety of that same “common front for the Yoruba race.” Tinubu not only opposed the Yoruba woman, he strongly backed then 45-year old Aminu Tambuwal, lawmaker and lawyer from Tambuwal Federal constituency of Sokoto State, even though he was not of their party. Tinubu’s party ordered all its legislators to vote the Fulani as Speaker and ditch their own sister from Ogbomosho. Now, the selfsame actors who didn’t realize that Yoruba needed a common front in 2011 have suddenly realized the need for Yoruba interest to be protected in 2023.
The Ila Orangun anecdote is a strong dip into and a reminder that, if not anywhere else, payback time politics is real and potent in Yorubaland. As we trudge towards 2023, Yoruba will remember those who had sacrificed the so-called Yoruba interest on the altar of self ambition in the past. They amusingly watch how same people who sold them for ten shekels of silver now appropriating the moral right to call them to queue behind them in 2023, “for the sake of the Yoruba race.”
On Wednesday 27 January 1999, twenty-three leaders of Afenifere/Alliance for Democracy converged in a hotel called D’Rovans in Ibadan. It was a concave for the purpose of choosing the presidential flag-bearer of the mainstream Yoruba party. Bola Tinubu, a new entrant in that circle, was a delegate there. The roles Tinubu and all other leaders played in that assembly are well documented. The messy details are contained in that must-read book entitled Yoruba Elites and Ethnic Politics in Nigeria authored by one of the most brilliant Yoruba of this generation, Professor Wale Adebanwi, of the University of Oxford.
Believing that Olusegun Obasanjo didn’t represent the Yoruba ideal, Afenifere chose to nominate its own candidate between Chiefs Bola Ige and Olu Falae. Against popular expectations, Falae defeated Bola Ige. In dissecting who each of the Yoruba leaders voted or didn’t vote for, resulting in Ige’s loss, the author conducted a very diligent investigation. In Tinubu’s case, the issue was not really whom he voted for, but the reasons he gave for the choice he made. Adebanwi said: “Tinubu…ostensibly told both sides what they wanted to hear as the reason why he voted for Falae. (Bisi) Akande said Tinubu told him that he was threatened by the ‘old men,’ the Ijebu Four, to vote the way he did. On the other hand, during my fieldwork, the old men disclosed (to me) that Tinubu told them that he couldn’t have voted for Ige because Ige had supported Funso Williams against him in the party primaries in Lagos…” Interesting!
Again, if you want to argue that Tinubu is a reincarnation of Awolowo, please take time to read this book, especially the difference between Awo’s ideologically driven politics and Tinubu’s power-driven politics. The author submits on page 235 that Tinubu “has a prudent fancy for ideology but a fierce commitment to power.” Power here is a euphemism for the end that justifies the means of that deadly French theorist, Niccolo Machiavelli. Indeed, “for him, whatever works and works well in politics is ‘good’ politics. That, perhaps, explains his politics of bringing down his Ogbomosho sister for the Sokoto/Fulani boy to rise in Speakership race of 2011. Awoism and Yoruba progressive politics would never endorse calling cow brother because you want to eat beef. Till today, Tinubu is held to be the one who single-handedly dissembled Afenifere and literally destroyed the Yoruba group.
Besides, the present focus of the Yoruba is how to stop Nigeria from further wrecking their lives. They call it restructuring. It is not the same as the presidency of Nigeria. The Yoruba are aware that, as it is presently constituted, Nigeria is an empty and spent shell deodorized from the outward by its demographics. That shell, even if bequeathed to any of their children in 2023, will explode in their very before. Today’s Nigeria, the Yoruba know, is retarding their progress. The beautifully decorated shell will end up worse than the current fate of the North in the hands of Muhammadu Buhari.
Today, terrorism and violence have torn the north apart. Emir palaces, hitherto sacred grooves, are targets of bandits and jihadists. Northern feudal lord politicians hardly live within the space of their places of birth. They run to neighbouring countries to hide their heads from insipid violence. Perhaps, if the north had insisted on producing the best of the north and not a man they all knew his serial and manifest incompetence and health failings, that region would have been spared this unenviable tag of one of the most volatile and dangerous places to live in the world today. It would have also saved Nigeria from being infected with its miserable virus of a Buhari presidency.
For the South West, borrowing from that ancient Yoruba pun, the eku to da’yi le – the rat that is the harbinger of this dross – was no other than Tinubu and his ACN/APC gang. For selfish political gains, they effectively dressed Buhari in borrowed robes, placed sachet of beverages before him to evoke imageries of frugality, put a suit on a man whose mind is grossly dank against modernity, told us he was our best friend and shielded him from the presidential debate where we would have had a peep into his empty mind. Today, those selfsame people want to replace Buhari in 2023, citing the need to “champion a common front for the Yoruba race.” Yoruba will sing the Ila Orangun song for them.
All the above notwithstanding, however, if you ask me, I am sure as the sun will rise that Tinubu will run from the presidency, rather than run for the presidency. The Jagaban is too smart, too street-wise to bite the bullet that campaigning for the presidency will be for him. I think SWAG and all the swags about contesting for the 2023 election are basically more of an attempt to keep the Master relevant in the power calculus post-2023 than for him to run for any presidential race.
The picture of what lies ahead of him if he runs for another elective office in Nigeria had already been shown him, less than six months into the Buhari presidency. A back page piece in the Sun in 2015 had asked the then young Buhari presidency to move against Tinubu, using the Russian Vladimir Putin model.
The Putin presidency was said to have been sponsored by some drug barons and one of the first actions he took upon becoming president was to run those same sponsors out of town. They were sure Putin’s sponsors wore the same soiled garments as the Jagaban. They even alleged in the piece that Tinubu owned almost half of Lagos State. It is obvious that those who engineered this to scare Tinubu from eating from the fruits of his labour in the Buhari presidency would not think twice in rekindling the same dirty model. So, Tinubu, please run, run from the SWAGA gang.
Thus, in the hands of this set of people are the pre-governorship allegations against Tinubu which had Tokunbo Afikuyomi starring prominently. I see the Buhari presidency, which Tinubu himself knows doesn’t believe in him, reactivating all the old allegations of old and using them to smear Tinubu to his hilt. So enjoy the Tinubu presidency drama while it lasts. Tinubu will run from the presidential contest, rather than run for it.