By Sola Ebiseni
From the wisdom-pool of ancient Yoruba philosophy is the eternal word of admonition that “a ò rí irú eléyi ri, a fi nderu ba olórò ni”, which may simply translate that no occurrence no matter how bizarre it may seem or exaggerated to frighten a victim can be deemed as never seen or happened before. In the similar words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun”.
In all occurrences in our land, after a deep introspection rooted in humanity in general and more particularly delineated by the history of our country and its unforgettable heroes, I have, like Balam, chosen to live by and for the truth that I may die the death of the righteous and my end might like his be.
For the Afenifere, I always remind myself of the words of our amiable Deputy Leader, 80 years old core Awoist, now a traditional ruler, Oba Oladipo Olaitan, the Alaago of Kajola Ago, Atakumosa East Council Area, Ilesa, Osun State, legal practitioner, former Special Adviser to Governor Jakande of Lagos State, law maker, representing Alimosho Federal Constituency and Leader of the Alliance for Democracy, House of Representatives who is always quick to remind his audience that Afenifere is not afraid to take hard decisions in the annals of Nigerian political history for which we may be despised by many initially but which the country would invariably come to terms with in the fullness of time. Of course, the symbol of the Afenifere is Obafemi Awolowo in whose image, words and actions our steps are ordered.
The adoption of Peter Obi, a Nigerian of South-East (Igbo) extraction as the Presidential candidate in a contest which a Yoruba personality, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is also a frontline contender is, to many, an audacious, if not a stupid step on the part of the Afenifere. There are those who will swear, even without a scintilla of proof, that such decision was borne out of vendetta or morbid hatred for Tinubu. For cheap ethnic effects, the burden is heaped on the Leader, Pa Ayo Adebanjo personally as if he is the sole determinant or the rest of us morons, in the decision taken in 14 regular monthly meetings attended by all the organs and chapters of Afenifere in all the South-West states, including Kwara, Kogi and the Itsekiri of Delta State.
They create, in their fertile imagination, a faction in the Afenifere presumably headed by our reverred Leader, seeking inadvertently to diminish, thereby, his deserving emeritus status and only using their imaginary faction to sell their own partisan ideas through press releases. Different wings and columns of Afenifere are suddenly springing and spreading as its Youth Councils or Wings when they know too well that such cells have no place in Afenifere for reasons of possible pollution of its ideology and philosophy. Carrying placards against Ayo Adebanjo has suddenly assumed a lucrative venture by crowd merchants who part with peanuts for their hired jobless urchins unleashed on our streets with ill-defined messages while for eight years of their government’s lacklustre presence in the lives of Nigerians, they maintained hypocritical silence and conspiratorial mute indifference.
Mercenary and hack writers are employed for both the orthodox and the all-comers social media space. Nothing, not even the Yoruba traditional institution, is too sacred to be spared their shenanigans; they found for their anti-Adebanjo crusade loquacious orchestra without constraints. They invented stories and sought shamelessly to rewrite established personal histories even of octogenarians nonagenarians and even of the dead. For their misty pedigree and being, as ajègbodò, they are in search of partnership in unravelable life. Thus, Ayo Adebanjo who was born on April 10, 1928 of Yoruba descent from Isanya Ogbo Ijebu of Ogun State to a Christian father, Papa Joel and a Muslim mother, Alhaja Salawatu, his mother was suddenly pronounced Igbo to justify their jaundiced reasons for supporting Obi.
They also expected some gullible audience, for ethnic reasons, to continue to believe them that the father of a warlord like Olusegun Obasanjo who, in full adulthood, fought on the side of the rest of the federation against Igbo is Igbo as the reason for supporting Obi. He was not Fulani when he rooted for both Yar’Adua and Buhari, nor Ijaw for lifting Jonathan from a deputy governor of Bayelsa State to the Chief Occupant of Aso Rock. In all these, Afenifere has become stronger as its message of equity and fairness as Nigeria’s governance module assumes invincibility. It found precedent in its history and the acts of its master. Awolowo early in his political career showed he wasn’t a tribal jingoist. The Nigerian Youths Movement, a metamorphosis of its Lagos version, is a veritable incubator of Nigerian political leadership. Several Nigerian pioneering juggernauts of all tribes and tongues found their bearings in the party. Formed in 1934, it immediately tangoed with the immensely popular Herhert Macauley’s Nigerian National Democratic Party, NDPP. The contest for a seat at the Legislative Council to replace one of its leaders, Kofo Abayomi in 1941, pitched one of its founding fathers, Ernest Ikoli, Lagos- based frontline journalist of Nembe Eastern region origin, with Samuel Akinsanya of Isara Remo of Western Region. Awolowo, Akintola, Davies, all Yoruba, rooted for Ikoli, while Akinsanya was of the Azikiwe camp.
Akinsanya initially won the NYM primary which the Ikoli/Awolowo camp successfully disputed with Ikoli finally becoming the party candidate and securing the legislative seat ultimately while the Zik/ Akinsanya camp which lost as an independent candidate exited the organisation. As it is today, Ikoli again was to lose his seat in another by-election in 1946 but successfully challenged the declaration in court and regained his seat. Ernest Ikoli born in 1893 was a senior to Awolowo both in age and nationalist struggles, but he eventually joined and accepted the leadership of Awolowo with the formation of the Action Group in 1951. Another central figure in the NYM/Egbe Omo Oduduwa and of the Awolowo political family was Oba Adeniji Adele of Lagos who dared the towering influence of the NCNC/NNDP in Lagos to join forces with Awolowo, the result of which was his vice chairmanship of the Western Region House of Chiefs.
These and other historical events were given eye witness vent by Chief Ayo Adebanjo in my usual historical excursion with him during the week, including the reason and meaning of “Ebudola” in the Efunyela Hall in the Ikenne Country Home of the late sage. It was in deep retrospection of the triumph of Awolowo’s hard decisions in favour of federalism, free and compulsory education( Lagos being part of Western Region), liberation of minority tribes from regional oligarchies and feudalism, etc, for which he and his Afenifere disciples were made subjects of scathing criticism if not virulent attacks but which eventually became the corner stone of Western Nigerian comparative edge and Nigerian national aspiration.
Lest I forget, so much was the outpouring of goodwill messages for Pa Ayo Adebanjo on his 95 birthday that time and space will not permit the desired and deserving appreciation of those words on the marble of history. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu acknowledged him as “one of the few remaining disciples of our late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo” and that “he has remained consistent in sustaining the ideals of progressive good governance and social justice” and saluting “his courage over the years and the useful role he has played in ensuring that Nigeria remains a strong, united and prosperous country”.
Rejoicing with the Afenifere leader, Peter Obi said Ayo Adebanjo had “remained a resounding and consistent voice in preaching for a better and egalitarian Nigeria”, adding: “I admire and respect, above all, your courage in speaking up on bad governance and flawed public policies. Your patriotic fervour is exemplary”. He concluded thus: “I thank God for the gift of your life to our nation and humanity. Your place in the annals of Nigeria’s history is secure”. The lessons from these testimonies from diverse quarters is the consistency and constancy of the truth and that our divergent views on national issues are nothing personal.
Nigeria, we hail thee!
Ebiseni is the Secretary General, Afenifere and South West Coordinator, OBIDATTI Campaigns Organisation.
GIPHY App Key not set. Please check settings