Pa Ayo Adebanjo is passionate about Nigeria. The struggle for a better and more prosperous nation is his life. For him, the shortest route to greatness is a return to our derailed 1958 independence constitution which granted autonomy to the federating units.
On this broad objective, I am not sure there is much disagreement between him, some of his Afenifere colleagues and his children he is currently at war with. I believe the only point of departure is that while he believes he can do the same thing over and over again and get a different result, his children seem to be saying there are other ways of killing a chicken other than cutting its throat.
For this dissimilarity, Pa Adebanjo has become an oligarch within his Afenifere larger family and a terror to his Afenifere children. Unlike the way Awo, the sage, treated the younger generation of his time, he simply ordered those of his children who disagreed with him to leave Afenifere which they happily did to form their own Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG). As the national leader of AD, he directed those who did not subscribe to the principles of party supremacy which from the examples he cited will include elected governors consulting the Afenifere elders before appointing commissioners and board members, to leave his AD. They obliged him and formed AC. Under the umbrella of ARG and AC platform, they first retrieved the five southwest states lost to Obasanjo and PDP as a result of Afenifere’s rigidity in 2003. They later joined other parties to form the APC which won the 2015 and 2019 elections. But Pa Adebanjo has continued to live in denial. He says Afenifere has not lost touch with the Yoruba nation which it claims to advocate for. He insists that there is nothing like Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG).
Pa Adebanjo forgot so many things: that his Yoruba people who are always led from behind never had leaders – no matter how powerful – they could not handle; that they don’t forgive errant leaders who make wrong decisions and that they know what they want. As Awo his revered leader put it “The Yoruba will not vote for you because you are Yoruba if you have no programme that will impact positively in their lives”.
IN 2003, he misled Yoruba to support Obasanjo who claimed he was about to be denied a second term by the Fulani, Nigeria’s hegemonic class led by Atiku Abubakar, his deputy. He secured the support of the elders who bought his dummy with the understanding he would convene a sovereign national conference to address Nigeria’s national question. Unfortunately, Yoruba paid dearly for that folly. Not only was there no sovereign national conference, Obasanjo exploited the elder’s miscalculation to marginalize Yoruba for disgracing him in 1999 when he could not even win his ward in Abeokuta. He illegally held on to Lagos State LGA funds. And Yorubaland lost the giant steps made in areas of education in the first and second republic resulting in massive unemployment of unemployable secondary school drop-outs who ended up as political thugs.
Then after publicly acknowledging, that “Obasanjo has no interest in, or sympathy for the Yoruba cause, but has only his own interest for everything he does”, Pa Adebanjo staked his honour swearing the Yoruba would vote Atiku Abubakar, demonized for years by Obasanjo who later decided to canonize him few months to the 2019 elections to settle scores with President Buhari and Bola Tinubu, his nemesis in Yorubaland. Of course, the Yoruba who often read meanings to everything including ordinary greetings roundly rejected Atiku.
Recently, Pa Adebanjo in a newspaper interview demonized all those who disagreed with his methods including Tinubu and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, his two most successful children in politics since the end of the civil war. He swore not to support their candidacy for president or that of any other Yoruba in 2023. And as if Nigerian presidency can be acquired just by a sense of entitlement, he said it was the turn of Igbo to produce the president in 2023.
Pa Adebanjo seems to have forgotten that with little or no presence in the Southeast, APC is not likely going to pick its presidential candidate from among the Igbos in 2023. And securing the PDP ticket will be only the first step as the party has to be able to win the support of APC states in the north, an uphill task. The implication of Pa Adebanjo’s position therefore is that he would rather have the north hold on to the presidency for another eight years than sheathe the sword and put his house in order.
Pa Adebanjo also tried to present all those who disagreed with him as enemies of Yoruba race. He alleged that Bola Ige undermined the collegiate leadership of Yoruba nation with the support of Obasanjo, but he did not see anything wrong in seeking the support of the same Obasanjo in his current war against Tinubu and Buhari. He says: ‘Tinubu has sold the Yoruba nation’; ‘Osinbajo has sold out’; ‘Ayo Fasanmi is using his name to sell the Yoruba interest’; Wale Oshun as head of primary committee for election in Lagos was a ‘fantastic member’ and a “fantastic member of Afenifere” but ‘lost his integrity’ the moment he decided to be his own man; Pa BisiAkande has been settled by Tinubu and the former governors who do not share Adebanjo’s views ‘have also been compromised’. None of his children has a fraction of some of the virtues he thinks he and he alone has. They are all trying to “sell the entire Nigeria to the north”.
He was miffed by Kayode Fayemi’s caution that “Yoruba cannot do restructuring alone”. But Fayemi, Adebanjo’s grandson has only called his attention to the facts of our history. The truth is that the Yoruba nation is the only one out of Nigeria’s three dominant ethnic groups that has always struggled for true federalism.
The northern political elite’s choice is between a federation they could control and confederacy. Awolowo had series of meetings with Ahmadu Bello in Kaduna, Lagos and in Ikorodu along with Alfred Rewane. Bello resisted any idea of creating states from the north. The Time magazine of November 10, 1958 in a piece titled “Independence without difficulties is a dream of Utopia” reporting the proceedings of the 1958 Lancaster constitutional conference wrote “In western eyes, Obafemi Awolowo of the Western Region seemed the most statesmanlike of the three premiers. When the conference took up the ticklish problem of how to protect the rights of minorities among Nigeria’s 250 tribes, Awolowo suggested creating three states. The north’s Sardauna not wishing to relinquish any of his territories vetoed the idea.” The military dominated by northern offices was to later midwife the current constitution which is only federal in name but unitary in reality.
The Igbo never wanted a federal arrangement. NCNC until 1959 canvassed for a unitary system. Between 1959 and the collapse of the first republic in 1966, they were satisfied with the federal arrangement that allowed them to control key positions and institutions such the titular presidency, the senate presidency, ministries of education, finance , internal affairs and external affairs and Nigeria Airways, Nigeria Railways, University of Lagos, University of Ibadan, Yaba College of Technology etc. And when the power equation changed in January 1966 with General Aguiyi-Ironsi as Head of State, he was ill-advised by Igbo political and intellectual elite to turn the country into a unitary state with Unification Decree 34 of 1966. In 1979, Igbo NPP formed a coalition with northern-dominated NPN. OdumegwuOjukwu, the Igbo civil war hero returned from exile after the brutal war to consolidate the relationship without making restructuring a pre-condition.
These are historical facts, Fayemi, Adebanjo’s grandson was trying to present before him in case he has forgotten.