SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER: The Asiwaju at 60?

A few weeks ago I promised the respected journalist ‘Wale Adedayo, a substantial rebuttal of his article ‘Understanding Asiwaju bola Ahmed Tinubu at 60’.

In his analysis he proceeded from the premise of the ‘rising profile’ of the Asiwaju and used this as proof of the limitations of the intellect and political acumen of the man’s critics. He then created an improbable link to the construction of Asiwaju’s rise above and beyond that of the company of Yoruba heroes.

I have decided to invest time in this rebuttal because I believe this analysis is flawed, flows from a faulty premise that ‘rising profile’ based on temporal electoral success and achievements are the same. I also speak to power today because we are in danger of removing the link of progressive means from progressive ends because of the fear of ‘there is no alternative’, reducing our politics to one of despair lacking hope or a compelling vision for progress. I hope to address one or two revisions contained in Wale Adedayo’s piece and demonstrate that his premise might not hold up to sustained scrutiny.

I do not have the inclination to address each and every point raised in the article but will touch on what I consider to be the central theme. I note that he makes a bold but ahistorical claim about Obafemi Awolowo that “But he never had any influence on the emergence of leaders at the national level in a democratic Nigeria.” When I remember the role Awolowo played in the emergence of the late J.S Tarka, Anthony Enahoro, Sam Ikoku et al. I do wonder what history Mr Adedayo is reliant upon?

The fact is that it was the reversals by the courts of some gubernatorial electoral ‘victories’ of the PDP in the South West that has provided the opportunity for this respected journalist to shift his focus to the person of the ‘Asiwaju’, ’Bola Tinubu of Lagos. I accept that he does not go as far as some to canonise him but has used a cleverer tactic of conflating and confusing the ends and means of progressive politics.

When Wale Adedayo expresses his belief that now is the time for the Asiwaju’s leadership he stumbles into the trap of deification and sainthood which he earlier sought to escape from but what is more insidious and dangerous is that he reduces leadership to the whims and caprices of a man rather than to the eternal principles of integrity, transparency, vision and emancipation that underpins progressivism. He has in my view slid into offering support for the trend of godfather politics and certain anti-democratic tendencies, which are known to be the Asiwaju’s preferred modud operandi.

A background in history is useful to demolish once and for all Mr Adedayo’s attempt to place Tinubu and Awolowo within the same company. The title or appellation ‘Asiwaju’ is not new and entered into popular discourse with the unanimous acclamation of Chief Obafemi Awolowo as the ‘Asiwaju of the Yorubas’, a proclamation, which emerged at a time of emergency for the Nigerian Federation. It was a proclamation that was confirmed by the Arole Odua, Ooni of Ife. Chief Ajasin was also confirmed in near similar circumstances. A vivid narration of this was provided by the late sage in his autobiography, Adventure in Power (page 314):

“After my release, Colonel Adedayo who was military governor of the Western Region convened a meeting …including the leading Obas (Royal Majesties) in the region were also there. Leaders of all shades of political opinion in the region were also there…… I was elected by the governor to preside over the deliberations at the meeting. At the very outset, the question of electing a leader for the Yoruba people was raised. I ruled it out of order…The vocal among them were former members of N.C.N.C. and N.N.D.P. …….When one of the speakers pleaded that I should reconsider my ruling, I gave in. There was a big applause for my compliance and so without any further debate a motion was proposed, it was seconded by acclamation and unanimously passed; electing me the leader (Asiwaju) of the Yoruba People.”

There is little doubt that Chief Awolowo grounded his progressive welfare oriented ideology in democratic values, coining the usage of the term democratic socialism. It was suggested that Awolowo achieved so much because he consulted widely with the intelligentsia, the academics and Obas before he took a position on any issue and he was focused. In other words, it could be argued that the ends of progressive politics and the means of achieving it were mutually exclusive to Awolowo. However after his death a dangerous disconnect emerged, linked to attempts by his numerous ‘disciples’ to assume his mantle through organisations such as the Afenifere and the old Alliance for Democracy. This disconnect manifested itself as the disentangling/decoupling of Awolowo’s fondness for democratic and transparent values from progressive ideals, replacing the vacuum with an era of manipulation, imposition and godfatherism.

Unfortunately the latter day Chief Awolowo disciples failed to appreciate the link between the ends and means. The comatose status of the Afenifere and the virtual extinction of Alliance for Democracy in my view was traceable to a betrayal and manipulation of this link. A betrayal manifested as a viral infection of political myopia, manipulative hegemony and omo onile tendencies. The then Afenifere leaders in their actions were unable to demonstrate a belief in the salient democratic principles which Awolowo was known for or the transparency, rule of law and respect for a fair and free electoral process at party level. One example of this was of the then Minister of Housing, Chief (Mrs) Mobolaji Osomo who, allegedly won the I999 AD governorship primary election in Ondo State but the Afenifere allegedly turned upside down the result at their Ijebu Igbo meeting. In that action Afenifere betrayed the pillar upon which party democracy should be built which is freedom of choice, not manipulation or imposition.

It has also been suggested that the emergence of Raji Babatunde Fashola as Governorship candidate on the platform of AC was riddled with manipulation and imposition. The ‘Asiwaju’, ‘Bola Tinubu has been ‘heard’ to glory in that particular act of manipulation and imposition and to argue that Fashola was produced by the structure and the same structure is able to produce someone as good if not better that Governor Fashola. In other words he is guilty of the suggestion that Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc applies. It follows the premise that since that event followed this one, that event must have been caused by this one. It is of course a particularly tempting error because temporal sequence appears to be integral to causality. If these claims are indeed attributable to the ‘Asiwaju, then he reveals a fallacy that lies in coming to a conclusion based solely on the order of events, rather than taking into account other factors that might rule out the connection.

The ACN emerged from the rubble of AD and Afenifere, but has showed no inclination or desire to repair the decoupling/delinking between the progressive means and ends. The travails Governor Fashola had in seeking his 2nd term in Lagos was a potent evidence of this. There are many who are simply focused on the dislodging of the ‘sinister’ PDP machine and would happily argue that the means justifies the ends, that the manipulation and impositions facilitated by the ‘Asiwaju’ must be tolerated in the wider scheme of things.

I have grave fears that the adoption of this position, betrays a naivety of immense proportions and risks relegating the ACN into the same league as the PDP making them barely distinguishable from each other.

In other words in the longer term are in danger of falling into the trap that consumed the AD and Afenifere.

The ‘Asiwaju’ and other ‘progressives’ must be reminded that Fashola has shown that government can be a place where people come together and where no one gets left behind. Wale Adedayo must join us in the fight for the restoration of the link between the ends of progressive ideals with the democratic and transparent values and not be thrown of guard by the flavour of the month or the celebration of the Asiwaju at 60.

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