“In grave difficulties and with little hope, the boldest measures are the safest.” - Eric Linklater But for the misrule of Generals Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha, and, save for some students of history among us, I am sure quite a good number of us, especially, post-Nigeria’s independence children, would have known, or learnt, next-to-nothing about the word and works of ‘Afenifere’ as a socio-cultural organization. Again, apart from time and space, which may not permit any historical rigmarole on subject, most of what I would have loved to (re-) capture in this piece a la Afenifere are already in the domains of Nigerians, courtesy of the battle for supremacy in the House of Oduduwa. As we all know, in every situation, each individual is either an active or a passive participant.
Extending the argument further, each participant is a benefactor, a beneficiary, an aggrieved participant, a professional clapper, or an accomplished bystander. Whichever way, the simple truth is that we are all actors. It is only where our bias, or, interest, tilts that distinguishes us. Personally speaking, I was hardly tutored on the activities of Afenifere, especially, in the emancipation of the Yoruba race until, especially, the Abacha madness of the ‘90s. Then, those who loved power and money were drifting towards the centre thereby leaving their people to their destiny while those who loved their people were very much with their people, irrespective of what the centre (as dictated by Abacha and his goons) represented or presented. Then, I knew what a typical struggle for the survival of democracy looked like; and I was treated to what guerilla journalism typified.
Then, more men were ready to confront the status quo ante bellum than there were to felicitate with it. I remember how, on June 12, 1993, my parents had to trek the long distance to (the) Polling Booth, all in a bid to cast their votes for the candidates of their choice only for an ‘Evil Genius’ to bizarrely annul the people’s choice. I remember the catastrophe that accompanied Babangida’s brazen insult on a nation; and I remember how people had to stand up (to fight) for their rights, even in the face of (threats of) death! I remember socio-cultural organizations like Afenifere, Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, and Ohaneze Ndi Igbo; and acronyms like NADECO (National Democratic Coalition); PRONACO (Pro National Conference Organization), EMU (Eastern Mandate Union), and CLO (Civil Liberties Organization), among others, each doing what it loved best. I remember names like Adekunle Ajasin, Abraham Adesanya, Bola Ige, Anthony Enahoro, Wole Soyinka, Gani Fawehinmi, Ayo Adebanjo, Pa Solanke Onasanya, Olu Falae, Beko Ransome-Kuti, Femi Falana, Wale Oshun, Yinka Odumakin, Ayo Obe to mention but a few.
These worthy children of Yorubaland, certainly, complemented by the unforgettable efforts of the Abubakar Umars, the Earnest Nwankwos, the Chima Ubanis, the Joe Igbokwes, the Shehu Sanis, as well as other men and women of honour from other geopolitical zones, did all they could to give Abacha the hell of his life even when some ornamented turncoats, democratic gatecrashers and other carpet-bag adventurers were litigiously and pretentiously capitalizing on the tints and textures of conflictual cleavages to script relevance. But gone are those good old days when the fear of, especially, Afenifere, was the beginning of wisdom for Nigeria’s power grabbers. Now, things seem to have gone so bad for the socio-cultural organization that even those who purportedly advised the then President Olusegun Obasanjo to infiltrate its (Afenifere’s) ranks, apart from its self-inflicted D’Rovans saga, would now be thumping their chests in self-fulfillment. I remember the ‘AD is Afenifere and Afenifere is AD’ slogan (eering) of the ‘90s.
I remember that, for instance, in the Oyo-Osun axis of Yorubaland, any poster that bore the photograph and/or the name of an AD candidate must, as a matter of winning strategy, place by its side, the photograph and the name of Bola Ige. Then, it was widely believed that any votes cast for AD were votes cast for Obafemi Awolowo, encapsulated in, or represented by, the faithful Awoist called Ige. Well, that past is now worthy of history! But how fast have things changed? If the truth must be told, with the situation of things in Yorubaland, Yorubas, particularly, those from my own part of the world, are of the sincere view that Afenifere is now extinct; that it died, even long before the death of Ige; and that its carcass was interred with the bones of the late Adesanya. In our ‘villageous’ view, neither Adebanjo’s group (that which has not been able to make any meaningful impact on the lives of the ordinary Yorubaman other than mouthing platitudes about Awoism) nor Falae, (that unapologetic apostle of the Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP) could effectively and affectionately lay claim to representing the genuine interests of the Yoruba nation any longer. Indeed, what those who have erroneously tagged themselves the ‘Mainstream Afenifere’ did or did not do in the mortgage of the Southwest to the Pin-Di-Pi conglomerate in 2003 is too fresh in our memory!
