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What Awo told Yoruba on succesion

Posted by By DURO ADESEKO on 2008/05/18 | Views: 1013 |

What Awo told Yoruba on succesion


Contrary to the impression that the choice of Chief Obafemi Awolowo as leader of the Yoruba was solely and exclusively the outcome of a series of meeting called by General Adeyinka Adebayo, the then Governor of Western Nigeria, Chief Awolowo was himself not under any illusion that the traditional institutions of the Yoruba were not key to his emergence.

•As scramble for Adesanya’s shoes intensifies

Contrary to the impression that the choice of Chief Obafemi Awolowo as leader of the Yoruba was solely and exclusively the outcome of a series of meeting called by General Adeyinka Adebayo, the then Governor of Western Nigeria, Chief Awolowo was himself not under any illusion that the traditional institutions of the Yoruba were not key to his emergence.

He always made reference to the role played by the then Ooni of Ife, Oba Adesoji Aderemi. Although the meeting of Obas was also one of the series of meetings put together by a rather visionary General Adebayo for the purpose of choosing a leader and charting a new course for the Yoruba, Awo was always of the view that the Ooni always has a role to play in the emergence of whoever leads the Yoruba.

But Awo’s position seems almost lost in history as the jostle to succeed Chief Abraham Adesanya who died last month intensifies.

Flashback 2004
Sometime in 2004, prominent and well known leaders of Afenifere, a Yoruba cultural organization, went to Abraham Adesanya, the Yoruba and Afenifere leader whose health was failing him then, with a draft for his signature. The content of the draft was to the effect that Reuben Fasoranti, whom he had earlier pronounced the acting leader of the group, should succeed him should he suddenly drop dead.

A lawyer read out the draft. The ailing Yoruba leader would probably have signed the draft but for divine intervention. A leading Yoruba and Afenifere member who was not known to belong to any of the warring factions in Afenifere was in attendance.

The neutral Afenifere leader pointed out the danger in Adesanya putting pen to paper. He averred that signing such draft would send out the wrong signal and the faction not loyal to Fasoranti would kick against it. The already bad situation would degenerate, even as Adesanya, the recognised leader, was still very much around.

There were arguments for and against signing of the draft. At the end, Adesanya did not sign the draft. The battle for succession had begun.

It is part of the irony of life that the entire south west and several amorphous organisations are taking interest in who controls Afenifere and produce the next leader for Yoruba people.

If one had drawn the hand of the clock back by eleven years to that time, not more than 20 men and women were willing to be identified with Afenifere. That was the time Sergeant Rogers and other agents of death were patrolling the streets in search of identified and active Afenifere and NADECO leaders. Today, there are two factions of Afenifere .One is led by Reuben Fasoranti who was appointed acting leader by ailing Adesanya. Fasoranti is from Ondo/Ekiti axis of Yorubaland. The other faction is led by Ayo Fasanmi who had the backing of former AD governors, who were sponsored into office by the Adesanya-Ied Afenifere. He is also from Ondo/Ekiti axis of Yorubaland.

By implication, Adesanya, the recognised leader took a decision which was made public. The former governors also made a counter decision and made it public. Are things falling apart in Yorubaland? What led to the factionalisation of Afenifere?

A group led by former AD governors wanted Afenifere to reach out to other ethnic groups in Nigeria for the purpose of forming a virile political party that can win election at the federal level. They argue that for as long as Afenifere appropriated the party (AD) to itself, other ethnic groups would not identify with it. They want a separation of Afenifere from AD.

Those loyal to Fasoranti, and by extension, Adesanya who appointed him, insist that Afenifere has always identified with people of like-minds and organisations from other parts of the country. They pointed out that Samuel Ladoke Akintola used the same excuse to team up with the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) in the aborted First Republic.

It must be pointed out that the group led by Fasanmi had by 2002 engaged the faction led by Fasoranti in a serious battle for the control of the party (AD). They succeeded in dislodging the Fasoranti group from the party. The Fasanmi camp had since joined other political groupings to form a new party, the Action Congress. Unfortunately, the AC was unable to make any impression at the last general election. It won only one state- Lagos.

What is happening to Afenifere can be described as a revolution or a rebellion. Fasoranti’s camp called it a rebellion. Fasanmi camp called it a revolution. By whatever name it is called, it is doubtful, if it is in the interest of Yoruba people.

There was a peace meeting where leaders of both factions were persuaded to put the interest of the Yoruba people first The meeting held at Ibadan was attended by Ayo Adebanjo, Femi Okunronmu, Olu Falae and Supo Banire. The Fasanmi group was led by Fasanmi, Biyi Durojaiye, Yinka Odumakin and others. The meeting agreed Fasoranti was acting leader and Fasanmi was deputy leader. Femi Okunronmu was secretary while Odumakin was publicity secretary. Why did the Fasanmi faction come out strongly after the appointment of Fasoranti as acting leader? But that was only one of the many questions. Other questions include: Why did the battle which started within AD now extend to the Yoruba cultural organisation? Is it right to conclude that there is the believe that whoever controls Afenifere would have an inroad into the heart of Yoruba people during elections? Did the five PDP governors in the southwest use Afenifere to win election in 2003 and 2007?

