2019, Yoruba interests, and Osinbajo’s vaulting ambition III
LAST week we ended by saying Zik failed in 1952 to realise his ambition of being “Premier” of Western Region despite that his party, NCNC, had won the leading number of seats into the parliament while the AG of Chief Obafemi Awolowo came second. Other smaller parties teamed up with the AG to deliver the plum job to Awo. A sulking Zik retreated to the East; one event led to another and Eyo Ita, the Ibibio man who was “Premier” of the East, lost the post to Zik. Tribalism, which Zik derided in the West when he lost, became acceptable in the East when he was the beneficiary. Zik should have behaved better than the Awoists he railed against in the West. Present-day Yoruba-Igbo relations would have suffered less if it had ended there; unfortunately, it did not. In the parliamentary election of December 1959, Zik’s NCNC came first on popular votes with 2, 594, 577 votes (which translated into 81 parliamentary seats); Awo’s AG came second with 1, 992, 364 votes (73 seats) while the North’s NPC came third with 1,992,179 votes (but with 134 seats). The parliament had 312 seats. NCNC+AG with total votes of 4, 586, 941 had a combined 154 seats while the North, with a vote less than AG’s, had 134 seats. This was the machination of the departing British colonial masters; their undue favouritism of the North was beyond dispute.
Notwithstanding, NCNC as the leading party had a golden opportunity to lead this country at Independence extended to it when Awo’s AG approached it for both to form a coalition government. Coalition Governments are a necessary evil, as some have called it, in parliamentary democracy. AG asked Zik to be Prime Minister while Awo would be Deputy Prime Minister or Finance Minister. While this discussion was on, Zik and NCNC announced a coalition government with the NPC. NPC was given the real power of Prime Minister while Zik settled for the ceremonial office of President. Note that there were two-and-half times more voters in the South than in the North. Today, however, the demography is said to have changed, such that there are even more voters in one state in the North that has been divided again and again, say, Kano, than in an entire geo-political zone in the South. Nigeria is the only country in the whole world where desert regions, where desert encroachment is driving both human beings and cows southward, not only harbour more population than the South but is also growing at geometrical proportion while the South, which has all it takes to support large population, grows at arithmetical proportion, so to say.
Various reasons have been adduced for Zik throwing the opportunity to become PM at Independence. Some said he craved national unity more than anything else; that he was more at home with the North than the West (remember he was born at Zungeru in Niger state); that he found the Yoruba and or Awo/AG untrustworthy since the events of 1952 and feared they might be playing games with him again; that he wanted desperately to pay back the West in their own coins; that he thought he could best manipulate the North than the West, etc. Whatever his reasons might have been; Zik, who could have led Nigeria at Independence, settled for shadows. That singular decision gave the North the opportunity to cement the undue advantage the colonial masters gave them at Independence. They have built on that head-start and have never looked back. From one region to the South’s two and later three, the North now has 19 states to the South’s 17. A single state in the North now has as many local governments as a whole geo-political zone in the South. The North has also, through the instrumentality of census figures, given itself far more population than the South. Since population is used to share resources, the North attracts to itself the lion’s share of resources mined principally in the South. It also has maintained a vice-like grip on political leadership. Except since 1999, it has ruled this country many times over, leading the South to be green with envy. It has even appropriated to itself the privilege to decide which Southerner will stand in the gap whenever it chooses to go on sabbatical. One of such rare sabbaticals is assumed might come in 2023 and because it is a rare occurrence, the Igbo and Yoruba must kill themselves to land it. It is, thus, being touted as an opportunity which, once lost, will take a very long time before it can be regained. That was the import of VP Yemi Osinbajo’s outbursts that the Yoruba must grovel before the North; vote President Muhammadu Buhari for second term; and then wait to see whether it may be that, afterwards, Nigeria’s god of power, which the North is, may mercifully look upon the Yoruba and favour them to have another taste of political power in 2023. Incidentally, this same chalice has been sold to the Igbo and they, too, are being encouraged to upstage the Yoruba by proving themselves better errand boys of the North than the Yoruba; it may be, then, that 2023 may be their long-awaited Year of political enthronement.