That these ‘Mainstreamers’ mean well for my race may not be open to question. After all, everybody has the right to ‘mean well’! But wishes are not horses. Otherwise, all men would ride. Undeniably, with the way the ‘Mainstreamers’ have since this democratic dispensation handled the affairs of the Yoruba nation, not a few of us are now in doubt as to their credentials as our saviours, most importantly, as there is no clear-cut definition of their programmes and policies; no defined ideology about their vision or mission; and, with the very sense of modesty, no specified direction. It is pathetic that those leaders we have hitherto looked up to for direction have for reasons best known to them turned Yorubaland into a land reputed for the bewilderment of hostility and nepotism; a land renowned for unfulfilled promises, a calligraphy of agony and a mosaic of misery.
Curiously, too, the socio-political space has become so easily cornered and controlled by a gerontocratic oligarchy that is just about one percent of the race’s population. And, so self-centered has this group become that it has turned the people into mere pets that must be fed from the crumbs that fall off from its (the oligarch’s) table. And, in order to be fed, the majority has to needlessly deign before the minority. And, as if to add to our woes, our race remains jobless; and hungry; and angry. And that is where our problem as a race and a people lies. Sad! Those who still pitch themselves in the ‘Mainstream’ have unrepentantly made of Yorubaland a place where nothing works, where one works only to be fed with crass sympathies, satisfied ignorance, blunted apprehension, dull understanding and irreclaimable weakness of character. Sadder still, they have made of themselves insatiable lovers of self-aggrandizement. Franklin Roosevelt calls them “conservatives and … reactionaries.”
John ploughman describes them as “cousins to Mr. anything: those who will admire the Vicar of Bray, not minding whether the church is Popish or Protestant.” In the words of Pearsall Logan Smith, “they sell their souls and live with a good conscience on the proceeds.” Samuel Johnson categorizes them as those “who will, in the end, be left alone.” And to Dare Babarinsa, they are (the) irreplaceable members of the “Persuaders Party of Nigeria, PPN.” The saddest part of it all is that, with the way these ‘Mainstreamers’ have led our dear Afenifere, were Awolowo to be alive today, I am sure he would find it difficult to win elections even in his ward. It is that bad! For instance, in the eyes of quite a good number of us from the hinterland, Yorubas as a race mortgaged its identity, destiny and future the very day Afenifere felicitously chose Falae as AD’s representative in the abused elections of 1999.
To us as well – and, truly, too, Ige naturally dug his own grave the very day he accepted to serve in the government of that ‘Maximum Democrat from Otta’; and he (Ige) not only literally killed himself and his wife but also put his entire family in disarray by that vengeful mission. Interstingly, too, Afenifere as a socio-political group murdered the spirit of oneness and sleep the day it decided to romanticize PDP a la Obasanjo’s second attempt at the presidency. And, as if that was not enough, since that D’Rovans’ tale, extending, of course, to Obasanjo’s meddlesomeness in the erstwhile virile organization, Afenifere has never remained the same. In all of this, it is on record that those ‘old guards’ who have led us into our present pass have done their best. And, so, it is time for them to beat a retreat, with the enviable aim of enjoying the fruits of their labour, even as they (are expected to) pray for any younger generations willing to take up the mantle of leadership from where they are leaving it.
But, like Bob Beckel has rightly posited, "asking politicians to vote themselves out of power is like asking rabbits not to multiply." In other words, asking the ‘old order’ to willingly relinquish power without putting up any form of resistance or asking any ‘emerging order’ to take over without any viable alternative may not only be unhealthy but, if not well managed, also prove suicidal. After all, Nigerians don’t quit; they don’t resign; and they don’t retire. But, like water, always at the mercy of temperature, they only change their state! Permit me to personalize some aspects of this piece. The other day, I was involved in a ‘war’ of discussion with an elderly man of Ibadan descent. Midway into our discussion, the man in question dared me to name any other Ijeshaman, apart from Odeleye Fadahunsi, who was active during the NCNC/AG cross-carpeting drama at Ibadan. It was at this point that it dawned on me that, with the way history is structured, people in the political space are better favoured to be remembered than than those in other endeavours.
At least, I have read about the worth and the achievements of Ijeshas in Business, Education, Judiciary and the Civil Service. The point I am making here is that, though there were men of high moral éclat at that time, because they chose other professions, instead of veering into politics, historians rarely remembered them. From the foregoing, it should be understood that, not only those who have made some sacrifice in the past but, for-reasons-best-known-to-them, are afraid of quitting the stage when they are still expedient, are the only talented and excellent leaders. Unarguably, there are young men and women of high moral standing who have done creditably well in their chosen professions and are ready to, if need be, die for dear country. So, to cast blanket condemnation on those who are now springing up with the aim of continuing the battle where our ‘Current Champions’ have practically left it is morally wrong.
