The power centres of Yorubaland

EVENTS lately indicate a rising surge for rennaisance in the political circle in Yorubaland. KUNLE ODEREMI burrows into the well-kit camps of some power blocs in the South-West, the permutations and impact.

From Lagos to Ibadan through Abeokuta, down to Ado-Ekiti, Akure and Osogbo, the tempo of political horse-trading is on the rise. Political leaders are crisscrossing the landscape of the South-West trying to forge fresh alliances and evolve what they have called a unified Yoruba Agenda. Notable figures are leading the frenetic moves to build a new consensus on burning national issues. The crisis in the major political parties has become the major catalyst for the mass movement, coupled with the perceived inadequate appreciation of the role and contribution of the zone to electoral victory of the government of the day in 2015. Hitherto political adversaries are closing ranks because of the overall interest of the South-West, though some see the alignments as seeming unholy alliances. so, beyond the exchange of visits by Governors Ayo Fayose and Rauf Aregbesola of Ekiti and Osun states is political undercurrent as they represent different political inclinations and divergence.

There are established power centres that have continued to stand the test of time in Yoruba land. But most of them derive from one main source. It is the awolowo politicalsynasty, whichhas succeeded in rallying the Yoruba political eliteand nation together. Virtually all other power centres trace their roots to the political dynasty and profess its ethos. Apart from the traditional institution, which also formed a veritable powercentre, other power blocs have emerged built around prominent individuals like former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Chief Bola Tinubu, serving governors and former governors, as well as apostles of the June 12 struggle with late business mogul Chief MKO Abiola, as the indisputable symbol. Over the years, some of these power centres did not largely interface, but the situation appears different today, as their supporters and promoters as well as power brokers cum kingmakers are involved in intense discussion for possible collaboration, cooperation and alliances.

It will be recalled that a similar scenario was prevalent not too long ago in  history political grouping and alliances. There was the Fourth Dimension, led by late Chief Sunday Afolabi in Oyo State; the  Primrose group, founded by Chief Dapo Sarumi, and the Imeri Group, which was the initiative of Dr Bode Olajumoke, which tried to evolve a common agenda and serve as a power centre between the South-West and the North and the East. It is in this light some observers have situated the ongoing processes at forging a unified voice in Yoruba land.

Investigation indicate that the various power centres are, however,  cautious in the ongoing moves for fresh alliances, ostensinly to avoid being either shortchanged during negotiation or marginalised at the end of the day. The mutual suspicion and intrigues have crystalised in a number of permutations and assumptions based on past experiences of most of the major political gladiators on the politics of Yoruba land nay the country. Though the kingmakers/power brokers still believe they hold the ace, the new elements want to play along with the hope they could outsmart the hawks. Like phoenix, part of their permutations is to flaunt their ‘clean’ credentials’ to reposition themselves as the new dominant forces.

But, there are serious challenges in the ongoing moves by the groups to unite and forge a common agenda. While some of the groups in the power blocs favour the quest to form a new party in alliance with like- minds from other geopolitical zones of the country, another bloc prefers the adoption of one of the existing political parties as a launch pad preparatory to the next political dispensation. The latter group is believed to favour the adoption of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) as the veritable choice of a platform to articulate and promote the agenda. The other group, which is inclined to the formation of a new party, is urging the ovival camp to key into the project on two critical grounds. One of them is the assumption that the establishment at the centre could go after those perceived to have outstanding issues”, dating back to the period some of their leaders were in power. The other ground is the theory that the past of such individuals could have a domino effect on the older political parties, if adopted as some of their leaders are believed to have some baggage. However, the group that is championing a new party  is counting on the goodwill of  Obasanjo and his loyalists if he acquiesces to the new project.

