By Bola Bolawole
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An adage says: When a child falls, he looks ahead of him to see why he fell but when an elder falls, he surveys where he is coming from to find out what caused the fall. In other words, today’s events are not necessarily – in fact, are not usually – caused by events happening today. Elders behaved like children in their rationalization of last week’s ENDSARSNOW catastrophe! I dare to say that they deliberately decided to obfuscate issues for selfish, self-serving, disgraceful, and degrading reasons.
So were we told by the authorities that the ENDSARSNOW protests were hijacked and had turned violent, hence the need to (violently!) halt it – when we all saw how government officials in SUVs ferried thugs armed with dangerous weapons to attack and disperse protesters. Government themselves were the ones who turned a peaceful protest violently with a view to causing mayhem; thereafter giving a dog a bad name to hang it. What a shame!
When the bubble burst and their shenanigans blew in their face, the authorities told more bare-faced lies – no shots were fired at Lekki Toll Gate; soldiers were not involved; no one died! When those lies failed to fly, they reached into their bags of tricks and very rich repertoire of mischief and propaganda: The Igbo and Fulani were burning down Lagos! Yoruba ronu!
The rich history of the Yoruba is that of a people NEVER condoning injustice, regardless whose ox is gored; a people who agree with the Norwegian poet, Henrik Ibsen, that the strongest man is he who stands alone; especially when on the side of that which is right. The Yoruba have never been shy to stand miserably alone on the side of justice; not too long ago they did on June 12 and eventually got the victory.
The Yoruba “Omoluabi” creed places pre-eminence on the well-being of others; fairness, equity, and justice are principles the Yoruba hold dear to heart. The Yoruba as a people and as individuals have suffered dearly for their advocacy and activism. Nevertheless, they have perennially remained in the vanguard for an egalitarian society. The Yoruba’s head may be bloody; yet, it is unbowed.
Shall we then say that those who expected the Yoruba to keep criminally silent in the face of the grave injustice done to the ENDSARSNOW youths did not have a sufficient understanding of the psyche and moral make-up of the Yoruba? They do – they were only playing politics! Jobbers only minding where their bread is buttered! Were a single Yoruba not to be among the dead in the protests, were the injustices being protested by the youths done to others, other than the Yoruba, the Yoruba, in their characteristic nature, would still have led the struggle! The Yoruba need no prodding from any Igbo or Fulani to do just that.
At over 60 years of age, I would like to think and reason as an elder who surveys the past to give meaning to the present and chart a course for the future on the issue of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who rode into political reckoning on the wings of opposition to vile dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha. Tinubu was one of the NADECO leaders who fought Abacha from exile. As the then editor of The PUNCH newspapers, I published a lot of Tinubu’s audacious tirades against Abacha. That was a good start. When the journey to the current Fourth Republic began, Tinubu returned home and was tipped by the Alliance for Democracy for the Lagos governorship; his most prominent opponent was Funsho Williams. The murder of Williams was widely suspected to have been politically motivated but remains unresolved till date like many of such assassinations.
Tinubu won the election and was a two-term governor. In my view, three events hallmarked his tenure. First: His fight with then President Olusegun Obasanjo over the creation of additional councils in Lagos and the seizure of Lagos State’s federal allocations by Obasanjo, an event that forced Lagos to look inward to revolutionize the IGR of the state. We must give that to Tinubu! Second was his promotion of area boys and girls into a position of reckoning in the politics of the state. Tinubu birthed the “jeun soke” mantra and became the godfather of the area boys and girls. Third is the massive propaganda of “Lagos is working” when nothing in the real sense was working. Lagos under Tinubu ran on propaganda and razzmatazz; all sounds and fury, signifying nothing. Under Tinubu, Lagos did not have value for money. Tinubu also displayed his dictatorial traits early in his dealings with his deputy governors.
It was under Babatunde Raji Fashola that a semblance of development began. Therefore, Lagosians were miffed when it became public knowledge that Tinubu wanted to deny Fashola a second term in office because Fashola reportedly stood against Tinubu’s widely rumoured insatiable appetite. A list of the alleged princely acquisitions of the Jagaban Borgu began to make the rounds. Akinwunmi Ambode succeeded Fashola but not before Lagos indigenes had given Tinubu a bloodied nose. The cries of marginalization by Lagos indigenes became more strident by the day. In addition were allegations that Tinubu himself was not from Lagos. Ambode was denied a second term and Tinubu was held responsible for this by many.
Not only political office holders but also traditional rulers, Iyalojas, leaders of road transport workers, etc. were reportedly imposed by Tinubu. The presence and influence of Tinubu was writ large and became unbearably suffocating even beyond Lagos. When going to bed, according to reports, he would say: “Eko fe sun o”; meaning “Lagos is going to sleep!” Tinubu is Lagos and Lagos is Tinubu!
Tinubu brought Muhammadu Buhari, a serial political failure, in 2015. Count this a plus for him because Nigerians were already sorely disappointed in Jonathan. The abysmal failure of Buhari has, however, rubbed off on negatively Tinubu and the Jagaban’s support for Buhari in 2019 is a minus. Whereas Tinubu’s contributions made Buhari president, no one can point to what the South-west where Tinubu comes from or even Lagos has benefitted from the enterprise. Yet, we all see how Buhari’s people corner everything without as much as a whimper from Tinubu! Tinubu has not fought for Lagos to have the additional LGs he fought Obasanjo over. He has also not used his privileged position to get the special status promised Lagos when the capital moved to Abuja.
The cry is everywhere that Tinubu’s alleged primitive capitalist accumulation beggars belief; that his cronyism and enthronement of his family members in the commanding heights of Lagos politics and economy can no longer be excused; that his intolerance of opposition rankles and, worse, that his arrogance and petulance can no longer be tolerated. Remember his “where are the Fulani herdsmen” when the daughter of the Afenifere leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, was murdered by alleged Fulani herdsmen. Remember his “Osun state does not have my kind of money”. Remember his recent insulting treatment of the Ooni of Ife. Remember his provocative directive to Edo voters in the September governorship election!
There are those who believe that Tinubu has always helped his party to wangle its way through elections and not that the party actually wins elections. I heard that a group of Yoruba elders put a call through to Tinubu requesting for a meeting. Tinubu reportedly told them that if their discussion would centre on Yoruba, they should save themselves the trouble!
So, before ENDSARSNOW, Tinubu’s cup appears full! The politics of 2023 is said to be another fish in the kettle; Yoruba political leaders behave like a fish that swallows other fishes to survive and get fatter!
As we close, Tinubu as an individual; as the current political leader of the Yoruba; and as a metaphor must learn useful lessons from past events and turn a new leaf. The Yoruba are unequally yoked in Nigeria that assuredly kills enterprise and stifles innovations in instalments. Either Nigeria is radically restructured to free the Yoruba from this yoke or the Yoruba find a way out of the Nigeria arrangement. The Yoruba political leadership is itself bereft of ideas; embarrassingly satisfied with running errands and fighting over crumbs falling from the master’s table. They must immediately begin to revive the legacies of Awo. Just like the Fulani have enslaved the South-west politically, so also have the Igbo enslaved it economically. Reversing this trend is as important as attaining independence from Fulani domination.
The South-west has the highest number of higher institutions in the country; it churns out the highest number of graduates yearly and has the higher number of the unemployed. Migrants stream into the region on a daily basis. As Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre, Lagos harbours the largest concentration of youths in search of jobs that are nowhere available. Yet, it is one of the states with the highest cost of living and the most damnable paucity of infrastructure – with no special Federal support! The South-west, thus, is a ticking time bomb needing no prodding before it explodes.