The galling aspect of it all is that no one knows the roles our ‘Akuko Gagaras’ are playing in the liberation of the younger generation. This is the kernel of my argument. I have, through the struggle for survival in a land of plenty, encountered one or two among these ‘Mainstreamers’ who neither advised nor assisted. I have for reason of being accused of taking sides decided not to mention their names in this piece but, by His grace, I shall do that in my memoir. Yes! I may be (mis) taken for a beggar! After all, I know how some people reason or react to issues, even when such issues involve the attainment of a worthy goal or achievement of a noble objective. Whichever way, I owe no apology! It was Oba Oladele Olashore who sponsored my first degree in Statistics (Ref: ‘OLADELE OLASORE AT 70’, ThisDay, February 18, 2005); and Akin Fatodu of ‘Olufemi Fatodu Foundation’ assisted during the postgraduate MBA programme. I can recount what Rev. Monsignor Matthew Hassan Kukah has done for my person and my race.
And Bishop Olukayode Akinyemi of Anglican Communion did – and is still doing - more than one could ordinarily have imagined to assist (people like) me. If I may expand, or buttress, my argument, twice I wrote to Umar Ali Shinkafi, the ‘Marafan Sokoto.’ Indeed, Ngozi Asoya, then, his Special Assistant, can attest to the receipt of my letters, captioned, ‘REQUEST FOR ADVICE AND HELP’, on November 7, 1994, and December 24, 1996. Of course, twice I sought financial assistance for my education from Ali Shinkafi; twice he ‘magnanimously’ wished me well - via his replies, dated December 14, 1994, and January 20, 1996. My letter to Oba Otudeko was dated January 8, 1991; and I am sure the ‘File’, which one Seyi Oduntan promised to open for me, during a chat with him at Honeywell’s Ilupeju-Lagos office, on February 7, 1991, is still there, probably awaiting relevant attention from ‘appropriate quarters.’ At a stage, I was practically forced to write a letter to the late Colonel (later Brigadier) Abdul Kareem Adisa in his capacity as Governor of the old Oyo State. Adisa was so passionate about my plight that he, on April 25, 1991, through one T.A. Oyeleye in the state’s Ministry of education, directed me to my Local Government for assistance. I did as directed but nobody did anything!
Let me stop here! I decided to tell this story just to show the whole world how little drops of water could help make a hole in a stone. For instance, Oba Olasore gave me a total of nineteen thousand naira (N19, 000.00) only, spread over a period of four academic sessions (between 1992 and 1997); and Fatodu ‘supplied’ twenty-three thousand, five hundred naira (N23,500.00) only during my MBA programme (between 2000 and 2003). The simple truth is that, but for these Good Samaritans’ intervention, I probably would have ended up being a dropout. But most of our elders and moneybags never see things this way! It is indeed a pity: we live in a geo-political and socio-economic enclave where (our) moneybags are ever prepared to outdonate one another at ‘Find me’, ‘See me’, and ‘Respect me’ functions.
In our midst are ‘International Donors’ who were prepared to ‘donate generously’ to an ‘Obama Campaign’ when indeed Barack Obama was well ahead of them on what it takes to win an election. It is on record that, even the political freedom, encapsulated in the Obama phenomenon, which the Black world now savours, certainly predated Obama. It also predated and certainly outlasted Martin Luther King Jr. Even, during his own struggle, King was never alone; there were the Ralph Abernathys, the Philip Randolphs, the Whitney Youngs, the Matthew Ahmanns, the Walter Reuthers, the Rabbi Joachims, the James Farmers and the Mahalia Jacksons, among the numerous others. So many people were arrested; so many were killed or maimed, all for the struggle! Somewhere along the line, names like Andrew Young, the Colin Powell and the legendary Jesse Jackson began to resonate.
Further, the struggle against apartheid in South Africa neither began nor ended with Nelson Mandela; history also credits the Walter Sisulus, the Oliver Tambos, the Anton Lembedes, the Michael Digakes, the Z.K. Matthews and the John Gaetsewes with partaking of the worthy struggle. And, now, ‘Madiba’ is more honourable in retirement than in government! It was Albert Einstein who once posited “peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.” But, who is a leader and how is he chosen? Is he appointed, elected, selected, or, ratified? Is leadership imposed or earned? By extension, where has been the place and space of Afenifere in the last eight years and who has been responsible for its woes? What are the ideals of Afeniferes? Who (or which group) is still standing?