Should the Yoruba and Igbo wait on the North to determine their political destiny? I do not think so! If only they are willing and ready to work for it, they can turn the North into mere onlookers while they decide not only their own destiny but also the destiny of the entire nation. All they need do is: Get over the age-old animosity of the Zik/Awo divide; rather than look in the direction of the North, they should dare to have that handshake across the Niger that Ojukwu advocated. That way, they would have become the master of their own destiny. That way, they would also be re-writing the history of their own people. It is only then that true CHANGE can come to this country. It is also only then that they can begin to take back this country from those that have hijacked it. It is then they can right the wrongs of fake census figures and constituency gerrymandering that have viciously robbed and wilfully imperilled the South – the entire South, Yoruba, Igbo, and the other ethnic groups in the region all put together. Two formidable forces have, however, always worked against this: The animosities of the past and the feudal forces up North, which are always ready to thwart any genuine and sincere effort towards Yoruba/Igbo rapprochement.
Can the Igbo ever forget the events of 1952? Will the Yoruba ever overlook those of 1959? This is not to talk of the Civil War events: Did Awo betray the Igbo by not declaring succession in the West or did the Igbo misunderstand him? Will the Yoruba forgive the balkanisation of the West and the persecution of Awo? Will the Igbo ever accept Awo’s explanations of the policies he advocated to quickly bring the war to an end and to methodically re-integrate the Igbo and other South-South minority groups into the national economy or will they continue to insist he starved them and should have given them more than 20 pounds after the war? Are the Igbo, with their control of the nation’s economy, truly marginalised? If so, whose fault? Have we given adequate attention to the role played by Gen. JTU Aguiyi-Ironsi with his ill-advised and ill-fated Decree One of 1966, which some have argued sounded the death-knell of federalism? Each time the Igbo pillory the Yoruba, I longed to hear at least someone mention the heroics and patriotism of Col. Francis Adekunle Fayuji, who chose to die with Ironsi at Ibadan. Yet, the Igbo often feel more at home with the “butchers of Ibadan” and the executors of the pogrom. Each time the Igbo lampoon Awo or call Yoruba tribalists, I marvel that they spare no thought for the sacrifices of Victor Banjo, Wole Soyinka, Tai Solarin and others of their ilk. Next week, God willing!
Buruji Kashamu’s challenge to Ekiti PDP
PDP’s proverbial “igi woroko ti n da’na ru” – that is to say the crooked and mangled firewood that always unsettles or troubles the cooking fire – who else but Buruji Kashamu, the senator representing Ogun East and a perpetual trouble-maker in Ogun PDP, nay, PDP nationwide, has thrown in the towel. For some years now, it has been “Kashamu kan, PDP kan” as the senator has troubled and upset the party to no end. He has deftly used the courts to cause the party incalculable harm and irredeemable injury. Remember he was Ali Modu Sheriff’s right-hand man, who gave PDP hell in the last Edo and Ondo states’ governorship elections. Apart from daylight robbery, Kashamu was the other reason PDP lost in those two states. Kashamu’s disruptive pranks and destructive court injunctions, which he was adept at securing, dealt PDP several blows below the belt. When the enfant terrible showed his hands in the Ogun governorship election, getting his faction of the party to declare him as the flag bearer, I simply said “C’est fini” to PDP’s chances, even though the intractable troubles in the ruling Ogun APC should give PDP the best ever opportunity to coast home to victory. Each time Kashamu showed his tormenting hands, I had wondered why his opponents could not learn from Muhammadu Buhari and give him the Umaru Dikko treatment: Seize and crate him to the United States where he is said to be wanted like hot cake! Good riddance to bad rubbish! Against the run of play, as they say, Kashamu last Friday however threw in the towel, renounced his claim to the Ogun PDP governorship flag, and commanded his “boys” to queue behind and work for the authentic PDP governorship flag bearer, House of Representatives-man Ladi Adebutu (aka Lado) – but with a caveat. The case or cases in court continues! So what Kashamu is offering PDP is a respite. He appears to be angling for what played out in Rivers state, which eventually made Rotimi Amaechi governor, and which Segun Abraham and Segun Oni are trying to pull off in Ondo and Ekiti states respectively. So, for Ogun PDP, it is “Christians seek not yet repose…” There is lesson, however, for Ekiti PDP leaders to learn from Kashamu, as embarrassing as this may seem: Bury the hatchet and work together as a team in the overall interest of party and nation.
LAST WORDS: The Ondo State Government is hosting a “Security summit” on Thursday 17th January. This is well-timed; it is also well- considered in view of recent security concerns over incessant kidnappings and or robbery attacks in the state. Hope lasting solutions will be found at the summit – and that the Rotimi Akeredolu administration will find the political will to implement same.