Ayo Fasanmi, 95, Reuben Fasoranti 94 and Ayo Adebanjo 92, old Awoists and pillar of Afenifere Yoruba cultural and political movement are honourable men. As noble men, they are a pride to the Yoruba nation. Unfortunately, they recently allowed inconsistent men who once swore by Buhari’s name, Tinubu’s name and Afenifere Renewal Group’s name to desecrate the inner shrine of the cult-like cultural association and the centre could no longer hold. Today, the duo of Fasanmi and Fasoranti, with great pain to us, their children, lead different factions of Afenifere while youths who once looked up to them for direction drifted into over 70 disparate groups speaking with different voices.
To the Yoruba, the commitment of our noble Afenifere cult members to the Yoruba cause has never been in doubt. It was their commitment to the unity of the Yoruba people who are by nature federalists that resulted in the giant strides in education, agriculture and industrialisation their people made between 1952 and 1962.
But I am sure our revered fathers also know Yoruba never had leaders they could not handle. Sango fought wars and won territories after territories, S.L Akintola was an unapologetic Yoruba irredentist and Bola Ige was dearly loved by the people but they were all left to literarily commit suicide when they took the support of their people for granted.
I am also sure our revered fathers know their people cannot be led by the nose. Awo, the sage as far back as 1947 had said the Yoruba would not vote for you because you are Yoruba if you don’t have policies that can positively impact their lives.
To the credit of Awo and our surviving noble Fasanmi, Fasoranti and Adebanjo, who had the foresight to educate their people, the stakes are today higher. More than any other time in their recent history, the Yoruba after being liberated from darkness have become critical thinkers in addition to being discriminatory voters.
In 2011, Yoruba helped installed Jonathan president. He spent the next four years marginalising Yoruba but only went to Sagamu on the eve of an election to flag off the construction of Lagos-Ibadan expressway which this column back then described as a ‘road show’. He set up a Confab where Femi Okunronmu played a vital role to show he identified with Yoruba quest for restructuring. The report was never implemented. But the Yoruba people waited patiently for 2015 to pay him back with his bad coins despite the directive of our revered Pa Fasoranti and Ayo Adebanjo.
It was the same story in 2019 when they campaigned against Buhari. The rejection of their directive by the people was not an act of ingratitude but a confirmation of what Awo the sage said back in 1947 that the Yoruba cannot be led by the nose.
Yoruba desperately wanted the restructuring of the country. But they instinctively knew it was not going to come from Obasanjo who was the major beneficiary of the current chaos that literarily allowed him to climb the palm tree from the top by becoming an elected president without his Yoruba political base. They couldn’t have suddenly forgotten Pa Ayo Adebanjo’s confession that Afenifere was sold a dummy by Obasanjo in 2003 when he exploited their quest for restructuring to rig all the Yoruba governors with the exception of Lagos out of office. They did not forget Obasanjo did the same thing during the 2007 election regarded as the worst in our nation’s history which forced President Yar’Adua, the major beneficiary to set up the Uwais Commission. Relief only came to the west when Afenifere Renewal Group, instead of adopting the old Afenifere ‘operation wet e” approach to election rigging, chose to approach the judiciary through which stolen mandates in Edo, Ondo, Osun were retrieved. The Yoruba also remembered Pa Adebanjo after the judicial victory praising Bola Tinubu for liberating Southwest from Obasanjo and his PDP.
Yoruba who hardly forget remember how Obasanjo has been pandering to the demand of the north since his first coming as Nigeria military Head of State in 1976. To consolidate his position, Yoruba did not forget he sacrificed General Olutoye.They remembered all his policies were geared towards appeasing the north over the death of Murtala Muhammed. They remembered that as against introducing policies such as building more schools and training more teachers to address the educational challenges of the north that was according to Richard Sclar, Tafawa Balewa’s biographer, 70 years behind the south at independence, he initiated policies such as quota system of admission to tertiary institutions to slow down the south. As evidence of ill-will against Yoruba, Obasanjo took over regional economic and educational institutions including universities. For the discriminatory Yoruba voters, Obasanjo’s endorsement of Atiku in 2019 actually sealed his fate and our revered leaders’ intervention was a huge joke.
Election is the most important variable in a democracy. Election must be won before any discussion of a party agenda. After the 2003 and 2007 election debacle, Afenifere Renewal Group seemed to be telling their fathers that they were the best equipped to win election. And they did. They also went into an alliance with a conservative north and for the first time in the nation’s history participated in running the federal government. The answer to President Buhari’s incompetence is not quitting but in working to ensure his success.
The above narrative is important to let the trio of Fasanmi, Fasonranti and Adebanjo realise they are held in high esteem by grateful Yoruba they have served selflessly for over 70 years. They should see it as a honour that the people they liberated from darkness have in addition to being discriminatory voters become critical thinkers.
But their task is not done. They must provide leadership to the over 70 disparate groups currently speaking with different voices for the Yoruba nation. Since it is part of our culture that a child brought to the world who does not strive to be better than his parents is brought to the world in vain, they cannot afford to throw away the baby with bathwater.
All the groups are important starting with the Afenifere Renewal Group, the brain behind DAWN and Yoruba Academy and a group that has also demonstrated its capacity at winning elections and making friends outside the Yoruba nation; the Yoruba World Congress, an umbrella for Yoruba in diaspora. Professor Banji Akintoye who had worked closely with the group for over 25 years while in the US was recently elected leader in absentia by majority of the over 60 Yoruba groups that met in Ibadan. The population of Yoruba in the diaspora especially in South American countries where Yoruba language is recognized as official language and Yoruba religion has large following is said to be over 50 million. There is also OPC and some militant groups. Our revered fathers have a duty to reassure our angry and frustrated youths who today think secession is the answer to self-determination that we are a resilient and reflective people that choose its own wars. The Yoruba do not want the disintegration of their country but want for others what they want for themselves within a Nigeria that is efficiently managed. They must have good news for Papa Awo when they finally join him in the beyond.