Deja Vu: Addressing Marginalization of Yoruba People in the Nigerian Federation

Yoruba Leaders must address the present quagmire the race is enmeshed in with great care and wisdom. For those needing to know, the dilemma of Yoruba is in respect of its poor showing in the Federal Govt of Nigeria. It appears that Yoruba are excluded from Governance/Leadership in the high echelons of Executive, Judicial and Legislative arms of Government with the following offices going to other parts of the Federation – Chief Justice, Head of NIALS, NLS, NJI, FHC, CA, FCTHC, President, VP, Senate President, Deputy, House Speaker, Deputy.

To some Yoruba, it is pointless raising eyebrows over the matter. The isolation of the race, they contend might play out to be an advantage if the proposed Odua Nation is actualized one way or other. Hence, some National Assembly Members from the Race voted a North-West Candidate against a Yoruba Female Candidate for Speaker of the Federal House of Reps. The other opinion is that, Yoruba must seize the moment and insist that (in so far as the country is a Federation) the Race must be accorded, without agitation, its rightful place in the polity. What is significant is that both parties are pursuing their stance with fervor and vigor. It is assumed that both have the interest of the race at heart and would not intentionally adopt a strategy inimical to the overall interest of the race. There is need to act swiftly and deliberately and forcefully. What to do and how to go about it is the Million Naira Question.

Translated into English, a Yoruba Proverb says: one who is powerful but unwise is powerless. (Alagbara ma m’ero, Baba Ole!) I hope Leaders will bury their Leadership ambitions/rivalry and act together to rescue the race from political and economic irrelevance and oblivion. This is why it is crucial to employ critical thinking so as to devise creative imaginative and practicable solutions to timely address the inequity. All options must be considered and all shades of opinion addressed so that no one feels left out or disrespected. Urgent attention and review are imperative.

It is only fair and reasonable that all stakeholders be carried along. (Omode gbon, agba gbon lafi da’le Ife!) So many Leaders so little critical thought! As Christians and Muslims go on our knees, we implore our revered Traditionalists to also invoke the spirit of our Ancestors (Ru ‘bo or se Etutu) for Divine Celestial help for this quest. I, for one, cannot continue to live for
much longer in this kind of inequitable Federal Structure.

(I re-publish hereunder my write-up titled: Yoruba Presidency in 2003 – adumbration of my position on the strategy for the Yoruba Race when in similar Political Dilemma over the Presidency of Nigeria 9 Years ago – 2002. I hope Leaders and elders meeting here and there will not just adopt strategies but avoid sentimental indefensible solutions or steps that devoid of common sense raising more questions than answers. I must emphasize clearly that if nothing tangible is done over the next few weeks by those who consider themselves leaders and elders, (as well as the Federal Government) the Youths will be pushed to adopt youthful strategies that may not be popular with the elders and leaders.

Yoruba Presidency In 2003 By Adebayo Adejare
(Daily Independent August 19-25, 2002 pD9)

It is fashionable nowadays to talk of “Igbo Presidency” and “Marginalization of the North” and “Resource Control” by South-South, hence we examine herein the politics of Year 2003 from the perspective of Yoruba Presidency.

In the sixties and seventies the Nigerian Military preached and was representative of Nigerian Unity. The Nigerian Civil war was fought “to keep Nigeria One. in the eighties and nineties however the sixties and seventies the Nigerian Military preached and was representative of Nigerian Unity. The Nigerian Civil war was fought “to keep Nigeria One. in the eighties and nineties however, tribalism reared its ugly head in the Nigerian Military and vicariously the Nigerian Polity. To discerning observers it was crystal clear that the Babangida, Abacha and Abubakar regimes were mere alter egos of the so-called Norther Mafia. The composition and actions of government were pointers to the trend in spite of denials. . Like its denial of Human Rights Violations the pious claims of Babangida to fairness and objectivity were singularly betrayed by his annulment of the 1993 Presidential Election won by a person from the Southwest tribe of the Yoruba. It then
dawned on Nigerians that Abiola (indeed any Southerner) was in the category of undisclosed persons to whom Babangida had vowed never to hand over power to.

