Ibadan has become a cliché especially in political discourse. Its ignoble ‘wetie’ past is often used as a standard yardstick for its violent temper. Late Chief S.L.A (Ese Ole) Akintola, Adelabu and Lamidi Adedibu’s muscular politics are cruelly and readily invoked as a standard measure of its instinctive instability. For many politicians and Nigerians alike ‘wetie’ has become a restraining blackmail aimed at discrediting the courage and valour of the people of Ibadan.
For years, I have been challenged by a very profound dilemma. I am a hardwired Lagosian. Born, bred, programmed in bustling Ebute-Metta from childhood to my early adult years. Sadly Lagos is now a relic of my past experiences, genetics and childhood pranks. It has lost its gloss. I am equally revolted by the metropolitan haughtiness of Lagos. The sordidness of suburbia does not offer me any more thrill. As ‘ageshin kole’, my emblematic home is Ibadan. What better way to show my cultural affinity and belongingness than to live under the blessed embrace of Oluyole, in the midst of my ‘kusin ciar ni’ generation.
My badge of tribal pride puts me squarely in Omi Adio. This ancient, rustic, unremarkable, relatively untroubled, moderately rural Ibadan town is my neck of the wood where I derive my verve as a true born ‘shon of the shoil’. Ibadan is the largest city in West Africa and by poetic extension it has the core population group which provides Oyo State its essential history, folklore, culture and identity. It had the first ‘ile gogoro’ embodied in Cocoa House in Dugbe. Its intellectual influence is well distilled in the seminally polemical book titled, “Ibadan” by Wole Soyinka and also in the recess of Loyola and Government colleges and its premier higher institution of learning, the University of Ibadan.
Yearly, Ibadan provides me a rural dream, a chance for creative recuperation, some community participation and a passion for the needy Ramonus, Laniyans, Lasisis, Lamidis, Lanihuns and Lahans of this world. Today, I am carrying the banner for my hometown. The old Ibadan world has to collapse. Its old certainties must also be re-examined. I cannot continue to stand, albeit geographically, as a powerless bystander and watch Ibadan being striped of its honour, statehood and independence. The old idea that Ibadan is fated to be enmeshed in the destiny of Oyo needs a new interpretation.
New, informed interpretation of its statehood needs to be recalibrated and weighed. It is obvious that we are no longer one Nigeria. We are highly tribalised humanity tolerating one another and with mutual suspicion, hence the frenzied demand for more State creation. In the South-South, the courageous Ledum Mitee, President of the Movement for the Emancipation of Ogoni People and Rev. Solomon Gberegbara, the Bishop of the Missionary Diocese of Ogoni have both demanded for the creation of an Ogoni State. In the South West, Prof Adebayo Adedeji, former Chairman of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and Chief Olanihun Ajayi, a leading member of Afeniferere (pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation) have both argued for the creation of Ijebu State.
State creation in Nigeria is contentious and politicised. There were only 3 or 4 regions during Balewa era. At the end of the civil war we had only 12 States. Babangida created 19. Afterwards, the military extended the States to 26. Obasanjo stretched them further to 36. The Second Republic did not create any State.
In the new democratic dispensation, the National Assembly is empowered to create State. The only contention is the Section 8 of the 1999 constitution which quite made State creation almost impossible. State creation may be cumbersome and may also hinge on petty sentiment and primordial jealousies but for politicians to foreclose any desire for its creation is bunkum and idiotic.
Perhaps, I need to state the obvious by saying that without State there could be no centre and on this single logic, State creation remains a legitimate aspirations of 2/3 majority of people in any area. Fairness, justice and equity demand that Ibadan should stand alone as a State. There has never been any iota of fairness in our local government arrangements? Some States either have 180, 96 or 86 local governments. State creation is predicated on zonal arrangement. In Nigeria, we have 6 zonal structures. The zonal arrangement has encouraged blatant unfairness in revenue sharing. Saharan Northern Nigeria gobbles more revenues than the densely populated Southern Nigeria. Why?
Here, the State of Ibadan should be seen as a vehicle of development and social engineering. It has proved its worth both in gold and silver. Ibadan has accommodated the Egbas, Ijebus, Ijeshas, Ekitis, Deltans, Igbo, Hausas and other nationalities for centuries. Jonathan, my man Friday and gardener is from the Delta region. Pa Joseph, my gateman is from Kogi state. There is peace, intermarriage, social and cultural synergy with the people of Ibadan.
This particular historical recollection is still intensely strong and continues to place Ibadan uniquely as a cultural confluence for all Nigerians. From Anioma to Zunguru strident local voices are becoming vociferous in their demand for Statehood. The mini war in the Delta region has provided us with the pretext to retreat politically and socially into more rigid tribal structures.
However, the National Assembly has placed some immovable demons on the road that leads to Statehood. Not to worry, if it requires that Ibadan State will be birth through night vigil, white garment and red candle, prayer warriors are on stanby.
Meanwhile, we have to pass statehood assessments and calm the immature, angry temper of our senators in the National Assembly. These guardian angels of State creation are guilty of Anti-State creation order. What are the hurdles? The National Assembly, in its legislative wisdom, requires that 2/3 majority of the people in Ibadan be supported by the Senators, Reps and local government chairmen of in and around us. Then, the question is how popular is Ibadan State among Oshun, Ekiti, Ondo and Ogun States? As said elsewhere, our cousins from the old Western Region have domiciled in Ibadan for centuries and with that sense of belongingness, support from their Senators, Reps and local government’s chairmen will present no problem. First victory, you might say, barring man’s unpredictability.
Secondly, we are required to draft a letter of request announcing a desire for State creation. We can handle that. Ibadan has illustrious legal luminaries who could do that. We also have to present a map of all Ibadan local governments. Ibadan has the best cartographers in the land. A creative rendering of all the far flung local governments’ areas from Apataganga to Igbo Elerin will be rendered perfectly.
But there is one more hurdle which is far more worrying than the rest. A real and benumbing peculiar mess, no, pekelemes! It is the kind of hurdle that requires fasting and prayers for breakthrough. This is the toughest demons eating up godly saints looking for freedom through Statehood. And what is it? All the States of the Federation have to endorse the referendum and return back to the National Assembly.
What? From Aba to Zaria there must be a ringing endorsement to show that Ibandanites have moved away from the old, “awon wo leleyi o….awon ara oke won bu ila soju repete”, into peaceful sensible, intelligent, progressive-minded people before a State could be allowed. Until his death, my dad, a professor of cultural studies and pedestrian politics, hardcore, Ibadan neo-con, whose proud tribal mark stretched from his head across the bridge of his nose, was unhappy each time that demeaning song, ‘awon wo leleyi…..’ was rendered by hooligans of opposing team against the IICC Shooting star of Ibadan. His team until his death!
is a bad news here. Denial of our own State may return us back to that primordial, brutish, warrior and nasty era when political scores were settled with ‘wetie’ thugs. Also, if the people of Ibadan say yes and our surrounding cousins say yes, do I need to wait for an Igala man to endorse my right to self determination? Are our politicians not silly in this? Is this not the sin of deep ignorance? No wonder, none of them has been able to provide me with a sound choice for a cosy bedmate!!