Matters Arising: Of Area Boys, Tinubu And Obasanjo

by Akintokunbo A Adejumo

Apart from the corruption of our political leaders, if there is one of their characteristics that I abhor, it is their hypocrisy. Associated with this is double-speak, insincerity and holier-than-thou attitude and utterances. I can go on, but this is not necessary.

It was therefore with utter disbelief that I read that the ex-Governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, attacked ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo recently (The Punch, Monday 26 Nov 2007) by saying that ex-President Obasanjo presided over an “Area Boy” Presidency during his eight year rule. He purportedly said this at a dinner lecture he delivered in Ibadan on Friday 23 November 2007 organised by the Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes as part of the activities marking Ibadan Week 2007. I will come to the organisers of that Ibadan Week later.

Boy! The sheer hypocrisy of this statement is beyond me. This is a classic example of a kettle calling the pot black, and smacks of political shenanigan, as these things always do. Who exactly raised the profile of the “Area Boys” (a euphemism for social miscreants) in Nigeria, if I may ask? Was it not the same Tinubu, who shamelessly and publicly used these criminals – turned – political thugs, at government expense during his eight years rule in Lagos State and extended this social abuse to many other parts of the country?

It is a well known fact that ex-Governor Bola Tinubu owed his election in 1999 and his subsequent re-election in 2003 to the use and intimidation of these Area Boys. Indeed, his now famous title “Ashiwaju”, meaning “The Leader” (I don’t know or care much who gave him this title) is now often derided and referred to as The Ashiwaju of Area Boys, in case he does not know. This title is indeed very apt and Tinubu rightly and appropriately deserves it, not minding the pun.

Now that the politicking and elections are over, at least for now until 2011, these Area Boys have now found themselves out of work and have now resorted back to their original criminality – armed robbery, and that is why there is this sudden rise and spate of armed robbery in Lagos State. And his successor and cousin, Governor Babatunde Fashola is now having one helluva fight on his hands to deal with. Them what has gets, so they say?

Please I am not here defending ex-President Obasanjo – the man is no longer worth defending – nor am I saying that Obasanjo’s Presidency did not display brute force and disrespect for the Nigerian Constitution, but for someone who actually created Area Boys to be accusing another of displaying Area Boys tendencies is a bit rich and completely insulting the intelligence of well-meaning and articulate Nigerians. As a matter of fact, if indeed Obasanjo had Area Boys in his Presidency, at least, they are not as crude and uneducated as those of Tinubu’s. The only things Tinubu’s Area Boys had over Obasanjo’s is their crudity, native intelligence, brutality, sponsorship and effectiveness. All these were displayed during the elections in Lagos State. You go and ask all those that were maimed and killed in violent clashes between PDP and AC and other parties in Lagos and its environs.

The Ashiwaju did not stop there; he then went on saying that riggings that characterised the April general election reflected how the Presidency under Obasanjo trampled upon people’s rights to choose their representatives”. He is right about this, of course, but what about himself in Lagos State? Can Tinubu swear that he and his various parties (he was formerly in Alliance for Democracy, AD, before helping to destroy it, and then helping founding Action Congress, AC) did not rig elections in Lagos State?

Ashiwaju Tinubu, like many of his co-politicians in Nigeria is never sincere with us. They are full of double-speak and think that the people are stupid and not aware of the havoc and misery they have created and perpetuated on the long-suffering people of this country. Tinubu was able to sustain his eight-year governorship tenure through sheer bullish and clever manipulation of the people and the state’s vast resources. Area Boys were sharing Lagos State Government money, given to them by no less a person than their Governor, in order to rig elections, at federal, state and local government levels. This is a known fact. He is also a very rich man, a result of his eight years in power as the Governor of the richest, and arguably, one of the only economically viable states in Nigeria.

When ex-Governor Ladoja of Oyo State won his right to return as Governor, he entered Ibadan guarded and accompanied by armed Area Boys supplied to him by the one and only King of Area Boys. This was ostensibly to counter the threat of Chief Adedibu’s local NURTW thugs in Ibadan. There was a measure of success here. On the other hand, Osun State has never been the same since the introduction and importation of Lagos Area Boys to Oshogbo to help the Ashiwaju’s boy, Rauf Aregbesola, again ostensibly to root out the inept and visionless government of the incumbent, Olagunsoye Oyinlola. The fight still continues sporadically in this state, since some of these Area Boys have now refused to go back to Lagos, and finding nothing else to do, are stirring up unrest all over the place.