To the average Southerner therefore (Ibo, Yoruba, Ibibio, Urhobo etc) military rule is synonymous with norther domination, Fulani Hegemony, Caliphate Rule etc. Gideon Orka clarified the position by naming the geographical location of the “Oppressors” of Nigeria. His own panacea was excision of those parts from Nigeria and the emergence of a new Entity – Republic of Southern Nigeria.

Gideon Orka symbolizes the struggle of the Northern Minorities for separate identity, emancipation and self-determination despite the failure of his coup. The struggle seems now actualized – thanks to President Olusegun Obasanjo. Orka’s extremist proposals stand rejected but the underlying message had profound but unspoken impact. Nigeria belongs to all of us and must not be allowed to be hijacked by any group or mafia.

The attainment of the Nigerian Presidency during a democracy by a person of Yoruba origin is (no doubt) a great progress for the Yoruba people. What our revered leaders Chief Obafemi Awolowo as well as Chief M.K.O. Abiola struggled so much to achieve but failed has eventually been given on a platter of gold. It is a open secret that Olusegun Obasanjo received the massive votes of the East and North but lost woefully in the Yoruba States of Lagos, Ondo, Oyo, Ogun, Osun and Ekiti. The message is that his kinsmen the Yoruba rejected him. It is however a message to be viewed positively. I venture to speculate that whenever it is the turn of the Igbo, it is the North and the West that will dictate who gets the ticket. Hence anybody who aspires to rule Nigeria must interact beyond his tribe since the votes of his tribe alone cannot win the Nigerian Presidency. This augurs well for the unity of the country. Recall that Chief Awolowo always won elections in the
Yoruba States but could not win the Presidency due to failure to carry the North and the East along.

Obasanjo’s greatest assets are his acceptability by all others except his Yoruba kinsmen (prejudice?), his military background and his successful transition program in 1979. His achievements in the first three years have been chronicled. the only issue is: should he be given the opportunity of a second term?

Yoruba have to think twice so as not to repeat the mistakes of the past ending up in opposition again. It is pointless looking for a Yoruba/Alliance for Democracy Presidential Candidate at this late hour. You will only end up with another Falae. Yoruba Leaders should move out of their tribal enclave and join or form alliance with other tribes to retain the visible presence of the race in the mainstream of Nigerian Politics. It is time to admit the error of boxing every Yoruba man into one single political opinion or party. Calling people names (like traitors, looters etc) is pointless. Pending the emergence of an acceptable charismatic leader in the mold of Obafemi Awolowo any move to suppress alternative opinion or revert back to politics of blackmail, thuggery, intimidation and isolation should be resisted. We must at this stage accept that project Nigeria has come to stay. Yoruba Presidency under Obasanjo should be used to advantage to better position the race in the complicated and competitive politics of the Nigerian Federation. Failure of the Yoruba to rise up to this occasion would adversely affect the standing of the race and constitute a great set back to the nation in its difficult challenge of f

inding competent leadership.

It is pointless leading our people to believe that their present economic deprivations can only be resolved through a Sovereign National conference that would guarantee emergence of a sovereign Oduduwa State. Nobody can predict the outcome of such conference. The lesson from Biafra is that resort to arms is futile, indeed suicidal, as some Igbos are looking for an opportunity to avenge the alleged treachery of the Yoruba in “pushing” them to war in Biafra only to join the Hausas to battle Igbos to submission.

It must also be remembered that Nigeria does not belong to the Igbos, Hausas and Yoruba alone. The minorities (North and South) are a very potent force and voice. If they, “the underdogs” (having been denied many things including resource control) want Nigeria, what point does any of their “oppressors” have to want to secede from Nigeria?

There is an urgent need for apologies, forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration within the race (apart from the leadership issue) We must admit that individuals, families, groups and communities have been hurt though sometimes inadvertently.

We did not call for break-up of Nigeria when Awolowo was rigged out of Nigerian Presidency in 1983. Yet the late sage’s family magnanimously overlooked it when we jumped from “siddon look” to embrace his prodigal son and readily put our lives on the line for the mandate. It is denying the truth to continue to marginalize the likes of Lateef Jakande, Augustus Akinloye, Ebeneezer Babatope under any excuse whatsoever. It is better to carry everybody along.

Written by
Adebayo Adejare
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