2023 and the Yoruba: The die is cast

If the three Nigerian major ethnic groups, the Igbo and Hausa/Fulani have always known what they wanted out of Nigeria. The former, a unitary system where citizens of their landlocked country are free to thrive in other people’s land and, the latter, a feudal system where no one questions their entitlement to power. The Yoruba is the only group that canvassed for a federal arrangement to, in the words of Bode Thomas, ‘‘prevent the country from being ruled by a one-eyed king”. They took the battle to the 1957 London Independence Constitutional Conference where Awo insisted “Nigeria cannot be regarded as free if any part of Nigeria is under bondage”. The other two groups cared less if the country was ruled by one-eyed king or a blind man. To them, politics, as Otto Von Bismarck (1862-1890) said, ‘is the art of the possible’ where idealism gives way to pragmatism.

The voting pattern during last Sunday PDP presidential primary validates this. The Igbos after months of threat in the event that the presidential ticket of PDP, a party they faithfully served for 21 years was not ceded to the southeast, ended up voting massively (95%) for Atiku Abubakar. Despite calls for justice and fairness, the dominant view among the northern Fulani hegemonic power is that democracy is about group interest and therefore had no problem rallying round Atiku Abubakar.

With his emergence, it is hoped, the battle cry by Yoruba promoters of Igbo presidency – Pa Adebanjo, the chief campaigner, Obasanjo, the whistle-blower on Buhai’s perceived “Fulanisation and Islamisation agenda, and Bode George and other anti-Tinubu elements threatening to commit suicide if one of their own becomes APC flag bearer, as APC convention comes up next week end will be: “physician heal thyself’.

Atiku and Tinubu are undoubtedly illustrious Nigerians. The former, a northern Cameroon-born Fulani who enjoys all the privileges membership of the Fulani caste confers, moved from school into a waiting rewarding job in the Customs, retiring into a money-spinning business as a government contractor. When he joined politics, his only challenge was making a choice between being a governor of Adamawa and Nigeria’s vice president. As VP, he presided over PDP privatisation programme described by the National Assembly probe as dashing away of our national patrimony with Nigerian total investment of over $100b sold at less than $1.5b.

His running judicial battle in the United States, Obasanjo’s verdict on his character, his Intels’ 17 years collection of NPA revenue in dollars at 30% discount have never threatened his four years periodic presidential contest since 1993 just as it counted for little during his last Sunday adoption by his Fulani compatriots.

The latter, on the other hand is a Nigerian of Yoruba descent who struggled through his village, Lagos to Chicago where he did odd jobs to earn a degree in accounting, returning home into a lucrative job in an American oil company. He has no link with the federal government either as a worker or a contractor. But for the love of his country and passion for democracy, he deployed personal resources to fund NADECO and sold houses to fund underground media that joined it (NADECO) to humiliate the military out of politics.

Pitched against a vindictive President Obasanjo that illegally withheld Lagos State federal allocations, he creatively increased Lagos Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) from N600m to about N15b with 15% to the private company that handled the project. Those who ate the difference between the two figures joined others Tinubu had outsmarted in business and politics to whip up public sentiments alleging immoral and unconstitutional breach. They might be right. But a self-assured elected sovereign is allowed to breach the constitution in the overall interest of the people.

A vindictive Obasanjo humiliated the Afenifere elders, spitefully destroyed their AD political platform along their legacies from first republic leaving the old West, a haven of school dropouts and area boys. It was the lot of Tinubu to restore the honour of his fathers by building and nurturing a new political party.

He hired over 50 British expert card-readers at huge cost for a judicial battle that led to the successful retrieval of stolen mandates in Edo, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun, an endeavour that earned him the commendation of Pa Adebanjo, his estranged political father, who publicly praised him for liberating the southwest from the stranglehold of Obasanjo.

He spare-headed the formation of APC, repackaged Buhari after three earlier heroic failures into a winning candidate in 2015 and 2019 and took the mainstream Yoruba political tendency into the centre for the first time in the nation’s history. That he was outwitted by those who serve other tendencies in Buhari’s government was not due to lack of political versatility and brinkmanship. It has been part of political hazards for all those the Fulani hegemonic power perceives as threat. Ahmadu Bello, according to Trevor Clark, made it clear he was opposed to any southerner wielding executive power and went further to assert they would prevent the south from ruling themselves.

Awo, the first victim, was slammed with treasonable felony charges. The proofs according to Justice Sowemimo and Basil Adedipe, the Director of Public Prosecution were: the entry in Awo’s diary that he dreamt he was prime minister and that two or three of his members had visited Ghana. Others include procurement of powerful torchlight to be used by Chief Awolowo and others like Dr Chike Obi, Dr Maja, Jakande, Onabanjo, Adebanjo , Ikoku,etc after they might have plunged Lagos to darkness by switching off the electricity grid at ECN Ijora, to capture the prime minister, Ikeja airport and the Royal Naval Base in Apapa after which Awo would walk to NBC Ikoyi to broadcast to the nation that he had assumed power as new PM.

Next was MKO Abiola, who after investing heavily in ordinary northerners was rewarded in 1993 with a landslide victory including in his main opponent’s (Tofa) Kano base. One of the reasons, Babangida claimed he annulled the most credible election in the nation’s history was that Abiola was not acceptable to the northern establishment.

Tinubu’s taste of deceit of ‘Buhari’s loyal gatekeepers’ first came when Buhari who according to Akande, offered him the VP slot before Tinubu helped him to defeat Atiku at the primary, reneged on his promise attributing his change of heart to opposition to Muslim/Muslim ticket by some of his supporters. Scheming to cut Tinubu wings by those who pretend to know what the president wants started as soon as Buhari won the 2015 election.

Today’s anti-Tinubu elements in the presidency know Jonathan cannot defeat Atiku and will be disqualified in the unlikely event he wins; that Yoruba will not vote anyone associated with treachery or someone who sheepishly followed the president around for seven years, unable to help as he mismanages our crisis of nation building and that none of the pretenders have the structure to face Atiku in nationwide presidential election. The strategy is that, end or tail, the north wins.

Since we all swim in the same political murky waters, it is time Yoruba leaders stopped pretending a part can be holier the whole.

And if democracy is about group interest, it will be unpatriotic for Yoruba leaders who pursued the interest of Atiku in 2019, that of Igbo in 2022, and others privy to perceived Buhai’s “Fulanisation and Islamisation” agenda not to support Tinubu who they all know is better equipped to tackle Nigerian problems.

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