I am not sure of the presence of Area Boys in Ekiti, Ondo and Ogun States but I would not be surprised if the Lagos imports did not operate there as well.

So, who should be talking about Area Boys? We now know. If you live in a glass house, you don’t throw stones, Ashiwaju. You are more culpable and guiltier of this misdemeanour than Obasanjo, which is all we are saying. Accuse Obasanjo of something else. Say something we have not heard before.

Mr Tinubu then offered to help Ibadan and Oyo State “Let me assure the Olubadan (Oba Odulana Odugade I) of the readiness of some of us to deliver the people of Ibadan in particular and Oyo State in general, from garrison politics. The era of negative publicity for the state will soon be a thing of the past.”

Well, at least he has very good intentions for the people of Ibadan and Oyo State. Thank you, Ashiwaju. We will be looking forward to busloads of Area Boys from Lagos in no distant future, to come and add to the already volatile situation of the state and the next thing you know, there will be a full scale to-the-death war between the Area Boys of Lagos and the NURTW thugs of Ibadan, with innocent citizens caught up in it. When the dust settles, you will go down in history as the Messiah of Ibadan.

This now brings me to the Ibadan Week organised by the Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes, and to which Ashiwaju Tinubu was invited, I would think, as a Keynote Speaker. CCII, as they are known, is the umbrella group for all Ibadan cultural organisations worldwide. I should know this because I am from Ibadan and belong to an organisation (Oluyole Progressive Union, UK) which is registered with them. The very name of the CCII conjures up a very powerful image of an organisation consisting of the high and mighty of Ibadan people, well educated, influential, wealthy, politically relevant, and are movers and shakers of Ibadan. Incidentally, all these are true of the CCII.

However, when it came to tackling the problems of Ibadan and Oyo State, this is where all these appellations become irrelevant, null and void. While I still give them some iota of due respect, I am not able to forgive them for their cowardice in the face of truth and sincerity, as well as their damning, very loud silence, inability and unwillingness to resolve the political and social problems that has reduced their famous, native city to nothing more than a ridiculous, un-progressive, under-developed and violence-ridden outpost, constantly under siege by the internal enemies of the people and the scheming of the external aggressors.

I do not have the list of the CCII and the executives, but one thing I know is that I have many “Uncles”,” Aunties” and even ” Fathers” and “Mothers” there. You know what I mean by this. So I am really sorry if I have offended them, especially the well-meaning, but powerless ones there, however, the truth must be said. When I wrote about why Oyo State cannot and will not work recently, some of my “Uncles” and “Fathers” were aghast, and felt scandalised and demeaned, and contacted me to express their ire with me, but all I could tell them was to look deep inside themselves and tell me if I am wrong about the issues. Thankfully, they did not threaten me. They just called me “Omo buruku” (Bad boy), making light of the issues at stake, neither denying their culpability nor offering any apologies nor what they intend to do about trying to put things right. That tells you they are either deeply compromised or they are absolutely clueless or both.

One last thing. One thing that keeps confounding me is the inordinate ambition of people who have tasted just a little bit of power, then wanting to be something they are not. I am not against being ambitious, but there is a good thing about knowing your place. I am referring of course to State Commissioners and Ministers and minor party officials who fight vigorously to become Governors in their home states. Most of these were formerly nonentities elevated to their respective positions, having not been politically active or canvassed for political positions before in their life, and suddenly, they want to be Governors. A classic example is that of Lagos State in the recently concluded elections. Almost all of them, whether they served for four or eight years in Tinubu’s government as Commissioners, wanted to run for Governorship of Lagos State or another. Same thing with some Ministers in Obasanjo’s administration. After serving as Ministers, they then went back to their home states, wanting to be Governors, thereby heating up the polity. I am not against natural progression to be greater than what you are, and perhaps, help to move things forward, and afterall, as citizens of Nigeria, they have the right to be anything they want to be, but in Nigeria, the main reason for this is that once these officials taste power, they want to be in it forever, and in most cases, when they get there, they hardly do anything to justify their ambition.

Just wondering. Me and my curiosity.

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1 comment

Caroline Chukwu November 27, 2007 - 9:23 am

A great piece about the hypocrisy of our leaders. But what do you expect from people who think "ruling" Nigeria is their own birthright? Well done for your well researched article.


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