What is obvious as of today is that there is a silent war of succession to Adesanya going on and both camps have mapped out their strategy to win the war. The silent war would become full-blown after the burial of Adesanya on May 23. By June this year, the war of succession would likely become a thing of national interest.

Already, Falae and Adebanjo have made it clear that there is no vacancy. Oodua People's Congress (OPC), the camp led by Dr. Fredrick Fasheun warned that whoever attempted violence would attract the wrath of the organisation. The Fasanmi camp is keeping quiet for now.

Of course, there was an announcement by an organisation led by the publisher of Alaroye, a Yoruba weekly tabloid, that the Yoruba World Carnival holding in June this year would produce the next Yoruba leader. The organiser of the carnival had earlier announced that Bola Tinubu was to lead the Nigerian contingent to the carnival. The fact that Tinubu, the former governor of Lagos has been linked to the event is a pointer to where the sympathy of the organisation lies.

The weakness in the plan to enthrone a Yoruba leader at the carnival is that no Yoruba leader has ever or will ever be made outside the shores of Yorubaland.

The Fasoranti camp is giving no pretence as to its preparation for the war of succession ahead. Fasoranti led Falae and Adebanjo to meet with the five PDP governors from the southwest; Babatunde Fashola, the only AC governor from the zone, allegedly avoided attending the meeting. He sent the secretary to the state government, Mrs. Adeniran-Ogunsanya to the meeting.

If the above scenario is added up, it is obvious where the sympathy of PDP governors lies. Before the meeting, Adebanjo, one of the respected Afenifere and Yoruba leaders had never hidden his admiration for Governor Gbenga Daniel of Ogun state whom he said has been executing Obafemi Awolowo programmes. Adebanjo never made such statement about any of the AD or AC governors. By implication, Adebanjo and Daniel are already hands in glove and may fight the battle of succession together. Daniel also delivered the lecture at the first year remembrance of Ganiyu Dawodu. The Fasanmi camp criticised the organizers, saying that Daniel was never an Afenifere.

From all indications, Adebanjo is about proving to Fasanmi camp that he has played the game for 50 years. The Fasanmi camp may have the support of the governor of Lagos State, but Fashola's voice would certainly be drowned in the midst of five governors from the south west zone.

How did past Yoruba leaders emerge?
Awolowo who was described as the first Yoruba leader after Oduduwa was said to have been made Asiwaju by the Ooni of Ife. The Yoruba traditional rulers were involved in the emergence of Awolowo. AdekunIe Ajasin was acceptable to all because of his age and humane personality. There is no record that Yoruba Obas had a hand in his emergence, but he was acceptable to the traditional rulers. It must be pointed out that Ajasin appointed Adesanya as his deputy.

The emergence of Adesanya was at a time the Yoruba race was at the receiving end of Gen. Sani Abacha despotism and annihilation of the Yoruba . Adesanya who was deputy to Ajasin had the support of all because he proved that he was prepared to die for his people. Former Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Bola Ige who wanted to contest against him announced his withdrawal when he discovered that other leaders were in favour of Adesanya emerging as Yoruba leader.

There is a new angle that needs critical examination by the Yoruba in their quest for a new leader. There may be need to start the zoning formular. Ogun State and the Ijebu area of the state had the preponderance of producing Yoruba leaders in the past.

After Oduduwa, Awolowo from Ikenne in Ogun state led the Yoruba race for about 40 years before his demise. It was followed by Ajasin who led Yoruba for less than a decade. Ajasin is from Owo in Ondo State. The leadership band went back to Ogun, and to an Ijebu man like Awolowo. Adesanya was from the Ijebu town of Ijebu Igbo.

The Yoruba from the Oyo axis - consisting of Osun and Oyo States - are complaining that they were always sidelined and made to play second fiddle. Samuel Ladoke Akintola was deputy leader to Awolowo and Bola Ige was deputy to Adesanya. If Ige were to be alive, his succession to Adesanya would have been automatic.

The impression should not be created that Yoruba leadership would always be rotated between Ogun and Ondo/Ekiti axis of YorubaIand. Fasoranti and Fasanmi are both from the Ondo/Ekiti axis of Yorubaland. The Yoruba of Kwara and Kogi states are also complaining. It is the duty of Yoruba leaders to ensure that every Yoruba has a sense of belonging.

No matter the turn of events, as the succession race commences, the Yoruba must never have two leaders. Awolowo left a word for Yoruba leaders before his demise when the question of succession was put to him: If you can’t agree among yourselves, go to the Ooni of Ife.

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