Who (or which group) is derailing and who (or which group) has completely derailed? Again, how old were Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello, Bode Thomas and Adegoke Adelabu when they ascended the thoroughfare of leadership in Nigeria’s socio-political firmament? And, if I may ask: were (the likes of) Olu Falae and Adegbenka Kaka part of the original Afenifere? Where are the likes of Ebenezer Babatope of the ‘Ebino Topsy’ fame? Verily, verily, the Babatopes of Awoism is now on the other side of the rung, bleating with the sheep, howling with the wolves and practically defrauding the democracy that Awo stood for all his life. Let it be stated that those we now refer to as ‘our elders’ have had the good things of life; they have had their own fill and they are less concerned again.
Now, they have at their fingertips anything and everything they desire; and their children, including their pests and rodents, are well-educated and well-positioned. The interesting aspect of it is that, even in their old age, they are busy replacing themselves with themselves and, with the way things are going, except and unless we take our destiny in our own hands, these ‘Akuko Gagaras’ will still be there, even in death, replacing themselves with themselves. And we may be the worse for it. Certainly, the Yoruba nation and, by extension, Nigeria, needs leaders. We need leaders of good character; leaders who have honour; leaders who will not lie and leaders who can command and build excellence. And, to achieve this, part of our duties is to address the reasons as to why those who lead us are pathetically greedy and unrepentantly wicked while those who follow revel in the hustle of competent confusion and the bustle of pleasant disillusionment. It does not have to stop at that: all issues as to why the Nigerian system remains consistently conservative, tantalizingly consumerist and terrifyingly infinitized must be addressed and resolved.
This is because, with the way things currently stand in the country, it is money, not manners, which win elections. Further to this is the issue of reorientation. There is no doubt that Afenifere needs aggressive repositioning; or, reengineering; or, evangelism. In this wise, the ‘emerging order’ must be able to prove to the whole world, including, of course, the ‘old order’, that it truly represents a new world and that it possesses the intellectual capability as well as the socio-political wand needed to build and sustain a race. To be honest, my race can no longer afford to wait till eternity before the expected change begins to roll in. Indeed, it galls one’s mind that our own approach to, especially, issue relating to leadership in this clime, is irritating! Here we ethnicize politics and politicize ethnicity; we politicize economics and economize politics. In the end, it is only the hapless, helpless yet gullible masses that bear the brunt of the actors’ excesses and recklessness.
And, in all fairness, while no one is denying the fact that Nigeria’s socio-political firmament still dramatizes ‘buying and selling’ typical of Oyingbo market, neither ‘rice and soup’ criticisms nor ‘pepper-soup’-joint insinuations should be the desired recipe in getting us back on track. In my own candid view, deflating any new thinking or ideas about Yorubanness will be tantamount to depriving the Yoruba nation the ample opportunity of accessing the Next Level in her socio-political and economic dream. In essence, the struggle is not – and should not be – about who leads the Yoruba nation but how she is able to proactively access the abundant opportunities at her disposal. Without doubt, somewhere along the line, the true leader will emerge. In rounding off, I have deliberately refrained from Obamanizing Nigeria’s new, or, ‘emerging’ order because each and every race has a God-given opportunity to make or mar progress.
This is why I vehemently plead that the ongoing crises in our dear Afenifere should be seen, neither as the end of history nor the history of the end, as some curious-yet-overzealous seers and soothsayers might wish to opine. No! It is not! Rather, these crises, if and when providentially confronted and resolved, will sooner than later lead to the revival of history. And my race will be better for it. Yes! We have heard the story of Afonja and that of Aole, the same way we have read about the Emancipation Proclamation, Booker T. Washington and Rosa Parks. We have also read about Albert Lutuli of South Africa and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. After all, though the past is o as a bucket of ashes, still, it is what we carry along with us into the future. But, in the words of Lord Dennings, “silence is not the option when things are ill-done.” To that extent, advancing genuine bailout measures that can help rescue this House of Oduduwa from the socio-cultural meltdown in which she has become irresistibly immersed is better than the exchange of tantrums or articulation of messianic propositions that are only worthy of utopian solutions. In fairness to history, ‘vaining the sword’ and ‘vaining the bow’ approach has never worked – and will never work - “a war’s overthrow.” May God save us from ourselves!
Komolafe writes in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State ([email protected])
020, OKENISA STRET, PO BOX 153, IJEBU-JESA, OSUN STATE.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters