Arewa songs of conquest (2)

THESE folks lack any institutional memory to even understand the subtlety of those they are engaged in power game with. They are in a game whose rules of engagement they don’t have the faintest idea of. They didn’t know that the power of cash becomes immaterial when the key to the treasury is handed to those you thought you were funding. Some folks are so poor despite having tons of cash. In 1962, Obafemi Awolowo in the course of the legislative sitting passed a note to the then Prime Minister of Nigeria, Tafawa Balewa. The content was “when can we see?” The response was instant “why not now?” Pronto the Opposition Leader and the Prime Minister moved to his office and Awo stroked the frame of his glasses and looked straight into Balewa’s eyes, asking: “Mr PM, what is it I’m hearing about plans to impose emergency rule in Western Nigeria today?” Balewa laughed haughtily and said, “Come off it Chief Awolowo, how would you countenance such a wicked rumour? Do you not know how long a process it takes to take such a decision? Meeting ended and both men returned to the chambers. By the evening of that discussion, a state of emergency was declared in Western Nigeria.

General Olusegun Obasanjo i took his pen and scribbled some script to the effect that Chief Obafemi Awolowo was the architect of his own power misfortune in Nigeria. The He boasted that he was walking barefooted when Awo was already a famous adventurer in power but that the office of the President of Nigeria which he could not attain was his on a platter. He went further to ridicule the sage that even when he gave him clues as to how to placate Arewa to concede power to him, Awo remained his rigid and principled self as the Pro-Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University to which he deliberately appointed him to learn Arewa ways.

The General who thought Awo their ways was rewarded with years in jail in spite of all his attainments.

That reminds me of one power muppet of Yorubaland, Chief Sunday Adewusi the notorious Inspector General of police under Alhaji Shehu Shagari. He was among the delegates to Obasanjo’s Political Reforms Conference of 2005.The Yoruba agenda committee had sought audience with the delegates and the Go vernors of the region before the conference’s commencement. We were all assembled in the office of Oyo state Governor, Alhaji Rashidi Ladoja when Adewusi asked “e joo awa melo lo gbo awusa ninu awa to nlo soke lohun to ri o ma mun nkan rorun fun wa o? He was asking  how many of the Yoruba delegates could speak Hausa as that would make things easier for them as if they were people of the colony going for some constitutional conference in London. I took time to count the number of traditional marks on his cheeks as I wondered if any gathering of Arewa would be asking how many of them could speak Yoruba even when the fellow calling the conference was called a Yorubaman.

The precursor was Ladoke Akintola who took that route against Awo’s well thought-out federal engagement in a multi-ethnic state. He was brutally assassinated before he could take stock.

Bashorun M.K.O Abiola also emerged from that school. He did everything imaginable for the Arewa. He built many mosques, gave out cash in tons, took titles uncountable. He even established National Concord to desecrate the Yoruba essence in service to Arewa (National Concord reincarnate owned by the new kid on the block has been repeating history).

Abiola was a good boy until he wanted to share power with Arewa. In 1983 he was told “power was not for sale”. Before Awo died, MK0 was reconciled with him and the sage told the business mogul in the course of their meeting ”those who put me through all the travails are your best friends, I pray they don’t take your life”. Instead of saying “Amen”,  Abiola responded  “I know my people”. By 1993, he won a presidential election but his “people” kept him in prison until they liquidated him and returned his body bag to Lagos.

While Abiola was in gaol, Oladipo Diya took the Akintola road as the new traveller as Abacha’s No 2. His assignment was to consign the Yoruba leadership to the dustbin. He raised the Imeri Group to displace Afenifere and nicknamed NADECO “Agbako”. It took only three years for Arewa’s hammer to fall on him. It was to “Agbako” he turned in the moment to salvage his life the way Obasanjo found lengthy sheets to write epistles to Afenifere leader, Chief Michael Ajasin when Arewa’s “bulala” became unbearable. Luckily for Diya, Abacha dozed off eternally the night before his execution was to be carried out but he is said to still bear the scars of torture on his head till date. I have gone through this narrative only to show one thing: it is foolhardy for anyone to think Awo was wrong in concluding that Arewa’s DNA does not share power and that Nigeria would only do well if the constituent units live their civilisations and we run a centre that allows them their autonomies within corporate Nigeria.

A new team is now on the Akintola route and soon we shall be able to say if they are able to turn the tide of history or we shall once again play Bob Marley’s: “Now you get what you want Do you want moreeeeeeeeeee…”



It now over four years after I penned the above and the chickens are coming home to roost once again. The illusion that Arewa was the fastest route to the Villa  for our rookies is fast fading as the subtle moves for 2023 have commenced. Nasiru El-Rufai whose knees always met the earth when cash was flowing from Odualand five years ago has served notice that it’s now “merit” from here on. Miyetti Allah has told the most valuable player to shove the idea of running for president while Arewa is already preparing one of its most deft tacticians for the coveted seat .

Arewa has not changed a bit. By the time they serve what they are cooking for some of those running over the place now, they will drop presidency in their front and they won’t be able to recognise it.

At a time the Yoruba nation should be strategising on how to contain the unfolding disaster, the minions are further dividing themselves into camps jostling for nothing when the whole is not sufficiently positioned yet for the challenges.

The most pathetic wing of the play things has even chosen this season to promote a storm in the tea cup as if creating divisions in the Yoruba establishment at this crucial stage will be of any benefit for it in the dance of shame they  are getting their various troupes ready for.

It must be a punishing moment for Oloye Obafemi Awolowo as Yoruba Ludo masters are messing themselves up in the National Chess Championships of Nigeria. Talking of putting the wrongest feet forward!!!

To him Yoruba nation must return to find a verb for its noun in this complex syntax of the weird Nigerian experience. My friend and brother ,Prof Wale Adebanwi, the Director of African Studies at Oxford University summed it well in “Necrophilia and Elite Politics: The Case of Nigeria.”

“This essay attempts to explicate particular instances of ‘(h)ow a leader survives himself and how an idea survives a man, how the community absorbs him and his idea, and how the sense of wider identity created by his presence survives the limitations of his person and of the historical moment’ (Erikson, 1975: 166). It also examines ‘(t)he inner worlds of meanings and practice that define elite identities, the cultural mechanisms used to maintain their status, and the ways elites relate to, and are embedded within, wider socio-economic and political process’ (Shore, 2002: 14). All these, I have argued, are important foci of study that are revealed in very interesting ways in the dynamics of death, burial and the raising and destruction of statues. What I have attempted to do is, as Brecht would put it, to throw burial and statue into crisis by showing their involvement in major power struggles in society (Cohen, 1981: 16).

Awo’s remains and statue constitute a meta-narrative; a meta-narrative of the Yoruba nation, and within that, of the concrete historical processes that led to Awo’s emergence as the Asiwaju of the Yoruba and the most controversial politician in Nigeria’s political history, even in death. As meta-narrative, these actions and counter-actions emphasise Awo’s re-founding and re- uniting of the Yoruba nation and the struggle to construct a Nigerian nation, in ways that confirm that Awo’s life-story is ‘inextricably interwoven with history’ (Erikson, 1975: 19) – even though the man is ‘history himself’58.

While the politics of his death and burial point to the intricate ways in which the elite enact and negotiate their interests and pursue power – even with such ‘materials’ and symbols as a dead body – the construction and tearing down of his statue are ways of affirming a glorious past or taking revenge on that past (Cohen 1989: 494) respectively. Awolowo remains the central signifier of modern Yoruba identity, and the paramount marker of that ‘imagined community’’

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