Warring Yoruba illustrious sons

Updated: Sep 1, 2021

Admired and despised with equal passion, Obasanjo, Tinubu and Bode George are divisive leaders towards whom the Yoruba people remain emotionally ambivalent. Opinions differ as to who among them has shown sufficient commitment to Yoruba’s quest for self-actualization within the greater Nigerian nation state, to wear the big shoe of Yoruba political leader. The unending sibling battle for acceptance was once again rekindled last week with an unprovoked attack on Bola Tinubu by Bode George. He had alleged Tinubu who could not put out the fire in his own APC house was behind the PDP crisis. He then veered into the issue of Tinubu’s certificate. Reminded that Adeseye Ogunlewe, his protégée recently declared that Tinubu who has not announced his interest in the top job possesses the mental capacity and educational qualification to be president of Nigeria, he insisted the issue of Tinubu’s certificate is what he is prepared to debate at 3 a.m. from his grave with Ogunlewe.

Undoubtedly, Obasanjo, Bola Tinubu and Bode George are illustrious sons of Yoruba nation. They are resourceful, adventurous and anti-status-quo. They have demonstrated over the years that no one’s law is their law. And being rebellious and ambitious is only but a proof that they are the true scion of their equally illustrious forbears. It is after all part of Yoruba belief system that a child brought to the world who does not strive to be better than his father is brought to the world in vain.

Dumping the old political order for new in Yoruba land is an accepted norm which is as old as the Oduduwa legend. The problem with Obasanjo, Tinubu and Bode George sibling war of attrition however is that it is not about changing old order for new but driven more by envy or Yoruba predilection which Prof Williams captured as “sense of self-worth” which finds expression in Yoruba saying “bi ekute ko ba le je sese, a fise awadanu” literarily translated: if I cannot have it, others must not have it.

Unfortunately, the unending sibling rivalry and struggle for leadership is an exercise in futility precisely because leadership in Yoruba land which often comes from behind must be earned. And Yoruba know their true leaders. It would be recalled that in the run up to the 1999 election, the late pa Adesanya never publicly urged Yoruba people not to vote for Obasanjo. Yet Obasanjo lost not only all over Yoruba land but even in his ward in Abeokuta.

Just as Yoruba know their leaders, they never have leaders they cannot tame. In recent times, history tells us that Chief SL Akintola unlike Obafemi Awolowo his leader and a federalist, was an unrepentant Yoruba irredentist. But when he sought outside help to upstage his leader, Yoruba made the west ungovernable for him until he literarily committed suicide by engaging trained soldiers in a gun battle.

Now let us critically examine the legacies of these three illustrious Yoruba sons starting with Obasanjo. It is doubtful if the views of Obasanjo by his Yoruba compatriots have changed from what it was in 1999. Back then what counted against him was his declaration that the best candidate didn’t need to win the 1979 election eventually settled in favour of his candidate, Shehu Shagari by Richard Akinjide’s two-third formula. If anything, he seems to have justified his 1999 rejection by his people. First, he has said he is not a Yoruba leader but a Nigerian leader. Perhaps for this reason, he has never identified with Yoruba aspirations. In 2003, he exploited the Afenifere elders’ quest for restructuring to humiliate them and destroy AD, their political platform.

He today accuses Buhari of trying to ‘fulanise’ Nigeria. But it was his failure to restructure the country some 18 years ago that set the stage for infiltration of southwest forest by criminal immigrant herdsmen who lionized by Fulani irredentists in President Buhari’s government, kill, abduct and rape women.

Part of Obasanjo’s legacy in the west will also include the Lagos State initiated private electricity project scheduled for execution within six months but took almost four years because of bureaucratic bottleneck erected by Obasnajo’s government. It is also on record he abandoned Apapa-Port-Oshodi express way, the International Airport Road, the reconstruction of Lagos-Ibadan express way. He also illegally sat on Lagos State Local government allocations until a new president Yar’Adua came to Lagos State rescue.

In terms of performance as governor, Bode George scored Tinubu who he said has no certificate one out of ten. He alleged Tinubu rakes in several millions every month through Alpha Beta he had set up to manage Lagos IGR. Records however show that from modest N600m, Lagos IGR peaked at about N17b towards the end of Tinubu’s term. From the near total collapse of Lagos roads under Olagunsoye Oyinlola who complained of lack of bitumen, there has been great improvement on roads infrastructural development. From the insecurity of Oyinlola and Abacha era, security situation in Lagos has improved. In terms of competitive federalism, Lagos State has since 1999 become a state of first choice for Nigerians and even immigrants trying to escape poverty of the Sahel region of West Africa.

In the economic sector, Lagos economy is today the fifth biggest economy in Africa. In politics, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, once praised Tinubu for liberating the southwest from the strangle-hold of Obasanjo after Tinubu retrieved through the judicial process stolen mandates in Edo, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun from PDP. Although most Yoruba today believe Tinubu railroaded them into ‘one chance’ bus through his alliance with Buhari who reneged on his party’s promise to restructure the country, it is still part of Tinubu’s record that the Yoruba for the first time since 1959 replaced Igbo as spare tyre at the centre.

Now let us look at Bode George record as governor of Ondo State for 34 months. African Concord Magazine was the first to report that Bode George was the first victim of his mismanagement of resources of Ondo State. The magazine had reported his administration bought a faulty N2m boat from Trpobel Nig. Ltd.

During the maiden trip from Igbokoda to Aiyetoeo, a 45 minutes journey by speedboat, Governor George spent five harrowing hours.

There was also the controversial sales of Cocoa Industries Ikeja (ICL), a company valued N97,958,000 in 1987 by Messrs Onakanmi and Partners but sold by Bode George and two other Babangida southwest governors for N9m, to Emerald Packaging Limited from Kaduna State, an amount less than the cost of the land on which the 24-year-old company was erected. Governor Adisa of Oyo, Abiodun Olukoya and Oladeinde Joseph of Ondo and Ogun states, their successors later queried the sale “because the participation of those that really produced the cocoa has not been reflected” in the sharing of CIL

The African Concord also alleged that “ex-governor George disbursed the Ondo State funds with utter disregard for laid down procedures”, that “the construction of the artificial water fountains he authorized at a cost of N250,000 each packed up shortly after commissioning” and that he allegedly “spent N393,000 to print his portrait within 17 months”. The magazine also alleged he influenced the sale of over 60 per cent of Ile-Oluji Cocoa Industries to Majekodunmi Ventures, a decision also reversed by his successors. (Oluwajuyitan (2003) Nigerian under the Generals, Pg 92). Bode George never went to court to redeem his name.

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