Wale Adebanwi on Mama HID (60)

AWOLOWO told HID that Obasanjo’s message from the General Murtala Mohammed was to ask why he didn’t “like” their regime. Chief Awolowo had turned down the regime’s invitation to join the “50-wise men” in the Constitution Drafting Committee headed by Chief Fredrick Alade Rotimi Williams. Also, Murtala wanted to know why Awolowo had not spoken publicly to endorse their regime, given his support for and even his participation in the Gowon regime before it was toppled by Murtala and others.

In his latest book, My Watch Volume 2: Political and Public Affairs, Obasanjo continues his tradition of duplicity regarding Awolowo and his role in Yoruba and Nigerian history. In chapter 31 of the book, President Obasanjo says there is nothing like Yoruba leadership in Yorubaland. “Just as there was no single oba having sovereignty over the whole of Yorubaland, there was no individual as leader of the Yorubas in Yorubaland. As it was then, it remains till now,” states Obasanjo. It was yet another cheap shot at Awolowo who was elected the leader of the Yoruba in 1966.

Obasanjo was economical with the truth by claiming that Awolowo merely presided over the meetings held in Ibadan in August 1966 where he was elected the “Leader of the Yorubas”. HIDsaid as much in her reaction.

“In the course (of the meeting), Chief Awolowo presided. His supporters then fixed the title of Yoruba leader upon him,”Obasanjo fibs. In fact, it was Col. Adeyinka Adebayo, the Military Governor of the Western State, who presided.

“I was present at the forum where Late Chief Awolowo was unanimously elected the Yoruba leader”, responded Chief Olusegun Osoba, the former governor of Ogun State and respected journalist, who accused Obasanjo of lying. “And the election involved all stakeholders, including political, cultural and intellectuals in Yorubaland. Some who did not belong to Awolowo’s political camp also endorsed him”.

However, in spite his constant attempts to limit the unending efforts to monumentalize Awolowo, Obasanjo is sometimes forced himself to either show grudging acknowledgement of the place of the Awolowos in Nigeria’s history or to dramatize his “graciousness” towards Awolowo’s widow. Upon the persuasion of some people, he appointed Awolowo’s daughter, Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosumu as Nigeria’s Ambassador to The Netherlands in his first term, but removed her in his second term. She was not given sufficient time to find alternative accommodation in The Netherlands, despite the best assurances. Even though there was no new envoy ready to occupy the house, she eventually moved to the United Kingdom.

One instance of his dramatized politeness was when he visited HIDafter the death of her son, Oluwole. He hijacked the old woman’s wheelchairs from the lady pushing her. He then pushed her around in a gesture that was clearly meant for those present and the cameramen.

ON TUESDAY, APRIL 7, 2009, Yeye Oodua, Chief (Mrs.) HIDAwolowo hosted and chaired a meeting of Yoruba leaders of different persuasions in Ikenne. The meeting was convened against the backdrop of the total fractionalization of her husband’s associates into many socio-cultural and political groups as well as political parties.

Since the Action Group crisis in 1962, Yoruba progressives who claimed affiliation to the political principles espoused and embodied by Obafemi Awolowo had never been as divided. The umbrella group for Yoruba progressives, Afenifere, had splintered into two camps one headed by Chief Reuben Fasoranti while another claimed the leadership of Senator Ayo Fasanmi. Members of both groups claimed allegiance to two different leaders of the similarly divided political party, the Alliance for Democracy (AD). One faction of AD led by Senator Mojisoluwa Akinfenwa was linked to the Fasoranti faction of Afenifere, while the other, led by Chief Bisi Akande, was allied with the Fasanmi-led faction of Afenifere. The Akande faction which had Governor Bola Tinubu as its pillar eventually formed the Action Congress, AC (which later became Action Congress of Nigeria).

Eventually, some of those who followed Akande and Tinubu to AC, left and joined the Chief Olu Falae-led Democratic People’s Alliance (DPA) which was formed by the Fasoranti-led Afenifere.

Before he was asked to intervene in the crisis in Afenifere, Bishop Emmanuel Bolanle Gbonigi, the retired Bishop of Akure Diocese (Anglican Communion), led the Egbe Apapo Omo Yoruba, which Alayande had opposed because he wanted everyone to be in Afenifere. Later, Gbonigi was made the leader of yet another group, Yoruba Parapo. Before the Fasanmi-led faction broke away from Afenifere, Venerable Emmanuel Alayande and Justice Adewale Thompson, under the influence of Chief Bola Ige, had formed the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) which contested supremacy with the Afenifere under the leadership of Chief Abraham Adesanya, before the latter died.

In the attempt to reconcile the old men of Afenifere, the younger elements also formed the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) under the leadership of Honourable Olawale Oshun. Members of the ARG included mainly members of the ACN, but there were also members of DPA and some other “non-partisan” members who belonged to none of the existing political parties. Also, some of the Awolowo faithfuls had joined the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP). Every effort to reconcile all these groups, factions and elements between 2001 and 2009 failed.



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