fay-amosThe significance of the new spirit of unity and concord in Yorubaland is underlined by the conviviality that informed a recent meeting between Tinubu and some Yoruba leaders at his Bourdillon Ikoyi residence in Lagos. Most of the leaders harped on the need for unity and common agenda meant to enhance the status, capacity and gains of the Yoruba in contemporary politics in the country.  Some of those leaders that attended that meeting recalled the contribution of  Sir Olaniwun Ajayi at the meeting. He was seen as a critical rallying point when it came to the issue of Yoruba unity. This was how Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State graphically captured the scenario, when news broke about the demise of the late nationalist and lawyer: “I recall my last meeting with him just about three months ago at the residence of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, it was like a premonition. He had admonished all of us to give him a long legacy and ensure that the Yoruba hegemony is not trampled upon and tarnished.” The reverence of the late political titan was equally reflected by Afenifere in its condolence message, as it stated: “His last days of his life were spent in worries over the state of affairs in Yoruba land in particular and in Nigeria at large. He was not just lamenting but he was taking practical steps to find verb for our noun in the syntax of human experience. It is hoped that all those involved in such intervention would keep those efforts on as a memorial for this worthy son of Oduduwa.”

The aggressive drive to build a consensus is a direct response of the political class in the South-West to the governorship poll coming up on November 26, 2016. It is another contest for supremacy among the powerful forces and centres in the South-West, as well as those at the national level, especially the political establishment. The various groups are trying to fill an obvious vacuum created by the seamless intrigues and crises that appear to have either weakened or castrated the leading parties. A kind of symbiotic relationship now exists among the powerful and influential political figures that belong to separate political divides.. It was gathered that some of these forces are in contact with either PDP or APC  as real buffer in the battle for the soul of Ondo State on the Election Day. They are working on strategies that could swing voters and sway votes to specific candidates with the likely far-reaching implications for the overall interest of the political establishment in Yoruba nation. For example,  the thinking is that the outcome of the Ondo election could define the direction of subsequent governorship polls in Ekiti and Osun states in 2018, as well as the general election in the country a year after. The scramble for power in Yoruba land can further be attested to from the manner of campaigns ahead of the Ondo election. Most of the candidates have deployed all arsenals in an attempt to subdue  perceived stronger opponents via sheer propaganda. The artillery fire is being complemented with the plethora of pseudo non political groups and bodies that, however have submerged themselves in the murky waters of politics. They engage in mudslinging to orchestrate the cause of their promoters and principals and their major stakeholders in the election.

On its own, a new political association, The Patriotic Movement (TPM) took the initiatives to unite the Yoruba because of what it described as the need to get its derived share of things in the country. The group cuts across members of the existing parties and boasts of senior citizens, eminent politicians, elder statesmen and professionals, including academicians. Some of the leaders include Chief Oladosu Oladipo, who is the national coordinator; Professor Soji Adejumo, Professor Taoreed Adedoja, among others. It has held consultations with former President Obasanjo, proposed meetings with first class monarchs, other leading politicians in PDP, APC and others. It has expressed serious reservation concerning the perceived ill-treatment, marginalisation of Tinubu by some forces in APC after assisting the party to come to power in 2015, a predicament that informed a rally  in Lagos last Saturday by his loyalists and sympathisers. The TPM, according to Ladipo, has succeeded in making the business tycoon in Yoruba land to see reasons they need to key into the current rennainsance in the Suth west among the sons and daughters of Oduduwa.

Some former governors and ministers, as well as APC chieftains from the South-West currently serving the establishment have emerged as another power centre. Their influence has increasingly become noticeable in the new power equation in Yoruba land. They have begun a gradual process of building their structures, hoping that they  would boast of the capacity to march any opposition and be in a good stead to serve as buffer for the top echelon of the Establishment now and in the nearest future, though some loyalists of the those pro-establishment benefactors are accuse  of betrayal and conspiracy after coming to political limelight through a particular power centre.

It has also been discovered that some Yoruba elements are involved in another political movement comprising more than 250 groups and individuals. The group is yet to come up with a name but it has almost finalised arrangements to hold a retreat on democracy in Abuja early December as part of its events to kick-start serious politicking. The group comprises eminent scholars, pro democracy and rights activists, politicians, lawyers and economists drawn from virtually all the zones of the country.

As the old power online appear to be reaching out to one another in the quest to build a concensus on a Yoruba political Agenda, a new power configuration could be around the corner. But what form and shape will it be? How enduring will be power centres become? Will they be based on principles or built around individuals, who will not only aquire more powers but also continue to dictate the  pace of events in the politics of Yoruba land?